KARATE & Your Health
Huh? Karate and Brain Health go hand in hand?
Being able to defend oneself with karate & kobudo works in favor of mental well-being. Karate provides increase in strength, flexibility, reflexology & aerobics as well providing favorable BMI (body mass index). And one cannot say enough about the importance of karate for self-confidence, self-esteem, and stress relief. Constant training using both sides of the body will likely expand your mind, by physically increasing the size of your brain and possibly fighting the effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. Studies at San Paulo State University and Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil, provide evidence "...karate training contributed positively to the cognitive and neuromotor functions of individuals with nixed dementia".
Martial arts also improve a person's emotional well-being, according to a recent 2018 article from Bangor University in Wales. In one study, older adults (age 67-93) were asked to take part in: (1) Karate training, (2) Cognitive training, or (3) Non-martial arts physical training over a 3- to 6-month period. The adults in Karate Training showed lower levels of depression and a greater level of self-esteem after training, compared to the other groups. Left photo shows Soke Hausel at the University of Wyoming getting a leg up on everyone else.
In Italy, a sedentary group was compared to a karate group. Italian researchers found karate improved one's working memory. The tests also showed karate practitioners had better recall. Researcher, Dr. Ashleigh Johnstone at Bangor University says - "there is far more to martial arts than its traditional roles. Though martial arts have been practiced for self-defense and spiritual development for many hundreds of years, only recently have researchers had the methods to assess the true extent of how this practice affects the brain".
GRANDMASTER HAUSEL practices Karate & Kobudo nearly every day, and trains with weights 3 to 4 times a week as he has done for more than 5 decades. When he was a martial arts professor at the University of Wyoming, people were often astounded to see a skinny martial artist/geologist squat 600-pounds at a body weight of 160-pounds (left photo shows Grandmaster Hausel squatting 400 pounds). He even squatted 800 pounds, but not on a regular schedule. This was because of karate and geology. As a geologist, he walks miles in search of gold, diamonds and colored gemstones. As a martial artist, he trains often and teaches karate, jujutsu, kobudo and self-defense. Both geology and martial arts kept him healthy and fit.
We recently heard about an 118-year old martial artist with great flexibility who can kick the tar out of any 20-year old. Then there is a man who recently earned a 6-degree black belt at the age of 94. And there are examples of men and women at 50, 60, 70 and 80 training in martial arts. Both men and women, no matter what age, benefit from martial arts.
For warm-up, Soke starts with karate kata. Kata are a beneficial aerobic exercise. He may practice fast or slow - but always adds full-power focus to visualize each self-defense application in each kata movement. After kata, he hits the weights working on arms and hands before moving to a squat rack to stretch, kick and punch. Then it's off to a heavy bag for a series of kicks and punches (he does not wear shoes or gloves). He also does a minimum of 300 sit-ups and on some days, has been known to do 1200 situps. So, that's how he keeps looking fit and beautiful along with teaching 8 karate classes each week.
The Journal of Exercise Physiology noted that martial arts groups burn a significantly higher number of calories and have greater overall fitness than other groups. The Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal also reports Karate Practitioners lie near the top of all other exercise groups for calories burned per body weight. And Fitness for Weight Loss reports a 150-pound karate practitioner will burn 712 calories, and a 400-pound karate practitioner will burn up to 1,910-calories per hour during karate training. But keep in mind, each type of martial art (as well as exercise) will burn different amounts of calories. For instance, Tai Chi (slow kung fu) will burn less than half the calories as karate!
AGING & MARTIAL ARTS - the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Dove Press reports that a test group of 50-year old men enrolled in 1-year traditional karate course for 3 nights a week at 90-minutes each night showed "favorable effects on mood, physical health and improved performance on objective physical training" compared to the non-martial arts group.
The Okinawan saying "hara hachi bu" (eat until 80% full) provides a guideline to limit daily calorie intake. And because karate and kobudo has been part of their culture for centuries, a significant percentage train each week in martial arts. Another benefit: murder and robbery is less common on Okinawa since everyone is armed (with feet and hands)!
Dr. Majid Fotuhi & Christina Antoniades (2013) in their book Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance, state there are "known brain shrinkers - obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol...". They further write, "The more you increase your fitness, the more you will build a bigger memory muscle in your hippocampus. For optimal brain growth, I recommend 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, plus 15-minutes of resistance training five days a week".
EXAMPLES of SHORIN-RYU KARATE
Soke Seikichi Uyehara, a karate grandmaster, demonstrated kata at the age of 88 in 1992. Seikichi Uyehara was quite agile and ended up living to be 100! Another Shorin-Ryu karate practitioner, Sensei Teru Hendrey, 5th dan, was born to an Okinawa family in 1927. She was exposed to martial arts in 1941 and began a study of Shorin-Ryu Karate in the late 1980s while in her 60s.
Then there was Shugoro Nakazato, 10th dan, who began Shorin-Ryu Karate as a student of Chosin Chibana in 1935 at the age of 16. He became the head of the Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu karate at more than 80 years old. A prominent Kendoka on Okinawa: Sensei Moriji Mochida trains daily at an age of more than 90. Another Okinawan, Sensei Keiko Fukuda began studying judo in 1935 under Jigoro Kano (the father of judo). Sensei Keiko, 10th dan, is 100 years old. Shoshin Nagame, 10th dan, taught Shorin-Ryu Karate until he died at 90. So, practice karate and you might live to be an old man or woman and also kick till your last day.
Martial arts are a lifetime adventure and people can train at any age (other than really young). It wasn’t so long ago, that one one had to be at least 16-years old to train in karate, but there was never a limiting upper age. This is not a bad idea, although there are exceptional young people who have unique focus and skills.
So, when is a person too old to train in martial arts? Martial arts are good for training the mind, the body and helping stave off aging, so there isn’t an upper limit to martial arts training as long as a person is in reasonable health. There are reports of martial artists of extreme ages - such as 113-year old and 120 year-old kung fu masters. And then there was Li Ching-Yuen who passed away in 1933, and purportedly was 200+ years old.
So, what is it about martial arts that helps people to stay active until they die? Studies show that Okinawa (the land of karate) has more centenarians than any other place in the world. Is this because of karate, diet, exercise, environment, genetics? One study indicates it is genetic. Others suggest it is related to food supply and diet. And others suggest it is related to body health. But none of the studies, focus on the one characteristic that makes Okinawans different from other people: traditional karate and kobudo!
There are suggestions that martial arts training provide self-defense against aging, but these suggestions do not provide details and only rely on interviews with martial artists, and seldom differentiate the effects of soft martial arts vs. hard martial arts. One of the few studies that examined a variety of effects was reported by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The benefits of training in a ‘hard’ martial art, according to the Journal, were very positive. According to the Journal, “It was clearly obvious that the martial arts practitioners had better aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, and strength” than sedentary middle-aged people. “The only thing they had less of was body fat”.
Karate gave me strength. While at the University of Wyoming, Soke Hausel commonly performed 600-pound squats at a body weight of 165 pounds and squared a maximum of 800 pounds. At the 24-hour Fitness in Chandler, Arizona, a trainer introduced me to the manager so he could see my kicks, kata and punches. I also had a Taekwondo black belt and personal trainer ask about my karate because they had never seen anyone with such power (I was old enough to be their grandfather): I was told by the trainer his client was on the US Olympic Team. In traditional karate, martial arts are practiced as a weapon rather than for points, so one needs extreme power and focus. I'm periodically questioned about a snap heard when I strike. This is something that comes with focus and karate strike acceleration. It is caused by a sleeve of the karate gi whipping the air.
A few years ago, I tore the meniscus in my knee which had to be repaired by surgery. Its a long story, but it relates to a birth defect I had. After the operation, the medical staff wanted me to sit in a wheel chair and use crutches when I left the facility - but I walked out refusing both. Then I was scheduled for Physical Therapy at DiamondBack in Gilbert. I was told on my first day I was already many weeks ahead of everyone else with the same injury and told by the head therapist they only had one other client who was as advanced as me after that type of surgery - a professional basketball player who was one-third my age. Remember, we are not superhuman, we just learn to use what God gave us.