Life-Long Health May Begin at Childhood: Martial Arts and its Multi-Faceted Benefits

Lydia Tesfa PhD

Research Associate Professor

Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus
1300 Morris Park Avenue

According to the CDC, approximately half of American adults (117 million people) today have one or more preventable chronic diseases. With seven of the ten most common chronic diseases being favorably influenced by regular physical activity, nearly 80 percent of adults are not meeting key guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. This lack of physical activity is linked to approximately $117 billion in annual health care costs and about 10 percent of premature mortality. Obesity is not restricted to resource-rich countries. A recent study describing obesity related challenges in low-resource countries is a good example. The study demonstrated a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents in Ethiopia (1). Exercise is not only vital for physical health, but it can also positively impact the overall wellness of the body, including mental health. This may be easier said than done – we are inundated with daily stories of diseases and fatal afflictions – and data shows that children are the most susceptible. They are increasingly plagued with chronic conditions such as diabetes and childhood obesity, which have reached epidemic status among children and teenagers. While factors such as genetic predisposition, environment and education play major roles in health wellness, good nutrition paired with introduction to physical activity, beginning at an early age, provides children with a solid foundation of health that can follow them into adulthood, surpassing physical health and positively affecting mental health, as well.

One such physical activity is martial arts. Martial arts began some 3000 years ago in modern day Sri Lanka and gradually spread northwest to China, India and Korea (2). The key components of martial arts include elf defense, health and fitness, character training, mind expansion and spiritual developments (3). Martial arts helps the body in conditioning, flexibility and agility, posture, weight, stamina and mental health. Further, physical and mental relaxation, control of and body, and increases in self-confidence are described as additional benefits of martial arts promoting mental health (4). Scientific literature also supports the positive impact of martial arts on mental health, citing improvements in self-esteem (5) emotional stability and assertiveness (6) and reductions in anxiety and depression (7).

These views are no different than the ones expressed by Master Jah Ra SibaSiben, an expert in martial arts with specialization in the disciplines of Kung-Fu, Tai Chi, Weaponry, Chin-Na, Meditation and Qigong. He teaches the principles of martial arts and its health objectives to young children in Washington metropolitan area. Master Jah describes martial arts as a physical activity that can be used to develop/maintain good physical and mental health. Not only it is a great activity that keeps children physically active, but also it instills a sense of achievement in their goal settings and moral codes. It helps children thrive physically and mentally as they work their way up to earning Black Belts.

Moreover, the exercise is unique in that it stresses character development and the importance of life skills more than any other sport or activity. According to the Master, in martial arts, nobody “rides the bench.” Everybody can participate with no previous experience and physical talent. Master Jah reiterated the concept of introducing martial arts to children at a young age, helping them develop healthy habits and behaviors that follow them into adulthood, thereby contributing to life-long health benefits. He went on to explain that a mastery of key elements of martial arts can be achieved through consistent reinforcement and practice of the art. And, these key elements can be examined in detail in the following paragraphs.

Fitness is achieved as a result of martial arts utilizing a high-aerobic workout exercise that uses every muscle group in the body. The children’s stamina, muscle tone, flexibility, balance and strength improve through martial arts training, promoting a healthy lifestyle. Due to the total-body nature of a martial arts workout, tons of calories are burned during every class. The body’s natural eating signals become better regulated, resulting in less food cravings, and better moderated diet. Furthermore, by participating regularly in martial arts classes, children acquire greatly improved muscle mass and tone. The greater the muscle mass, the higher the metabolic demand will be, and subsequently, the more calories are burned by the body each day, thereby helping to prevent obesity and promote weight loss.

Another critical benefit of physical exercise is improved Posture. Young children spend hours playing at computer games and watching TV, which causes hunched, rounded shoulders and a weakened lower spine. Not only does this damage the spine and lead to backache, it also increases stress, prevents from breathing properly, and even negatively impacts one’s confidence (our body language can often inform our mental state). Young children can develop proper posture by executing martial arts techniques that are regularly applied during class.

Martial arts practice may be important in helping reduce injuries by improving Balance. Kinesthetic awareness, or “body awareness,” is what allows one to estimate where the body is in space at any given time. This is related to balance, but also spatial awareness and agility. Martial arts techniques require children to stay conscious of their body while accessing more difficult technique moves: balancing on one foot while throwing different kicks and holding certain position that require refined balance. This practice builds up strength in their smaller supporting muscles, as well as throughout the body’s core muscles. On the mental level, young children learn how to balance their time efficiently, whether playing games, doing homework, or keeping their room clean and orderly. Coordination is another area that is improved by this physical exercise. It teaches students to balance in a number of positions, strengthening their stabilizer muscles, rendering them less prone to in injury in everyday life.

Focus plays a key role in martial arts. Many young children have a limited attention span. By training in martial arts, they learn to focus on the task at hand, possibly for the first time in their lives. Acquiring this skill prepares young children for better performance whether they are in martial arts class, or in school. Behind the punches, kicks and knee strikes, as martial artist, a child learns to sit with him/herself and see where his/her weaknesses are, what it is to be focused and challenged.

Memory/Mental Mastery is another crucial aspect of martial arts. It improves memory by requiring children to recall individual forms, steps, routines and patterns, making martial arts a great mental exercise. Remembering their martial arts techniques and memorizing their forms is mandatory, so they remember the important things taught in class, which help them make smarter decisions whether in training class or in school. Increasing mental exercise keeps the mind quick, alert and open.

Martial arts is based upon discipline. Due to the goal set of becoming a Black Belt, positive encouragement and respect for values, staying committed, being punctual, following through (“stick-to-it-tive-ness”) and finishing tasks on time are all part of martial arts training.

Self-confidence is another area of personal development. Due to the goal-setting, positive encouragement, and respect for values that are part of the martial arts program, children become more comfortable in all situations, whether they are in danger or simply doing a task that takes them beyond their comfort zone.

The impact of martial arts on the varying areas explored above serve to highlight the multi-faceted benefits that physical exercise brings. Its positive effects are especially profound when it is begun in one’s formative years: childhood. The integration of martial arts as well as other physical activities in daily exercise regimen could be part of solutions designed to address the “emerging nutrition linked problem associated with overweight/obesity in Ethiopia” (1).  

In today’s age, children all over the globe are tempted by the call of digital devices that renders them indoors, and sedentary, for many hours. Martial arts, among other forms of physical exercise, can be a fun, challenging, and exciting activity for children that simultaneously builds character, discipline, and the important habits that will no doubt be ingrained in their minds and bodies as they develop into healthy adults.


  1. Alemu Gebrie, Animut Alebel, Abriham Zegeye and Aster Ferede (2018) Prevalence and associated factors of overweight/obesity among children and adolescents in Ethiopia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, BMC Obesity, 5:19
  2. Corcoron, J. and Farakas, E. (1983) Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. New York: Gallery Books
  3. Wong, K.K. (1996) The art of Shaolin kung fu. London: Vermillion
  4. Weiser, M. Kutz, I. and Kutz, S. J. (1995) Psychotherapeutic aspects of martial arts. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 49, 118-12
  5. Fuller, J. R. (1988) Martial arts and psychological health. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 61, 317-328
  6. Konzak, B. and Boudreau, F. (1984) Martial arts training and mental health: An exercise in self-help. Canada’s Mental Health, 32, 2-8
  7. Cai, X. S. (2000) Physical exercise and mental health: a content integrated approach in coping with college students’ anxiety and depression. Physical Educator, 57(2), 69-76

43 thoughts on “Life-Long Health May Begin at Childhood: Martial Arts and its Multi-Faceted Benefits

  1. There are definitely numerous details like that to take into consideration. That is a nice level to convey up. I offer the thoughts above as normal inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you deliver up the place a very powerful thing will likely be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged round issues like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Each girls and boys feel the influence of just a moment抯 pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  2. I’m just writing to make you be aware of of the useful encounter my wife’s girl obtained reading through your webblog. She figured out some things, including what it’s like to have a very effective coaching mood to let many people without difficulty completely grasp a variety of impossible issues. You truly exceeded readers’ desires. Many thanks for providing such valuable, healthy, revealing and as well as cool guidance on the topic to Jane.

  3. I enjoy you because of each of your hard work on this site. Debby really likes carrying out investigation and it’s really easy to see why. Most people notice all regarding the lively manner you make efficient techniques on your web site and in addition recommend participation from people on the article and my daughter is really being taught so much. Have fun with the rest of the year. You have been carrying out a first class job.

  4. I wish to point out my admiration for your kindness supporting persons who should have help with this important idea. Your real commitment to getting the message up and down was exceptionally practical and have really empowered professionals much like me to realize their desired goals. Your helpful recommendations denotes a great deal to me and still more to my mates. Thanks a lot; from each one of us.

  5. My wife and i ended up being very thankful when Peter managed to finish off his homework by way of the precious recommendations he gained using your blog. It is now and again perplexing to simply happen to be offering points other people have been selling. We keep in mind we need the blog owner to be grateful to for that. These explanations you made, the simple web site navigation, the friendships your site give support to instill – it’s got all astonishing, and it is making our son in addition to our family know that this matter is enjoyable, which is certainly unbelievably vital. Thanks for all the pieces!

  6. I just wanted to develop a small message so as to express gratitude to you for the superb guidelines you are posting at this site. My time-consuming internet look up has now been recognized with high-quality ideas to write about with my family and friends. I ‘d assume that we readers actually are very endowed to live in a very good place with many lovely individuals with useful secrets. I feel quite privileged to have used your webpages and look forward to really more cool moments reading here. Thanks again for everything.

  7. My wife and i got absolutely relieved Michael managed to deal with his basic research from the precious recommendations he made out of your web site. It is now and again perplexing just to possibly be giving away techniques which usually some others could have been making money from. And we also recognize we’ve got the blog owner to thank for that. All of the explanations you made, the straightforward site menu, the relationships you aid to promote – it’s many remarkable, and it’s really leading our son in addition to us imagine that that content is amusing, and that’s especially indispensable. Thanks for the whole thing!

  8. I precisely had to say thanks again. I do not know what I would’ve sorted out in the absence of these recommendations documented by you directly on such industry. Entirely was the fearsome circumstance for me, however , noticing a new well-written manner you processed that forced me to jump with happiness. I’m just grateful for the information and believe you are aware of an amazing job that you’re putting in teaching many people thru your web site. Probably you have never met all of us.

  9. I needed to draft you the little bit of note to thank you very much as before on your striking principles you’ve featured above. This has been really wonderfully open-handed with people like you to present easily all numerous people might have made available as an e-book to help with making some profit on their own, notably seeing that you might have tried it in case you wanted. The solutions as well served as a fantastic way to be aware that other people have a similar keenness the same as my very own to realize a good deal more in terms of this condition. I’m certain there are thousands of more pleasant instances ahead for those who take a look at your website.

  10. I wish to show my thanks to the writer just for bailing me out of such a condition. After checking throughout the world-wide-web and seeing tricks which are not productive, I believed my life was done. Living minus the approaches to the difficulties you’ve resolved all through your post is a critical case, and ones that would have badly damaged my career if I hadn’t come across your blog. Your personal training and kindness in controlling the whole lot was useful. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not come across such a thing like this. I’m able to at this time look forward to my future. Thanks very much for your impressive and result oriented guide. I will not hesitate to suggest your blog to any person who should get assistance about this topic.

  11. I’m just commenting to let you know what a awesome encounter our girl went through studying your webblog. She noticed too many pieces, including what it’s like to have a very effective coaching style to let many people very easily master various extremely tough issues. You really did more than people’s expected results. I appreciate you for delivering the great, dependable, explanatory and also easy tips about your topic to Sandra.

  12. Thank you so much for providing individuals with an extremely wonderful chance to discover important secrets from this site. It can be very lovely and also stuffed with a great time for me personally and my office mates to search your web site no less than 3 times per week to find out the newest issues you have. Not to mention, we’re certainly impressed with your cool knowledge served by you. Selected 3 areas in this article are truly the very best I have ever had.

  13. I used to be very pleased to seek out this internet-site.I needed to thanks to your time for this glorious read!! I definitely having fun with each little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you weblog post.

  14. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So good to search out any individual with some authentic thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this web site is something that’s needed on the net, somebody with slightly originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  15. I抎 must test with you here. Which isn’t something I often do! I get pleasure from studying a put up that may make people think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  16. There are some attention-grabbing deadlines in this article but I don抰 know if I see all of them heart to heart. There may be some validity however I will take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  17. I discovered your blog website on google and check a number of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the excellent operate. I simply extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Seeking forward to reading extra from you in a while!?

  18. I抦 impressed, I need to say. Actually hardly ever do I encounter a blog that抯 each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have got hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is one thing that not enough persons are talking intelligently about. I’m very completely satisfied that I stumbled across this in my seek for something referring to this.

  19. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to find somebody with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this web site is something that is wanted on the web, somebody with a little bit originality. useful job for bringing one thing new to the internet!

  20. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn something like this before. So good to search out any person with some unique thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that’s wanted on the web, someone with a bit originality. helpful job for bringing one thing new to the internet!

  21. There are some interesting cut-off dates in this article however I don抰 know if I see all of them heart to heart. There is some validity but I’ll take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as well

  22. There are some attention-grabbing time limits in this article however I don抰 know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity however I will take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  23. A powerful share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing a little bit analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If potential, as you become experience, would you thoughts updating your blog with extra details? It is highly useful for me. Huge thumb up for this blog publish!

  24. Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I’m experiencing issue with ur rss . Don抰 know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting an identical rss drawback? Anybody who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  25. I as well as my pals were studying the best information and facts from the website and then got a terrible feeling I never thanked the site owner for those strategies. Most of the boys had been certainly thrilled to read through all of them and have now certainly been taking pleasure in these things. We appreciate you indeed being simply thoughtful and for making a choice on some high-quality issues millions of individuals are really desperate to learn about. Our own honest regret for not expressing appreciation to you sooner.

  26. I intended to create you a bit of word to be able to thank you so much again with your pleasant tricks you have documented in this case. It’s extremely generous with you to make unhampered what exactly most people could have sold as an e book in making some dough for themselves, even more so seeing that you might well have tried it in case you decided. The tips also acted to be the easy way to fully grasp that other individuals have a similar desire similar to mine to know the truth significantly more with regards to this issue. I am sure there are many more fun periods in the future for individuals that see your website.

  27. I intended to compose you one very little remark to finally say thank you as before for the incredible views you’ve contributed above. It has been simply shockingly generous of you giving freely what many of us might have offered as an e-book to earn some dough on their own, even more so considering the fact that you might well have tried it if you ever considered necessary. These techniques also worked to provide a great way to recognize that someone else have similar keenness really like my very own to understand more and more when considering this problem. I am sure there are millions of more enjoyable periods ahead for individuals who view your blog post.

  28. I simply needed to thank you very much yet again. I’m not certain what I might have used without the actual suggestions discussed by you regarding this concern. It previously was a real frightful crisis in my position, however , taking a look at the well-written form you managed the issue took me to cry with gladness. I’m thankful for the guidance and as well , have high hopes you are aware of a great job you were getting into teaching men and women via your websites. I am certain you haven’t met any of us.

  29. A lot of thanks for all of your work on this site. Ellie loves engaging in internet research and it’s easy to understand why. Most people know all concerning the dynamic medium you convey practical secrets through the web blog and in addition welcome contribution from other people about this situation while my daughter is always starting to learn a great deal. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You’re the one doing a remarkable job.

  30. I’m also commenting to let you understand of the fantastic encounter my wife’s daughter found checking your blog. She discovered too many details, which include how it is like to possess an excellent giving nature to make many others quite simply comprehend specific advanced issues. You truly exceeded readers’ expected results. Thanks for delivering those beneficial, safe, revealing and also unique guidance on the topic to Julie.

  31. I have to express appreciation to you for rescuing me from this particular situation. As a result of exploring through the search engines and finding views which are not powerful, I assumed my life was done. Living without the presence of answers to the issues you have sorted out through your entire post is a crucial case, and those which could have badly affected my entire career if I hadn’t come across your web site. Your primary understanding and kindness in maneuvering all the pieces was important. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not come across such a subject like this. I’m able to now look ahead to my future. Thanks very much for the high quality and amazing guide. I will not be reluctant to suggest the sites to any person who would need assistance on this subject matter.

  32. Thanks so much for giving everyone such a memorable opportunity to read from this blog. It’s usually very enjoyable and as well , stuffed with fun for me and my office fellow workers to visit your site on the least thrice weekly to learn the new tips you have got. And lastly, I’m also always fulfilled with your superb tactics served by you. Some 2 tips in this post are in reality the most suitable we have had.

  33. I together with my friends appeared to be checking out the great tricks from the website while immediately got a terrible suspicion I never expressed respect to the blog owner for those strategies. These people came as a result very interested to see all of them and now have honestly been using them. Many thanks for genuinely really considerate and then for having certain awesome subject matter millions of individuals are really eager to learn about. Our sincere regret for not expressing appreciation to sooner.

  34. My wife and i got so fortunate Raymond managed to complete his basic research with the ideas he came across from your own weblog. It is now and again perplexing just to always be making a gift of helpful tips people today have been making money from. And we remember we now have you to thank for that. The specific explanations you have made, the easy website menu, the friendships you help to instill – it’s mostly astounding, and it’s really making our son and our family reckon that this matter is pleasurable, and that’s extraordinarily serious. Thanks for everything!

  35. I simply had to say thanks once again. I do not know the things I could possibly have followed without these smart ideas discussed by you relating to such a situation. It previously was the challenging concern in my position, however , coming across the skilled technique you processed it made me to weep with delight. Now i am thankful for the support and thus expect you really know what a powerful job your are carrying out teaching most people by way of a blog. More than likely you’ve never got to know any of us.

  36. I enjoy you because of your entire hard work on this blog. Kim delights in setting aside time for investigation and it’s really simple to grasp why. We all learn all relating to the powerful means you make priceless guidelines through this blog and even boost participation from others on this theme then my simple princess is truly learning a whole lot. Take pleasure in the remaining portion of the new year. Your doing a splendid job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *