Karate for Health?

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Karate for Health?
Middle Aged?

Karate is an old martial art practiced for several hundred years on the island of Okinawa before it reaches Japan. Now Karate is practiced throughout the world in both the sporting versions only, Budo version only and Budo/sporting versions. No matter what version you are, learning is there any scientific research to show it is beneficially for you.  Yes, there is and here is just a fraction of the studies conducted thus far.

In the British Journal of Sports Medicine April 2004; 38(2):143-7 a group of 40 to 60 year old was trained in Karate and they were matched with a like group who did not exercise. At the conclusion of the study the Karate group were found with 12% less body fat, superior aerobic capacity, significantly improved muscle strength, greater physical endurance and a greater sense of balance. Cardiac and respiratory health was also significantly improved in the Karate group. Regular Karate training will make you sleep better, maintain your weight, improve your resistance to fight infection, Lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and help your brain function better (Mercola, M.D. July 19th 2009, mercola.com) Other studies have shown that those who have big bellies after the age of 40 are at a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in their seventies. Women who gain more than 20 pounds after menopause increase their risk of breast cancer by 20%. In addition, excess weight increases the chances of circulatory problems, like high blood pressure, as well as metabolic problems like insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes. (Obesity in the middle age and future risk of dementia: A 27 year longitudinal population based study, R.A. Whitmer, et al. BMJ 2005) Weight gain occurs just before menopause and after for woman as their hormone levels decrease and for men as they reach the age of 45 and on, they exercise less and their testosterone and human growth hormone levels drop. In addition, stress has a significant effect on body weight through the effects of cortisol, which is called the stress hormone. Not getting enough sleep and having negative stress in our lives raises our cortisol levels which has many adverse side effect on our bodies over time. (Lawrance Cheskin, M.D., Director of the John Hopkins Weight).

How about children? A study conducted on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) showed a significant increase in percentage of homework completion, academic performance and classroom participation. In addition there was a decrease in classroom rules broken, times inappropriately leaving their seat and call outs in class. Since there are approximately 3.3 million children afflicted with ADHD, martial arts would seem to be something that every parent should consider. It may remove the need for medications or reduce the dosages needed to control the child’s behaviors. Children with epilepsy have likewise been shown to significantly improve with Karate. In a study conducted by the Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, Ma. by Conant, Morgan, Muzykewicz, Clark and Theile with children in the age group of 8 to 16 years of age participated in a karate program and they report a significant improvement in memory function and quality of life. The children reported improved intellectual self-esteem and social confidence with improvement in parental stress levels. A hospital in Orange County, California is teaching autistic children karate so they can improve their social skills. It is reported by several of the parents their children have had significant improvement in self-esteem and social confidence.

In conclusion, Karate is not just for self-defense. Actually the biggest benefit of being involved in Karate as well as any traditional (And I emphasize Traditional because many of the positive effects of traditional martial arts disappear when the traditional way of teaching is removed.) martial art is better physical health, better mental health, loss of weight, improved physical fitness and increased energy levels. The emphasis in traditional martial arts is perfection of character and finding inner peace. Improved ability in Self-defense is really a side effect of karate training or any traditional martial art such as Aikido, Kendo or Judo. Note that they all end in “do” Karate is called karate-do just as the other traditional arts. The term “do” simply means the “way”.  Each practitioner will experience his or her own enlightenment from many years of hard diligent practice but our goal is the same, we are seeking to be better people and to feel a sense of inner peace.  

As Master Gichin Funakoshi states in his 20 precepts that Karate-do is a lifelong practice and can be done long into old age. Karate-do is not only for the young but it is more important for the old to stay young. Sensei Roger St. Pierre says that a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest will always stay at rest forever.

Written By, Normand J. Laliberte Jr.,RN