Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keeping yourself healthy

Ours is a martial way. If you study the history of many of Japan's greatest martial artists including Osensei himself, many took up their art when they were young for health reasons. Many of them were frail and sickly in body, but because of their spirit they took it upon themselves to get better. For most, the best way was to take up martial arts training. Back then gym and callisthenics were non-existent and most martial arts training required intensive physical training which build endurance, stamina, flexibility and strength.

However, an aspect of physical training commonly overlooked is the dietary and lifestyle part. Generally the rule of thumb is to eat in moderation. Our body is designed to breakdown food into nutrients not to gorge. Complex foods are more tedious to breakdown and worst still are 'created' foodstuff. In the early days, people eat food that's grown from the fields and from farm animals or hunts. Processed food was mostly flour turn to sweets and those were rare because it was an expensive use of food. Now with the advent of supermarkets and capitalism, the need to make money selling food requires that manufacturers attract buyers to buy their product and to keep costs low but still attractive. The cheapest way would be to make it addictive instead of nutritious. To save costs, food should also keep for a long time. Therefore chemicals like pesticide, hormones, fertilisers, preservatives, sugar, colouring, flavourings are all added into our food.

Breaking down these food into nutrition and junk creates a lot of stress in our organs. Slowly, more and more junk are absorbed by our body and causes even more inefficiency. This inevitability leads to our failing health. So a true martial artist, would take care of his diet. Taking not only essential nutrients to ensure physical growth and energy production but also avoiding junk that would screw up his system.

The other aspect is lifestyle. We are modern people with electricity, air cond, cars, mobiles and television. Because of electric light alone, most people are spending more time awake in the dark then ever before. However we are really nothing but sophisticated animals. We actually have a time to be awake and a time to sleep. We are created to benefit most from sleeping in the dark. In our stage 4 sleep and REM sleep, the body regenerates itself the most. Blood flows out form our organs and circulates more through our blood stream. Our immune system is recharged. However, if there is light, melanoma which is a natural hormone doesn't get produced and these things don't happen. So we end up using up our source like a battery that is never recharged.

On top of that, because we work in the city and travel by car, we generally skip out on the morning sun. Without sun light, all that calcium and magnesium we've been taking comes to nothing. So there goes our bones and immune system again. Not to mention, missing out on the sun actually causes us to get insomnia.

The only part where we can hold some semblance of survival is because practising martial arts is exercise. So we get this done at the very least. Still, for it to have real benefits we need to understand what our body considers as exercise. No doubt physical movement involves using up calories, but strengthening organs require special types of movement. Stretching and rolling helps with our internal organs and flexibility, but developing lung and heart strength requires good cardio work with proper breathing. Taking fluids and having a good heart rate will help flush our kidneys clean. Dynamic muscle tension helps our muscle tone.

Lastly, besides our physical health. Mental health is equally important. By practising intent, concentration, relaxation, meditation and breathing we are developing or maintaining our mental faculty. Osensei never finished high school, but towards the end of his death, among his reading material includes books by Einstein and other scholars of note. Osensei's mind was as keenly developed as his physical ability, only it was overshadowed by his mastery of Aikido and was never made known. To a large extent, even modern Japanese believe that martial artists are brutes or gangsters. Yet, a true Budoka is a refined gentleman, of fine physical prowess and mental faculties. He is a protector of the weak and the bastion against the criminal. You are unlikely to achieve that with a runny nose.

P.S. I was a scout and the reason I loved it so was because I read much on Baden Powell. He wrote in his Scouting for Boys, it is the tenderfoot that will suffer a cold so. A true scout veteran would spend many a day sleeping outdoors so he is used to the cold weather. The sun and nature would make him strong.

Truly if you feel sick, you should bath with cold water. Avoid hot water as it does nothing for your immune system.

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