Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (August 8th, 2005)

From Sensei Matt Kaplan, Roku-dan Director,

Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club (State College, PA)

How Does Karate Training Contribute to Our Health as We Age?

To help answer this question, we can gain some clues from a recent study of tai chi that was published in the July, 2005 issue of The Journal of Advanced Nursing. Fifty-nine men and women – with an average age of 78 – were divided into two groups, one participating in a 12-week tai chi course with classes three times a week, the other maintaining its usual activities without exercise classes.

Members of the tai chi group displayed more muscle strength, better balance (as calculated by how long a person could stand on one foot with his/her eyes open), fewer falls, and better overall physical fitness than members of the comparison (non-exercising) group. Rhayun Song, the senior author on the study and an assistant professor of nursing at Chungnam National University in South Korea attributed these benefits to keeping joints and muscles moving, practicing full range of movement, and breathing during movement (which helps individuals maintain aerobic metabolism in their body during exercise).

This is great news for us, right? Well, not necessarily. In addition to considering how much we train, it is essential to pay attention to how we train. There are some unhealthy training practices that to avoid. Here are just some examples of techniques that can hurt more than they help:

--Leaning too far forward while squatting puts pressure on the lower back (rather than on the legs).

--Doing neko-ashi dachi (cat stance) with the knee of the back leg protruding outwards (instead of sitting above the heel) puts undesirable pressure on the knee and ankle.

--Doing hand techniques with high targets (e.g., head blocks and face punches) with the shoulder raised to the height of the jaw or ear puts undesirable tension on the muscular-skeletal system in the shoulder area.

--Overstretching or stretching hard without warm-up can strain or tear muscles.

--Poor technique (or aim) when breaking wood or other objects can damage the part of the body used to strike the object.

So, let’s recap and review some of the things that we should do and shouldn’t do in our training:

(1) Keep body in alignment—Good. Leaning over/away from body’s foundation—Bad.

(2) Moving with full range of motion—Good. Constrained movement due to muscle tension—Bad.

(3) Stretching gradually—Good. Over stretching (without warming up)—Bad.

(4) Breathing—Good.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,

Matt Kaplan, Roku-dan

Director, Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club (State College, PA)