Monday, 22 December 2014

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training

Something that we all know and that I should have written about long before this post is the benefits that practicing Karate Do has on our lives. The benefits are not limited to the body. Of course there are physical benefits but on a deeper level, more than anything else that I have ever been involved in, Karate Do has the potential to completely change one's life.

Karate Do is so much more than just kicking and punching. The philosophies and practices of Karate Do offer us a ‘map’; an outline to healthy living physically, mentally and spiritually.
In the next few blog posts I would like to discuss some of the benefits in these three areas: Physical Health, Mental Health, and Spiritual Health.

Physical Health Benefits from Practicing Karate Do
In his book Kenpo Karate-do Universal Art of Self-Defense the First Generation Soke of Chito-Ryu Karate Do, Chitose Tsuyoshi (O Sensei) lists the many benefits of Karate Do training from the muscles, to the nervous system, to respiration, and circulatory benefits. He goes into the most detail regarding the benefits to the Karate Do practitioner's breathing; therefore, I would like to point out the benefits that O Sensei listed.
For all of us and especially for athletes, the amount of air that the lungs can take in is very important to our quality of life and performance. The amount of air that the lungs can take in is referred to as lung capacity and this can be measured in cubic centimetres and the capacity of adults is "generally in proportion to one's height and chest circumference" (p.100).
O Sensei included a chart that listed the type of exercise and average lung capacity of practitioners of that time. In the chart the data provided for Karate Do is 6000 to 7000. The closest sport to Karate Do was swimming with 4900 cubic centimetres. Although the book was published in its English translated version in 2000, it was written many years before so, it is important to note that this data is based on Japanese standards of the 1960s and 1970s. However, it points out that Karate Do training of that time defined the standards of building a "sound physique" (p.90) with regards to lung capacity stating that "the impact of Karate on the development of healthy breathing is an extremely important matter in terms of preservation of our health" (p.101). On the following page he listed all of the human functions that Karate Do training improves. This is the list that was given:
1. Movement (muscles, skeleton, joints)
2. Circulation (heart, blood vessels, lymph glands)
3. Breathing (nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs, blood)
4. Digestion (mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines, pancreas, liver)
5. Execratory (kidneys, ureter, urinary bladder, urethras, as well as the skin)
6. Heat Moderation (skin, hair, finger and toe nails)
7. Reproduction - Female (ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina)
8. Reproduction - Male (testes, epididymis, seminal canal, penis)
9. Nervous System (brain, spinal cord, nerve endings)
10. Sensation (skin, mucous membrane, eyes, ears, mouth, nose)
11. Endocrine System (thyroid gland, adrenal glands, reproductive glands, pituitary gland, etc.)
"Physical training - and Kenpo Karate - makes each of these functions, together and individually, able to perform well" (p.102).

We must always keep in mind as instructors and as students of Karate Do the purpose of our training sessions, to facilitate the healthy growth and development in the three areas being discussed here. Therefore, our physical training must be guided by specific goals. "Unless something clearly has as a goal the improvement of the body's functions, it cannot rightly be called physical training. Even if something produces the same improvement in your body's functions, unless the results make the functions stronger, it is not physical training" (p.102).
Furthermore, our continued training in Karate Do must continue to be positive enhancing our growth and development as we continue our training. "Training..., must enhance our capacities beyond that which comes as a result of normal growth" (p.103). In order to do this, I feel that we must always assume the position of the student. No matter what rank we hold or the level of our proficiency, we should forever remain a student of Karate Do. The moment we consider that we are no longer students our opportunities for learning become drastically limited because our perceptions change.

(滝行 Takigyou, Waterfall Training, Kumamoto, January 3rd, 2014)

In the words of my Sensei, Michael S. Delaney, "We must humble ourselves to our training" (personal communication). This takes more inner strength than it may appear. I believe that this inner strength 我慢の強さ Gaman no Tsuyosa is one of the most important things that we learn through our training. It is through our patience, perseverance and endurance that we are able to push our mental limits regarding such things as maintaining high motivation levels to keep training and pushing ourselves a little harder than the average person would. In doing so we realize the physical benefits of our actions. In short, it is our mental toughness that determines whether or not we do the work and whether or not we do the work determines the health benefits. On this note I would like to end this post. I will discuss the mental and spiritual benefits of Karate Do training in the following posts.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Physical Training, IMO, someone involved in serious, lifelong training will reap health benefits. Individual activities, as compared to team sports, provide appropriate levels of exercise for all ages and physical conditions.

    I look forward to the sections on Mental Health and Spiritual Health because I have no comprehension what Spiritual Health might mean.

    I believe spirits in Japan are referred to as Kami. SO is Japanese Spiritualism connect to Shinto?

    To the nuns who taught me catechism, I think it meant not committing mortal and venial sins.

    I look forward to hearing how to separate non-physical health between mental health and whatever you define as spiritual health.