Martial Arts Program for Children with Epilepsy

BioPsychoSocial_Health2.jpgPsychosocial consequences in children living with epilepsy are significant. Frequent hospitalization, the unpredictability of seizures, and side effects from treatment can lead to increased stress for the child and the entire family. They can lead to child’s negative evaluation of self and can affect the child’s ability to meet his or her potential in both academic and social settings.

Researchers conducted a pilot study to assess the effects of a martial arts program on children with epilepsy. A series of 10-week, 1 hour/week Kempo karate form classes were offered to children aged 8-16 years. Quality of life, self-concept, and parental anxiety were assessed through questionnaire measures. The two parental questionnaires issued were the Parental Stress Index Short Form, assessed stress in the parent/child dyad, and the Quality of Life in Childhood Epilepsy inventory, assessed a child’s day-to-day life functioning over five domains of health-related quality of life. The one questionnaire completed by the children was the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale 1, an 80-item questionnaire with a yes/no response format, designed to assess self-concept in children and adolescents.

It was interesting to know that karate program was an effective intervention. Positive trends were observed across all domains of health-related quality of life for children with epilepsy, particularly relating to parental perception of the impact of their child’s anxiety, behavior, socialization, attention, and concentration. The parents also perceived a significant improvement in their child’s quality of life relating to memory function. Children participating in the karate program reported an enhanced self-concept with regard to their intellectual and school status. Although the karate program for children with epilepsy may have had a small effect in reducing parental stress, the change was not significant. Attention to parental anxiety and family coping strategies should be a focus of future psychosocial interventions.

Karate training emphasizes self-discipline and self-control. Peer admiration and positive reinforcement through shared achievements in the karate class may also contribute to a more positive sense of self. It simulates a constructive learning environment. The peer group aids in removing the stigma of “other” and normalizing the shared experience of epilepsy. Emphasis on the relationship to a mentor, the karate instructor, encourages positive reinforcement within a supportive learning environment. The significant improvement in intellectual self-concept and school status as reported by the children in the above study prove the potential benefits associated with a karate program.


Kerry D. Conanta, Amy K. Morganb, David Muzykewicz et al. A karate program for improving self-concept and quality of life in childhood epilepsy: Results of a pilot study. Epilepsy & Behavior 2008;12(1):61-65.

Shelley Narula, MBBS

Shelley Narula, MBBS, and her colleagues have worked with Elsevier Health Sciences -- one of the most prestigious publishing houses of the world.
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