Moving Meditation Reimagined

Ancient martial arts training and mindful meditation meets modern neuroscience to support and enhance the recovery path.


The Science of Recovery Martial Arts

Recovery Martial Arts ( RMA) is a program designed to help the body heal from some life's difficult challenges such as  addiction, trauma, grief,  anxiety and codependency.   Many people who have experienced trauma suffer from increased anxiety, depression, or anger and  also a decrease in energy and metabolism.  RMA believes it is possible for all people to recover from the difficult events of life and that the body is a critical part of the healing.  Classes can be taken when convenient for the student, or students can participate in the  one year  program where  "belt levels" can be earned  allowing students to move toward becoming instructors.  

The classic movements of traditional Martial Arts Forms, similar to Tai Chi and Quigong,  are choreographed with long outbreaths to help participants feel a deep sense of safety, while engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. This soothes the uncomfortable state of fight, flight or freeze.  Movements are done in a group, which helps engage the feeling of belonging through communal movement. This gives students tools to manage their own stress and anxiety and provides a way to honor the saying  "move a muscle ,  change a thought."   Filipino Sticks are used in imaginative and non-combative ways which can change brain waves from Beta to Alpha quickly.  These Alpha waves produce a feeling of deep wellness, and sometimes even a euphoria.   These types of waves are associated with meditation and integrative modes of consciousness.  Also, these exercises require participants to look eye to eye to engage the social engagement system, without having to master more complicated social interactions.  Classes also offer 2 traditional meditations -  a five minute Mindful Meditation at the beginning of class  and  a traditional  5-10 minute Heart Practice Meditation at the end.  Mindfulness Meditation and Heart Practices have shown to rewire the brain towards deeper levels of empathy, compassion and a broader feeling of well being as early as 6-8 weeks after continual practice.   Last, learning defensive moves gives participants a feeling of personal safety and agency.  In fact, Bessel van de Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score says that "martial arts may be one of the best treatments for traumatic stress." 

Still Harbor Interview - November 18, 2015


recovery from substances


That First Year of Recovery Off Substances

There are parts of that first year of recovery that can be challenging.  What the heck does one do on a Saturday night after they have already been to a couple of meetings?   Those old persons, places and things aren't an option.  The RMA classes can provide a healthy place to go to feel connected  while the body heals.   Also, the meditations  taught in small doses in class,  readies 12-steppers for Step 11.  Mindfulness Meditation and Heart Practices have shown to rewire the brain as early as 6-8 weeks after continual practice, yet people in recovery often aren't taught how to set up a successful practice.  Heart Practices provide a concrete example of how to wish well for people students may feel a resentment toward.  This template can be deeply helpful for participants who are working the steps but have not had their Step 12 spiritual awakening and are not comfortable with traditional prayer. 

 Classes can be done on a drop in basis. However, if participants want a more commited program,  students have the opportunity to pass through the 12 month program.   This program has  "belt levels" similar to chip levels in meetings.   These levels will enable interested participants to work toward becoming assistant instructors  and  ultimatly independent instuctors.   RMA is based on Soo Bahk Do a traditional Korean martial arts system similar to Tae Kwon Do.,  the sister program to RMA is an option if students want to take their training further.  All exercises in RMA are part of Brave Heart Arts  Moving Meditation Black Belt Program.  

what are classes like?

A typical class starts with meditation followed by stretching. Next will be kicks, blocks and strikes. Then, forms or moving meditations with an emphasis on breath are performed and music may be utilized during this part of class. Music will be utilized once the basic forms are learned. Last is filipino sticks. This is many people's favorite part, so it is saved for dessert. Classes end with a heart practice meditation.

Do I need to be in shape?

No, not at all.  All levels of physical fitness are welcome.  Persons with disabilities are enthusiastically encouraged.  If you have any personal concerns about trying a class,  please call.

Is there physical contact in class?

There is no physical contact between participants in the first few months of RMA.  Sometimes the sticks contact each other, but not in a combative way.   A feeling of safety is critical for healing so the class is structured to provide that security!

About Us


This page is really important

Pay it Forward

Recovery Martial Arts is committed to including those who may have limited resources to address the physical symptoms of recovery from addiction and trauma.  I am talking to different communities now to find the right fit.  This community will get  free classes for committed clients and participants will be eligible for teacher certification.  

Traditional martial arts training often has students help in teaching newer student in their regular classes.  This builds community, reinforces one's own learning and helps to build leadership skills.  In addition, it allows many levels of proficiency to be taught at the some time in one class.

Certification in RMA has a teaching requirement for all students.  The interweaving of classes and co-learning that will ensue is a  way to mix  groups  who may not have ever met and  build connections creating a stronger, wider, connected recovery community.  

If you know of a place or population that might thrive with this program, or if you want to get involved in helping with this outreach project, please get in touch!


About Us



Mara Giovanni has a Masters Degree in Social work from Columbia University.  She has a 3rd degree Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do and has been teaching and competing nationally in Martial Arts for over 25 years.  She has been sober for 7 years through active participation in a 12 step program and a daily mindfulness practice.  Mara studies at Wild Heart Meditation Center where she also creates and facilitates groups


Contact Us

If you have questions about the program, please get in touch.

Recovery Martial Arts

East Nashville, TN

(615) 419-6009

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