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Using martial arts training to develop executive function

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In Martial arts promote executive functioning success the idea of developing a stronger "executive function" through martial arts training was discussed. Studies have shown that traditional martial arts training can produce a significant positive impact on the executive function or decision-making skills of students. To understand how this might happen let's look at the self-defense training aspect of martial arts training.

Self-defense experts and military trainers have adopted the phrase “situational awareness” and the acronym O.O.D.A. to describe the decision-making process that leads to successful self-defense and combat. Martial arts pioneers like Bruce Lee taught us that we must always be aware of our surroundings,

“The best surprise against a surprise attack is not to be surprised.” - Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition.

When you dig deeper into these self-defense based teachings you will see executive functioning operating at a very high level. The stages of the O.O.D.A Cycle, for instance, very closely align with the “ISIS”; Initiate, Sustain, Inhibit, Shift, infrastructure used by Dr. Martha Denckla to describe key characteristics of executive functioning. The process of learning to be prepared for self-defense without becoming paranoid or overly cautious includes learning skills such as; interference control, flexible organization and strategic planning and preparedness to act. These are the same characteristics demonstrated daily by people with highly developed executive function.

Add to these self-defense skills the foundation of respect, courtesy, self-control and other life skills central to traditional martial arts teaching and you have a system well adapted to developing strong executive function at any age.

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