Positive Peer Culture of Martial Arts
The benefits of positive peer cultures and groups are well researched and documented. Regardless of the actual program, surrounding yourself by a group of not just like minded individuals but those who support your goals is proven to promote positive change for all involved. Martial Arts schools and gyms have proven especially effective in creating such environments.
Immersion in a positive peer culture offers an especially unified, cohesive social system in which those involved are devoted to a common responsibility and accountability for one another. Peer acceptance and respect are shown to be longer-lived than badges or awards. People do not resist changing; they resist being changed. Participating in a group that harbors mutual support, motivation and drive natural promotes a willingness to change for the better and helps others to do so as well. Peer coercion is replaced with peer concern; antagonism and intimidation have no place in what is to be a helpful positive culture. Peers and teammates have an obligation to help not hold back.
Martial arts schools are often referred to as extended families for very good reason. They provide sanctuary where students can be surrounded by a positive group of supporters and instructors that encourage growth but ensure accountability. The idea that people change people is evident and martial arts programs only facilitate that process.
Much like sports, the benefits of the martial arts are greatly enhanced by the environment in which they are practiced. Accruals of positive outcomes are more likely to occur when a program emphasizes mastery of skill and positive behaviors (discipline, respect, etiquette, sacrifice, and control).
Studies have found that athletes in some sports are actually more likely to be involved in risky behaviors— such as alcohol use—than those who do not participate in sport at all. Research also has found that in addition to physical injury, sport can create stress and anxiety and even promote heightened aggressiveness. These outcomes can be shaped by the nature of the athlete’s experience—for example, the attitudes and behaviors of coaches, teammates, and parents do not always create a supportive environment. This highlights the importance of not only of participation, but also the quality of the experience and the environment it takes place.
Thus, playing sport does not automatically build character. Character must be taught and influenced. When sport is played in a caring environment, social, emotional, and psychological benefits are enhanced. Sports often incorrectly place so much emphasis on the competitive and winning aspect that the social necessities are often pushed aside. Many factors influence a young person’s experience in sport: the training of the coach, the support that the young person receives from that coach, family members, and peers to participate in that sport. Even the type and competitive level of sport being played greatly influences the experience. The competitive nature of sport can drive both the positive and negative effects of participation.
Competitive avenues do exist, and sometimes encouraged, within the martial arts but it is not a necessity like most sports where success of an individual is ultimately measured by winning or losing. Martial Arts tend to measure growth rather than success. That growth is measured against nothing other than that individual and his/her personal maturation, progression through belt ranks and activities like partnered practice and sparring.
Another advantage martial arts possess over many sports is that it is not seasonal in nature. There is opportunity to participate year round; the entire time surrounded by peers, senior students, and instructors who support, encourage, counsel and mentor. At the end of the day it’s not simply the act of punching, kicking or grappling that’s makes a person better, the positive culture a martial arts school offers is truly the life changing tool!