Mindfulness can be described as the practice of bringing focus, intention, and awareness into whatever thoughts are arising in the present moment. This simple definition, when taken seriously, can have remarkable effects on our everyday waking experience. Mindfulness allows us to live more fully in each moment than if we were simply on “autopilot.”

Practicing mindfulness can help you reduce stress, increase productivity, and even make you nicer to be around!

Importance of Mindfulness for kids:

Following are just some benefits of practicing mindfulness for kids:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Stress reduction and emotional regulation
  • Increased empathy and “people skills.”
  • Healthier relationships with friends and family
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving ability
  • A more positive sense of self.
  • Prevention of Mental Disorders:  Recent research has shown that mindfulness practices might help prevent mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

How Martial can arts training help with mindfulness?

In my many years studying and offering TaeKwondo classes in Dubai, we have found that the formal practice of mindfulness is emphasized in certain types of martial arts more than the others. It seems to be a common-sense assumption that anyone determined enough to master specific technical skills must also be at least a bit mindful.

It so happens that Taekwondo has been one of our primary martial art practices for the past ten years. As a result, we have found many ways of combining Taekwondo training with mindfulness practice. This combination can improve both aspects and make you enjoy practicing more.

TaeKwondo and Mindfulness:

Let’s start with a short description of the Taekwondo forms, which is one way that we practice mindfulness in our TaeKwondo classes. They consist of prearranged sets of movements. Poomsae are set movements that could be applied to many different attacks or defense situations in Taekwondo.

We work towards the perfection of each specific movement through these sets of movements and try to improve our understanding of how to perform them correctly. We also aim to learn how they fit into Martial concepts such as energy (Kihap), limberness (Keubi), stances (Seogi), and the use of the body as a whole.

When learning TaeKwondo, we often practice by repeating them many times until they become imprinted in our muscle memory. This process is known as Chon-Ji (천지), which means “heaven and earth.” The actual number of repetitions depends on the level of the student but is often between 25 and 100 times.

How can Taekwondo improve focus and concentration?

Many other martial arts often focus on physical conditioning (weight training, push-ups, etc.), and the practitioners of different styles usually emphasize their technique training. That is not a bad thing per se, but it does mean that they often spend less time practicing how to combine their techniques in creative and useful combinations correctly.

The result is usually that they can perform each technique perfectly in isolation but fail when using them together in different situations (i.e., sparring, self-defense, etc.).

On the other hand, Taekwondo focuses heavily on creative combinations of skills. Because of this, most Taekwondo practitioners are far more capable of switching between different techniques to react to changing situations.

This ability to adapt is very much related to the development of mindfulness. Many people often experience their thoughts becoming repetitive and stale when they engage in long periods of concentration by repeating a single activity repeatedly (for example, when they practice a Kata for long periods).

Incorporates Meditation and Breathing Techniques

A fundamental aspect of Taekwondo training that contributes to its effectiveness in promoting mindfulness is the integration of meditation and breathing techniques. These elements often go unnoticed, but they play a significant role in training the mind to be present and focused. Prior to starting a session, many classes incorporate a brief period of meditation to prepare the mind for the physical tasks ahead. This involves sitting quietly, focusing on the breath, and letting go of external distractions. Likewise, throughout training, students are taught to synchronize their movements with their breath, cultivating a rhythm that enhances concentration and control. This practice of ‘conscious breathing’ is a form of mindfulness in itself and can be beneficial in reducing anxiety and promoting a calm, focused state of mind.

Promotes Self-Discipline and Respect

Taekwondo is not merely about the physical activity; it also instills valuable life principles such as self-discipline and respect. These are not only applicable to the training dojo but extend to everyday life. The act of bowing to the instructor and fellow students, for instance, instills a sense of respect for authority and peers. The need to arrive on time, listen attentively, and follow instructions fosters self-discipline. Moreover, the concept of delayed gratification is inherent in the grading system, where students have to demonstrate proficiency and commitment over time to earn their next belt. These principles serve as mindfulness practice, encouraging the students to be present, respectful, and disciplined in their actions and thoughts.

Enhances Cognitive Functions and Emotional Well-being

Aside from the physical and mindfulness benefits, Taekwondo can significantly contribute to improving cognitive functions and emotional well-being. This martial art requires practitioners to remember sequences, techniques, and forms, thereby enhancing memory and cognitive agility. Furthermore, Taekwondo, like other forms of physical exercise, releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters, leading to improved mood, increased happiness, and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels. In the long run, these positive effects on the brain contribute to a mindful way of living, where practitioners are more in tune with their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. This understanding and self-awareness form the crux of mindfulness.

So, what is the best martial art for mindfulness?

Tai Chi is often considered the best martial art for mind & body connection. TaeKwondo is just as good, if not better. It has added advantages such as self-defense and combat training.

It is not an exaggeration to say that every repetitive Kata training session in Taekwondo is a lesson in mindful concentration. Unfortunately, this opportunity to learn how to concentrate is often wasted due to the lack of knowledge about how to do it correctly.

The ability to adapt is very much related to the development of mindfulness. Many people often experience their thoughts becoming repetitive and stale when they engage in long periods of concentration by repeating a single activity repeatedly (for example, when they practice a Kata for long periods).

For this reason, practicing Taekwondo has improved kids’ focus and concentration to a great degree. After they start practicing, they will stop themselves from getting distracted by information or thoughts that are not directly relevant to the task at hand.

When to start learning Taekwondo?

One of the best times to start practicing Taekwondo is in childhood. Of course, it is never too late to start. And if you’re an adult and want to empower yourself with the ability to defend yourself and improve your concentration, then Taekwondo is an excellent choice for you as well.

However, if you start practicing when you are older, it might take longer to see good results.

Like anything else, you will not become truly proficient at it without putting in the time, effort and practice. And the older you are, the more time it will take to learn new skills.