Someone shared this with me and I had to say something. Clearly, the authors of this bullshit study have never even taken a class in their lives let alone picked up a book on the subject and know jack about healthy self esteem and how it is achieved. They look at some stats, compare to other studies based on stats and then draw conclusions and call that “science”.
I have trained in, and studied martial arts since the age of 9. I have taught and trained professionally in different cities, different countries, and have worked with with different demographics, age groups and both genders since I was 18. I feel I am somewhat qualified to comment on this.
I will say that not all martial art schools integrate the philosophy side of the arts into the class. Some are “just a business” and some are better than others at coaching children’s classes. Many coaches are great practitioners but horrible teachers. However, even with that said, anything that gets your child’s energy flowing, their heart pumping, their brain working, and trains them how to do things on their own without their helicopter parents nagging them every two seconds, will boost their concept of self and their overall confidence that they CAN overcome challenges. This is essential in the process of developing healthy self esteem and martial arts is literally the best crash course in my humble opinion.
Martial arts gives the child a space to practice facing an adversary or a challenge that at first glance seems insurmountable. Combat is the theme.
Why is this relevant to one’s self esteem you ask? Because a lack of self esteem is a sign that one has lost the inner battle that will rage on unabated until those dragons are confronted. It takes a Warrior to do just that. This is why we practice war. This is why we practice winning. It’s not to get the better of others, it’s to get better yourself so you can win at life.
ENTER THE WARRIOR.
The ‘Warrior’ is in one sense a physical status that can ONLY be achieved through practicing struggle, confrontation, and dealing with various forms of opposition and challenge. In another sense, it is an archetype of the psyche that is there to be activated by honing your own will. The process of simply discovering this ‘inner Warrior’ alone will boost that child into a winner for life because it introduces them to their own potential. With no concept of one’s own potential, the default setting is externalization and that leaves you helpless, depressed and unfulfilled.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
You can’t truly know yourself unless you have suffered through some challenge, discomfort and failure. Every sales pitch in the world is there to offer you a way out of this by offering you every comfort imaginable and to eliminate challenge from your life. Be careful about what gets eliminated along with it...
The martial artist learns to thrive in these challenging conditions, learns to embrace it when the challenge comes, and doesn’t believe in permanent failure because they have so much practice picking themselves up after defeat in order to achieve a victory. That process is hard indeed, however contrary to what your present society is teaching your kids, it is a precious part of the human experience and is necessary for a fulfilling life. They must be taught that ‘mistakes’ are not the end of you, they are merely your teachers on the path to success. This mindset alone is foundational to self discovery and self esteem. This is the Warrior way.
In order for this discovery process to happen, the student needs to confront internal challenges just as they need physical challenges to overcome in order to achieve a positive level of self knowledge and overall confidence. It is self confidence by way of self knowledge that allows you to deal with your internal angst, your fear of others and of life. Martial arts has very little to do with learning how to “beat people up” and everything to with SELF MASTERY. Without self mastery, there can be no self esteem.
“All knowledge is ultimately self knowledge...” - Bruce Lee
Only a martial artist could have said this and truly understood it in its fullest sense.
A scientist would ask “I can’t measure this thing you call “self” under my microscope so it must not exist...back to the numbers on the screen!”
The internal process of understanding all of this is just has difficult as the tasks a good Sensei will put in front of you. In one sense they do this to whip you into shape so you could actually survive a confrontation (or God forbid...a push-up...), in another sense it is to help you draw out your inner adversary so it can be mastered. This is why the challenges are given to the student within this framework.
Each challenge must address and sharpen both the body and the mind.
The spirit is the fuel of it all.
If a child is not introduced to these aspects of themselves, which will be needed throughout their lives both in the physical world and in the mental/spiritual world, then that child will forever be easy prey for predators and bullies in life and also prey to their own inner doubts, fears, inhibitions and demons. Do you want to raise a demon-slayer or a pill-popper forever seeking out the nearest safe-space?
Even more important to factor in, is that absent the Warrior archetype, deep down the child KNOWS they are missing this quality and need it desperately to thrive in a world such as ours. When self confidence is absent, they default to believing that THEY ARE A HELPLESS VICTIM. This mentality is the death of the self altogether. (See the current state of the youth circa 2015-2022 for more details on this...)
I will now give you a definition for self esteem, something these “scientists” didn’t even bother with:
“Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.”
More on this definition here: https://nathanielbranden.com/on-selfesteem/
The only aspect I would add to that great summary is the role of the body and the importance of developing confidence in the ability to ACT CORRECTLY in the face of danger or chaos.
Regarding the study, I also want to point out that some martial art schools have a strong focus on tournaments-which isn’t necessarily always bad thing, it just doesn’t always result in turning out a well rounded martial artist nor in developing authentic self esteem. In fact, it can do the opposite if the approach and focus is unbalanced. Balance is lesson one in a good dojo. (Too bad many are taught to think this concept only pertains to their fighting stance...)
A true artist develops their art for the sake of the art itself, not necessarily for the affection and approval of those witnessing what you are doing and achieving.
Why would this “study” not even consider tracking and interviewing a wide spectrum of different martial arts coaches for a period of time and then observe and document the results in real time?
It appears that science doesn’t roll like that anymore. It’s all about stats and data in computers and not always the real world. I’m not knocking computers or science, but for crying out loud learn the distinction. Speaking of which, I would go so far as to say that your average martial artist conducts more real world scientific experiments inside a month of training than these data miners do in their entire lives. Just my two cents judging by what I’ve seen from the scientific establishment of late...but I digress. There is zero discussion about how somatic intelligence (body intelligence/movement training) factors in to the process of building up self esteem in children, nor on how movement training in general promotes the progression of self expression and self actualization-which are essential elements in developing a healthy human being.
There is also zero consideration of the fact that there are different styles of martial arts, different coaching styles within any of the arts, and even different philosophical approaches to both teaching and training methods within these various art forms.
These authors also fail to define what a ‘self’ even is, let alone how to have self love. They are scientists looking at numbers on a screen. How can you possibly determine the “results” of a study...if you haven’t even actually studied the thing you are studying?
In conclusion of this rather long but necessary rebuttal, here is a simple equation these academics could crunch some numbers on if they want to conduct a study:
If Johnny knows he is capable of defending himself, that he is fit to face the challenges of the real world, that he knows both his strengths and his weaknesses, that by learning about himself he is learning about others, that he is gaining knowledge of himself thru trial and error, that he is valued because he KNOWS he is due the fact that he has proven himself-to himself time and again, that he is actively working on becoming his own superhero rather than worshipping fictitious idols, and practices bettering himself each day towards these goals...will he come out with more self esteem or less than the kid who stays at home and learns how to live vicariously through metaverse avatars, celebrities, video game characters and cartoons?
I leave it to you, my peers, to review and decide for yourselves.