Psychotherapeutic aspects of the martial arts

Am J Psychother. 1995 Winter;49(1):118-27. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1995.49.1.118.


Formerly understood by Western thought as only a set of fighting skills, the Martial Arts (MAs) have come to be seen, in the psychological literature about the MAs, as a comprehensive approach to both physical and mental health. The MAs enhance self-esteem through the provision of physical activity and group experience, and the teaching of relaxation, concentration, assertiveness, and directiveness and honesty in communication. Thus, they are understood to be a legitimate form of therapy, for both "neurotic" and some chronically mentally ill patients. It is proposed in this paper, that the MAs can also be a useful supplement to verbal psychotherapy, as they foster and expose feelings through a physical modality, which can then be observed and analyzed in the modality of verbal psychotherapy. A case report illustrates how the MAs produce feelings and reveal problems, which are brought into the psychotherapy arena and analyzed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / psychology*
  • Neurotic Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Relaxation
  • Self Concept