Martial arts increase oxytocin production

Yuri Rassovsky, Anna Harwood, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have demonstrated that oxytocin (OT), a peptide hormone, plays an important role in regulating mammalian social behaviors, linking it to social affiliation in parent-infant attachment, romantic and filial relationships, and other prosocial behaviors, such as trust and cooperation. Not surprisingly, research efforts have been made to increase endogenous levels of OT. In the present study, we investigated whether traditional martial arts training, which integrates the natural benefits of physical exercise with dyadic prosocial interaction, would result in OT response. To this end, 68 beginner and advanced participants were recruited from several schools practicing Jujitsu (“soft art”), a form of traditional martial arts originating in Japan. Salivary OT levels were assessed at baseline, immediately following high-intensity training, and following a cool-down period. Analyses revealed a significant increase in OT immediately after a high-intensity training, returning to baseline levels following a cool-down period. Additionally, although no significant difference between beginner and advanced martial artists was found, a significantly higher increase in salivary OT followed ground grappling, as compared to “punch-kick” sparring, indicating an added benefit of close contact tactile interaction. These results suggest that the reportedly socially beneficial effects of traditional martial arts may be in part mediated by OT release and underscore the potentially therapeutic applications of these methods for disorders involving social dysfunction, such as autism, conduct problems, or schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12980
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


This research was supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology & Space, Israel (Grant #3-13631) to Drs. Rassovsky and Feldman. We thank the instructors and students for opening their dojos and participating in our research.

FundersFunder number
Ministry of Science, Technology & Space, Israel3-13631
Ministry of Science, Technology and Space


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