Do martial arts help or harm?

Jikkemien Vertonghen and Marc Theeboom examine the research and discuss what might influence the outcomes of martial arts involvement by young participants

IN RECENT years it has been suggested that martial arts create positive educational opportunities for youth in general and for specific target groups in particular. Educators and welfare workers have increasingly made use of martial arts as an educational tool to work with socially deprived youth. In addition, in physical education classes in secondary schools, martial arts have been introduced because they are believed to provide an added value for students.

What we know
● There is contrasting evidence about the effects of martial arts practice on youth.
● Research regarding the underlying processes that may explain the social-psychological outcomes of martial arts practice is sorely lacking.
● The structural qualities of martial arts, type of guidance, participants’ characteristics, and social context should be taken into account when examining the social-psychological outcomes of martial arts practice.

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June 2012