Many of us are so interested in being the best, or our child-athletes being the best that we lose sight of holistic training of the body. More to the point, we (or our children), train specifically for a sport or a specific skill so much that we become the best at only one given activity. For example baseball players mostly bat from one side, even switch hitters will usually work their dominant side. These players throw from one side and catch from one side. Golfers spend countless hours on their swings from one side of their body. The body is like a machine, all parts have a specific function and need to work in balanced unison. What happens when they don’t? The machine will eventually break down, and all that specific one-sided training will be the cause.
Joe Montana is arguably one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game of football. Montana recently opened up about the physical repercussions and how is activity is limited with his family (see article). Tiger Woods one of the best golfers of our time, he is continually suffering from injuries related to the constant overuse of one side of his body. As athletes, too many of us spend a majority of time perfecting our skill and not enough time on proper body mechanics and unified movement.
Martial arts is one of the best ways to unify your mind, body and spirit. Martial Arts teaches strength, metabolic conditioning, body awareness, movement patterns (that we lose from sitting), symmetry and also reaction to outside stimulus. During ancient times, martial arts was very demanding on the body. The intention was to condition the body to be a weapon. If one was not properly conditioned, it could mean death in battle. Presently Martial Arts are sought out for a multitude of reasons. All martial arts emphasize proper alignment, posture, breathing, and perfection of movement (on both sides of the body) through constant training and correction from your instructor.
I have recently read Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. Starrett’s theories anchor on midline stabilization and organization (spinal mechanics). Starrett uses what he refers to as “Bracing” before any load bearing activity ie: such as squatting or deadlifting. The “Bracing Sequence” starts with you standing with feet directly under hips and “screwing” feet into the floor. The next step is to then squeeze your glutes hard to set the pelvis, and pull your ribs down while tightening up your abdomen. Finally, you set your head in a neutral position. This is the same sequence used in SANCHIN KATA! Sanchin is said to be the heart of Karate and has been taught for hundreds of years.
Kata from karate teaches you organized movement. It is specific movement patterns which are used in our daily living. Bracing before a lift is great, but what about our everyday activities? Bending down, reaching, running and picking up after our kids. One of the worst feelings, is an injury that doesn’t seem to go away. Martial arts is a great way to prevent this from happening. I own a martial arts school and have seen tremendous improvement in my students’ postures, movement patterns, concentration, discipline and focus.
After witnessing such change, I am often confused when when parents say “my child is overscheduled and has to take a break from karate. Karate is the one place where a child will learn discipline as well as: body awareness, self esteem, focus, commitment, proper alignment overcoming adversity, movement patterns as well as self defense. Some of my students have had miraculous turn-arounds due to the study of Karate. Sports are fun. There is nothing wrong with having fun or organized sports. My point is that Karate is an investment, as such will continue to pay dividends only with continued training. For our family Karate is the constant, all other activities come after Karate, not before it. As parents, we decided there is no other activity that will balance our children’s bodies, teach them respect, discipline and protect them. I don’t often see professional athletes playing their sports in their old age, but it is commonplace to see old masters in martial arts, still working out and still teaching. This is because martial arts cultivates the body and doesn’t break it down.