Sports Special Issue Research article
PARTICIPATION MOTIVATION IN MARTIAL ARTISTS IN THE WEST MIDLANDS
REGION OF ENGLAND
1School of Sport and Exercise Science and 2Information Learning Services,
University of Worcester, UK.
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 5 (CSSI),
28 - 34
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objectives were to identify the participation motivations and the
perceived importance of certain participation factors in martial artists
in the West Midlands, England, UK. A 28-item adapted version of the
Participation Motivation Questionnaire with additional demographic
questions was distributed to 30 martial arts clubs in the West Midlands
region. Eight questions that assessed the perceived importance for
participation of progression through grades, learning self defence
skills, technical ability of instructors, cost of participating, development
of confidence, underpinning philosophy and instructional style were
included. Seventy-five questionnaires were returned from a total of
11 clubs from across representing practitioners in Tai Chi, Karate,
Kung fu, Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, British Free Fighting, Taekwon-Do and
Jujitsu. Results indicated that the rank order in terms of participation
motives was: 1-Affiliation; 2-Friendship; 3-Fitness; 4-Reward/status;
5-Competition; 6-Situational and 7-Skill development. Participants
who trained for more than 4 hours per week placed greater importance
on the underpinning philosophy of the martial art. Findings suggest
that whilst there is a gender discrepancy in participation level,
once engaged, females were equally committed to weekly training. The
'style' of the instructor is of paramount importance for enhancing
student motivation to participate. High volume practitioners would
appear to be fully immersed in the holistic appreciation of the martial
art through increased value placed on its underpinning philosophy.
WORDS: Aspirations, self-defence, physical fitness, recreation,
data from the Sport England, 2002 survey of 'Participation in Sport
in England' (Sport England, 2002)
highlight interesting trends in martial arts participation in England.
From the 17,463 respondents, 2.1% indicated that they had taken part
in martial arts (including self defence) in the previous 12 months
and on average had participated 6 times in four weeks prior to the
date of data collection. Gender differences in participation were
apparent with 2.5% of the male and 1.7% of the female respondents
actively involved in the previous 12 months with participation rates
decreasing with age group including rates of 6.8% of 16-19 year olds,
3.9% of 25-29 year olds and 0.6% of 60-69 year olds (Sport England,
The lowest participation rate in all sport in the previous 4 weeks
prior to data collection was in the West Midlands (54%). Location
of participation identified that 2.1% took part at an indoor facility
with 2.4% practicing their martial art at home, 56.2% reported attending
some form of club with 17.5% indicating a health/fitness setting,
4.5% at a social club and 18.7% at a sports club. Of those who took
part in the martial arts, 9.8% had taken part competitively in the
previous 12 months and 81. 3% reported receiving tuition. Respondents
who reported that they would like to take up a sport or recreational
activity that they were not currently engaged identified martial arts
in the top ten preferred activities (Sport England, 2002).
Much of the previous sports psychology work regarding participant
motivation has been undertaken using variations of the original 30-item
Participation Motivation Questionnaire (PMQ) (Gill et al., 1983).
Whilst the PMQ has been adapted and used in many sport and exercise
(Trembath et al., 2002),
physical activity (Kolt et al., 2004)
and school physical education settings (Zahariadis and Biddle, 2000),
the number of factors and indeed the component items identified through
factor analysis have varied dependent upon the sample under investigation
(Gill et al., 1983;
As such, whilst a basic 6 to 8 factor structure has been found, any
use of the questionnaire requires identification of these factors
and subsequent scale reliability support before the factors can be
deemed as appropriate in the sample involved. The use of principal
components analysis to identify such factors and the use of an orthogonal
rotation is the most commonly reported method in social sciences for
these purposes (Fabrigar et al., 1999).
Previous martial arts participation motivation research has focussed
primarily on specific martial arts (Zaggelidis et al., 2004),
in specific population groups (Stefanek, 2004)
or has been undertaken outside the UK (Twemlow et al., 1996).
Research using a modified 28-item PMQ in judo and karate practitioners
revealed no significant differences between the two sports and genders
as regards to the main motives encountered for entering the sports
in the sample of 113 mixed ability males and females. The three most
highly ranked motives identified were interest in the sport, health
benefits and character cultivation (Zaggelidis et al., 2004).
Twemlow et al., 1996
investigated motives using a 13-item questionnaire in 170 male and
female attendees aged 5-63, at a martial arts school in the USA. Whilst
self defence and physical fitness motives were deemed to be the most
important individual item motivations, the authors suggest that students
could be identified by the three following 'perceived needs': 'physical
and recreational'; 'intellectual and emotional', and 'integrated self-transcendent'
needs. The reliability of responses to the questionnaire from a sample
containing such young children, however, should be questioned based
upon their reading ability and their understanding of the nature of
the questions. Unfortunately, the data analysis in both studies relied
entirely upon ranking of individual item scores and did not seek to
explore any common underlying factors through the use of factor analysis.
The existence of any more broadly identifiable motives for participation
was not investigated therefore and as such, the conclusions based
on the identified 'motives' from either individual items or visual
inspection of rank orders is less enlightening.
Motives for participation in 250 male and female collegiate Taekwondo
participants of varying belt ranks were found to be similar to those
motives found in traditional sports, including motivations such as
fun, physical exercise, skill development, and friendship (Stefanek,
Additional motives amongst the top ten identified were integrating
and improving both mental and physical health, increasing perseverance,
and reducing stress with further martial art specific factors including
the philosophy of the martial arts, suggesting that a mind-body-spirit
approach is important to participants. This motive has been highlighted
as a key aspect of martial arts participation on several occasions
(Iedwab and Standefer, 2000;
No differences in motivation for participation were found between
genders, supporting previous findings (Ebbek et al., 1995;
Zaggelidis et al., 2004),
or belt rank groups, which is in contrast to the findings of Breese,
In his investigation of 72 Taekwon-Do participants in New Zealand,
also identified that motivation for participation was different dependent
upon overall time involved in the martial art with those involved
for greater than 4 years identifying personal power and control as
their primary motivation whilst those involved for less than 2 years
identified fitness as their main motivation. Breese, 1998
concluded that instructors should be aware of these differential motivations
and customise their training regimes accordingly.
Despite the obvious participation interest in England, and the limited
research evident in other countries, there is a no published research
that has attempted to evaluate participation motivation in martial
arts at the national or indeed regional level in England. With the
apparent national trends and the paucity of previous research in the
areas as its rationale, the aim of this preliminary study was to identify
participation motivations and perceived importance of selected participation
factors for a variety of martial arts from a regional cohort of practitioners
consisted of a 28-item adapted version of the PMQ (Gill et al.,
with additional demographic questions relating to grade, club location,
primary martial art practices, gender, age, height, weight, experience,
length of club membership, hours of training per week and number
of males and females in the club all of which have been suggested
as important factors in participation in sport. Also included were
8 questions that investigated the perceived importance of a number
of factors previously identified as aspects of martial arts and
physical activity participation such as tradition, progression through
grades, learning self defence skills, technical ability of instructors,
cost of participating, development of confidence, underpinning philosophy
and instructional style.
Three hundred questionnaires were sent by post to 30 martial arts
clubs in the West Midlands region of England. Club members were
asked to complete the questionnaires and return them in the pre-paid
envelope provided. The PMQ and perceived importance statements were
structured in a 5-point Likert scale using the common prefixes of
'I participate because I
' and 'how important are the following
' respectively. Responses were identified as 'very important',
'important', 'somewhat important', 'unimportant' and 'not at all
Due to the variable factor structure of the PMQ identified in previous
research, principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to identify
the factors evident in this sample. Items and factors were selected
by the criteria of factor loadings above 0.40 and eigenvalues above
1.0 according to Ntoumanis, 2001.
questionnaires were returned (return rate of 25%) from a total of
11 clubs from across the West Midlands representing practitioners
in Tai Chi, Karate, Kung fu, Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, British Free
Fighting, Taekwon-Do and Jujitsu. Respondent demographic data are
presented in Table 1.
scores in order from most important to least important for the 7
factors identified can be seen in Table
The belt grades of the respondents were varied ranging from white
belt to 6th dan black belt. Only 29 of the respondents,
however, entered their current belt grade status and therefore meaningful
investigation of belt grade differences was inappropriate with the
small numbers in each category. Whilst acknowledging the impact
of the small sample size on the appropriateness of the use of the
PCA procedure, seven factors were identified (explaining 68% of
the variance) as 1- Affiliation; 2-Friendship; 3-Fitness; 4-Reward/status;
5-Competition; 6-Situational and 7-Skill development and their associated
Eigenvalues, variance and Cronbach's alpha (α) can be seen
in Table 3.
experience in martial arts (quartiles) and weekly training hours
(quartiles) differences in the seven named factors were investigated
using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). The results (Table
4) identified no significant main effects or interaction effects.
Item means for the eight individual questions investigating the
perceived importance of tradition, progression through grades, learning
self defence skills, technical ability of instructors, cost of participating,
development of confidence, underpinning philosophy and instructional
style were calculated (Table 5).
Gender, experience in martial arts (quartiles) and weekly training
hours (quartiles) differences in the eight individual questions
were then investigated using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA).
The results (Table 6) identified
a significant main effect for weekly training hours with subsequent
post hoc Bonferroni tests identifying significantly greater importance
placed on the underpinning philosophy of the martial art (Wilks'
Lambda=.29, F (24, 105) = 2.32, Partial Eta2 = 0.34, p < 0.05).
Martial artists training for more that 8 hours per week (quartile
4; mean 1.56 ± 0.86) or between 4 to 7.9 hours per week (quartile
3; mean 1.22 ± 0.42) identified the underpinning philosophy
as significantly more important to them than both those who trained
in up to 2.5 hours per week (quartile 1; 2.38 ± 0.96; p <
0.05 and p < 0.01 respectively) and those who trained for between
2.5 and 3.9 hours per week (quartile 2; 3.10 ± 1.20; p <
0.01 for both).
study offers findings of participation motivation for martial arts
in a broad range of martial arts including Tai Chi, Karate (variants),
Kung fu, Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, British Free Fighting, Taekwon-Do
and Jujitsu and as such represents a unique study sample from a
region that has been identified as experiencing the lowest participation
rate in all sport in England (Sport England, 2002).
The sample in the present study was similar to those found in previously
published research in many respects, however, as it included both
gender, novice through to very experienced practitioners and a broad
age range (Ebbek et al., 1995;
Twemlow et al., 1996;
Zaggelidis et al., 2004).
The fact that 76% of the respondents were male is congruent with
the greater participation rate in martial arts for males evident
in the Sport England survey (Sport England, 2002).
Males, compared to females, were also found to have been involved
with martial arts for a longer period of time and had belonged to
their club longer (Table 1),
again suggesting predominantly male participation in the martial
arts. There was no significant gender difference found in the mean
number of hours trained per week, however, indicating that once
involved, females were equally committed to training on a weekly
basis. These findings would appear to
support the trend apparent for physical activities that identified
that despite the lower participation rates in females, the mean
number of sessions of physical activity undertaken per week were
similar (3.6 for females and 3.2 for males) (Australian Sports Commission,
considered a strength of the current study, the diversity of the
primary martial arts practiced and their sub-variations and indeed
the range of belts held, resulted in low participant numbers in
many of the style and belt categories. As such the investigation
of differences in participation motivation between the styles and
individual belt categories was deemed inappropriate thus not permitting
direct comparison to the 'belt group' findings of Breese, 1998
and Stefanek, 2004.
Instead of belt held, therefore, length of involvement with the
martial arts was used to reflect level of achievement within the
martial art practised in subsequent analyses as has been done in
previous publications (Breese, 1998).
Whilst the sample size reduced the suitability of the data from
the 28-item PMQ for PCA, it was deemed necessary to use this method
to identify the motivating factors in this sample as the PMQ has
demonstrated variable factor structure in previous work (Gill et
The factors identified, however, all displayed acceptable reliability
statistics and thus were appropriate for further investigation in
this sample. The four most important emergent factors in descending
order were 'Affiliation', 'Fitness', 'Skill Development' and 'Friendship'
(Table 2). As such the findings of this study
support the contention that broad participant motives for martial
arts engagement are similar to those evident for other sports, these
being fun, physical exercise, skill development and friendship (Stefanek,
Affiliation to the sport would appear to be congruent with 'interest
in the sport' identified by Zaggelidis et al., 2004
as the main motivation. 'Fitness' in this study, which encompassed
items relating to health, also reflects the 'health benefits' motivation
identified as second most important by Zaggelidis et al., 2004
and 'physical health' identified as a key motive by Stefanek, 2004.
The three least important motives from the current study: 'Rewards/status;
'Situational' and 'Competition' would also appear to reflect previous
survey data and research that has identified low rates of competitive
engagement (Sport England, 2002)
and little emphasis placed on extrinsic rewards or status (Twemlow
et al., 1996). This finding would also appear to be supported from
the individual item question (Table
5) that rated progression through grades as relatively unimportant.
When investigating individual items from the 'Affiliation' factor
and the most highly rated individual questions (Tables 2
and 5) it would appear that
the 'style' of the instructor (encompassing teaching/communication
style and technical ability) is of paramount importance for practitioners.
In conjunction with the conclusion of Breese, 1998, these findings stress the significance of both the student
perception of the instructor's abilities and the association between
student participation motives and the instructional training regimes
used, on continued engagement.
mind-body-spirit and philosophy underpinning the martial art participation
motivations suggested by several previous authors (Iedwab and Standefer,
2000; Lu, 2003; Stefanek, 2004) was not evident from the PCA of the 28-item questionnaire,
due possibly to the absence of items specifically relating to this
concept. It was also not identified as the single item most important
for participation in the additional eight questions (Table
5). From the single item question, however, the importance of
philosophy of the martial art, was found to be significantly greater
in those who participated in training for more than four hours per
week compared to those who participated in less than four hours
of training per week (Table 6).
This may indicate that comprehension of the philosophy of the martial
art practiced may be a key factor for current commitment to high
levels of weekly training participation. Not only are these high
volume practitioners participating for affiliation, fitness and
skill development motives, they would appear to be fully immersed
in the holistic appreciation of the martial art and its underpinning
The four most important
participation motivations evident were 'Affiliation', 'Fitness',
'Skill Development' and 'Friendship' supporting the contention that
broad participant motives for martial arts engagement are similar
to those evident for other sports. The three least influential motives,
indicating their limited importance as motivations for participation
in the martial arts, were 'Rewards/status; 'Situational' and 'Competition'.
There were no significant gender or experience differences for any
of these emergent motivational factors.
The current findings, from a range of martial arts, would suggest
that whilst there is a gender discrepancy in participation level,
once engaged, females were equally committed to weekly training.
High volume practitioners would appear to be fully immersed in the
holistic appreciation of the martial art through increased value
placed on its underpinning philosophy.
The many martial arts practiced can be categorised in many ways,
based on their "source systems", on philosophy, on syllabus
etc. At closer inspection, they can loosely be described as external/internal,
hard/soft, traditional/modern martial arts. The small sample size
utilised by this research does allow consideration of some of these
differences with respect to the martial artists analysed although
it would certainly not be possible to extrapolate these findings
to all martial arts.
It would appear that the 'style' of the instructor (encompassing
teaching/communication style and technical ability) is of paramount
importance for enhancing student motivation to participate. The
importance of the instructors' teaching/communication style implies
that even for the same style of martial art, practitioner
responses will alter dependant on the attributes of the instructor.
The instructor has inherent personality traits and behaviours and
will make choices whether to adhere to a formal/traditional training
regime (if in place) or has flexibility in the methods utilised
to train his/her students.
Ancient martial art practice followed a master-disciple model. Modern
practice often requires an instructor to interact with many students,
all of which have different motivations for practice. One dilemma
for the continuation of traditional martial arts is the need to
follow ancient etiquette, which reflected a much less complex set
of participation and motivation rationale. These issues reinforce
that the "instructorship" is perhaps more important than
the art being practiced; indeed the art is best defined by the nature
of the instructor, and so the art will change with time, whether
by intention or not. Future research could usefully consider the
martial art instructor, in terms of the formal process (to become
an instructor) from various perspectives, and motivational issues.
there is a gender discrepancy in participation level, once engaged,
females were equally committed to weekly training.
four most important participation motivations evident were 'Affiliation',
'Fitness', 'Skill Development' and 'Friendship'.
three least influential motives were 'Rewards/status; 'Situational'
" There were no significant gender or experience differences
for any of the emergent motivational factors.
'style' is of paramount importance for enhancing student motivation
Gareth W. JONES
Lecturer in the School of Sport and Exercise Science, University
of Worcester, UK
Degrees: BSc, PGCE, MSc
Research interests: Participation motivation and performance
Intelligence Analyst/ Developer, University of Worcester, UK
Degrees: BSc, MSc
Research interests: Martial arts, business intelligence
in higher education
Lecturer and Teaching Fellow in the School of Sport and Exercise
Science, University of Worcester, UK
Degrees: BSc, PhD
Research interests: Participation motivation, performance
analysis, childhood obesity, physical activity for health, and
learning and teaching in sport