Is Martial Arts An Emotional Cure

Is Martial Arts an Emotional Cure?

by Keith Pascal

We know that kids are often put in martial arts to develop discipline.

They learn and embody self control.

We also know that martial arts practice teaches you to master aspects of body coordination. It also helps you imprint physical movement of a self-defense nature.

All of that, to me, is a given.

What I’d love to compare notes on is whether having studied martial arts truly makes you calmer and less stressed during “stressy” times.

On the way to work this morning, I had exactly the kind of stress encounter that I had planned to write about.

The coincidences of life!

And my wife was in the passenger seat, witnessing the entire event.

I’ll tell you exactly what happened in a minute or two.

The plan for this article was to discuss this stressful time of the year we call “The Holiday Season.”

I wanted to comment that the stores seem a lot less crowded this year — no mobs shoving and pushing each other to get at the sale items.  Eugene, Oregon seems relatively calm in that respect.

I wanted to guess out loud, that more people are staying home, glued to their TVs, watching political disaster after political disaster unfold. (Doesn’t matter which side you’re on.)

But that wouldn’t be a true statement, because the restaurants seem more crowded than ever.

Out In Public

So, people “are” going out in public.

Maybe it “is” all of the online shopping.

Fewer people in stores, because they’re purchasing gifts at their computers.

The stores really do appear to be very manageable… yet everyone seems as stressed, if not more so, than normal.

I’m witnessing stressful reactions all around me. Oh, do they abound … left and right.

In the department stores, in the local shops, especially on the roads and in the parking lots. People are getting “pissy” with each other and will start an argument at the drop of a … candy cane.

What I want to know is if the martial arts has really and truly affected your stress level … when you are NOT actively practicing martial arts.

Note: Yes, yes, I know; we are practicing martial arts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We don’t have to be in the dojo or gym to “live” martial arts.


It’s curious that I don’t get sucked into these stressful arguments … for the most part. And when I do engage with someone who is stressing, their stress never rubs off on me.

And it’s NOT a question of me “not letting their nasty mood affect me.” I simply don’t seem to get stressed by the “daily vicissitudes of life.”

Flat tires, a store being sold out of the item I need, or someone pulling a schmucky move in traffic … are just mini-events to be dealt with.

In my noggin, I move to the solution quickly … even if the answer is to fix the tire as quickly as possible, to move on to the next store (after a little phone/online research), or to tap on my horn to warn the insensitive driver that there are other people on the road.

It’s Not a Question of Controlling Your Temper

It never occurs to me to get upset.

I really and truly don’t have to “talk myself down” into a rational, calmer form of thought. It’s just the way I am.

So, the question is … did martial arts, over time, turn me into a calmer soul in this one respect, or is it part of my true nature?

And that’s where you come in. I’d love it if you’d comment on your personal experience with handling stress.

Has martial arts truly calmed your anger sensors?

Now, onto … a little road rage….

Five minutes before I started writing this martial arts article, I was on the road, driving to work with my wife, Kate.

I came to the 4-way stop, and I … stopped.

To the right of me was another vehicle. He had the right of way, both because he was on my right, and he really had come to a stop before me.

I let him go. Now, it was my turn. And a truck, with the name of a construction company on the side came up behind the car that was going through the intersection.

This truck paused, saw me … and decided that he could sneak through, even though it was my turn.

So, I hit the horn, to let him know that I was there … and moving through the intersection.

He stopped, cutting off my car from proceeding with his truck, rolled down his window, and started throwing “F-bombs” left and right about me hitting the horn. (He was swearing at me like you wouldn’t believe.)

I wanted to calmly explain that it was my turn, and his decision to go was particularly unsafe at this intersection.

He wouldn’t give me the chance.

Finally, when I could get a word in edgewise, I said that I hoped we all had a safe journey.

His response?


Warning: F-Bombs Ahead (Still Censored 🙂

“F You! I’m sorry that I cut you off. I didn’t see you.” (Now, I knew this was a lie, because he made eye contact with me, and I was already moving into the intersection. And his apology was pure sarcasm.)

I decided to run with his apology. “Hey, thanks, man. That’s all I wanted was you to be aware that you ran the stop sign, and I want all of us to be safe on the road. Hey, have a good …”

“You F-head! I wasn’t apologizing. You piece of …”

“Hey, thanks again for saying you were sorry. You have a nice day…”

“F You! F You! F You! F You!”

Still smiling, “Oh, only my wife gets to do that with me. May you have a great holiday season!”

“F You! I wasn’t apologizing, you a-hole!”

“Thanks again for saying that you didn’t see me.”


Another Stressed Out Dude

The guy peeled out in his truck, yelling something or other at my wife and me.

Kate and I shook our heads, smiled at each other, and chuckled … just a little.

We concluded that he was “another victim of the season.”


Of course, my heart rate elevated a bit during the conversation. I think it’s natural for your body to ‘shock’ you into awareness mode.

My senses were heightened during the conversation … I mean what if he had a gun, or decided to get out of his truck and key my car, or …

So, better to be aware.

Aware, yes. Stressed? Not a chance!


Could I have elevated the situation into a fight?

I truly believe that I could have done it simply by getting out of my car.

He was motioning that he was about get out and “take care of me.”

Could I have avoided tapping on my horn?

Of course, but the horn is for communicating. And I was letting him know that some of his driving could easily cause an accident.

The horn was simply a reminder to be more careful.

In my case, staying positive seemed like the best attitude for me to stick with. I don’t have to “adopt” it, because it’s a natural part of my personality.

Now, the question becomes … did this calm reaction and not getting stressed develop because of years in the martial arts?


And yes, I consider the ability to not even consider getting angry a big martial arts advantage. It allows one to avoid fights more easily, and if forced to fight … you get to defend yourself while calm, cool, and collected.




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