A common worry among parents is that martial arts might turn their children into bullies. But here’s what we know: the evidence, and it’s substantial evidence, tells us that rather than fostering aggression, martial arts actually prevents bullying. It teaches kids discipline, respect and the kind of self-control necessary to build up not just strong individuals, but a stronger community.
You see, martial arts is about self-improvement, about striving to be better. It’s about setting goals and achieving them, about understanding the power you hold and using it responsibly. Through martial arts kids learn that true strength is about more than just physical power – it’s about their character and integrity. Martial arts teaches kids how to hold theirselves to a higher standard… in all areas of their lives.
So its important not to buy into fear. Instead, we should focus on the evidence about kids in martial arts and bullying. And recognize that kids learn priceless values from martial arts – respect, discipline, and self-restraint. By backing your kids in martial arts, you’re setting them up for success.
First, martial arts training is grounded in a deep sense of discipline. A comprehensive review by Lakes and Hoyt (2004) showed that martial arts practice can lead to improvements in behavior and psychosocial outcomes in children and adolescents. This training encourages respect for themselves and others, which is completely counter to the mindset of a bully.
Next, respect is a cornerstone of all martial arts disciplines. Studies have found that martial arts can promote prosocial behavior. Twemlow and Sacco (1998) in their research in schools found that martial arts students displayed less aggressive behavior because they learn how to respect people and their different abilities. Because martial arts teaches kids to apply these principles in all areas of life, the respect they learn gets applied to everything they do.
What’s more, self-control and self-regulation are key aspects that are ingrained with in martial arts students. Children are taught from the beginning that martial arts are to be used defensively and responsibly. Zivin et al. (2001), in a controlled study of elementary school children, found that those who participated in a martial arts program showed a significant reduction in aggressive behavior, explaining how martial arts training enhances self-control.
Additionally, martial arts training often improves self-esteem while reducing anxiety, factors that can contribute to aggressive behavior when not addressed. According to a study by Edelman (1994), children in martial arts reported feeling less anxiety, an increase in self-esteem, and a better general mood. On the contrary, bullies often suffer from low self-esteem and insecurity, which martial arts specifically helps counteract by providing a sense of accomplishment and belonging.
Last by not least, there is the aspect of bullying prevention. The physical confidence gained through martial arts can make children less likely to become victims of bullying. A child who is confident in their ability to defend themselves is less likely to be targeted by bullies in the first place. This doesn’t translate into becoming a bully but rather provides the tools to stand up against bullying behavior. Endresen and Olweus (2005) suggest that involvement in sports, including martial arts, can reduce the risk of being bullied and help children deal with bullying in a non-violent manner.
So rather than turning children into bullies, martial arts has been proven to play a crucial role in developing a child’s character in very positive ways. Through discipline, respect, self-control, increased self-esteem, and anti-bullying resilience, martial arts training is more likely to produce a well-rounded, confident, and respectful individual.
Lakes, K. D., & Hoyt, W. T. (2004). Promoting self-regulation through school-based martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25(3), 283-302.
Twemlow, S. W., & Sacco, F. C. (1998). The application of traditional martial arts practice and theory to the treatment of violent adolescents. Adolescence, 33(131), 505.
Zivin, G., Hassan, N. R., DePaula, G. F., Monti, D. A., Harlan, C., Hossain, K. D., & Patterson, K. (2001). An effective approach to violence prevention: traditional martial arts in middle school. Adolescence, 36(143), 443.
Edelman, A. J. (1994). The effect of participation in Taekwondo on college women’s self-concept. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79(2), 891-894.
Endresen, I. M., & Olweus, D. (2005). Participation in power sports and antisocial involvement in preadolescent and adolescent boys. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(5), 468-478.
The Dragon Institute. (2023). Preventing Bullying in Palm Coast: The Postive Impact of BULLYGUARD. The Dragon Institute. Retrieved from dragoninst.com/kids-martial-arts/palmcoastbullying