Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (May 22nd 2011)

From Kyoshi Matt Kaplan, Shihan

Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club

State College, PA

Train For The Brain

The prevailing scientific belief has been that the brain is fully developed by the time we are young adults. However, recent research shows that “white matter” of the brain, that is the transmission lines that send signals from one part of the brain to others, continues to develop, with no major decrements registered before the age of 80. This suggests that people at mid-life have much different brains from people at 20. In certain ways, the brain at 50 is a much better “computer” than the one at 20. And one’s “computer” does not automatically “fall apart” afterwards.

Physical exercise is good not only for our bodies, but for mental health as well. A program of exercise does not have to be glamorous (e.g., sky-diving) or overly intense (e.g., climbing Mount Everest). Even just light workouts several times a week may be all that is needed to stay physically fit, with lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol level, and in better mental health.

Here are some of the ways in which karate training can be good for the brain:

· A recent study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that if exercise is rigorous enough, it can even reverse some signs of aging. Older adults who engaged in three moderate-intensity aerobic workouts a week displayed a two percent increase in the volume of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory.

· Several studies of the effects of tai chi illustrate how martial arts training can lead to better balance, enhanced relaxation and sense of well-being.

· Training (and the skills development that comes with regular training) contributes to our “sense of empowerment” (i.e., the notion that we have some control over what happens in our lives); such a notion can serve as a powerful buffer against stress and stress-related illnesses.

· The support system of the dojo (as in family, community, and other support systems) can serve as an important “buffer” against stress and stress-related illnesses.

· Recent research suggests that having long-term aspirations fosters a sense of personal well-being. This includes setting goals for self development, such as in setting and following a training regimen.

· Regular exercise is a lifestyle choice made by many centenarians (i.e., those living to 100+ years of age). Perhaps they are on to something!!

Regardless of one’s health and physical abilities, we have much to gain by staying physically active, just as we have much to lose by not doing anything.