The benefits of martial arts training as a therapy for certain disorders are not well known and one of the main reasons we started the Sheng Chi Foundation. Training in authentic martial arts has huge benefits for those suffering from any sort of stress disorder or just plain everyday stress.
It's little known for a few reasons.
- You've got to study it for many years before you start to get full understanding of why it works. Some of these reasons I just recently figured out myself and I've been immersed in the training for 20 years. We've always known it work. My grandmaster knew it worked at least 50 years ago and helped many people suffering from various problems. There are many people out there who have plenty to say about what he did for them or a loved one.
- Not all martial arts train the same way. I believe you will find these benefits more so in arts concentrating on pure self defense. The training methods are different for competition arts. I've spent years tracking down fighting arts and they are a dying breed. For the most part closed door systems. Meaning they were kept private and only taught to a few individuals. What we do is quite rare in the commercial martial arts arena. There are benefits derived from all forms of martial arts training just not all the same benefits.
There has just been no reason why the general public or psychologists dealing with this would have any inkling of the effectiveness of the training. To understand it fully one would really have to be a combat veteran, a psychologist specializing in PTSD, and a Shou' Shu' black belt and I doubt that person exists yet.
I don't claim to know everything about it myself. But what I do know is that it works. I do have some theories though so I'll present those.
This is probably the most obvious yet the one I know the least about. The psychologists in the article mentioned it and I would defer to them to explain it better. Perhaps I can get some input from you readers.
Being in the Now - Presence
I was quoted a bit about this in the article but it was not fully explained. I think this is a hard one to grasp but those who have studied fighting disciplines or Yoga and possibly other disciplines will recognize the phenomena. Body awareness centers the mind and can rid the mind of extraneous thought. People who have undergone this training are far more centered and look at life differently. The phenomena is mentioned in many very popular personal development books such as Eckardt Tolle's “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”.
This is something I've recently figured out. It's a big one. Training in the art of Shou' Shu' is a very primal thing. Just as beating a drum, singing, dancing, and storytelling are all primal things that everybody once did. So is Shou' Shu'. Theoretically it dates back to the time of the Egyptians. References in the bible cause me to believe that Moses was a Shifu. It's been around a long time.
Now these primal things that have now been virtually erased from our society once brought us great benefit. I think this is pretty obvious when one realizes they just plain make you feel good. They do something biologically to us. The counter our negative emotions. They fire up our creativity. They help us visualize and develop intent. Among other things.
In the primal world stress was there to save us from harm. It gave us short term energy to run away from or fight off the threat. When a tiger was hunting us our bodies went into overdrive. In the real world there is no tiger that's about to eat you. In our world it's things that are not a physical threat that create the stress yet we have a physical response.
So if you look at how stress works in our bodies you can see that stress is a biological reaction to a non-biological threat. Stress is your body preparing for fight or flight. It pumps you full of adrenalin. It's robs the mind of blood flow to give it to the muscles. It makes the heart race. All of this over not being able to pay a bill or your boss being a jerk. Basically a totally disconnected reaction.
In the primal world stress worked for us. It gave us a better chance of survival. In our world it does quite the opposite. It dulls our mind and wreaks havoc on the body. This is certainly not conducive to solving whatever issue is causing the stress.
But Shou' Shu' is. In Shou' Shu' training we mentally put our self into that threat situation. It's only in our mind so there is no real threat but using visualization and intent we can make the mind think it is. And then we deal with it. We whoop that bully. We fight off the tiger. We feel good. We rid our self of stress. We Beat stress to a pulp.
There is probably more mechanism than this. It would be wonderful for an expert to explore it further. It would be wonderful if this idea was catalyzed. Hopefully our foundation can be successful enough to further our knowledge of it.