Aging Martial Artists

When older martial arts are practice many tend to think, Tai Chi Chuan. Where older practitoners are seen in parks, etc. making slow movements that are graceful, rhythmic and peaceful. Aging martial artists have to deal with those aging issues just like people who are not martial artist but one of the great things about martial arts is that one can practice the arts regardless of their age.

Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful and beneficial system for any age but is especially beneficial, in my view, to those who have reached the, “Winter Years” of life. It is a wonderful time of life, the age beyond the first sixty years. The changes nature inflicts on us can be mitigated by certain mental and physical efforts and this blog is about how the effort of martial arts practice can and does mitigate and alleviate the aging processes.

So, this blog will be about that aging process and how the practice of martial arts can help. The first article that will follow will simply list those aging issues that directly relate to the practice of martial arts such as balance as it relates to falling. As with any effort such as this it warrants the readers effort in understanding that this effort is from a non-professional view and with that stated I encourage each reader review the caveat provided here and at the start of each article. I also encourage each and every person who is taking up this practice to make sure it meets approval by your personal medical professional. Get that before you try to participate in martial arts or any program that would benefit you as you age.

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Bibliography (Click the link)

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Aging, Sugar and Karate

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Why all three of these under one heading? Well, it is like this, we age and when we age we succumb to certain effects of the aging process. Many of those processes have been mentioned in previous posts. 

In this short article I am going to try to cover just a small part of what can be done to slow down that aging process and its effects. We as karate-ka and martial artists focus on the physical and give lip service to the other aspects of energy used to “energize” our practice, training and applications. As we age our ability to practice, train and apply karate and martial arts does diminish and change but that has been covered before in previous articles as well. 

What I want to do here is provide the aging karate-ka and martial artist a bit about the fuel we use to energize our disciplines. We talk about our strength, we talk about techniques, and we talk about competitions, combatives and self-defense to name just a few of the types of karate and martial arts out there. We talk about how our practice of basics, kata, sparring, etc., create strong bodies, minds and spirits but we seldom talk about the things needed outside of the physical practice to reach mastery and maximized energy, force and power - all needed to make our disciplines work. 

Lets talk about stress, stress has a huge impact on our lives - physically, mentally and therefore spiritually. Stress results in our bodies impacts on inflammation which underlies diseases that adversely effect how our bodies function and how that function works one way or the other to either combat stress or exacerbate stress. Stress triggers in some instances the adrenal stress dump and conditions that result in tension as well as many other negative manifestations detriment to the application of self-defense, etc. For instance, when we get tense our muscles tense and that drains energy, bleeding it off the flow of energy toward production of power and force. 

Karate and martial arts are disciplines that relieve and reduce stress. The principles of the disciplines are what live and breathe within karate and martial arts that relieve and reduce stress through appropriate training toward those goals, i.e., such as training the mind through both sitting and moving meditation; mushin and zanshin training and practice to train the mind to remain in the present moment while ignoring the past and future monkey mind chatter that by the way exacerbates stress, etc. When we enter the dojo, we meditate to take our minds out of the world and into ourselves in preparation for dojo training and practice. All of this and more contribute to stress reduction. 

Sugar simply adds fuel to those flames of inflammation adding to the stresses contributions where karate and martial arts combats those forces but what is still needed is removal of sugars from the diet, the fuel that feeds our engine, both mind and body. It must be remembered as well in contemplating this idea that sugar comes in many forms, most bad. The bad forms, I firmly believe, are those types of sugars created through science. If you want or need sugar in the body take it from consumption of fruits, etc. in their natural forms. Be guarded as well labels that profess the sugar additives come from fruits because, I believe, the processing actually kills the good of that sugar and converts it into the bad but advertisements use that to convince you that new fruit like sugar is good, it is not. 

Another way to contribute to anti-aging is to exercise regularly and smartly. Regularly while avoiding boredom and maintaining the gratification the disciplines provide if done correctly. Smartly is about all the peripheral aspects to health, fitness and well-being, i.e., by the fuel we use and by the methods we incorporate in practice and training of karate and martial arts. Making those adjustments due to the aging process previously discussed in other articles applies here too. 

Studies repeatedly show that regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can help prevent or delay your onset of hypertension, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and the falls that lead to hip fracture.“ - Dr. Mercola

Sugar is a pollutant of the body, it is a toxin that actually sucks your energy and strength right out of you that is often hidden in our youth by our mind-state and efforts to build muscular strength where often that strength hides the effects. If we removed bad sugar those strengths would increase by a considerable amount without increasing efforts in strength building processes. 

Sugar, the bad kind, contains no essential nutrients that would contribute toward the energy and strength necessary for long duration vs. the burst of energy known as, “Sugar High,” that almost always ends in a sharp dive in energy levels called the “Crash.” 

Sugar, the bad kind, effects hormones, the brain (think mind-set and mind-state needs), and has unique fat promoting effects. Because the calories from sugar don’t fulfill your appetite you end up consuming more to increase calorie intake. It is also addictive because it causes massive dopamine to be released in the brain. It’s a huge contributor to huge weight gains, another previous article talks about this as well. 

Sugar exists in many forms besides just the white powdered (usually GMO) beet sugar we can pick up at the grocery store. Sugar in all of its forms (including corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup) affects the body in a powerful way and we are consuming more of it now than ever before.” - Wellness Mama

… Sugar also makes the blood very thick and sticky, inhibiting much of the blood flow …
… Diabetes is another commonly known disease caused by sugar as well as a high fat diet …
… Hypoglycemia occurs when the pancreas overreacts to the large amount of sugar in the blood and releases too much insulin leaving one with the "tired" feeling as the blood sugar level becomes lower than it should be …

“EFFECT OF SUGAR ON NEUROLOGICAL PROCESSES ...One of the keys to orderly brain function is glutamic acid, and this compound is found in many vegetables. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria in the intestines, which manufacture B vitamin complexes, begin to die-these bacteria normally thrive in a symbiotic relationship with the human body. When the B vitamin complex level declines, the glutamic acid (normally transformed into "go" "no-go" directive neural enzymes by the B vitamins) is not processed and sleepiness occurs, as well as a decreased ability for short-term memory function and numerical calculative abilities. The removal of B vitamins when foods are "processed" makes the situation even more tenuous.”

Ok, this is becoming very complex but after reading some quotes, considering some of my ideas and views and then doing some considerable research on your own you will come to the conclusion that all our efforts to create a strong body, mind and spirit in karate and martial arts are being countered with every drop of sugar consumed. 

Take it to the serious tone, if you are attacked and find yourself in a physical situation needed self-defense you will need to have your full and complete faculties available to achieve success in defending yourself. You diminish that by consuming sugar.

You also damage your body, mind and spirit with sugar making your efforts to achieve a healthy, fit and livable life in those winter years very, very difficult. 

Sugar causes and promotes:
  • Makes your blood acidic
  • Can lead to osteoporosis (weak bones = weak structure; bones break easily, etc. not conducive to continued practice and training, etc.)
  • Contributes to obesity (changes energy levels bleeding off force and power; conveys certain perceptions; causing other physical and mental issues detrimental to health and the ability to practice and train, etc.)
  • Provides 'empty calories' with no nutritional value (see energy loss and obesity, etc.)
  • Robs your body of minerals (minerals necessary to maximize body and mind state and abilities, etc.)
  • Robs you of energy (No energy, no force and no power - need we say more here)
  • Contributes to adrenal fatigue [see below] (fatigue makes you want to rest, resting is good but overdone means no training or practice and that makes aging more difficult while these things along with training and practice will overcome such obstacles)
  • Raises the level of neurotransmitters called serotonin (Serotonin: Serotonergic dysfunction will influence aggression differently, depending on the individual's impulse control, emotional regulation, and social abilities. Do some research because serotonin along with other such chemicals affect our ability to handle things)
  • Weakens eyesight (although eyesight directly may not be of critical concern in defense it does effect our peripheral and losing that would be a hindrance in application of the disciplines in defense but also our health and motivation toward combating the aging process that is already hard enough in the best of conditions)
  • Can cause aging (aren’t we trying to forstall the aging process or at least the more negative effects of aging for a life worth living as we age, to remain mobile, etc.?)
  • Can cause arthritis (arthritis means movement and the inability to maintain movement causes a whole slew of effects that simply cascade toward a bad aging process)

and a whole lot more…

  • Cravings for sugar (a vicious circle, eat sugar then crave it then eat it until sugar consumes your health and causes you to age beyond your real age)
  • Cravings for salt on food when you eat (salt the second of the triad of evil foods, i.e., sugar, SALT and fat :-)
  • Feel dehydrated and thirsty and require plenty of water (all I can say is if you don’t counter it through diet changes you will suffer from vertigo when reaching those winter years; I suffered from vertigo and it changes everything including how you approach practice and training; Yet, my practice and training contributed immensely to overcoming vertigo and returning to almost normal)
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night, sleep lightly or wake early or often (proper sleep means proper health and fitness means proper body and mind as to restful reanimation and body mind growth and conditioning; loss of energy and stress from lack of sleep, etc)
  • Difficulty relaxing, nervous, anxious or hyperactive (all stress conditions as well as adversely affecting our thinking processes leading to the possibility of monkey antics that cause escalation, etc. and actions you normally would not take; aging while practicing and training tend ot counter this so exacerbating it by continue to ingest sugar seems counter productive)
  • Often spacey, or foggy thinking, even memory loss (can think, get spacey leave you vulnerable; memory loss is not conducive to healthy aging, look it up)
  • Lack willpower to accomplish (maybe that is why so many end up quitting karate and martial arts. It may not be about want or need but a mind effect that just says, “Who cares, I quit,” and means aging processes will overtake you)
  • General exhaustion (loss of energy; loss of force and power; loss of motivation to move and remain healthy; loss of desire to age well through training and practice; leads to living under a home of aged and diapers - oh my)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Low libido (ok, guys, do I really need to address this one and if nothing else convinces you the inability to perform just might do it, right?)
  • Weight gain, especially in abdomen and waist area (already discussed elsewhere)
  • Losing muscle tone (already discussed elsewhere)
  • Sagging skin, dry, yellow or pale in color (ugh, just makes you ugly and if that is ok with you go for it but remember that aging may make it much, much worse)
  • Hair starting to gray, thin out and become dry (a matter of personal preferences but aging will make it worse, maybe you want to forestall that effect)
  • Lips losing their color (already discussed elsewhere)
  • Loss of appetite (already discussed elsewhere)
  • Anorexia (already discussed elsewhere)
  • Weight loss (already discussed elsewhere and not the kind of weight loss that is good for you simply from the way you lose the weight; like smoking to keep your weight down so you look good until cancer rears its ugly head)
  • High blood sugar (already discussed elsewhere)
It is believed that adrenal fatigue is an underlying factor in just about every physical, emotional and spiritual (can everyone say, mind-body-spirit, how goes that karate and martial arts training and practice now; kind of counter productive to continue consuming sugar, fat and salt don’t you think?) problem.

Bibliography (Click the link)

There is always room for JELLO

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

I have made a lot of statements and comments and OPINIONS about the various kinds of karate and martial arts there are but I have to say with a strong conviction that regardless of my thoughts, comments, statements or OPINIONS on those different types, “They all are great, they all serve a purpose and as long as they all meet the goals of their participants - IT IS A GOOD THING!

I may be of the mind that karate is a civil model and system for self-defense and I may not feel other models or systems do or do not meet that standard, which is my standard, but in truth and regardless of history, intent, essence, etc., Traditional, Classical, Modern, etc., Karate is all good, very very good.

In my rendition of the meaning behind Tatsuo-san’s statement of, “All bottles are good.” …  “All of them serve a purpose, to hold what they were intended for.” Applies to karate past, present and possible future. All bottles (forms, models and systems) of karate are good. All of them serve a purpose, to do what they were intended to do. There is no best bottle, karate, all bottles, karate, are good.

There is always room for karate, all kinds of karate and all kinds of martial arts. They server a purpose and just because they don’t match up with my view of karate does not diminish their purpose and benefits, we all benefit from such a wide range and variety of karate practices and martial arts practices, regardless. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Weight and Age

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Hey, we age and along with that there are many changes we encounter and one is weight gain. It comes down to diet change, we just cannot eat what we got away with eating when we were young and full of piss and vinegar (kidding). We have to accept and change our ways because as we age we have to put up with changes in our biological state. 

Lets cover some previous material, as we age our muscle will contribute to the increase of fat stored in our bodies. The percentage of muscle in our youth is higher and in our winter years, i.e., over sixty, that percentage diminishes. It can be expressed simply as a loss of muscle cells as we age. Older muscles cells don’t repair as quickly as they did when we were in our teens and early twenties. Muscles also shrink as we age and many don’t really know why but they do. Older muscle the stem cells in them don’t respond to damage. If the muscles don’t get repaired they will “whittle away and die.” 

Guys ain’t going to like this part but as we age we will experience decreases in growth hormones, testosterone levels and that may account for that muscle loss and its inability to replenish. 

Let me provide a quote here, “The muscles cells we have left with get worn out, they are thought of as being the energy powerhouse of the body and that is where most of our calories are burned. It is about metabolism, how efficiently the powerhouse cells - muscle cells in our bodies - burn the energy we bring in.” 

Here is where that paunch comes in for men, if we keep consuming the same caloric intake as we age all those unburned calories turn to fat. For men, that fat tends to settle in our bellies and waistlines. Another quote to keep in mind, The energy powerhouse cells in muscles get damaged with age. That damage accumulates over time and, on top of that, the body's ability to repair that damage also dwindles with aging.”

Now, how does this apply to weight and age, it comes down to exercise and changing our dietary intake as to the quality of the food we ingest as well as how many calories that also get consumed. The quality of the food is one way to reduce the kind of calories that turn to fat then the quantities and periodicity food is consumed also makes the intake as a whole effect the weight we have, gain or lose and hold steady. 

Exercise, in this case from the practice and training of karate and martial arts, has been shown to work all the way up to and even beyond our eighties. Our practice can even help our muscles either maintain or actually get bigger if we continue into those winter years. Connect that with the intake of food for energy, etc. the two combined will reduce and even keep that paunch off the body. It isn’t about looks although your physical presence does convey certain important information to students, it is about health, fitness and the best aging process we can achieve - a really good goal. 

So, why promote karate and martial arts, after all don’t we present a possibly injury issue in older ages due to certain physical and medical aging processes? No, not really, because the practice and training of karate and/or martial arts, if properly adjusted to compensate to these issues stated above, will maintain health and fitness longer, keep that state up as we age and will apply to the mind, spirit as well as body. 

These three aspects along with building on the philosophical principle and sub-principle builds the type of self-confidence and state of mind that will result in a healthy and stable body, mind and spirit. Many other athletic disciplines don’t make for this type of adjustment and when many enter the summer years of life tend to drop that completely, i.e., like playing football as a contact sport, karate and martial arts don’t require contact as we practice in order to continue practicing and training as we age. 

Remember also, the concepts of things like chinkuchi and the breathing dynamic practice of sanchin (by the way the intensity of sanchin does not need to be maintained a levels we practice in younger years, a slight dynamic isometric tension and breathing is awesome as we age) all contribute to healthy skeletal system, muscular system to include tendons and ligaments and cartilage, and our chemical systems, etc. In other words a well rounded system that promotes better lifestyles that lead to better lifestyles as we age. 

As a small side benefit, we can avoid or at least keep that paunch to a minimum. Take a look at yourself, if you are aging and you are developing a paunch then through this self-analysis you may want to look into changing some things because nature isn’t going to change for you, it requires you accept aging and make changes according to natures aging processes. 

As to physical presence, if we allow our bodies as we age to succumb to that aging process without making adjustments then we present that quality to those who “LOOK” to us as examples, as mentors and as Sensei. Is that the impressions you want to imprint on your young students, is this the lessons you want to instill into their mind-states and is this the best way to follow for you, your students and your dojo. If you are ok with that, Great! You still have other aspect of your presence that will often dominate there anyway. My reasons are more about health, fitness, well-being and achieving a goal of old, old age in a lifestyle conducive to long life. 

Bibliography (Click the link) (npr, Your Health: “Why We Gain Weight As We Age.” Published February 22, 2010.)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tenshin/Taisabaki and Age

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

As we age certain changes occur in our bodies and for this article I want to talk about body movement with footwork and legwork as a particular topic to discuss. As we age our ligaments, tendons and muscles lose mass and flexibility. Add in that our balance tends to become less stable and you find yourself walking and moving to compensate.

One factor why karate and martial arts are beneficial is the practice can be taken into our winter years. As we age we can find our gate, the space between each foot when walking, etc., changes and gets shorter. Our balance, think of vertigo and so on, makes us nervous along with the dangers of falling - gravity can be a real bitch. The practice and continued training in karate and martial arts will combat this tendency so that we don’t take on that “Short-gate-walk” often observed in older folks, i.e., the shuffling along walk pattern, etc.

Practicing tai-sabaki or what I prefer, Tenshin, keeps us moving and using legs so that the muscle, tendons, etc., maintain as much elasticity and range of motion that will combat and delay that old man shuffle. Add in the longer and deeper stances while moving you get this great combination that does the above while maintaining strength and stamina. Both necessary to compensate and maintain our movement so that the aging process is held in abeyance. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Tai Sabaki [体捌き]

It means in martial circles, "Whole body movement." It is body management in the throws of fighting, combat or conflict when utilizing martial technique. It is more a means to move the body off line or out of the line of attack while countering with martial technique. It moves you, the attacked, into a more advantageous position to counter while avoiding the attackers technique. Tai sabaki is related to ashi sabaki (footwork) and te sabaki (handwork).

The first character means, "body; substance; object; reality; counter for images," while the second means, "handle; deal with; dispose of, etc."

Tai sabaki (体捌き) is a term from Japanese martial arts and which relates to 'whole body movement', or repositioning. It can be translated as body-management. It is a term used widely in and very important in kendo, jujutsu, aikido, judo, karate and ninjutsu.

Tenshin [転身]: Lit. Change direction or course; Tenshin is one of the three basic elements of Ti. It is used to generate an effortless and powerful body movement and acceleration. One of the trademarks of the Shinjinbukan School is the use of tenshin to create an immense thrust for each tsuki (hand strike) and keri (foot strike). 

Tenshin is commonly defined as "Body Displacement". This is a very superficial definition because tenshin is more than just moving from point A to point B. Tenshin could be compared to the breath of life: "Without air, we can't live. And without tenshin we can't move or use our body efficiently". In fact, tenshin is directly connected to the use of breathing techniques. For this and other reasons, a more holistic definition of tenshin would be: "The most efficient method of body mechanics used to generate body movement".  

Furthermore, according to Onaga Kaichō, "Our bodies do not move back and forth, but only left or right". The reasoning behind this approach is that we do not have four legs. Consequently, we do not have front or back legs, only left and right

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Aging Martial Artists Concerns

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Keiko Fukuda, 98 in 2011 :-)
These concerns apply to anyone who is reaching their winter years but for martial artists it means a change in how we practice, train, teach and apply martial arts and karate. This article will only discuss those aging effects that have special meaning to us.

Bones, our skeletal system, the bones start to lose marrow, etc. and lead toward weaker bones. In our advanced age it can result in brittleness. This means all those awesome things we did in our twenties should be tempered to take this into consideration because broken bones are easier to encounter in harder training and practice. 

Our muscles and therefore our strength due to loss of muscle tissue, etc., result in weaker muscles so our strength, to which many rely on heavily, will no longer carry the day especially in self-defense applications, i.e., defending against attackers in the real world. 

Our metabolism changes and with that, if we don’t adjust for eating habits, will add on weight while reduce body mass, i.e., muscular mass. Our bodies will not have the same ability to continue working efficiently unless we hydrate a lot more. Then there is hearing loss.

Hearing is a sense we use, along with sight and touch, to detect things in our environment. We lose hearing, our sight diminishes and our touch is not as sensitive. All of these are really necessary to achieve proficiency in applying martial and karate skills in competition as well as self-defense. 

Now, here is one that should get all the guys attention - the secretion of testosterone diminishes. You can image how that effects our body and especially our mind-set because a lot of our youthful ability is carried by our testosterone and why the age of military and other like professions has an age thing.

Our joints suffer and things like ligaments and cartilage tend to become less flexible and succumb to injuries that younger folks can avoid by their health and fitness. 

Now, for the good news, your remaining active in karate and/or martial arts is a solid model of remaining heathy and fit meaning that all those losses and reductions and weaknesses, etc., from the aging process will be slowed significantly. Movement in practice and training, if modified and adjusted IAW the aging effects of the body and mind, will allow you to continue way into those winter years.

Now, the second thing is all that practice and training also provide a means to keep the mind from losing its elasticity and capacity and capability making it possible for you to remain up with younger practitioners by using it to be sneakier. Add in that with the mind still up to par your ability to now learn and apply principles over muscling it will simply baffle those young bucks. They will increase their respect and admiration for you because you can keep up while being a lot older. 

One aspect of teaching karate and martial arts is most Sensei tend to train, practice and apply their craft by performing and leading classes right along with all students regardless of age. Because of the aging process and its changes you can still do that but with proper adjustments simply because of remaining active. What is great is you can reduce intensity in your body and mind while maintaining a higher level in students at the same time. 

Once you get to a certain point then you can stand aside and still lead, teach and mentor because you are taking a position often assumed by teachers who can’t even stand with athletes like in football. When have you see a football coach who isn’t actually in shape like their teams? 

Aging is inevitable, you are going to get older if you are lucky and live that long. You can continue karate and martial arts far longer than imaginable and that is good for that activity means you can combat that same aging process. Ain’t life grand!

Bibliography (Click the link)