Judo has been around since 1882 and the benefits of this art shine brightly. Throughout time, judokas (those who practice judo) have been known for having incredible athletic attributes, like strength, balance, and flexibility.
Mentally, a judoka (a judo practitioner) has enhanced self-confidence, the courage to face their fears, and incredible mental fortitude. Many have stood in front of a daunting challenge and each step one takes will come with its own set of challenges that the individual must face to further progress their motivation and discipline. A great deal of time and effort is crucial to master this martial arts discipline and most people will ‘fail’ to do so, but when the student finally succeeds they will feel completely accomplished and euphoric.
The mental benefits that are associated with the practice of judo combat the harmful effects that correlate with anxiety. Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder are affected every day. It loves to haunt us on a daily basis playing “the boy who cried wolf” – telling us of a false danger that does not exist.
When we give a presentation to our colleagues, when we have to approach our boss, or even when we have to make a phone call, anxiety likes to make it seem like the world is going to end through narrating the worst possible outcome of each situation. This can be very damaging to our relationships, occupations, and our general health. It is reported that anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in America affecting 40 million US citizens.
Many take prescription drugs like Xanax (The 5th most prescribed drug in the US) to help them cope with their illness. Alcohol abuse is also common to those with anxiety issues. When people experience a panic attack they will turn to anything that will help them calm down. What’s more is that 10% – 20% of anxiety disorder patients report having abused alcohol or other drugs. Those who attempt to fix their problems with drugs or alcohol can develop a dual diagnosis, which is also known as a co-occurring disorder. When one has fostered a co-occurring disorder, it can lead to a myriad of harmful side-effects such as extreme mood swings, excessive worrying or fear, and more.
There are a variety of different ways to combat this. Many are starting to use non 12 step rehab as a channel of recovery when they go in for treatment, as this shares many parallels with the ideals of Judo. When recovering with holistic treatment methods like these, the focus is on the person’s mind, body, and soul to find healthy alternatives in relieving stress.
Participating in any activity that physically works out the body releases endorphins in the brain which places the person who is exercising in an idyllic state of mind. It reduces the feelings of anxiety and depression and increases confidence. Judo Itself takes a holistic approach pertaining to the mind, body, and soul also known as the human trinity. This metaphor represents our personal balance in life; when a person has all three of these elements working together they are in harmony, and when one is failing they are in disharmony.
Spirituality (the mind) of Judo comes from learning from one’s mistakes. When one is able to discover their mistake, fix it, and not make that same mistake twice, they begin to develop inner harmony. A personal spirituality in Judo increases our self-appreciation and individuation.
It has been shown time and time again that practicing Judo, or other disciplines such as Tai Chi, has led to a reduction in both anxiety and depression. It is argued that the practice of martial arts acts as a consequence of enhanced self-regulation, which develops willpower and discipline. When a student is faced with arduous training, and they continue to follow through with the training regardless of how grueling it may be, this is how they make themselves disciplined.
The lifestyle that correlates with judo not only teaches each student discipline, athletics, and mindfulness, it also provides motivation to have a healthy diet and practice effective habits to develop an overall routine that ventures toward the perfection of one’s character. The constant practice of this sport emphasizes the benefits of exercise and the progression of creating a peaceful mind.
In each dojo, there is a family and each member is welcome. The culture that resides in Judo is supportive. Each member helps each other out to become a better version of oneself. Every opponent that you face will be different, and it will always be an uphill battle, but like a koi fish swimming upstream, the challenge will always be present and combat sports like Judo will help prepare your mind, body, and soul to take on each challenge as it comes along.
By David Bugg, contributor writer for BookMartialArts.com. Throughout David’s time in academia, he has found a passion for writing about the human mind, addiction, mental health, martial arts and western culture. He practices judo in his spare time and plans to continue forward in his training to obtain a first-hand perspective of the benefits of practicing martial arts.