Taekwondo>Information>Psychological aspects

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Psychological aspects


One definition of psychology is that it is the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity. Taekwondo practitioners often speak of the behavioral benefits gained from taekwondo training.

Behavioral benefits

Research has shown that social interaction gained through training in a group is a buffer against the stresses of life for adults, that long-term continued practice fosters greater independence for all ages, and that, with progressive training, children become more enthusiastic, optimistic, and self-reliant. There are many anecdotal reports from parents explaining how their children do better at school, both behaviorally and academically, and at home.

Taekwondo training may also increase one's self-concept, such as the beliefs that you have about yourself, as opposed to understanding who you are via other people's opinions of you. For instance, research has found that women training in taekwondo have a greater physical, personal, and social identity and an increased satisfaction self-concept. Research has also shown that students who are more self-confident and compete in taekwondo tournaments are more likely to win their matches.

Some think taekwondo training builds leadership qualities, but there is no research to substantiate this. One study that measured leadership qualities found no significant difference in leadership qualities between a group just beginning their training (0-2.4 years) and a group established in their training (1.5 + years). However, due to the small sample and some overlap in training time between the two groups, it would be difficult draw any definite conclusions from the study.

Since taekwondo's acceptance as an Olympic sport, research has been done into the anxiety feelings surrounding the sport side of taekwondo. Some competitors feel extremely anxious prior to their performance, while others are not so concerned. Some research has shown that the level of anxiety does not affect sparring performance, while other research found that competitors with lower levels of pre-competition anxiety are more likely to win their matches.

However, research has shown that males competing in taekwondo have significantly higher anxiety prior to competing than males competing in other sports, with females having the same level of anxiety whether competing in taekwondo or other sports. Pre-sparring anxiety may be more anxiety provoking compared to other sports because the taekwondo competitor must fight another person. The anticipation of combat heightens arousal.

Since tournament sparring is an individual event, rather than a team sport, the anxiety of competing is not shared amongst numerous players. In addition, although a taekwondo competitor has a coach on the sidelines, the interaction between the coach and the competitor is minimal compared to other sports. Even though the anxiety related to the sport side of taekwondo has produced inconsistent findings, consistent long-term training has been found to reduce anxiety associated with everyday living. This may be because, as students become more confident in their abilities to defend themselves, they have less fear of bodily harm or being intimidated.

Despite being taught techniques which may seriously injure an opponent, research has shown that children, adolescents, and young adults who practice traditional taekwondo regularly have a decrease in their aggression. Traditional taekwondo training not only emphasizes fighting strategies, such as free-sparring and self-defense, but also emphasizes patterns, step sparring, meditation, relaxation, and basic skills that tend to decrease aggression. When the emphasis is mainly on the fighting aspects, students exhibit increases in aggression. With the growth of sport taekwondo, research needs to be done to find if sport taekwondo students are more aggressive than traditional taekwondo students.

Some have suggested that due to the positive mental attributes to be gained from martial arts training, that such training may be of use in improving the mental health of individuals at risk. Boxing has been used for decades as a way to reduce aggression in delinquent males. One study has shown that adolescents identified as juvenile delinquents may benefit from traditional taekwondo training, showing less aggression, less anxiety, increased self-esteem, increased social adroitness, such as improved social skills, and an increase in value orthodoxy, such as a greater awareness of moral and social obligation.

Although there have been numerous studies investigating other aspects of mental health derived from training in other martial arts, psychological research literature devoted solely to taekwondo is minimal. For those so inclined, there is ample opportunity for research into the benefits of taekwondo.

  • American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. Washington, DC.
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  • Kurian, M.; Caterino, L. C.; and Kulhavy, R. W. (1993). Personality characteristics and duration of ATA Taekwondo training. Perceptual Motor Skills, 76, 363-366.
  • Kurian, M.; Verdi, M. P.; Caterino, L. C.; and Kulhavy, R. W. (1994). Relating scales on the Children's Personality Questionnaire to training time and belt rank in ATA Taekwondo. Perceptual Motor Skills, 79, 904-906.
  • Lamarre, B. W.; and Nosanchuk, T. A. (1999). Judo - the gentle way: A replication of studies on martial arts and aggression. Perceptual Motor Skills, 88, 992-996.
  • Skelton, D. L.; Glynn, M. A.; and Berta, S. M. (1991). Aggressive behavior as a function of Taekwondo ranking. Perceptual Motor Skills, 72, 179-182.
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  • Wilkinson, L. K. (1996). The martial arts: A mental health intervention? Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 2, 202-207.

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