Is martial art training an effective means to treat people with violent tendencies?
Since physical activities have been shown beneficial for various special needs populations, some studies have evaluated the martial arts as a means to treat psychological problems. These studies have shown that martial art training was beneficial in recovering from psychosexual abuse, eating disorders, substance abuse, and growing up in dysfunctional families. One of the studies [Trulson, M.E. (1986) Martial Arts Training: A Novel "Cure" for Juvenile Delinquency. Human Relations 39: 1131-1140] evaluated juvenile delinquents that assigned to one of three groups: a group receiving traditional taekwondo training, a group receiving modern taekwondo training, and a group receiving increased physical activity not involving the martial arts. Students in the traditional taekwondo group showed a decrease in aggressiveness and anxiety and an increase in self-esteem. In contrast, the modern taekwondo group showed an increased tendency towards delinquency and an increase in aggressiveness. Students in the exercise group showed an increase in self-esteem, but no other significant changes.
Other studies have shown that Judo led to an increase in the social adjustment scores for developmentally disabled subjects, increased the psychosocial skills for blind, developmentally disabled children, and is a useful adjunct to community programs for the treatment of pre-delinquent children. Studies have shown that Aikido training led to increases in self-esteem for adolescents with behavioral problems and that it is useful as an intervention strategy for middle and high school students with severe emotional disturbances. Studies have shown that both Judo and Karate reduced dysfunctional behaviors in male, behaviorally disordered adolescents. While these studies indicate that the martial arts offer a wide range of therapeutic applications, they are not a cure all, other studies have also pointed out the limitations of the martial arts in treating some disorders.
Martial arts are beginning to be accepted as a useful complement to verbal therapy for many disorders. It appears the traditional martial art masters were correct in their claim that their arts may be used to reduces stress and violence in their practitioners, and thus, in the communities in which they live.
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