Helping veterans cope with the effects of war can be a daunting challenge. The Veterans Administration reports that every day in America, 22 veterans commit suicide. Many of these individuals are believed to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a condition that impacts a person’s ability to function and can lead to other psychiatric problems such as alcoholism and drug addiction. Researchers around the nation are looking for ways to help veterans deal with PTSD and other mental and physical issues related to their war-time experiences. One method that is gaining in popularity is the martial arts.

Medical experts admit there aren’t a lot of promising therapies out there. Intense therapy and medication are used but their success rates are low. That’s why medical professionals are excited about studies and anecdotal accounts that demonstrate martial arts to be a promising treatment.

One such study showed that the PTSD score of veterans suffering from the disorder who practiced martial arts improved considerably over traditional therapeutic methods. Many veterans report a reduction in headaches and insomnia when they consistently practice the martial arts.

Many martial arts instructors report that the veterans who come to their classes are able to achieve a balance and sense of mental and physical well-being as a result of training. Further, veterans—like any other martial arts student-experience a reduction in stress and anxiety. It also helps them to release aggression in a healthy and disciplined manner while providing a renewed sense of purpose.

Participating in the martial arts also provides veterans structure and a sense of camaraderie that was so much a part of their lives in the armed forces. Veterans who meet in martial arts classes are likely to form bonds in and out of class. They socialize after class, as well, often heading to a smoothie joint as opposed to a bar.

When veterans regularly attend martial arts classes, they report feeling better equipped to fight through hardships and focus on building a positive life. It also provides them with a feeling of pride.

Here are just some of the ways mental health experts and martial arts instructors believe the martial arts can benefit veterans suffering from PTSD:

  1. Allows veterans to express and process emotion
  2. Helps to establish boundaries
  3. Promotes relaxation
  4. Connects the mind and the body
  5. Encourages self-care