Newswise — An emerging body of research suggests social and emotional abilities play an important role in predicting personal and professional success. Chris Moser, Ed.D., assistant professor in the College of Education, and Cheri Hampton-Farmer, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of communication, recently surveyed black belt martial artists to assess their emotional intelligence (EI), as compared to the general population.

“The project married my interest in leadership with my passion for the martial arts,” said Moser, who teaches in the human resource development master’s program and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. “This research study was very interesting for me.”

In an abstract about the project, Moser and Hampton-Farmer explained that “although analytical and technical skills may serve as a minimum requirement for success, it is emotional intelligence (EI) that is often the attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from average performers.”

Just as certain competencies and attributes contribute to the success and effectiveness in life and in the workplace, those who train in the martial arts must also possess and acquire certain skills, qualities and attributes to excel in their discipline.

The purpose of this study is to determine whether black belt martial artists possess higher levels of EI than the general population and to identify those specific emotional quotient subscales that appear to contribute to their success in the martial arts.

Utilizing the BarOn EQ-i assessment, the researchers investigated the emotional intelligence of 77 adults who held a rank of first-degree black belt or higher and found the black belt group possessed a higher than average total emotional quotient (EQ) than found in the general population and scored higher on all 15 EI subscales.

“I am fascinated by the fact that many of the EI attributes are ones that individuals can develop,” said Hampton-Farmer. “In fact, we help students develop many of them in our communication classes. For example, developing good interpersonal skills requires that an individual reflect on how their actions affect other people, which is one of the attributes.”

“When individuals have developed good interpersonal skills, they are able to manage conflict by selecting an appropriate response that achieves a peaceful and equitable solution, another attribute,” she added.

Moser explained that “in the martial arts, there are specific values, or tenets, that are part of any martial arts discipline. Participants are expected to adhere to those. Similarly, in an organization, each person is expected to adhere to that organization’s values.”

The findings of this study will support the need for developing a new model or framework for professional development based on the practices, philosophies and approaches traditionally found in the martial arts. The researchers intend to advance the argument that EI can be learned and will develop a new leadership/professional development model that incorporates those practices found in the martial arts that appear to contribute to EI growth and development. This new leadership/professional development model can be applied to any organizational setting to develop a culture that will identify, model, reinforce and reward those values and behaviors that are crucial to the organization’s success.

Moser and Hampton-Farmer presented “Emotional Intelligence Among Black Belts: Predictor of Success” at the Center for Scholastic Inquiry International Academic Research Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., in April, and “Sporting Identity and Character Development: Emotional Intelligence and Traditional Martial Arts” at the International Conference on Sport and Society in Chicago in June.

The researchers also co-authored a chapter in a book. The chapter, “Sport Identity and the Martial Arts,” was accepted for inclusion in the book “Fighting: Intellectualising Combat Sports” by Common Ground Publishing. In addition, final edits are being made for a research article that will be submitted to The Journal of Scholastic Inquiry: Behavioral Sciences.