South Korea Martial Arts

     Before I start his review I would like to point out that the writing style I will be using is a clinical style.  When I post an opinion I will use a much more colloquial style but when I review an article it is more appropriate for me to work from the clinical perspective.  This means that, in keeping with my training, I will talk about the article and where appropriate I will present their strengths and weaknesses.  I won’t be following normal APA or MLA format in the writing of the blog posts.  I will provide the appropriate article information, e.g. Author’s Name, Journal/Publication Name, Year, Volume Number, etc.

     The article I will be discussing today, A Review of the Effects of Martial Arts Practice on Health, was written by Thomas W. Woodward, MD and published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal (2009, Volume 108, No. 1).  The primary point of this article is to provide medical doctors (MD) with a high level overview of the benefits of referring patients to martial arts training.  Dr. Woodward presents three major areas of improvement: overall health, balance, and psychological.

     Dr. Woodward introduces the topic by pointing out that currently in the United States 6.5 million people reported participating in the martial arts.  Martial Arts is a term broadly used to cover stylistically different disciplines, including but not limited to Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, and Mix Martial Arts (MMA).  Martial Arts is an alternative form of exercise that people find enjoyable which offers the opportunity for students to learn self-defense skills in a group setting.

     Dr. Woodward points out that training in the Martial Arts has help Boomers experienced the benefits increased aerobic capacity, balance, strength, and flexibility.  He does point out that the commonly held belief that Martial Arts training reduce the possibility of falling hasn’t been properly researched.  Due to significant limitations and/or biases in the studies it would be considered in appropriate to generalize the benefits to the larger population.  Though it should be noted that research concerning general exercise has shown to significantly reduce the risk of falling, as such it is reasonable to assume that Martial Arts, which is a form of exercise, would have as much benefit in the reduction of falls, so it is still safe to offer it as a way to help people who have challenges with balance.

     The article moves from talking about the physical benefits of the Martial Arts to the psychological benefits.  Dr. Woodward reports the current research studies show an improvement in anger management and a sense of well-being as well as a decrease in depression and sleep disruption.  Additionally, since most Martial Arts schools teach elements of meditation and breath control many people have reported gains in self-esteem, mind-body coordination, and relaxation.  Conversely, despite what Hollywood shows its glamorized violence, there isn’t an increase in violent/aggressive behavior in students; in fact Dr. Woodward reported a general decrease levels of aggression and hostility are the longer the subject participated in Martial Arts training.  With concerns to how training impacts students who have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the article points out that while there are case reports of symptom improvement, there is little to no research confirming the validity of the use of Martial Arts as a treat modality.

     Since people are often concerned with the possibility of injury, Dr. Woodward discusses how surveys have provided data showing Martial Arts produced fewer injuries than other sports, including football, basketball, etc.  The most common types Martial Arts produced injuries were sprains, strains, and contusions; less common injuries were fractures, dislocations, and dental injuries.  Dr. Woodward concluded his article with addressing ways in which students could avoid such injuries.

     This article was clearly intended to promote the idea of medical doctors referring patients to engage in Martial Arts practice as an alternative form of exercise.  This article, while incorporating research by others, wasn’t a scientific research article in and of itself.  What this means is Dr. Woodward may have ignored or overlook research that could have countered his opinion and only selected those research articles that supported his view.  As consumers of information we need to always understand the motivation of an author and the principles that are guiding their research.  In this case Dr. Woodward is pro-martial arts; if he’d been anti-martial arts what would his article have looked like? Admittedly, his article supports my personal view of the Martial Arts, but that being said, I am not relieved of the responsibility of understanding there may be conflicting research and making an informed choice based upon all available data.

© 2013 R. Brian Salinas, All Rights Reserved