I want to start teaching martial arts (with the help of a Kung-Fu expert) at high school level. In addition, I would like to convince people that it will boost the IQ of students.

How far am I from reality? Is there any study which suggests that there is some relation between martial arts and IQ?

  • Just to clarify Khaled's question: There are two aspects to this. First is that there might be a correlation that finds that martial arts students tend to have higher than average IQ. Second is that the practice of martial arts might increase IQ... The former is probably true. The latter is probably false. In my opinion. The latter question is really hard to answer, because the question itself assumes some things about IQ which are still being debated in science. Oct 22 at 13:35
  • You may find that some students achieve better because of improved discipline and concentration developed from martial arts study. But any causation between martial arts practice and IQ increase would be nebulous or non-existent.
    – slugster
    Oct 23 at 5:42

Why would you want to convince students of something you don't know to be true? There are so many other known benefits to learning martial arts and claiming an increase in IQ specifically caused by practising martial arts is problematic.

There are several theories of intelligence and IQ is just one possible metric, not without its drawbacks.

'According to psychologist Wayne Weiten, "IQ tests are valid measures of the kind of intelligence necessary to do well in academic work. But if the purpose is to assess intelligence in a broader sense, the validity of IQ tests is questionable."'

If you want to say that martial arts improves IQ, then the underlying assumption is that IQ is something that can be changed and that isn't proven. This article is one that outlines many of the problems with establishing whether IQ can be changed. I cite this article only as an example, not as a personal endorsement of the author's view.

My point is that it is an ongoing topic of debate and the major theories of intelligence all have their critics, so there is no easy yes/no answer to your question.


I have never heard of that.

There is a lot of research on the benefits of sports in general on cognitive functions, though. This research suggests that it is mainly the skill acquisition component which has direct impact on cognitive abilities. This, in turn, is pretty various and over a relatively long period of time in martial arts specifically. Also, so-called open-skill sport seems to have a positive impact on answer times under time pressure, which is a crucial aspect of IQ tests. This suggests that martial arts that train live as opposed to being focused on forms are more beneficial.

Generally, I would not say that martial arts are any better than other sports in this regard, though. And there is no boosting the IQ, just being able to perform to one's full potential in tests. These tests are a poor way to test actual cognitive abilities and have less to do with intelligence in the sense of problem-solving capabilities relevant for specific tasks than they should. They simply are too specific as of abilities they test and rely a lot on being accustomed with the form of symbolic representation. In other words: Rather than saying anything about IQ, I'd talk about it being a mental and physical offset which helps to improve study performance in general. That much is covered by research.

  • thanks for your answer.
    – Khaled
    Oct 22 at 8:07

While some epidemiological evidence links "Exercise" with cognitive development; as a whole Martial arts can be utilized and enjoyed by all regardless of....iq. High level martial arts skills are byproduct of muscle memory, not intellectual learning in the classical sense.

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