The Benefits of Martial Arts: Insights on improving Mental Health and Outlook

Guest post by Nick K @

Can training martial arts help you improve your overall health? The short answer is an astounding yes. Scientific studies also back up this claim. From improved concentration, to better self confidence, the martial arts offer an excellent means to improve your physical and mental state.

In my years as a practitioner of judo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I have noticed “improvement” in my overall outlook on life and my relationships. Studying martial arts is more than just being able to learn how to fight or defend oneself. While this might be a goal for some, it is a very narrow view of what training should be about. Instead, by looking at the broad scope of all the benefits of martial arts training one can see that they are much more than learning how to impose physical violence on one another.

Self-Actualization & Growth

Martial arts is a great way to understand and develop your sense of self.  Martial arts can be hard work, both physically and mentally. However, because martial arts training requires you to push yourself, develop responsibility, and respond to stressful situations, it presents a unique opportunity for personal growth. The martial arts are in so many ways about opportunities and invitations to grow and improve yourself. A frequent story is the one shared by Dr. Neil Farber In Psychology Today on how martial arts have given him opportunities to grow his own self worth.


Humility is not a favorably viewed virtue in mainstream Western culture. Yet, martial arts present an opportunity to make objective assessments of oneself and abilities. In a martial art like Judo or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, one is often told to “leave your ego at the door.”  Because training in these arts is essentially live, one needs to “tap” before a move is fully executed. While there is a tendency and certain value in not giving up, there is an equal lesson, and perhaps more important lesson in learning when to admit your own defeat. From the time you put on your first BJJ gi to the time you receive your black belt, defeat will be your constant companion. You must accept that you have been broken down, but each defeats presents an opportunity to grow. You also learn that there will always be someone, faster, quicker, stronger, etc. In essence, you learn how to be comfortable with discomfort. This is a very humbling experience.

Stress Relief

Training in any sort of martial art can be therapeutic and relieve stress. Whether you are a student, working a job or running a business, stress is a problem that almost every person faces. In martial arts training, your body will release tension and build up energy through a rigorous training session. Take it from me, there is nothing better than leaving all your worries and problems “on the mat” after a stressful day

Reduce Anxiety and Enhance Mood

It is a well-researched fact that if you train hard and push your body, your brain releases endorphins and reduces cortisol. Endorphins improve the overall health of your brain and your body, while cortisol is a hormone produced by the body under stress, such as anger or fear, and it ultimately can damage our organs. Exercise reduces cortisol, and thereby improves our health and makes us happier. By extension, when martial arts are practiced as an athletic endeavor, they also produces these same effects.

Increased Self Confidence

Martial arts can teach people, especially children, how to resolve conflicts, whether physical or psychological. The ability to defend oneself can evoke courage inside the individual and lessens the need to resort to violence in a situation. Any sort of provocation can be dealt better if the individual is confident in his physical/mental abilities and fortitude. It is the knowledge that one can defend themselves that results in the ability to know when it’s appropriate to respond physically and when it is not. Most often the answer is to not engage in physical confrontation, which is always a win.


In conclusion, martial arts will increase your capability to persevere and stay resilient during any task you face throughout the day. You will find more meaning in your life once you start your journey.  You will also better your relationships with the people around you and find yourself at more peace and ease to communicate. Whichever martial you may be looking at, my suggestion is that you just take the first step and join your nearest gym/dojo/club.  Who knows, you might get hooked and travel to China to study martial arts like Eric did.  You will be surprised how welcoming these gyms can be and how easy it is to get hooked on them, whether it is Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, or traditional Chinese martial arts. Start training and become the best version of yourself.