The Benefits of the Martial Arts – Enterprise Story – Steven Vantulden

Vantulden, Steven


J 361: Reporting 1

David Saez

Enterprise Story: The Individual and Communal Benefits of Martial Arts

          The students in the University of Oregon’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu club gather, inside of mat room number 1in the rec center, to practice what is known as ‘the gentle art’.  Each member wears their gi; a traditional Japanese uniform consisting of a white jacket, pants and a belt. Though members vary in experience and skill, they all exhibit the mindset of a true martial artist.  

            They have firsthand experience of the positive values that martial arts instill in people’s lives. Martial arts teach individuals discipline, self-confidence, humility and respect. Teachers often instill principles of non-violence and non-aggression to their students. Finally, martial arts provide tremendous physical advantages for practitioners.

            Trevor Bryant instructs the rest of the club members after a brief warm-up. At the end of the session, the students practice their skills against each other in sparring. They apply joint locks and choke holds to one another, in an attempt to create the sufficient pressure for a submission. When one student catches another in a submission hold, the other ‘taps out’ in acknowledgment of their defeat.

            Bryant has practiced Brazilian jiu-jitsu for three and a half years. As a blue belt in the art, he’s one the most experienced members in the University of Oregon’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu club. He also has experience with wrestling and Jeet Kune Do. Due to his experience, he teaches most of the time at the club.

            Bryant has a lot of knowledge about the martial arts. He talks in depth about how self-confidence relates to the martial arts, as well as how his own training has improved his confidence regarding self-defense situations.

            “I think it builds a ton of confidence as far as when I’m walking around,” Bryant says. “There’s little thought at all, if any, that if someone was to come up and try to fight me… I feel so confident that I could be able to handle that situation that it’s just not even something I register in my mind.”

            Improved self-confidence is not the only benefit to martial arts. Intensive and rigorous training routines inherently instill discipline and mental toughness. It’s certainly not easy to learn, but it’s something martial artists understand.    

            Student Haglae Kim trains at the University of Oregon’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu club, as well as at a local gym named Northwest Martial Arts. He practices many disciplines including muay thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed-martial-arts. Kim says he has learned the value of hard work, discipline and mental toughness through his training.

            “In my martial arts class, it’s really tough…” Kim says. “But the one thing I’ve learned from training mixed-martial-arts is I can do that if I keep trying, even though it’s really tough.”

            Martial artists gain significant strength and health advantages through their work outs. Different disciplines improve flexibility, muscle strength, muscle endurance, and cardiovascular ability. The students at the University of Oregon’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu club and Northwest Martial Arts display such benefits, not only in their physiques but also in their overall shape. 

            “I think grappling in general is a pretty solid full body workout.” Bryant says. “It works all your muscles, builds your flexibility a lot. So in terms of that physical aspect it covers pretty much everything. Even cardio to a degree if you’re rolling for like an hour.”

            Respect is a fundamental principle of all martial arts. This includes respect for one’s teacher, one’s opponent and oneself. The concept of respect is deeply integrated in the traditions of martial arts, from the bows practitioners make to the terms of endearment they call each other.

            Author John Stevens details the concept of respect as it relates to martial arts in his book titled Abundant Peace: The Biography of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido. Steven describes the traditions of respect within the Japanese martial art Aikido. He writes (1987):

Aikido practitioners implicitly trust each other and display that mutual faith by bowing all the way to the floor and, as it were, offering their necks… In Aikido, one’s partner is a ‘living shrine,’ due the same respect as a holy object. Indeed, ‘the practice of Aikido begins and ends with respect. (p. 93)

            Humility is also a concept that goes hand in hand with respect. Many martial artists strive to achieve this, but it can be a difficult lesson to learn. Kim talks about how he has developed humility, controls his ego and focuses on learning rather than winning.

            “When I started learning martial arts, I just thought, ‘Oh, the reason why the people have the match is to win.’ ” Kim says. “But by going through the process of learning with people, I have gained a lot of sense of respect. No matter how good I am, I need to respect my opponent or sparring partner”

            A martial artist values the avoidance of conflict rather than resorting to violence.  Surprisingly enough, research indicates martial artists are less likely to participate in violence and hostility compared to other athletes.

            Kevin Daniels and Everard Thornton published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1992. They compared the rates of assaultive, verbal and indirect hostility between martial artists and a control group of other athletes. Daniels and Thornton (1992) discovered the martial artist scored lower in the assaultive and verbal hostility categories compared to the other athletes.

            Daniels and Thornton also found that this was true regardless for how long the martial artists had trained. This led them to the conclusion that the effect of lowered hostility, “may be peculiar to the martial arts. (p. 199)

            The benefits of martial arts are not exclusive to individuals. Entire communities can benefit the presence and effects of martial arts.

            Many martial artists are also generous with their time and volunteer to teach for free in the community. Ryan Kelly, one of the owners of Northwest Martial Arts, regularly volunteers to teach different community groups; as well as to people who can’t otherwise afford the martial arts.

            “I do all sorts of different community outreach things and community service…” Kelly said. “I also work with Looking Glass (Looking Glass Youth and Family Services) and the united way to do mentoring and skills building for youth.”

            Kelly talked about how the martial arts might help those who might need the means of martial arts. But conversely, he talked about how martial arts decreased the chance of someone resorting to violence.

“What martial arts does is empowers those who are not powerful enough and gives them the skills they need to protect themselves, but it humbles those who have too much pride and too much ego.”


1.      Trevor Bryant, University of Oregon Jiu Jitsu Club member,

2.      Ryan Kelly, Co-owner of Northwest Martial Arts, (541) 232-4535

3.      Haglae Kim, University of Oregon Jiu JItsu Club member and member of Northwest Martial Arts. (541) 870-7919

4.      Daniels, K. & Thorton, E. (1992). Length of training, hostility and the martial arts: a comparison with other sporting groups. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 26, 118-120.

5.      Stevens, J. (1987). Abundant Peace: The Biography of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido.



Student Haglae Kim applies a Kimura submission hold on his opponent, during practice at the University of Oregon’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu club.


Instructor Trevor Bryant demonstrates the Bow and Arrow choke to the rest of the class at the University of Oregon’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu club.

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