Aug 31, 2007



Leadership Education Through
Athletic Development (LEAD) is a school-based martial arts training program
intended to increase students’ self-regulation skills. In an experimental
study in which random assignment was done by home room, students assigned to
take traditional physical education classes were compared with students
assigned to take LEAD classes instead. Following the 4-month, 26-session
intervention, LEAD students showed greater cognitive, affective, and physical
self-regulation than did children assigned to the control group. LEAD
students were also rated as more prosocial by their
teachers and scored higher on a mental math test. Program impact was
especially strong for boys.


Target population: elementary school students
(kindergarteners through 5th graders)

The Leadership Education Through
Athletic Development (LEAD) curriculum is a program born out of the Moo Gong Ryu (Korean for “guardian of peace style”) martial arts
system. LEAD seeks to instill in children a commitment to
self-improvement – a progression to higher levels of personal character and
physical and mental ability.

Children participating in the LEAD program learn traditional
Moo Gong Ryu techniques, such as blocks, kicks, and
punches. Children are taught to use their techniques only to protect
themselves and never to hurt another person except when absolutely necessary
for self-defense. Children also learn board-breaking, complete
body-stretching, and relaxation through deep breathing. Emphasis is
placed on respect, discipline, and self-control. Children are encouraged
to self-monitor their behavior by asking themselves three questions: Where am I?, What am I doing?, and What should I be doing? They
are reminded that they are responsible for their own behavior, not only in LEAD
classes, but also in all aspects of their lives.


Lakes, K. & Hoyt, W. T.(2004).Promoting self-regulation through school-based
martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25(3),

Evaluated population: 207 students at a private lower
school in a midsize Midwestern city served as the study sample for this
investigation. Subjects ranged in age from kindergarteners to 5th
graders. 83% of subjects were white, 8% were Asian-American, 2% were
black, and the remaining students were of other racial/ethnic backgrounds or
did not specify their background. 73% of students were from families with
annual incomes of more than $100,000. Two students left the study because
of family relocation and 12 students failed to take part in assessments because
of absences (6% attrition), leaving a final study sample of 193 students.

Approach: During the 2000-2001 academic year, homeroom classes were randomly assigned to either the
treatment group or the control group. Control group classes took part in
standard physical education classes for the first four months of the school
year. These classes occurred two to three times a week and involved a
broad range of fitness activities, physical games, and sports. For these
four months, treatment group classes had their physical education classes
replaced by LEAD martial arts instruction. LEAD classes were led by a
martial arts instructor who had held a black belt for more than ten years and
had nearly ten years experience instructing children and adults. Children
in LEAD classes were given martial arts uniforms and beginner level belts.

All children were pre-tested during the first four days of
the school year. The intervention began immediately following
pre-testing. Post-testing occurred in late January, after LEAD
participants had received 26 45-minute LEAD sessions.

Results: Following the intervention, children
assigned to receive the LEAD program showed greater cognitive, affective, and
physical self-regulation than did children in homerooms assigned to the control
group. Subgroup analyses revealed that these impacts were significant for
boys alone, but not for girls alone.

LEAD students were rated as being significantly more prosocial than control students by their teachers after the
intervention. LEAD students were also rated as having fewer conduct
problems than control students, but this difference only approached statistical
significance. For both of these outcomes, the impact was significant for
boys alone, but not for girls alone. LEAD students did not differ
significantly from control students on teacher ratings of emotional symptoms,
inattention/hyperactivity, or peer problems.

LEAD students did not have greater attention-concentration
abilities after the intervention than did control students, as measured by the
freedom from distractability subscale of the Wechsler
Intelligence Scale for Children – Third Edition. LEAD students did score
significantly better than control students on the arithmetic subtest of this
scale, however, indicating that the LEAD program had an impact on students’
mental math abilities. Once again, this difference was significant for
boys alone, but not for girls alone.

Only 4th and 5th grade students were
assessed on a measure of self-esteem at pre-test and post-test. LEAD
students scored higher on this measure than did control students, but because
so few students were assessed on this measure, this difference did not reach
statistical significance.


More information on Moo Gong Ryu
available at:


Lakes, K. & Hoyt, W. T.
(2004).Promoting self-regulation through
school-based martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental
Psychology, 25
(3), 283-302.

KEYWORDS: School-Based,
Behavioral Problems, Elementary School, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd
Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, Civic
Engagement, Helping Behavior/Social Responsibility, Life Skills Training,
Middle Childhood (6-11), Social/ Emotional Health and Development, Children,
White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Cognitive Development, Self Regulation,
Conduct Problems, Disruptive Behavior Disorders.

Program information last updated on 8/31/07