Martial Arts for Anxiety and Stress Relief

The martial arts are ancient forms of combat in Eastern cultures, which utilizes mind-body exercises, spiritual practices and physical exercises. Martial arts include kung fu, tai chi, judo, karate, and taekwondo. Yoga and qigong are derived from the martial arts and quite popular worldwide, with yoga especially popular amongst women. In modern times, marital arts are utilized for self-improvement. Martial arts foster competition, physical fitness, and mental and spiritual health. Although physical exercise in martial arts has been the focus in Western cultures, there is the added benefit of developing the mental and spiritual being. However, martial arts practitioners from the East view the physical, mental, and spiritual development as all part of the same process (Bu et al., 2010).

Martial arts can be helpful for relief of anxiety and stress. Tai chi, a martial art, and qigong and yoga, martial art derivatives, are also categorized as mind-body exercises and have evidence that they may be helpful for anxiety (Wang et al., 2014). Another study revealed that 28 weeks of yoga meditation was more effective than the control group for anxiety disorder with mixed anxiety and depression (Srivastava et al., 2011). Mind-body exercises help one to be mindful of posture, movement, muscle tone, relationship of body parts to one another, and breathing. This helps to distract one from distressing thoughts and removes one from their stressful environment.

In addition, martial arts develop mental sharpness, alertness, and concentration, as these are necessary attributes to help one in self-defense from enemies. Without alertness and concentration, one would not be able to defend oneself, even if one were well-endowed physically. Directed breathing, meditation, and directing the energies of the psyche are part of martial arts practice, which helps to develop mental focus and concentration (Bu et al., 2010). As a case in point, Bruce Lee was physically smaller than many of his opponents, but where he lacked in physical size, he made up for in focus, concentration, and execution. Martial arts give you a sense of mastery and fulfillment, which also contributes to your well-being.

In summary, martial arts can help to reduce anxiety and stress. Martial arts help by giving you a sense of mastery over an ancient practice and a sense of fulfillment to improve your self-esteem. In addition, martial arts can help you improve mental focus, concentration, and general well-being. For more information and help on anxiety, please visit


Effects of martial arts on health status: a systematic review.
Bu B, Haijun H, Yong L, Chaohui Z, Xiaoyuan Y, Singh MF.
J Evid Based Med. 2010 Nov;3(4):205-19.

Managing stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Wang CW, Chan CH, Ho RT, Chan JS, Ng SM, Chan CL.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 9;14:8.

Meditation for the management of adjustment disorder anxiety and depression.
Srivastava M, Talukdar U, Lahan V.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Nov;17(4):241-5.

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