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In both, every day and military events, your mind should not change in the least, but should be broad and straightforward, neither drawn too tight nor allowed to slacken even a little. Keep the mind in the exact center, not allowing it to become sidetracked; let it sway peacefully, not allowing it to stop for even a moment…The mind should not be distracted by the body, nor the body distracted by the mind. Be very watchful of the mind, but less so of the body…There is something particularly unique in the wisdom of the martial arts. Even when the action is extraordinarily lively on the battlefield, you should take the principles of the martial arts to the extreme and keep your mind unmoved. You should investigate this thoroughly... With your face tranquil and the line of your nose straight, you should have a slight sensation of sticking your chin out.

Musashi, Japan, 1640

Here is an explanation about the "budotherapy" approach: What is it? How is it related to compassion-focused therapy? And how do traditional martial arts relate to mental health and couple therapy?


Traditional martial arts and mental health have common goals, that can be reached in various ways. Just like many approaches in the third wave of cognitive behavioral therapy, the goal of traditional martial arts is to get to know and deal with the "internal enemies" that are within each of us, blocking our development, jeopardizing happiness, and interrupt our interpersonal relationships, and attack our ability to develop love relationships and to self fulfillment. In both martial arts and psychotherapy, we deal with fears and anxieties, anger and aggression, low self-esteem and confidence, avoidance, depression and trauma.

The traditional (non-competitive) martial arts are about developing the ability to be in a stressful, dangerous or painful situation (battle) but instead of acting out of the threat system in one of the typical reactions such as escape, stagnation or attack (Fight, Flight, Freeze) to act from our from inner strength. and out of this state of mind, we try to act calmly and wisely to stop the unpleasant situation, and as far as possible to prevent its recurrence. Accordingly, traditional martial arts offer a physical-mental process whose purpose, as Funkoshi, the founder of Karate, points out, not in victory or loss in battle but in the development of the trainee's character, and the inner quality of his courage (Peaceful Courage).

The budotherapy approach, which came out in a book published in 2019, was born from seeing the connection between the martial artist's developmental process and the mental growth within the therapeutic process of both the therapist and the patient. Like the fighter in a battle or in hard training, the patient also suffers from difficult feelings and emotions, which he has difficulty accommodating. Situations that are experienced as scary, painful, frustrating, and dealing with an internal enemy (pain, thoughts, feelings) or external (person or other condition that causes it) repeatedly attacking you. In the face of these attacks, the patient responds with contraction, anger and despair or as stated in one of the three F's: an attempt to avoid or escape, managing the situation with aggression to the self or others, and self-hatred. it may lead to feelings of stagnation, giving up, despair, weakness, and blasts.

In budotherapy we use the ancient wisdom of martial arts and Buddhist thinking, to develop the same inner qualities of the warrior, among the therapist who is in a complicated situations while working with the patient or couple. 

the psychotherapy the stem out from traditional martial arts, is integrated into the third wave of cognitive  behavioral psychotherapy, especially compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-focused therapies. This approach enables the development of internal qualities of compassion through the body, and physical-mental experience of exercise through awareness of the body, movement and breathing. we work with mental and imagination (such as connecting to a 'compassionate figure' or 'powerful version of ourselves'). connection to painful emotions and "conversations" with different states of self.

Paul Gilbert, the founder of CFT, defines compassion, in keeping with the Dalai Lama's perception, as "sensitive to the suffering of self and others, with a deep commitment to make it easier." Instead of moving away to protect ourselves (physically or mentally) we stay in the scary, frustrating or painful place, calming ourselves down, trying to contain what comes to us and doing our best, and in accordance with the wisdom and skills we have acquired, with the motivation to reduce suffering, ease and improve.

In his book, Gilbert addresses the development of these martial arts qualities and writes that:

"In the Martial Arts the focus is on learning how to be in the moment, and fight or defend from a point of stillness rather than rage, terror or desire to humiliate and harm ... They recognize the importance of teaching people practices to work with bodily arousal”.

We can see, then, that in both ways, the warrior way and the psychotherapy way, we  are aiming in developing compassion, especially self-compassion, and dealing with the 'internal enemies' and their painful and dangerous attacks against us (Self-Attack). We struggle to develop courage, the ability to regulate and calm ourselves, and to develop the motivation to stay in a threatening and complex space, to explore it and to act wisely to best manage the situation. In a way that will lead to the cessation of suffering, and the result that will later lead to the joy, pride and sense of inner strength.

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