A new study shows that Martial Arts has positive benefits for improving your attention span and alertness. Something in today’s ‘no patience’ society is sorely needed. A large part of Martial Arts training is developing your mental acuity as well as your physical strength.
In fact, researchers found that mental strength has a direct correlation to punching power due to the better control of the muscle movements in the brain as opposed to actual muscle strength. Ever been hit by someone who appears slight but packs a lot of power in their punch?
So does taking up martial arts training develop better control or do people with strong mental acuity naturally gravitate to martial arts?
The research team specifically measured the attention span of martial artists due to the training combining active sports that involve aspects of meditation and mindfulness.
In the recently published study, they recruited 21 amateur adults who practice martial arts (karate, judo, and taekwondo, among others) and 27 adults with no experience in the sports, to take part in an attention network test.
The test assessed three different types of attention: alerting (maintaining a sense of alertness), orienting (the shifting of attention), and executive (involved in choosing the correct response when there’s conflicting information).
The focus was on the alert network which can show a person alert score. If they had a high alert score then it suggested that they would be better at responding to unpredictable times targets than those that had a low alert score.
Sparring was selected as one of the measures for the testing. Sparring gives a great way to test the alertness of someone. After all, nobody wants to be punched in the face. It is rare for a sparring opponent to give any indication of the exact timing of a punch to their opposite, so there sparring partner needs to stay alert at all times so they are ready to dodge the strike.
During the research martial artists consistently produce higher alert scores that non-martial artists which indicate a greater level of cognitive control ie mental strength. The results also showed that the longer a person sticks at martial arts, the bigger the reward.
While there are differences across each martial art in terms of their core philosophies, whether they’re more of a “fighting” martial art or more “meditative”, and their intensity, the research did not discriminate about the type our participants took part in. Future research could compare the different types, but for this study, they were more interested in general martial artists’ attention compared to non-martial artists’.
While Martial arts is but one of many activities that can lead to better health and well being it provides one of the rare crossovers that helps significantly improve brain function as well as body coordination and control on top of fitness.