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Some may feel that this is a strange topic to write about as there doesn’t seem to be a clear link between the two subjects however there is growing evidence to support the benefits of martial arts training and mental health.
Mental health recovery is broken down into several different domains physiological, psychological, environmental and social. If we look at each of these, in turn, it may assist in seeing the link between the two subjects.
The raft of evidence out there to support the benefits of physical activity on mental health cannot be denied especially in light of recent government initiative including prescriptions for health, however, these seemed to be quite short-sighted; generally prescribing for gym membership. Anyone who has been to a gym will know how difficult maintaining consistent attendance can be as there is often little structure to the activity and little support to encourage you to continue going in short once they have the money they are happy to leave you to it in most cases. In Shinkyu we have a wide and varied syllabus which encompasses many different aspects of karate and can suit many different levels of ability and interest. We practice both Karate and combat-based training, this ensures that there is continued ability for the student to learn and grow therefore increasing the likelihood of students returning each week to find out what we are going to cover next time.
Again there is a significant amount of evidence to support the benefit of psychological change being as effective in the treatment of mental health issues as medication and at times being more effective. Again this is born out by the government initiative to provide immediate access to psychological therapies which is an integral part of mental health services.
In Shinkyu we offer opportunities to train multiple times a week, maintaining a steep learning curve through frequent feedback. Also as the students continue to attend there is a milestone and belt system which again can be seen as a positive reward for hard work and dedication and as there is continued progression the student is therefore likely to benefit from this continued positive reinforcement.
Often one of the important factors that influence the effectiveness of anyone’s recovery is their environment. Often people with mental health issues tend to be from lower economic groups, they will tend to have poor support networks and in addition to this, they will tend to be isolated and or in contact with groups that tend to have a negative impact on their mental health recovery.
In Shinkyu, we pride ourselves on our friendliness and approachability, but more subtly there is a group ethos of supporting and encouraging each other, starting with the instructor leading the rest of the students to create positive enviroment that encourages learning together.
Financially Shinkyu’s fee structure is not only tremendous value but encourages students to train more frequently which of course impacts fitness and gives students a more frequent dose of endorphins (a natural hormone which makes you feel good as a result of exercise). Not only that but training frequently also maintains a healthy learning curve which in turn builds a sense of learning, growing and achieving.
People with mental health issues often feel isolated and alone and feel stigma in relation to these issues they will often struggle to go to new places and join clubs because they are fearful of others ignoring them or not being able to start conversations or people being able to see that they are ill.
In Shinkyu, we often train in class in pairs as well as in groups, therefore, giving someone the opportunity to work on both a 1:1 and group basis, this then empowers the person to be able to talk to their partner indeed this is positively encouraged, because both students are learning the same activity there is a common goal. So people don’t have to come up with a topic of conversation, working together creates instant commonality. We have also have a range of seminars and tournaments in addition to other social activities that may be of interest any student to support their continued learning and development.
Overall Training in a martial art particularly Shinkyu Karate, or Shinkyu Combat is of great benefit to your mental health in so many different way, as well as physical well-being. Most of us have times when we struggle, but training in martial arts may well be a very valuable part of a regime that will help us maintain a healthy and happy mental state.
By Sam Hague