As many people know, fitness plays a large role in overall mental and physical health. However, there is an unfortunately widespread misconception that in order to be healthy or to have a positive body image, one has to look a certain way. The fact is, we all wear health a little differently.
None of this makes it any easier for those struggling with body image, or those trying to find a balance between mental and physical health. However, the martial arts can be a positive tool for improving body image. All martial arts disciplines teach students to love and respect their bodies. Here are just a few of the many ways they accomplish this:
It Shows You What Your Body Can Do
Most of the time, poor body image is the result of someone judging his or her body based on looks alone (and, FYI, it doesn’t matter how traditionally attractive someone is; anyone can suffer from low self-esteem). However, when you train martial arts, you learn to value your body for its abilities: its durability, the ways it can move, and its strength, regardless of how it looks. You might leave every class sweaty, disheveled, and smelling like a gym sock, but you’ll feel like a million bucks. It’s this feeling that builds into appreciation for the things that are really important about your body – not whether or not you look like a magazine cover.
Every Body Type Has its Own Advantages
One of the things that makes martial arts so attractive to such a wide variety of people is that there’s no ideal body type for martial artists. Every type of body offers different advantages depending on the specific martial art. Lanky or skinny students, for example, can escape more easily from grappling moves, while more heavy-set students can use their weight as an advantage against smaller opponents. In martial arts, what matters is not the type of body, but how you use it. In the right position or situation, every body type has its own pros and cons. This is good for martial arts self-esteem, because it allows anyone and everyone to improve confidence in their own body in their own way.
It’s an Excellent Supplement for Your Mental Health Routine
Martial arts also provides a variety of mental health benefits. Some students use martial arts training as a form of anger management, as it calms and focuses them through its strict discipline. Other students use it as a way of overcoming their own fears and decreasing anxiety. Regular physical activity is also known to have an effect on depression and other low-esteem disorders, and although it’s not a permanent replacement for therapy or medication, it’s a good addition to any routine.
This helps your body image in a variety of ways. Not only does it improve a student’s overall outlook on life, it can also improve other areas of life affected by your mental state. Mentally healthy people are less likely to suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or binge eating, and they’re more likely to take pride in their own bodies and images.
It Pushes You Towards Healthy Habits – for the Right Reasons
As we’ve mentioned before in this blog, fundamentally healthy habits such as exercise and good eating habits can be taken to an unhealthy extreme if focus is placed on the wrong end goal. However, martial arts does not emphasize weight (except in certain competitions, where weight classes are instated for the safety of combatants). Rather, it focuses on learning and self-improvement. In martial arts, you will quickly realize that your habits directly affect your performance in class. Didn’t get enough sleep? Dehydrated? Ate nothing but frozen pizza for your last three meals? You’re not going to have a good day in class.
On the other hand, if you take care of your body, you will be rewarded with improved performance in class. You’ll pick things up more quickly, and have more fun!
Regular martial arts training will improve your confidence and overall health, and will teach you to see your body in a new light. This is reinforced by the advantages offered by every body type, and further aided by the positive effect martial arts can have on mental health. Whether or not you have a negative self-image, martial arts are a great way to boost your confidence and ensure that you can be comfortable in your own skin.