Martial Arts Research

BERA Blog Post: The Paradox of the Martial Arts

https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/the-paradox-of-the-martial-arts

Enhancing children’s psychological wellbeing through training in the martial arts of Wing Chun and Ba Gua (BERA Conference, 2023, abstract, submission #76)

According to The World Health Organization (WHO, 2013), children’s mental health and wellbeing (MHWB) is a major public health challenge. Given the impact of Covid-19 along with the impact on children’s physical and psychological wellbeing, which has been further exacerbated through the cost of living crisis, children’s MHWB is a topical issue (Carr et al., 2021; Newlove-Delgado et al., 2021; Widnall et al., 2020). The martial arts offer a potential approach to address such issues.


The therapeutic benefits of training in the martial arts has a lengthy research tradition discussing the positive effect of reducing depression and anxiety, while increasing self-esteem along with self-transcendent benefits (e.g. Columbus and Rice, 1998; Massey, 1998; Monahan, 2003; Twemlow et al., 1996; Weiser et al., 1995; Yang, 1998; Wang, 2010). However, such research has become dated and research into the relationship between martial arts participation and children’s self-esteem is limited.

While previous research is difficult to generalise given demographics, the martial art trained, and so forth, there is the potential to distil techniques into a general martial arts inspired programme to elicit positive affect in children.

The Mindful Movement Programme (MMP) synthesised and simplified techniques from the ‘Jook Wan Huen’ (a ring used to practice Wing Chun found in some lineages of the style), along with ‘tea serving’ exercises from Ba Gua. The techniques used easily available physical education equipment found in schools, while removing aspects that would allow practical application of the techniques outside of the Programme.

A quasi-experiment was conducted, adopting a convergent mixed methodological design. This combined predominantly quantitative data through both state and trait measures of self-esteem with a smaller qualitative element from participants’ responses of the programme. A control group (N=24, age M=11.0 years) and an experimental group (N=22, age M=11.0 years) were assessed prior to, and at the end of, the four week programme. A one-way between-groups analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in both trait and state self-esteem for the experimental group, while both the state and trait self-esteem for the control group diminished. From a qualitative perspective, the experimental group reported many positive attributes, such as relaxing, calming, absorbing, etc.

Consequently, from the results of this study, a martial art inspired programme for children can increase both trait and state self-esteem. Such a programme could easily be adopted for other school settings.

References
Carr, M.J. et al. (2021). Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on primary care-recorded mental illness and self-harm episodes in the UK: a population-based cohort study. Lancet Public Health, 2021; 6:e124-35.
Columbus, P.J. & Rice, D. (1998). Phenomenological meanings of martial arts participation. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 21:1, 16-29.
Massey, P.B. (1998). Medicine and the Martial Arts – A Brief Historical Perspective. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Vol. 4:6,.438-444.
Monahan, M. (2007). The practice of self-overcoming: Nietzschean reflections on the martial arts. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 34, 39-51.
Newlove-Delgado, T. et al. (2021). Mental Health of Children and Young People group. Child mental health in England before and during the COVID-19 lockdown. Lancet Psychiatry, 8:5, 353-354.
Twemlow, S.W., Sacco, F.C. and Fonagy, P. (2008). Embodying the mind: Movement as a container for destructive aggression. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 62:1, 1-33.
Wang, C. et al. (2010). Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10:23, 1-16.
Weiser, Mark et al. (1995). Psychotherapeutic aspects of martial arts. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 49:1, 118-127.
Widnall, E. et al. (2020). Young people’s mental health during the covid-19 pandemic: initial findings from a secondary school survey study in South West England. Bristol: NIHR School for Public Health Research.
World Health Organization (2013). The European Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020. Geneva: World Health Organization. www.euro.who.int/data/assets/pdf_file/0020/280604/WHO-Europe-Mental-Health-Acion-Plan-2013-2020.pdf (accessed 16 May 2021).

Themes
Mental Health, Wellbeing and Education

Second Theme
Ongoing Impact of COVID


The Mindful Movement Programme: A martial-art inspired approach for enhancing state and trait self-esteem (BERA Conference 2023, abstract, submission #436)

The therapeutic benefits of training in the martial arts has a lengthy research tradition discussing the positive effect of reducing depression and anxiety, while increasing self-esteem along with self-transcendent benefits (e.g. Columbus and Rice, 1998; Massey, 1998; Monahan, 2003; Twemlow et al., 1996; Weiser et al., 1995; Yang, 1998; Wang, 2010). However, such research has become dated and research into the relationship between martial arts participation and children’s self-esteem is limited.

While previous research is difficult to generalise given demographics, the martial art trained, and so forth, there is the potential to distil techniques into a general martial arts inspired programme to elicit positive affect in children.

The Mindful Movement Programme (MMP) synthesised and simplified techniques from the ‘Jook Wan Huen’ (a ring used to practice Wing Chun found in some lineages of the style), along with ‘tea serving’ exercises from Ba Gua. The techniques used easily available physical education equipment found in schools, while removing aspects that would allow practical application of the techniques outside of the Programme.

A quasi-experiment was conducted, adopting a convergent mixed methodological design (Buckler and Moore, 2023). This combined predominantly quantitative data through both state and trait measures of self-esteem with a smaller qualitative element from participants’ responses of the programme. A control group (N=24, age M=11.0 years) and an experimental group (N=22, age M=11.0 years) were assessed prior to, and at the end of, the four week programme. A one-way between-groups analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in both trait and state self-esteem for the experimental group, while both the state and trait self-esteem for the control group diminished. From a qualitative perspective, the experimental group reported many positive attributes, such as relaxing, calming, absorbing, etc.

Consequently, from the results of this study, a martial art inspired programme for children can increase both trait and state self-esteem. Such a programme could easily be adopted for other school settings.

This workshop will introduce the Mindful Movement Programme, enabling participants to apply the programme within their own settings.

References
Buckler, S. and Moore, H. (2023). Essentials of Research Methods in Education. London: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Columbus, P.J. & Rice, D. (1998). Phenomenological meanings of martial arts participation. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 21:1, 16-29.
Massey, P.B. (1998). Medicine and the Martial Arts – A Brief Historical Perspective. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Vol. 4:6,.438-444.
Monahan, M. (2007). The practice of self-overcoming: Nietzschean reflections on the martial arts. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 34, 39-51.
Twemlow, S.W., Sacco, F.C. and Fonagy, P. (2008). Embodying the mind: Movement as a container for destructive aggression. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 62:1, 1-33.
Wang, C. et al. (2010). Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10:23, 1-16.
Weiser, Mark et al. (1995). Psychotherapeutic aspects of martial arts. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 49:1, 118-127.

Themes
Mental Health, Wellbeing and Education

Second Theme
Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy