Sportspersonship In Martial Arts


Studies on psychological outcomes related to individual differences have increased showing contradictory results, especially in martial arts. The difficulty to provide conclusive evidence for the psychological outcomes of martial arts practice and to determine if and to what extent martial arts trainings explain the above mentioned effects needs a more in-depth analysis of those dispositional aspects which can impact adaptive behaviors in terms of sportspersonship. Since no studies on sportspersonship and goal orientations has been carried out in the specific context of martial arts, the current research aimed at examining the role of goal orientations and trait aggressiveness as predictors of sportspersonship. A cross-sectional study was conducted. 389 Italian martial artists (Mage = 29.60, SD = 9.22) completed a questionnaire composed of four sections: a socio-anagraphic section, the Multidimensional Sportspersonship Orientations Scale, the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire, and the Aggression Questionnaire. Descriptive and casual analyses were applied to data. The expected hypotheses were generally confirmed. Results suggested that ego orientation and trait aggressiveness negatively predicted sportspersonship, whereas task orientation positively predicted a sportspersonship attitude. In sum, this research contributed to a better identification of the dispositional factors which prevent antisocial behaviors, especially in the context of martial arts;

Keywords: Dispositional factorsSportspersonshipTrait aggressivenessGoalorientations


In the last decades psychological research on martial arts has provided contradictory results

concerning their benefits (Vertonghen & Theeboom, 2010). According to Bandura’s social learning

theory (Bandura, 1973), the exposure to hostility in martial arts training increases hostile acts and violent

behaviours. This perspective was supported by some empirical findings which confirmed the positive

association between martial arts and higher inclinations towards aggressiveness (Edressen & Olweus,

2005; Reynes & Lorant, 2002a, 2002b). Conversely, negative associations were found between color-belt

levels in Karate and Taekwondo and levels of aggressive fantasy (Skelton, Glynn, & Berta, 1991), as well

as between length of training and hostility scores (Daniels & Thornton, 1990; Kurian, Caterino, &

Kulhavy, 1993; Nosanchuk, 1981). Researchers have also focused on the comparison between personality

traits and performance levels of martial arts athletes. While Richman and Rehberg (1986) demonstrated

the positive impact of performance levels on personality traits, McGowan and Miller (1989) referred that

successful levels of performance increased anger in terms of the energy needed to win a competition.

More recent results have confirmed the important role of success in martial arts thanks to its positive

effects on personality traits, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, personal growth, wellbeing, etc. (Focht,

Bouchard, & Murphey, 2000; Kuan & Roy, 2007; Lakes & Hoyt, 2004; Stey & Roux, 2009; Wargo,

Spirrison, Thorne, & Henley, 2007).

The difficulty to provide conclusive evidence for the psychological outcomes of martial arts

practice and to determine if and to what extent martial arts trainings explain the above mentioned effects

(Guivernau & Duda, 2002; Kavussanu & Ntoumanis, 2003; Miller, Roberts, & Ommundsen, 2005;

Ommundsen, Roberts, Lemyre, & Treasure, 2003), needs a more in-depth analysis of those dispositional

aspects which can impact adaptive behaviors in terms of sportspersonship. Such individual characteristics

can theoretically involve not only dispositional goal orientations, namely task and ego orientations, but

also personality traits, such as trait aggressiveness.

The relationship between dispositional goal orientations and sportspersonship has been widely

analyzed (e.g., Bortoli, Messina, Zorba, & Robazza, 2012; Jing-Horng Lu, & Hsu, 2015; Monacis, de

Palo, & Sinatra, 2014), supporting the assumption that task orientation is associated with high level of

sportsmanship, enjoyment, and effort in sport participation, whereas ego orientation is linked to

performance impairment and higher levels of trait and state anxiety.

2.Problem Statement

However, no study on sportspersonship and goal orientations has been carried out in the specific

context of martial arts. Actually, motivational orientations have been investigated in relation to martial

artists’ performance and fun (King & Williams, 1997) or to the type of martial arts (Gernigon & Le Bars,

2000). As for as trait aggressiveness is concerned, to our knowledge only one cross-sectional study in

martial arts has showed negative associations between sportspersonship and trait aggressiveness within a

causal model including other determinants strictly related to motivational dispositions, i.e., task/ego

orientation and self-determined motivation (Monacis, de Palo, & Sinatra, 2015).

3.Research Questions

In light of these two contrasting views, the current research intended to support the positive aspect

of martial arts practice by providing findings which confirm the negative association between higher

inclinations towards aggressiveness, ego oriented motivation, and sportpersonship behaviours.

4.Purpose of the Study

Consequently, the main purpose of the current study was to provide further empirical evidence for

the potential value of martial arts in promoting personal growth and prosocial attitudes. Indeed, following

Dorak’s (2015) suggestion that both sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike behaviours would require certain

personality traits, this research analyzed in depth the impact of motivational dispositions and trait

aggressiveness on sportspersonship. It was expected that sportspersonship was predicted negatively by

ego orientation and trait aggressiveness and positively by task orientation;

5.Research Methods


The sample consisted initially of 389 Italian athletes. 23 of them did not complete the

questionnaire, thus the final sample consisted of 366 martial artists ( M age = 29.60, SD = 9.22; 325 males). 67.5% took part in competitions. 9.3% of athletes competed in the junior category (under 18), 49.7% in

the adult category (19 to 30 years), 15.0% in the master category (from 31 to 35 years), and 26.0% in the

senior category (of 36 years and older).

5.2.Procedure and instruments

After the written consent form was signed, the participants completed voluntary the questionnaire

before the training session with the presence of the authors, who explained that the questionnaire was

anonymous and that personal data would be disclosed or used only for research purpose. The variables

considered for analyses were goal orientations, trait aggressiveness and sportspersonship. The following

instruments were used:

�The Italian version of the Task and Ego Orientation Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ; Duda, 1989;

Bortoli & Robazza, 2005), composed of 13 items rated on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly

disagree, 5 = completely agree), contains two subscales assessing task (α = .83) and ego

orientation (α = .74).

�The Multidimensional Sportspersonship Orientation Scale (MSOS; Vallerand, Brière,

Blanchard, & Provencher, 1997), translated into Italian following the parallel back-translation

procedure, is composed by 25 items rated on a Likert scale 5 points (1 = not correspond at all,

5 = correspond exactly). The instrument measures 5 dimensions: respect for social

conventions, respect for rules and the sports authorities, respect for the commitment toward

sport participation, respect for opponents, and negative approach toward sport participation. A

global sportspersonship index was calculated by recoding scores on the negative approach

toward sport participation subscale, and then adding the mean score of each subscale

(Vallerand & Losier, 1994). The internal reliability of the index was acceptable with α = .72.

�The short version of the Aggression Questionnaire (Bryant & Smith, 2001) is designed to

assess the dimensions of aggression (physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and

hostility). The questionnaire, translated into Italian, consists of 12 items rated on a response

scale of 5 points (1 = completely false, 5 = completely true). For the statistical analyses it was

considered the total score with a Cronbach’s alpha of .80.


Means and standard deviations of the scores are reported in Table 1

Table 1 -
See Full Size >

In order to examine gender effect on the variables of interest, t-test was performed. Data showed no

significant differences ( p > .05) in scores between males and females. Bivariate correlations coefficients

are showed in Table 2 . Results indicated that sportspersonship was associated negatively with

aggressiveness and ego orientation and positively with task orientation.

Table 2 -
See Full Size >

Causal relationships were examined by hierarchical regression analysis with sportspersonship as

dependent variable and the other constructs as independent variables. The criteria for entering variables

into the regression model were based on the r coefficients: the first predictor with the largest correlation

was task orientation (step 1), the second predictor with the next highest shared variance was

aggressiveness (step 2), and the last was ego orientation (step 3). The first step accounted for 20% of

variance ( Adj R2 = .194), the second for 28% of variance ( Adj R2 = .272), and the third for 32% of

variance ( Adj R2 = .313). Both aggressiveness and ego orientation significantly increased the predicted

variance, Adj R2change = .080 and Adj R2change = .043, respectively. Sportspersonship was predicted

positively by task orientation (β = .44) and negatively by aggressiveness (β = -.28) and ego orientation (β

= -.22).


The present study was designed to examine the antecedents of the sportspersonship with a

particular attention to dispositional factors, namelymotivational orientations and trait aggressiveness, in

the specific context of martial arts. The expected hypotheses were generally confirmed. Correlations

revealed that higher is the tendency to focus on personal improvement and to perceive success as a

product of effort and persistence, greater the level of sportspersonship. In contrast, higher is the athletes’

tendency to focus on winning and to perceive success as a competence relative to others, as well as higher

is the level of trait aggressiveness, lower are the sportspersonship orientations. These findings are

consistent with the relative scientific literature dealing with the above mentioned relationships in different

sports domains (Kavussanu, 2007; Lee, Whitehead, Ntoumanis, & Hatzigeorgiadis, 2008; Lemyre,

Roberts, & Ommundsen, 2002), except for martial arts.

A noteworthy result of the current study was the higher predictive power of aggressiveness

compared to ego orientation in negatively impacting sportspersonship, as it can be noted in the change of

the adjusted R2 values. One possible explanation may be due to the positive association between martial

arts, considered a setting in which there is a relatively high base rate of physical aggression, and a higher

inclination towards aggressiveness (Edressen & Olweus, 2005; Reynes & Lorant, 2002a, 2002b, 2004).

That is, trait-aggressive individuals display more hostile tendencies in their perceptions of interpersonal

relations and, thus, less respect for rules, authorities, and opponents than ego-oriented athletes who, in

any case, show a few enthusiasm in sport participation, compare themselves with others, and use traps or

deception during a competition, implementing antisocial behaviors.

However, based on the beta coefficients, task orientation resulted the most influential positive

factor predicting prosocial sport behaviors. That is, in judging their level of ability on the basis of the

their own standards and in exerting high levels of efforts demonstrating high levels of persistence and a

scarce fear of failure, task-oriented athletes exhibit positive attitudes toward sport participation in terms of

respect for rules, authorities and opponents.

In conclusion, following the request of many researchers who insist on the need to analyze those

dispositional aspects able to transform martial arts into an effective tool for preventing antisocial attitudes

(Guivernau & Duda, 2002; Kavussanu & Ntoumanis, 2003, Miller, Roberts, & Ommundsen, 2005;

Ommundsen, Roberts, Lemyre, & Treasure, 2003; Zivin et al., 2001), this study motivates future research

in this direction.

Some limitations must be noted. First, the unbalanced sample in terms of gender, which is

overwhelmingly male, did not allow the generalization of the results. This limitation is mainly due to the

type of sport characterized by limited female practitioners. Second, as self-report measures are affected

by social desirability biases, they should be combined with more objective instruments. In addition, the

order in which the questionnaires are presented should be more sophisticated to prevent possible effects

of scale format (Duffy, 2003). Besides these indications, further research should take into account the age

category (juniors, adults, seniors, etc.) as well.


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Cite this article as:

Monacis, L., Miceli, S., de Palo, V., Chianura, P., & Sinatra, M. (2017). Sportspersonship In Martial Arts. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Clinical & Counselling Psychology - CPSYC 2017, vol 22. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 42-49). Future Academy.