Martial arts can have a positive influence on almost every life. Whatever your age, gender, circumstances, or ability, there’s a martial art or a type of martial arts-influenced training that can improve your physical and mental health in a wide variety of ways.
What martial art is best for you and how it can transform your life is as individual as we all are, but there are some general trends that that we can see. In past blogs, we’ve looked at why martial arts training is great for kids, why it’s great for adults, and how martial arts-inspired physical fitness training can help seniors. This week, we’d like to dedicate the blog to looking at how martial arts can improve the lives of girls and young women. Here are four specific ways in which participating in martial arts can help girls stay as strong and confident as possible in a world that isn’t always easy for them.
Martial arts and body image.
Everyone faces a certain amount of pressure to look a certain way in our image-oriented society, but this pressure is particularly intense for girls, especially as they approach adolescence. A meaningful martial arts practice might not be able to perfectly combat all of the unhealthy messages that girls receive about themselves and their bodies, but it can offer them an alternative view and a community that celebrates what you can achieve and how you treat your fellow people more than what you look like.
Martial arts aren’t about trying to have a body type that isn’t right for you. They’re about nurturing a strong and healthy self. Martial arts doesn’t want you to starve yourself or hurt yourself to please anyone. All they ask is that you practice your skills diligently and with respect for your teachers and fellow students. And, once you start to see the rewards of all of that hard work, martial arts also provide you with a meaningful sense of accomplishment. Which leads us to…
Martial arts encourages healthy self-esteem development.
Our world isn’t just hard on girls’ looks. It’s hard on them in so many ways that can erode a young person’s self-confidence just as they’re trying to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. Martial arts training is a great way to combat this issue because it teachers us how to face stress in our lives. Which, in turn, makes us feel more secure in ourselves.
Confidence comes from learning to deal with scary, stressful, or anxious situations in our lives. Martial arts training is all about putting us into situations that we aren’t perfectly comfortable with, and then helping us to develop the physical and mental tools to work through those issues. This helps us increase our coping skills in all walks of life, leaving us more equipped to handle our negative emotions and doubts in and out of the gym. And that makes us feel more in control, more powerful, and more confident in ourselves.
For more information on this topic, see our recent blog “How Martial Arts Training Can Improve Your Self-Esteem.”
Martial arts fosters respect.
Starting to question authority and the status quo can be a healthy part of growing up. We don’t want our children to fall in line with whatever people tell them without reflection. But martial arts training is an activity that can help to balance out rebellious adolescent impulses with a culture that promotes respect for yourselves and others. Martial arts teaches us to respect our teachers, our fellow students, ourselves, and even the mats we train on. It gives us a sense of order and duty that doesn’t come from a mindless desire to follow instructions for no clear reason, but so that we can all grow together to share common goals as we work to better ourselves and each other. Our physical and mental training encourages us to learn how to be ourselves while working together with other likeminded individuals for a common good. These are all lessons that can have a very positive impact on a young person starting to question her goals and her place in the world for the first time.
Martial arts is great for making new friends.
It’s common knowledge that it gets harder to make friends as you grow older, but the truth is that, for a lot of people, developing and fostering meaningful and healthy friendships has never been easy. School can be a cruel and competitive environment for a lot of children and, when you combine that with the outside pressures that girls face, you have a recipe for some less than pleasant social interactions.
Taking martial arts can be a welcome respite from that tense environment. When we’re training, we’re put together with a number of people who have similar interests, similar goals, and a commitment to mutual respect. It’s a perfect environment for developing nurturing and meaningful friendships, and an excellent alternative for girls who are shy, bullied, or facing less than positive influences in other aspects of their lives.
Martial arts and self-defense.
From school bullies to stranger danger, being able to teach our girls how to protect themselves is a major concern for many parents. Although we hope that our children will never have to use these skills in real life situations, martial arts lesson can equip them with both the skills and the awareness that they’ll need to to defend themselves if and when necessary.
It’s not just about teaching girls how to fight, either. Good martial arts training will teach them to learn to assess situations so that they can remove themselves from them, prevent potential attacks, and fight back if necessary, which are all vital components of a good self-defense strategy. For more information on this topic, see our blog “Self-Defense: How to Defend Yourself Against an Attack.”