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Psychotherapeutic aspects of the martial arts

Weiser, MarkKutz, IlanKutz, Sue JacobsonWeiser, Daniel.  ; Washington Vol. 49, Iss. 1,  (Winter 1995): 118-27. DOI:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1995.49.1.118

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The legitimacy of the Martial Arts as not merely a set of fighting sills but as therapy is being postulated, based on evidence from the literature, and analysis of the structure of Martial Arts teaching. Moreover, illustrated by a clinical case report, the Martial Arts are proposed here, for the first time, as an adjunct to verbal psychotherapy. Indications and contraindications for patient selection are suggested.


The value of practices that are both alternative and adjunctive to verbal psychotherapy has become apparent over the past 20 years. For example, dance therapy, art therapy, psychodrama, and meditation have all come to be recognized as both therapeutic in their own rights, and capable of enhancing the process of psychotherapy by providing active, physical routes for the discovery and expression of emotions. The Martial Arts (MAs) deserve recognition as worthy of being added to this list of therapeutic practices, as has already been suggested elsewhere, and to the list of supplements to psychotherapy, as is suggested here.

Formerly viewed by the Western world as "... naught but [a] killing present, anger past, and misery to come, in the course of one who studies these arts,"(1) the combat styles called the Martial Arts have come to be appreciated in the West in the last 25 years for their capacity to promote health, both physical and mental. They have come to be seen as inculcating physical and mental relaxation and control of mind and body, which are associated with increase in self-confidence and esteem. The disciplines teach the values of directness and honesty in communication, assertiveness, ability to empathize, courage, humility, perseverance, gentleness, respect for others, responsibility, and self-improvement. As such, they are now understood less as methods of aggression, and more as methods of self-defense, which can be of therapeutic value.