Martial Arts Participation Reduces Aggression in Children and Teens

Posted on August 10, 2017

Martial Arts is associated with aggressive behaviour, hence it sounds contradictory that participation in the sport reduces aggression. However, this forms a core basis of many forms of martial arts, which emphasises the importance of self-control.

Research results have shown that martial arts participation improves many positive aspects of a person, like concentration, self-awareness, self-regulation and emotional stability. Anna Harwood and Michal Lavidor of Bar-Ilan University and Yuri Rassovsky of UCLA conducted a meta-analysis of twelve studies and found a significant impact of martial arts on reducing aggression - eleven of the twelve studies found a positive impact. Externalising behaviours were also reduced in participants. Examples of externalising behaviours are physical aggression and verbal and physical bullying. Participants had a better sense of control over their actions and the situation through practising martial arts. This led to fewer negative emotional responses.

The results were consistent across age and gender. There was also no significant difference found when researchers looked at the number of hours trained and whether the participant practised in or outside of school. The meta-analysis included studies with different methodologies, including longitudinal random control trials. However, it was limited in the number of studies covered, and hence may negatively influence the statistical integrity of the meta-analysis.

Martial arts also differ in their techniques and philosophy. However, there is few research looking at the impact of different types of martial arts on aggression. Most of the studies on this topic look at people who practice many different types of martial arts.

The study that found negative results for aggression was conducted with young boys who were participating in judo. Judo does not have a focus on meditation in training for self-control unlike other martial arts, which could have led to the negative results.

This meta-analysis shows some potential for martial arts intervention for teenagers with serious anti-social behaviours and delinquency. It may be hard to get them participating in typical programmes. Martial arts, which is more enjoyable and cost-effective than traditional therapy, could complement and be the basis of intervention for these teenagers.


Category(s):Aggression & Violence, Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Teenage Issues

Source material from The British Psychological Society Research Digest


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