Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fitness That HAS Kicked Butt for 1000's of Years

Historically, what we call the “Oriental Martial Arts” was developed to fulfill a physical need in preparation for spiritual development. In the oft repeated phrase, “Mind, Body & Spirit,” Daruma is credited with creating the exercise method, called martial arts, to develop the Body, so that the Mind and Spirit could be addressed. (Daruma was a Buddhist Monk that is also credited with spreading Buddhism from India to China - as an aside, I am a pretty radical Christian, in that my faith in Christ i s foremost in my life, so I do NOT subscribe to the spiritual aspects of the Martial Arts, though I have used the Martial Arts to develop myself spiritually. Click Here for the credit for the picture here, and for a discussion of Daruma's life. For a developing discussion on how we use the Martial Arts to aid and grow our own faith, visit our Blog on "Does God Serve You?")

Gichin Funakoshi, in Karate-Do Kyohan, tells us that at Shao-lin Temple in Hunan Province in China a large number of Daruma's followers failed at his exercise system due to the difficulty of his training, causing him to create what we now call Kempo, to physically advance his followers.

From that time to this, the only thing that has changed in the body of oriental martial arts is our understanding of the physical requirements of the body and the weapons with which we may be attacked and may have at hand to defend ourselves. Oddly, the methods we use to obtain fitness,  have changed very little, as our bodies have changed very little.

Fitness remains the main goal when it comes to the Body portion of Mind, Body & Spirit, just as it every was.

So what makes traditional martial arts so much better than constant beating of your body that is so much the fad in American Culture today?

1)Martial Arts are taught in a group environment, offering the encouragement you need to develop and improve, but are practiced anywhere. You don’t need a computer, a TV, a gym or a partner for your own training.

2) Tied to the development of the body is a very real and tangible goal of self protection. In America today, impulse rules the land. You go to the local discount store, and the things they want to get rid of are repackaged and placed right before your eyes when you approach the register. Why? Because they know we will buy it, because our culture demands it NOW. Self defense is even taught that way, but it does NOT work that way. Learning Self Defense is similar to learning how to swim. On day one of your swimming lessons, you might learn to tread water and to float, to remove fear and build confidence. However, if on the evening of day 1 you fell off a boat, you would drown, self confidence or not. Self Defense is a process of learning technique, building the muscle and mental pathways necessary to build skill and attitude, and building the strength and coordination to move quickly or slowly at the rights times. This all takes Fitness. There is NO SHORT CUT, short of death. 

3) Unlike most forms of exercise, the Martial Arts requires control of tension, balance, speed, breathing, focus, and movement. It is NOT about fast, because there is always someone faster. It is not about strength, because there is always the steroid monster with a knife. It is about CONTROL of your body in every aspect of it use. This requires massive physical and mental development, and for 2000 + years we have been doing it!!

4) Martial Arts are designed to be doable at any age or stage of physical development, with enhancement and longevity a explicit goal, rather than a hidden benefit.

5) The movement and demands on the body is a never ending constant variation, thereby keeping your body from developing a conditioned response to the activity, so common in training that it has been labeled as plateauing.

6) We use belts to help you psycolgiocally improve, as each belt is awarded when you take a step toward mastery. This is so popular, that I have never met anyone who did not know what a Black Belt was.

Website for this image

Most oriental martial arts incorporate daily exercise, in particular the focus is on breathing. In Tang Soo do, this is called Ki Gung or energy development and Chi Gung in China. Even Ed Parker, in his book, Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Book 4, devotes an entire chapter to breathing and breath control. There are two basic types I have been taught, internal and external breathing control. Both of these methods are practiced in Forms, or fixed patterns of muscle development for self defense, in sparring where you practice on an unpredictable partner, in actual self-defense situations where you bring these exercises to the mat, and even in individual technique developments, like kicking and punching.

The WHOLE POINT of an oriental martial art is to prolong your life though fitness and if need be, self defense, and it is something that once gained, does not leave you. You own it for life, because you can, and do, practice it for life. I have been practicing some form of martial arts since the mid ‘70s, and in my peer group, that makes me a novice.

So, if you are looking for a group of people who want you help you be fit, want to help you be safe, are fun to be with, understand your goals and needs, have been where you are and do something you will enjoy, go visit a martial arts school. Watch a class and ask questions. If they will not let you watch or ask questions, go somewhere else.

Fitness is not a DVD, it is not a jog in the woods, it is not punching the stuffing (sand) out of a bag, it does not require a pole or a heated room, it does not require a pool or a lake, it does not need a trophy. All of those things are tools for fitness. Martial arts does all of that, and more. Do it now.

Future articles will deal with training for the ring, it purpose, the things that people have forgotten, the things you can do, and how you can use this even if you are not in the ring.  We will also have an article on Fitness and Nutrition for the Martial Artist. Join this article stream to be keep informed.  It is free, and we tell it like it is.

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