by Jake M.
Sport and recreation have served as tools to aid in youth development for many years. Particularly, team sports are most often chosen for children by their parents to engage them in physical activity that promotes social development through teamwork and build confidence in their physical abilities. However, I believe that martial arts can offer even greater youth development when compared with traditional sports due to the climate of respect that goes along with training in various combat sports.
It has been my experience in several team sports that I was not always given the opportunities to develop specific skills in positions on the team that I was interested in. For example, my first couple of years playing baseball, I had really wanted to be a pitcher, but because the team already had several other skilled pitchers, I was not given the time to develop my own skills in practice. My time spent training in various martial arts, however, was very different. I believe this was largely due to the close relationships developed with training partners as we worked together to develop every skill required to advance.
In a recent study David Hortiguela noted how martial arts could benefit a higher percentage of participants than traditional sports as they “are most often practised by peers requiring close collaboration and respect between both members so that learning takes place without risks” (Hortiguela, 2017). In my opinion, the level of collaboration between training partners in martial arts is much greater than traditional sports, and the fact that all participants work together to achieve common individual goals supports a more positive environment for youth development. In his study, Hortiguela (2017) compared two teaching units of martial arts and two units of traditional sports and found that the martial arts “teaching units improved students’ attitudes toward violence and generated a higher peer motivational climate than, and similar fun as two teaching units of popular sports such as football and basketball”.
I would have to agree with these findings as I know myself that I had much more respect for the art of combat and a better understanding and attitude toward violent behaviors once I began training in martial arts. I can also attest to the peer motivational climates being much more positive in martial arts culture, whereas in traditional sports I often witnessed many participants being bullied and put down based on their skill level. I can’t recall a single instance in my martial arts training where I witnessed any sort of bullying.
Both traditional sports and martial arts boast a wide range of potential benefits that can promote positive youth development. While parents most often choose traditional sports to promote their child’s development, martial arts should be considered as they offer the same benefits as well as a much more positive environment, better peer relationships, and may develop better attitudes towards violence. Martial arts training also encourages participants to master all of the skills in their sport which can promote higher levels of engagement in the activity, higher self-efficacy, and a more involved and enjoyable experience.
Hortiguela, D., Gutierrez-Garcia, C., Hernando-Garijo, A. (2017) . Combat versus team sports: The effects of gender in a climate of peer-motivation, and levels of fun and violence in physical education students. Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology, 17(3), 11-20. DOI: 10.14589/ido.17.3.2