Top 10 Best Martial Arts For Mental Health

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In this article we will examine the best martial arts for mental health. Mental issues like depression, anxiety, stress, and anger are very common all over the globe. Talking about the U.S. alone, almost half of all adults suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

And these mental issues have serious consequences in terms of social relations and economic stability. Furthermore, research shows that depression and stress are the leading causes of disability worldwide.

Thousands of people attempt suicide because of some mental issues which is a very alarming situation. This is because less than half of the people suffering from mental challenges receive formal treatment, but there are methods to improve the situation regardless of whether you choose to have treatment or not. 

Exercise as a general and martial arts in particular are the best and the most inexpensive ways to deal with all types of mental challenges. Psychological therapy, on the other hand, is very expensive that only a few of the patients could afford.

Best Martial Arts For Mental Health

Almost all types of martial arts are very efficacious in reducing symptoms of mental illness and increasing feelings of well-being. Here we will look at the 10 best martial arts for ameliorating your mental health. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of martial arts

1. Karate

Karate is one of the most popular martial art which was developed in Okinawa, Japan. The fighting sport stresses powerful striking techniques, such as punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands (karate chop).

The art is mainly centered on self-defense. Karate is known as the art of the “empty hand,” because it was created during a time when weapons were banned by invading armies. 

Like other fighting sports, the benefits of karate extends beyond learning fighting skills, practicing this art will boost your physical as well as mental health.

RELATED: 13 Incredible Mental & Physical Health Benefits of Karate You Probably Didn’t know

When you execute strenuous moves like high kicks and strong punches, it releases endorphins (known as feel-good chemicals) into your body.

And if you are suffering from any kind of mental challenge be it depression, anxiety, or stress, the chemicals released in karate training will boost your mood. Furthermore, when you learn defensive skills through this great sport, a feeling of self-confidence also arouses in you. 

2. Kickboxing

Kickboxing is a combat sport developed by the fusion of full-contact karate, Western Boxing, and Muay Thai. Although the name suggests as if kicking is a priority in this art, it involves both hands and feet as points of contact.

While practicing kickboxing with your boxing gloves, you throw kicks and punches on your opponent to defeat him in combat. Unlike Muay Thai, in kickboxing, you are not allowed to use elbows and knees while attacking the other fighter. 

Kickboxing, in addition to equipping you with some fighting skills, is one of the most effective physical activities to enhance your physical and mental health.

It can ward off chronic ailments like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, and some obesity-related cancers. Furthermore, hitting the punching bag will help you release aggression and stress. You will feel satisfied when you transfer your anger, stress, and anxiety into the hanging bag.

The chemicals produced as a result of intense moves help you deal with depression. Additionally, training in kickboxing regularly will instill principles like respect, discipline, and the quest for constant improvement in you.

3. Aikido

Aikido - Best Martial Arts For Mental Health

Unlike other martial arts discussed above, aikido doesn’t focus on punches and kicks, it rather uses an opponent’s kinetic energy against him to take control.

Aikido students are trained to redirect the force of an attack to weaken their opponents and make it easier to complete a throw or pin. This Japanese martial art is considered a grappling art because it makes use of the momentum and strength of the opponent to achieve an objective (sometimes called “non resistance”). 

Aikido practitioners require much less physical strength as compared to other martial arts, as the practitioner directs the attacker’s momentum with entering and turning motions, followed by various throws or joint locks.

Although this martial art is less rigorous than others, it can also improve your mental health conditions. It makes you able to deal with mental challenges and help you with your sleeping habits.

4. TaeKwonDo

taekwondo martial art for mental health

Originated from Korea, Taekwondo is one of the oldest (reaching back over 2,000 years) and widely practiced forms of martial arts in the world. Practicing this combat sport teaches you a system of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-handed strikes, as well as varying forms of take-downs, throws, and joint locks, all of which develop strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina.

Unlike other martial arts, this fighting sport emphasizes kicking techniques and focuses on prearranged sequences of techniques known as forms or Poomsae (known in other martial arts as kata). 

Another significance of this sport is that Tae Kwon Do and judo are the only two martial arts included in the Olympic Games. Besides arming you with some fighting skills, practicing Tae Kwon Do will brush your physical and mental abilities.

It helps you deal with emotional problems and improve your cognitive functioning by generating new brain cells. Tae Kwon Do fighters have more active minds, are able to think clearly, and even have sharper memories. 

5. BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

A modified form of Japanese jujitsu, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self-defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. In this martial art, the fighter focuses on the skill of controlling his opponent through techniques that force him or her to submit.

Also known as the “gentle art”, BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger, heavier adversary by using proper technique, leverage, submissions, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. 

Although people usually train in this martial art for sport grappling tournaments and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense, it has myriad health benefits too. You can boost your physical abilities and physical health in addition to improving mental capabilities and emotional issues with this sport.

With the desire to do more than one’s capability, every other person is dealing with some kind of stress and anxiety. To deal with such conditions, people use different types of stress relievers in spite of the side effects associated with these medicines. BJJ is the safest and most inexpensive method of dealing with emotional challenges.  

6. Muay Thai

The national sport of Thailand and one of the most popular styles incorporated in MMA fighting uses stand-up striking and clinching techniques. Often referred to as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs,’ this combat sport makes prominent use of punches, kicks, elbow strikes, and knee strikes, using eight points of contact, in contrast to the hands and feet (four contact points) with the end goal of taking down the opponent.

Each of these body parts serves a different purpose and is used as an individual weapon like hands serve as swords, shins as shields and armor, and elbows and knees as a hammer or ax.

Since in this martial art, you use so much of your upper and lower bodies, Muay Thai is a full-body workout that requires fighters to maintain powerful core muscles to rotate the hips with each kick, punch, and block. 

This centuries-old intense workout is the best physical activity for your physical and mental health conditioning. During a Muay Thai fight, you keep a close look on your opponent’s moves and attacks which enhances your focus and improves your reflexes. These abilities will help you not only during your fight but in your day to day tasks. 

7. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA is a full-contact sport that incorporates a variety of fighting styles including martial and non-martial arts techniques. This hybrid combat sport allows striking and grappling techniques both standing and on the ground.

In the beginning, there was a wide variety of traditional styles, but as the sport evolved many styles were found to be ineffective. MMA now consists of techniques of boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), and other disciplines.

Due to this nature of MMA, it is very effective in toning your muscles and improving your mental health. By training in this sport, you will be able to deal with all negative emotions like depression, anxiety, stress, and aggression.  

8. Kung Fu–a Chinese martial art

This martial art uses numerous fighting styles developed over the centuries in the world of Chinese martial arts, some of them involve acrobatic elements such as flips, jumps, and high kicks.

Some of these styles include physical exercises that mimic animal movements, while others are inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions, and legends.

Many people nowadays practice this art to gain some peace of mind because this Chinese art involves exercises like breathing that help you ward off all tensions and give you a soothing and happy mind.

9. Tai Chi

Also known as tai chi chuan, this Chinese martial art is practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. The art involves choreographed slow-motion postures. Some forms of Tai Chi involve empty hand techniques while others may use a sword or other weapons. The breathing techniques practiced in this martial art have very positive impacts on your mental health. 

10. Krav Maga

A hand-to-hand combat system developed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), krav maga (meaning “battle combat” in Hebrew) that involves wrestling, grappling and striking techniques, mostly known for its extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks used to keep the practitioner safe and incapacitate the opponent by any means necessary.

There are almost no rules in this sport which makes it a really brutal martial art. Training in this fighting game makes you physically and emotionally invincible. The confidence you gain while practicing this sport has just no match.


We hope you enjoyed our article on the best martial arts for mental health. If you think that it is useful, consider sharing it with people who might be dealing with mental illnesses. We’re sure these best martial arts for mental health will help them big time.

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