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Originally developed in ancient cultures for combat purposes, various martial arts have evolved throughout the worl...
Originally developed in ancient cultures for combat purposes, various martial arts have evolved throughout the world, becoming a form of holistic exercise with health, fitness philosophical, and behavioural aspects. While many people are familiar with the fighting aspect of martial arts only, many branches teach and cultivate a host of qualities that are useful when applied in the workplace and to professional life in general.
Benefits that can be considered universal to all martial arts include physical exercise, discipline, and the experience of healthy competition. Some martial arts, however — mainly those that evolved in Asia — are more holistic in character. East Asian martial arts originating in China and Japan, such as Kung Fu, Jujutsu, and Karate, often have strong psychological, philosophical, and spiritual elements that can benefit practitioners when applied to their professional lives.
While the martial arts are often lauded for teaching values like respect and hard work to children, the benefits of training continue through adulthood and into old age. Research has shown that learning about what causes injuries and how they heal can benefit us throughout our lives. Likewise, learning to persevere in the face of challenges and setbacks is a crucial attitude for achieving success in any field.
Another skill learned in the martial arts that translate into job skills is the ability to stay motivated and progress towards a goal in an organised and conscious manner. Karate, Judo, and other martial disciplines reward participants with graded belts depending on their performance, advancement, commitment, and learning. Managers might adopt similar systems to keep track of progress while motivating staff by recognising their achievements. The well-known Six Sigma method takes direct inspiration from Japanese martial arts, applying different coloured “belts” to various business roles.
The holistic nature of Eastern martial arts means that they incorporate deep philosophical or spiritual aspects into their training programs as well as mind-body techniques with proven psychological benefits. For example, while encouragement from a boss or superior can help, motivation is stronger and more lasting when coming from within, as is taught in many martial arts. A study comparing internal and external motivation showed far better results when the subjects’ motivation came from within. This indicates that improving work habits rests mostly on internal motivation that encourages our own natural tendencies for self-improvement.
Some of the “softer” Chinese martial arts like Tai Chi and Qigong have more in common with yoga than fight sports. Research has shown that the breathing techniques used in Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong can serve to lower stress, promote relaxation, and improve mood — all beneficial to a good working life. Meditation, which is often practiced in conjunction with Eastern martial arts, can also have a wealth of positive effects, especially when work becomes stressful. Studies have shown that stress-reduction techniques based on ancient Buddhist practices such as mindfulness help those experiencing what is known as professional “burnout,” aka long-term exhaustion and decreased interest associated with overworking.
Looking for a hobby or exercise regime that provides more than a just a workout? Why not give martial arts a try? While you may not be able to execute a perfect judo toss or karate punch at the office, many other aspects of martial arts training can be applied in a professional setting with positive results.