In the past year I have come into contact with several people who are successfully using Aikido as a framework for self motivation, self improvement and self discipline as part of their journey recovering from addictive behaviour. It never fails to amaze me how fundamental the changes can be, and always re-kindles my belief in the art.
Learning Martial Arts in Recovery
When people give up an addiction, they usually have plenty of time on their hands. It is advisable that they make good use of these empty hours, or they may begin to experience boredom. This is dangerous because it can lead people towards relapse.
General Benefits of Martial Arts
Those who practice martial arts get to enjoy a number of benefits:
- These ancient combat systems can be a great way to stay physically in shape. They can benefit almost every part of the body. There can be impressive cardiovascular benefits with some of the more intense martial arts.
- Practising a martial art teaches people discipline. In order for people to become good at these fighting systems, the practitioner must be willing to sacrifice many hours, and put in a great deal of effort. They can use this discipline in almost every area of their life.
- These arts equip people to defend themselves in an emergency situation.
- Arts like Tai Chi and Aikido act as a type of moving meditation. This is great for relaxation and mental development. Even the hard martial arts can be a form of meditation.
- All of these disciplines improve coordination and balance to at least some extent.
- Martial arts training increases people’s confidence. Not only do they feel better able to defend themselves in a threatening situation, but they are also likely to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
- Those who master these arts tend to be humble. This is because they no longer feel they need to prove anything to anybody. They are more aware of their strengths and limitations.
- These disciplines can be a type of spiritual path. The individual practising them can develop both inwardly and outwardly.
The Benefits of Martial Arts in Recovery
Practising martial arts in recovery can be highly beneficial for several reasons:
- It allows them to regain their physical health. Abusing alcohol or drugs causes great harm to the body, and practising martial arts can help restore health.
- Self-discipline is essential to a successful recovery. Many good things in life require persistent effort and a bit of sacrifice. By learning martial arts, the individual will be able to extend this discipline to other areas of their life.
- People who become addicted to substances tend to suffer from low self-esteem. Those who devote themselves to these arts will gain mastery over their body and minds. This will greatly increase their confidence and self-esteem.
- If people are bored in recovery it will leave them feeling unsatisfied. This means that they will be more likely to relapse. By taking up a martial art, the individual will have something constructive to do with their time.
- Early recovery can be a stressful time. It is often described as an emotional roller-coaster. This type of physical activity gives people the opportunity to release some of their pent up tensions. The meditation aspects of these martial arts can also be wonderful for helping people to be better able to handle stress.
- You will become part of a mutually supportive group, all striving for the same goals.
How to Begin a Martial Arts Practice in Recovery
Beginning a martial arts practice is not something that people usually regret. There are some steps that the individual can take to increase their likelihood of benefiting from martial arts:
- Even a small town will usually have several different schools teaching martial arts. It is recommended that people do a bit of investigation into the different styles before making any decision.
- It is a good idea if people consider what they want from this activity. For example, it is important to consider whether they want something that is more spiritual or physical in nature.
- All the different styles of martial art will have people of all ages practicing them. Some of them are more physically demanding than others. Those who plan on learning one of the more intensive arts will need to be willing to increase their fitness to a high level.
- It is a good idea if people speak to their doctor before beginning any new fitness regime. This is particularly important if they have not exercised in a long time or if they have any pre-existing medical conditions.
- In order to progress in a martial art, people need to be willing to commit to regular practice. They will be able to develop much faster if they can go to at least two classes a week and if they also practice at home.
- Most martial arts classes will allow people to come for a free introduction lesson. This can be a good way to assess what is on offer.