Health, Fitness, and Martial Arts

I don’t regularly run fitness and conditioning segments when I teach a Kali Silat martial arts session, just a light limbering up and warm up.

Not because I don’t value strength training and cardio conditioning, but because I think those are matters that supersede martial arts training.  It’s a personal issue that I expect every individual to treat as a matter of life, not as a class you take, or a pastime.  As a martial arts Instructor I have other things to cover with you, not personal nutritional diagnosis, meal planning, and fitness training.

Your personal health and fitness are not the instructor’s responsibility, it is yours. 

Fitness Motivation: No Excuses!

(Photo credit: UrbaneWomenMag)

 Rather than spend time on a martial arts classes, I’d recommend spending time learning to cook and eat nutritiously. Go to a regular gym or do it at home, but do strength and cardio daily, on your own, for yourself, not for a belt or certificate.

Also, often there may be a mix of types of student in the classes.  Yoshimi Osawa, 10th dan Judo master, believes there’s 3 types of practitioners: recreational, technical, and competitor.  Here’s how he defines the types of practitioners: Recreational – practices for enjoyment, Technical – studies, practices and teaches their whole life, Competitor – is only able to compete for a limited time.  In a general martial arts class you probably have the three types.  Therefore, it’s unfair to the recreational practitioner to have them go through the mandatory rigors the competitive practitioner must go through to achieve their goals.

Bear in mind, the glory of the competitive martial artist is short lived. Think of the lines “My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night, but ahh, my foes and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light!”  The lifelong practitioners may be the recreational and technical ones! I for one would prefer longevity and good functional health over momentary success.

I’ve been with a group that trained everybody as if they were a competitive athlete.  I was in my early 50’s and most other practitioners were 20-25-30 years younger than me.  I couldn’t keep up with them.  The intense strength and conditioning aimed at a 20 year old’s capabilities became an obstacle to my growth and development.  The wear and tear the younger ones could recover faster from were for me more significant injuries, and not even directly related to the art.

For myself, I do cardio and strength training on an almost daily basis not for the sake of athletic competition, but for the sake of healthy living.  I try to maintain a decent weight for myself, a higher than average level of flexibility, stamina, and relative strength for a man my age.  When I was 20 and in the Marines, I had much higher standards, but I was living as a military man ready to engage in the ultimate competition, life and death combat at a moment’s notice.

Which brings me to another point: obese, fat, Karate masters.

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) wit...

Picture of an Obese Teenager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many are obese for no good reason like injury, or medical issues, but just due to lack of health consciousness and fitness.  Being 100 lbs. overweight is unhealthy no matter how you slice it.  And “eating a lot” is not an illness, it’s just gluttony, and not a martial virtue.

Being the physically demanding, hard contact activity that it is, you can look at the very heavy martial arts master and think “if I hit you and then just ran around a little, you’d kill yourself, by having a heart attack running after me!”

Obesity signals lack of stamina and endurance, lack of flexibility, slower reflexes, limited range of movement.  Martial art training makes demands of these qualities.

For the long time student, certainly the “master,” unless he’s a Sumo practitioner, only a reasonable degree of overweight should be acceptable.

From a beginning student, lack of fitness is understandable; part of what they should get from the training is knowledge and discipline.  Discipline they can apply to a whole range of life experiences and issues, like nutrition and fitness.   Maybe I’m old fashioned, but that’s what I’d expect from extended martial arts training.

There’s a matter of credibility involved in claiming mastery of a physically demanding activity such as martial arts.   A persistently overweight person will not be able to achieve higher levels of martial arts performance.  A persistently overweight “master” cannot himself perform at peak condition.

A few pounds overweight for a non Olympic athlete is OK (my opinion, not a medical declaration). Most people that go to a martial arts place for an hour or so about 3 times a week .  That’s not enough time for serious strength and fitness training, and martial arts training.  Put in personal time for health and fitness and get martial arts knowledge and skills from your martial arts class time.

Right now, I’m off to the gym, for my personal health and fitness sake…

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