There have been a growing trend of stories in the news lately about the overwhelming number of people suffering from feelings of loneliness and depression, largely among the younger generation. These issues are also very common in seniors and as we all know, depression can effect anyone at any age.
As martial artists, one must take note when someone discusses the positive effects that martial arts training can have on someone experiencing feelings of depression. They must be very careful in the way they go about addressing such a serious issue and keep in mind the precise classification in which they are discussing. Can martial arts such as Taekwondo, Karate, Jiu Jitsu or any other style really help someone to beat depression or bouts of loneliness? The answer is both yes and no.
Our youth today are attacked from all sides and many are also lost in which direction their life is taking them. From teens dealing with peer pressure and bullying and the millennium generation having to cope with issues such as drugs, alcohol and confusion in the way the world seems to be headed, these are all very difficult issues. For many, it is difficult to find the courage to stand up to and the result often leads to feeling as an outcast and all alone, ultimately leading to a sense of unworthiness and a depressed state.
We all experience depression and feelings of loneliness through out our normal lives, but for most, we can overcome these feelings and are able to get on with living. These cases of feeling alone and depressed are no more than natural human emotions and can very often be overcome by martial arts training or any other form of social activity.
The socially active element which comes in joining a school, making new friends, exercising, learning new and exciting techniques and all of the positive attributes which come with martial arts, can factually turn these lives around in instances of battling these natural human emotions.
Martial arts training such as Taekwondo, teaches self respect and confidence as examples, often lacking in those who feel a sense of loneliness and not belonging socially. The social aspect of training in martial arts with others who share the same likes and who will become new-found friends will also play a major role in combating loneliness, an important aspect for both young and old.
However, one must fully understand that these are simply “elements” within martial arts training that can help those experiencing typical feelings of loneliness and depression that we all share in common during a lifetime. Although there are stories that have been courageously shared by those such as former UFC champion, Jens Pulver who battles something far greater than these “normal” feelings, one must be very careful in how they approach the thin-line of truth between moments of natural emotions and a deeper realm of loneliness and depression.
Although the Dojang or Dojo are great places for those to meet, train and share in a training that will lift their spirits, confidence and self respect, the training facilities are not places for “therapy.” Average feelings that we all have in common from time to time are far different from a medical condition where there is a malfunction of the neurotransmitters in the brain. A serious medical state of depression may be biological or mental and one must understand that cases such as these will find no long-lasting “cure” through martial arts training.
These “elements” within martial arts training can help those who experience the everyday struggles and feelings that we all share, but as martial artists we have to be extremely responsible in how we promote the health benefits of martial arts training. Even though some have reported that such training has helped in ways, they will still contend that their fight against “true” depression is an on-going battle. This is because such a state of depression is something which goes beyond the everyday feelings that all of us experience from time to time.
Before we blatantly promote that martial arts training will beat depression, we must tread carefully. What kind of depression is it? Is it medical, biological or mental? Is it caused from a recent life incident such as the loss of a loved one and it is a case of natural grieving? If the feelings are of a “normal” nature such as that which we all experience during our lives, then yes, training in martial arts can be very effective due to the reasons given above. However, bouts of depression which derive from a mental, physical or medical condition requires a more serious look and responsible approach.
To say that martial arts training will beat depression is a very dangerous and irresponsible statement. Additionally, it is absolutely not a “one-fit-all” cure. The person suffering from a serious “medical” illness must have someone willing to help them seek out the appropriate professional help needed to overcome the condition. No amount of martial arts training will provide the eventual assistance that is needed.
As martial artists, there is a deep responsibility to teach the true aspects of the arts, especially when discussing an issue as serious as clinical depression which can often mean the difference between life and death.
Before expressing the enthusiasm for the martial arts, one must also take responsibility for the information that they are sharing. The seriousness of medical depression goes far beyond the “feel good” promotion of martial arts.