Background: Empirical data have suggested that mind-body practices that originated in Eastern traditions can cause desirable changes to psychological traits, the brain, somatic physiological functions, etc. Martial arts in Japan refer to the physical/mental practices that were developed based on historical combat techniques. Today, martial arts are considered activities that seek embodiment and/or mind-body unity, as well as sports. Empirical studies involving practitioners of Japanese martial arts to date remain scarce. Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey using a cross-sectional design to examine whether the practice of martial arts based on Japanese traditions are associated with mindfulness and psychological health. Participants included a population of practitioners of martial arts with a practice period of 0.6–35.0 years, and non-practitioners matched for demographic variables. Results: Compared with the non-practitioners, the practitioners of martial arts had significantly higher scores for mindfulness and subjective well-being and lower scores for depression. Among the practitioners of martial arts, a longer period of practice or a higher frequency of daily practice significantly predicted higher mindfulness and psychological health. Conclusions: The results obtained are consistent with those previously obtained for other populations of Japanese contemplatives, and support the view that practice of multiple Eastern mind-body practices might be associated with similar desirable psychological outcomes. A cross-sectional design has limitations in that it is difficult to determine the effect of continued practice, so that a longitudinal study that follows the same practitioners over time is desired in the future enquiry.
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