Martial Arts For Mental HealthWhen I started training in martial arts nearly 20 years ago I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be running a club where I would use Karate as a form of therapy. At the moment I am using Karate to help in two distinct ways; I run free Karate classes for people with mental health issues in association with a local charity and I run a Taiso (gentle exercise) class for seniors. In addition to these, next year I will be launching our latest project, ‘Martial Arts for Mental Health’. This will involve organising an annual seminar to raise funds for ‘The Welcome Project‘ with the aim being to support this charity in providing help to people who suffer with mental health conditions.

In using Karate as a therapy for the two different groups I have noticed a positive impact on students within just a few months.

For younger people it is clear that they are getting more confident through improvements in their skill and fitness levels. Karate gives them a framework that they can rely on because of its inherent structure. They can also use this to measure their progression. The meditation and relaxation aspects at the start of the class help them to clear their minds before training and to focus on the task at hand. The meditation at the end of the class also helps them to relax and go back to their lives with clearer perspective and more confidence.

The Taiso classes are aimed at the not so young and are based on the forms of Karate known as Kata, but adjusted to cater for all ages. The current age range I have for this class is from 36 to 82 years young. One of the main benefits of these sessions is that they encourage people to get out and socialise with others from around the Guildford area.

The forms that we perform help by providing gentle exercise as well as challenging the mind as students learn the various patterns. However, this class is more than just a workout as we always stay for a cup of tea and a biscuit, so our members get to catch up with one another and meet new people. This arrangement really helps for those that may be feeling lonely or who suffer from depression. The whole concept of our Taiso classes seems to be working well as at the moment we have 15 regular attendees and the numbers continue to rise.

In my opinion both of these groups in our society have one thing in common, not enough time and effort has been provided to help them. When I went to my first meeting with ‘The Welcome Project‘ I was taken aback by how happy they were that I was willing to volunteer my time to them to provide martial arts classes. Their first question was how many classes I was willing to donate and they were very surprised when I said I was happy to create a permanent club just for their clients. I found myself in a similar situation with the founding members of my Taiso group. After meeting with a few friends they mentioned about Tai Chi and how expensive it had become for them to attend classes. Based on this we agreed that I would teach them some toned down Karate and see how it goes. I was astonished that they had managed to get together 12 people for my first class. Having spread the word amongst their friends there was a general consensus that projects like this are important and so the students that turned up felt welcome and like they are a part of a community.

I get the impression that most people overlook others in society as they are so focused on their own lives they forget about the needs of others. By providing a little attention to others we can improve their comfort of living, especially if they suffer with mental health problems or if they feel isolated as a result of being left living alone without any relatives. That is why I try to reach out to these people, to give them something to do that aims to improve their physical and mental wellbeing and thereby hopefully improving their quality of life.

Les Bubka,

Daily Zen.

Author Bio – Les Bubka is a personal trainer, therapist and martial artist. For nearly 20 years Les has been training in martial arts, especially Karate. Having qualified as a personal trainer and Chinese massage therapist Les setup his own business, LB Posture Training, which focusses on improving the quality of life of its clients through physical activity.

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