Martial Arts Therapy



Martial Arts Therapy is a unique program line which uses martial arts as a medium to deliver therapeutic exercises and activities.  The program differs from conventional therapy and rehabilitation programs in structure and focus.  The focus is 'proactive' working to improve existing skills as opposed to reducing existing deficits.  The goal of the program is to improve the functional capacity of each individual participant as opposed to teaching the student to fight.  The program addresses physical and psychosocial issues often encountered with injury, disease or dysfunction.


Martial Arts Therapy programs differ from traditional therapy programs by utilizing classical martial arts program protocol.  The result is similar to a 'one room schoolhouse'.  Individuals are involved in a group setting working on individual goals without disrupting the dynamics of the group.  This environment results in the development of a new 'peer group' with common goals and social responsibilities.  The resultant group dynamics parallel the 'social contract' of the real, normal world.  Individual goals can be addressed while participants work within a group.


Martial Arts Therapy programs are 'pro-active'.  The emphasis is on success and improvement.  A 'solution orientation' is always better than a 'problem orientation'. Students are told what to do, not what not to do.  Cues are to be given which lead to success and not to reduce failure.  Asking a person to pick-up their 'good' leg instead of asking them to stand on their 'bad' leg produces improved self-esteem and enhances self-acceptance.


The essential difference between Martial Arts Therapy and martial arts is the program difference.  The desired outcome of most martial arts programs is to develop fighting skills.  Martial arts programs typically focus on distal results such as how much force can be delivered in a punch or kick.  Individual success is based on how the student's activities will influence his or her opponent.  Martial Arts Therapy outcomes are based on how well a student can influence their own body to perform the multiple planes of motion involved with a given technique.  Students are cued to work on planes of movement designed to facilitate normal patterns.  Techniques and activities are chosen based on a medical model or rehabilitation focus as opposed to a combative focus.


Martial Arts Therapy programs work to develop socialization and cognitive skills while providing motivation for maximal physical effort.  Students are provided with rules and guidelines regarding the social and behavioral expectations of the program.  Formal class structures and specific disciplinary responses allow students to learn to be responsible for their own behaviors.   The interaction between staff and the student and the interaction between students is as important as the performance of the actual techniques.  Students are also required to participate in cognitive issues including answering questions regarding techniques and addressing individual issues outside of class.