13 Health Benefits of Combative Sports
The Good Fight: The Health Benefits of Combative Sports
Everyone knows that being active is good for your body and mind, and your overall health as you age over the years. Most people are engulfed in their everyday life with family and work responsibilities and forget about what it means to live a normal and healthy lifestyle. If you don’t fall into this category and you’re living your dreams, congratulations because you’re blessed.
Don’t misunderstand me, family and work are both blessings, but you have to remember one of your greatest responsibilities, and that’s to yourself. Your health mentally and physically are your priorities, because without them, who’s going to take care of your family and go to work to earn a living on your behalf? That’s kind of hard to answer because it’s a hard world.
Do you remember when you were a child and had no worries? Do you remember when all you thought about was what game you wanted to play? How fast you could run and the highest tree you were willing to climb? Yeah, that sounds like great times and they were. They were probably your most active years.
So you grew up a little and had to start playing school sports or join summer leagues to keep fit and make new friends. You even realized that maybe it’s a good idea to take up some self-defense because the world you lived in began to take on a different form. Many people decide that taking martial arts, wrestling, or boxing is a good idea to not only get stronger physically, but they eventually realize that they’ve benefited mentally.
And because of the health benefits of combative sports, I’ve decided that this topic was something I needed to find out more about, not just because I’ve experienced these benefits myself, but because I want to make a stand against those who lack knowledge about combative sports and prove that they are needed for people of all ages. Let’s begin with the big question.
What are the health benefits of combative sports training? The health benefits of combative sports training include promoting:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Improved focus and concentration
- Listening skills
- Building confidence
- Physical Training
- Comradery improving social skills
- Conflict resolution
You should know that combat sports have many benefits and the greatest of them is probably promoting a healthy lifestyle. That’s probably going to be obvious after you read this article because it’s all going to connect. Everything from the mental to the physical elements is needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Which combative sport is best for health? Choosing the type of combative sport that is best for your health depends on what you’re interested in, but you can look into the following:
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ)
- Plus many others
I’ll go over each benefit for you and I’m going to provide you with some extra information for your benefit. This should be good for you if you’re someone already involved in these combat-fighting sports or if you’re someone considering starting training in one.
Mental Health Benefits of Combative Sports
Why is studying combat sports good for the mind and health?
Whenever most people think of taking a combative sport, it most likely has to do with the physical side of the picture, wouldn’t you agree? Even though this is a very important part of it, the most important would have to be the mental side of it, because without mental health there would be no balance within the human body.
Are Martial Arts Good for Depression?
Solving mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, or depression can play a major role in perfecting your health and improving your performance as a practitioner of combative sports. It’s very well known since recorded history that combative sports have always been regarded as great exercises for the body and mind.
These sports are ideal for creating self-esteem and confidence to not only succeed within your chosen combat sport but also in your life goals.
There’s a study that was conducted on Australian students on “the effects of martial arts training on secondary students’ resilience” in the British Journal of Educational Psychology that proves the health benefits of combative sports (https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjep.12422) on children, not just adults. Here’s a quick look at what the study found, check it out below.
Background of the study: Mental health problems are a growing and significant issue in the Australian education system.
Aims: A 10-week study to investigate whether a martial arts training program promoted resilience in secondary school students.
Sample: Two hundred and eighty-three secondary school students between the ages of 12 and 14 years participated in the study.
Methods: To examine the effects of a 10-week martial arts training program on secondary school students.
Results: The study found that the martial arts-based intervention had a significantly positive effect on developing students’ resilience. This was especially apparent when the intervention and control groups’ mean resilience outcomes were compared. Resilience outcomes appeared to be stronger immediately following the intervention compared with a 12-week follow-up.
Conclusions of the study: Given the prevalence of mental illness among Australian youth, the current study provides robust evidence that students’ resilience can be improved using martial arts-based interventions delivered in school settings.
That’s proof for anyone who says that martial arts or any combative sports style are not beneficial for children or adults. If you don’t want hearsay, then the best thing to do is find real sources in real life. Other studies have been conducted, if you’re interested let us know in the comments and I’ll update this article for you.
So now we should know that combative sports are not just about fighting that’s not it at all, because everyone I’ve known or come into contact with preaches self-defense and self-control in avoiding confrontation. That brings us to the next benefit of these great sports, the physical health benefits of combative sports.
Physical Health Benefits of Combative Sports
Do you know people who have developed high blood pressure, heart disease, colon cancer, or diabetes? Do you realize that to reduce the risk of getting one of these health problems and others, is by simply doing regular physical activity? It’s good for your body, it’s just that simple.
The human body wasn’t designed to stay put. Let me ask you this, have you ever let your car sit for a long period? If you have, you eventually find something has gone wrong, right? The tires leak air, the A/C stops working, the battery dies, or maybe it just won’t turnover. Now you have to spend money to get your car fixed and that’s just money you’ve lost.
What about your physical and mental health due to lack of exercise? You can’t solve that problem with money.
The bottom line is that exercise is good for you mentally and physically. And since we’re discussing combat sports and the many benefits they offer, such as mental health by reducing things like stress, anxiety, and depression, and their physical benefits like maintaining your strength, flexibility, and endurance, even as you age… that’s a lot of advantages, wouldn’t you agree?
The American Psychological Association lists multiple press releases based on many studies conducted on exercise that warn about inactivity and its effects on mental health. This stuff is nothing new and this information has been around for years. One report is titled “Exercise Helps Sustain Mental Activity as We Age, and May Prevent Dementia-like Illnesses”. This is about exercise in general, we’re not even talking about the health benefits of combative sports yet.
The studies prove that physical exercise helps people maintain their mental abilities as they age. The authors (doctors) of one study said “But our review of the last 40 years of research does offer evidence that physical exercise can have a positive influence on cognitive and brain functions in older animal and human subjects.”
I’m not trying to push you into taking up some style of combative sport. If you’re not into that then that’s okay. You could do brisk walking or any other less excessive activity to increase your mental health. But if you do decide to take up a combative sport, we’ve got the training you need and more coming soon, so if you’re looking for exercise that’s going to better your life then you can learn hand-to-hand combat fighting at home from us.
Combat Sports Improve Focus and Concentration
Exercise in general will improve your focus but combative sports are good at improving your focus, concentration, and memory. Why do I say that? Well, have you ever taken any martial arts or other combative sports? Have you ever heard of muscle memory? One last question.
How do you get muscle memory? Muscle memory is achieved through brain activity and repeated movement by carrying out a specific act of motion 1000s of times until the brain stores those movements as learned motions. Through this process of motor learning, muscle memory is achieved with less future cognitive work.
This exercise of repeated movement while practicing your combative skills is also especially important for children since they’re well known to be easily distracted. This is a win-win situation for them because they’re taught to learn to focus and concentrate at an early age, providing them with a good foundation for more advanced skills later on in their lives.
Listening Skills for Combative Sports
Listening skills can be developed and increased by placing yourself in a situation in which you are forced to listen. That could be a Judo training class for example because this specific combative sport relies heavily on focus and concentration, which means listening to your instructor very carefully to avoid submission or even worse an injury.
If you practice very hard and take action, your listening skills will increase because, without listening skills, other areas of your life can be affected. Areas such as your social skills during the conversation, and your ability to understand and comprehend others.
It’s great how you can benefit in life from combative sports overall. You can give and take others’ words or opinions. You learn to respect everyone’s point of view because there’s more than just yours. This creates patience and tolerance as you’ll soon see.
So what are some ways of learning listening skills through combative sports?
There are three ways to build listening skills. These are attentive, responsive, and active listening.
Attentive listening is how you keep someone engaged in your conversation, in this case, instructions during training. Due to the amount of focus required to perform a technique or move correctly, you have to pay close attention to get it right.
If you don’t, then you must repeat it until you do, at the same time, you’re shown the steps with instructions again if you were not paying attention.
So in this stage, you have to pay close attention, listen very carefully, observe your instructor in action, and engage in the activity giving positive feedback showing that you were attentively listening. Through this way of learning, listening skills are built.
Responsive listening allows you to show the instructor that you are listening and that you understood what he just showed you, and what he said. This lets him know to continue and encourages him to use other means of communication, which is good and is for your benefit.
These forms of communication or responses are verbal and nonverbal, so your focus and concentration play a big role in developing your listening skills.
The verbal responses can include acknowledging what was just said with a “yes sir”, anything similar, or whatever your personality is used to. You can also repeat what was said or paraphrase it to show that you listening.
Your nonverbal responses could be many and again this depends on your nature. Maybe you nod, smile, give a thumbs up, show eye contact while attempting the movement, take notes, and many more.
Lastly, we have active listening which is probably the most important of the three. This deals with listening and responding to your instructor while at the same time allowing him to be in control of your lessons and being understanding to not take anything away from his knowledge and experience. Of course, if you don’t understand something, ask.
During this mode of listening, you’re also trying to understand what was said, understand the point of view, understand any feelings that were transmitted with the words, and how it was said. For example, was he said important or not, was it said with any urgency, was it an opinion or advice, etc?
After you feel you’ve understood correctly, then communicate back what you understood in your own words and ask any questions that you still may need answering.
Self-Defense as a Health Benefit of Combative Sports
Who wouldn’t want to protect himself and the ones he loves? To have this ability is something you almost can’t go without, but first, you should understand the meaning of self-defense.
What is self-defense? Self-defense is the concepts and skills learned to help develop self-protection strategies which include mental and physical confidence, awareness, verbal skills, a plan of action, and combative techniques to prevent, resist, survive, or escape a violent attack.
Some people are blessed to go through life with little to zero confrontations that would bring them physical or mental harm by way of fighting. That’s a big deal and it’s something to cherish, but there are others, like myself who have been drawn into the conflict and there was no other way but to defend yourself.
This is not to say that self-defense only teaches you to protect yourself by fighting back, there are also peaceful ways to resolve things, and that’s the ideal solution.
You’re taught to think of other options and choices, to develop your awareness of your surroundings, and to learn to become more assertive. This helps you understand how to prevent a confrontation before it starts and to do this, you need to be able to confront your fears.
Learning self-defense training will give you greater options to do that by knowing how to correctly and timely respond to an attack, avoid, slow down, deescalate, or stop one as well.
Whether you’ve been put in a situation to use self-defense peacefully or by fighting back, you must know these strategies can be used on everyone, whether they’re close to you like relatives or strangers.
The reason I say this is because when it comes to women, their attackers are usually people they know and it’s important to know how to resolve these types of attacks. So if you’re a woman, you may want to take a special self-defense class that not only focuses on the physical aspects but also the mental aspects and the strategies used.
You should understand that there are no guarantees when it comes to self-defense. That’s why you need to be very careful of any advertising that exaggerates or makes wild claims. You can expect to see things like how you’ll be successful if you were to buy a gun, an alarm, pepper spray, or self-defense training programs.
Believe me, I’ve seen someone get pepper sprayed so badly, you’d think he would’ve been on the ground crying and screaming in agony, but he somehow withstood it. The point is, not everyone is the same, and tolerance levels are very different.
Building Confidence in Combat Sports
To be able to build the confidence you need to be able to take control of your emotions. For example, if you’re in fear of being attacked, where’s your confidence?
If you were to be attacked and the first thing you did was freeze-up in fear after the startling thought that you were about to be attacked, how could you defend yourself if you didn’t have the self-confidence to do so? Controlling your emotions is huge in these kinds of scenarios.
Learning how to control an emotion like fear and turning it into a powerful tool that works for you will make you more empowered and more in control. So, how do you change it into a powerful emotion instead of it working against you?
The answer to that is you must train and defend yourself, and the training needs to be realistic. You’re not training for demonstrations or fake scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re not using techniques that don’t work.
If you think about it, even during live training sessions, there’s still a sense of fear in most people. What’s causing that fear is another story, but the point is to learn how to control it and train as realistically as possible.
People have other things they’re worried about, things like feeling inferior, helplessness, and even anger can work against them. The only way to overcome these feelings is by learning real self-defense and by immersing yourself in real combat training that puts you in a situation that forces you to deal with those feelings.
All of this will in return build your confidence because by learning to overcome your weaknesses, you learn to deal with difficult situations and face them, which needs confidence and courage. So you need actual fighting experience and you’ll get that from training and competitions if you decide to go that route.
Combative Sports Promote Discipline
By now if you didn’t already see the pattern, all the health benefits of combative sports are intertwined. They all relate to each other, they develop and grow from one another, supporting each other like a solid foundation needed to keep a huge structure strong and lasting.
That structure is you, your body and mind, and your psychology. Let’s think about this for a moment.
Mental health and physical health rely on the other benefits for there to be a balance between the two. For the positive and negative, the Ying and Yang.
Listening skills need focus and concentration, self-defense is gained by using those three skills, and confidence is gained by learning self-defense and its strategies through peaceful ways and through fighting back. I can continue, but I think you understand.
Let’s go back to discipline. If you were to ask most people about how you could build discipline, they would probably try to reply with an answer that is most likely based on their own opinion. Here are some examples of what not to do to build discipline and of what you should do that would make sense but would also be something realistic.
If you are someone who is overweight and you got that way by eating all the things you love, then you’ve lost your self-discipline somewhere along the way. This isn’t something against people who are overweight, it’s just an easy example to explain and I hope it can also help you if you’re in this situation, so bear with me.
Someone might tell you to just stop eating all that stuff and eat healthily. But think about it, don’t you need some level of discipline to stick to that opinion, if that’s what you were after in the first place?
Wouldn’t it be better if you continued to eat the things you loved, but not as often as you’re used to? Could you start to slowly decrease how much you eat to the point that you’re still eating what you love, but it’s now at a moderate pace?
If exercise was something you wanted to do and had an interest in, could you start by taking short walks, then extending them as you feel more energy and your endurance begins to grow? Maybe now you can run and not walk as much, could you run for short distances and alternate between walking and running?
During this process of losing weight, building your body’s health up, and becoming fitter, don’t you think you’re gaining more discipline along the way? And if I was to ask you about discipline, what would you say now?
How do you build discipline? Discipline is controlling desires, emotions, and reactions by achieving a high level of mental control to create self-control and increased inner strength in all aspects of your personal and professional life.
Would you agree with that definition? Would you also agree that there’s no reason for you to treat yourself badly or prevent yourself from enjoying the things you love?
From my own experience, even if you were eating and doing things that are most likely not that great for your body when you start to slowly focus on doing the right things one step at a time, you’ll start wanting other beneficial things that are good for you.
A perfect example is going to be your body itself. It will tell you on its own what it now craves. I’m not joking. If you’ve ever done bodybuilding, then you’ll know what I mean.
For your body to be able to sustain that much stress from weights and training, it needs nutrition, good nutrition, and probably supplements as well. You’re not going to be able to continue training if your muscles are not getting what they need.
You’ll start drinking 100 percent juice, and more water, you’ll want to eat more veggies, and you’ll not want to eat as much junk food or even go out to eat fast food as you used to do.
To understand what I’m talking about here, you have to try this out yourself, and believe me, it’s not hard at all, except for taking the first step. That’s always the hardest. But remember this, you can bear things others can’t, and vice versa. That’s a strength within itself.
Make a move, destroy that first step with determination, and continue to build that motivation.
Patience is a Martial Arts Virtue
I’ll start this one off by telling you, there’s no easy way and this is something you’ll be working on all your life, plus the fact that there are some who are blessed with it and some who lack a lot of it.
In my experience, this comes from just that, life experience and it’ll vary depending on what you’ve got the patience for and what you don’t.
And because I’ve said it’s about life experience, I mean you gain more patience as you experience more things in life, we’re not perfect, so we’ll deal with things differently and on a whole different level each time.
Think about this. Imagine a thief who just stole something for the first time, heart pounding, mind racing, a feeling of fear of getting caught, and most likely paranoia. But there’s also the lack of patience and experience, and because of the lack of experience, there’s no patience.
How does patience fit into being a thief? No, I’m not a professional thief.
It plays a major role in his actions, his sayings or choice of words, and his psychology.
Maybe he doesn’t wait long enough to make the getaway, or maybe he plans things out too quickly because he needs the money asap, whatever the reason, a professional thief would take his time to make the plan as winnable as possible and that needs patience. Patience gained through experience of knowing what obstacles he might face and how to time things correctly.
Let’s get off the thief example, I’m starting to feel a little awkward here.
My point is that patience is truly something you have or you need to gain through experience and combative sports are a great means of gaining them. To be strategic in your chosen style of combat, wouldn’t you need to show patience and be calculating in catching your opponent off guard when he least expects it? You wouldn’t just rush into a punch, kick, submission, or knockout. Would you?
In training, you build patience, and in actual competitions and self-defense, you learn when to and when not to act. Once again, we’re talking about self-control, self-discipline, and how you need to control your emotions, reactions, and desires.
Combative Sports Thrive on Perseverance
Life is challenging and we face new things every day, I mean we’ve been facing things since the day we were born whether it was done instinctively or by using our judgment of dealing with things.
To be able to get the things you want in life, especially for your harder-earned goals, you need to build that drive to get you past all the pain points along the way. You must overcome the struggles and challenges.
Are you going to be successful the first time you face something challenging? That’s not possible. If you disagree, can you remember the first time you started learning to walk? How about when you started to crawl? Did you just jump up and do it? You can’t remember because I can’t either but our parents do.
You tried and failed, but you were determined to walk like the grownups around you. I can say some children start walking at a younger age than others and that’s what was meant for them, but other babies had to keep working at it.
That’s just it, you are in a state of trial and error, fail until you win. Plain and simple.
How do you improve your perseverance? Here are a couple of ideas for you.
16 Ways You Can Improve Your Perseverance
- Make clear goals
- Have the intention of achieving your goals
- Don’t lose sight of your goals
- Be optimistic
- Work on it now, not yesterday or tomorrow
- Feel good about your progress
- Take care of yourself
- You have to fail to succeed
- Do more each day for the goal you want to achieve
- Take the risks
- You’re inner-self is going to resist hardship, fight it
- Train in combative sports
- Make an exercise schedule and do it
- Be positive
- Listen to like-minded people
- Take it one step at a time
If you preserver, this is going to be one of your greatest keys to success in everything you do in life.
Respect is Earned and Given in Combat Sports
Everybody wants respect, but can you give it?
You must learn to respect others and yourself, it’s a two-way street. When you take up combat sports, you’re going to learn to respect others, it’s just a matter of time. Even if you’re an arrogant person and you can’t see anyone past your nose, you’re going to learn to be humble or someone’s going to teach it to you in the ring.
But before you get to that point, you’ll start to develop respect for your instructor, your mentor, because this is the person you’ve decided was the best man for the job, right? So it’s only natural that you’ll want to be as good as he is and you’ll develop respect for him because he’s feeding you good training and he knows what he’s doing.
As you learn and grow in your chosen combat fighting style, you’re also being taught how to develop your mind and body. You’re taught to live better with others and to treat them as you want to be treated.
Combative sports aren’t about learning to be aggressive and hurt people, they’re about learning to take responsibility and showing kindness to others. You develop respect for others around you because you’re constantly learning from everyone in your circle, and these things revolve around your life in general.
As you grow overall, you’ll appreciate what others are doing around you and you’ll learn to respect that and them.
The Health Benefits of Combative Sports in Physical Training
Physical training is something you can’t run away from without suffering something in return. I mean the human body was designed for movement, motion, and action, and it’s got to eat and drink its type of nutrition. I’m not talking about water, juices, veggies, and the like.
Your body needs physical activity. You have to move your limbs. Just go back and read over the physical health benefits of combative sports up top. Remember the car sitting around and not driving. Your body has to also remain a well-oiled machine.
The great thing about combative sports is that you’re always learning something new and you’re not going to be bored. Even if it seemed to your instructor that things were getting a bit stale, he’ll change up the routine on his own.
That’s why everyone who is learning these sports finds them fun, interesting, and most of all flexible because there’s so much to them. You’re not just stuck doing one thing, or two, or whatever. You have tons of things to learn because there’s not one situation that’s the same.
Your instructor will also tell you to do your training at home, this helps you improve yourself so you learn faster, and then you move on to more advanced training.
But what’s the best part of learning combat training at home? The best part of learning combat training at home is that you don’t need special equipment or a gym to get your workout, and that means relying on yourself, building your confidence levels, and understanding your weaknesses and strengths. This now allows you to focus and concentrate on where you need improvement. It’s all related.
And let me tell you that you’ll find combat sports are great for helping you lose weight because you’ll be burning a lot of calories while training. You’ll increase your energy and you’ll get addicted to wanting more of it.
These sports offer your body all forms of fitness and you’ll get the flexibility to go with it.
Don’t wait, go and start getting in shape.
Martial Art Comradery Improves Social Skills
A definite mental health benefit of combative sports is that you work out in a social environment around others with similar interests and goals in mind.
You probably joined a bodybuilding gym and maybe you’re still working out there, maybe not. What I want to point out is that people who go to gyms are focusing on their exercise program and they’re not mixing with others and it’s not a group thing. You don’t know them and they don’t know you.
There’s not much social activity here and you’ll find it’s hard to connect. Some people don’t want to even be bothered.
That’s where combative sports are different. Everything is social and you must interact with each other because you’re all working and learning from each other. Most of the time in combative sports you’re paired with another student to develop your skills and you’ll develop friendships along the way.
Combat Training Teaches Conflict Resolution
Have you ever had a problem with someone else at work? If you haven’t then that’s a great thing because you know how to handle yourself.
Some sometimes find themselves in a situation that results in conflict. Maybe the conflict is not because of you or you’re just not involved, or you need to mediate between two parties. Whatever the reason or situation, you need to find a peaceful way out of the problem. First, let me define conflict resolution.
What is conflict resolution? The ability to help reduce disagreement, resistance, or animosity between individuals or groups and find a resolution by using formal or informal strategies such as forcing, compromising, collaborating, reconciliation, bargaining, or the act of negotiating.
You can almost see where this is going. It’s almost like a business deal, and in fact, that’s a good way of interpreting it.
You’ve got to learn how to give and take and find a winnable situation for everyone involved, well as much as you’re able.
To be good at conflict resolution you’re going to need good listening skills, focus and concentration, self-discipline, and of course know how to negotiate.
One thing you need to understand though is that you have to be on the truth. If you’re trying to deal with any conflict through deception, it’ll most likely not go very well because you don’t know what the other party involved knows or feels until they tell you.
This brings us back to the methodology of martial arts and combative sports as a whole, they teach you about virtue and how to be upright. To do what is good and to stay away from what will bring you harm.
So, you should be just in your actions and sayings, even if you’re the one who’s to come out wrong. Better to get your feelings hurt than let it go beyond that and possibly cause any physical harm. Which is something combative sports are against. A side note I want to emphasize is that common injuries in combative sports during competition are sometimes the nature of the sport. Being realistic, you could get injured during a running marathon. No sport is perfect.
With all the training you’re taking and the knowledge you’re gaining about combat fighting, and with each level, you rise into, there’s a level of responsibility to accompany them.
How Lack of Knowledge and Practice in Combative Sports Leads to Banned Minds
Now that I’m done with all the health benefits of combative sports, I need to turn your attention toward some medical practitioners who claim they know it all.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is a group I came across online while doing my research. They think that the purpose of combative sports is to injure your opponent, which is the farthest thing from the truth. I’ve already explained and proved why, you’ve just read it. If it’s not enough, let us know exactly what you’re looking for and I’ll be back with that an update.
I let you have both sides of the story, so if you want to check out the AMA position statement of what they think the health benefits of combative sports (https://ama.com.au/position-statement/combat-sport-2015) are, go ahead.
The only other call for a ban was due to the coronavirus, and you can check that out on Yahoo sports news. This was retracted after realizing their mistake.
Otherwise, if these AMA people would stop to think about how long combative sports have been around and why it’s clear that the health benefits of combative sports have kept societies in tune for a long time.
What are the health benefits of combative sports in our holistic health? The health benefits of combative sports holistically are to improve joints, reduce the risk of diseases, increase mental health, healthy weight loss, flexibility, muscle strength, growth, endurance, and self-defense.
You did a fantastic job at writing it, and your thoughts are excellent. This article is superb!