3 ways karate improves your health

With stress increasing by the day and as you have less and less time for yourself, you shift into a mode of convenience. Blissful sleep gets interrupted at irregular hours with your alarm going off; healthy home-cooked meals get swapped with a hot dog or a hamburger and the little time you get for yourself in a day, you want to spend in front of TV or computer screen. You understand what is good and what is not but cannot always put it into action. A little exercise everyday paves the way for your overall good health and here is why Karate is the best way to go about it.

shutterstock_248375641Karate – a path to recovery

Karate not only keeps you active and in shape but also helps in character building and instills a sense of achievement. It is a great total body workout routine that helps in improving the overall stamina, flexibility, balance, muscle tone and strength. Also, it aids in regulating eating signals thereby helping you to develop a healthy eating pattern. Karate also helps in lowering the risk for heart disease by keeping cholesterol and glucose levels in check. Also noteworthy is its use in recovery after heart disease. Karate contributes to strengthening the heart after an attack and is found to increase blood circulation by increasing the elasticity of the blood vessels.

Why you should take up Karate

There are many health benefits associated with Karate. Studies have shown that people over the age of 50 exercise enough to prevent physical decline and especially for recovery after heart disease and other illness. It is a great stress buster no matter what your age. It not only gets you in shape but also gears you up with life-saving self-defense skills at the same time. Above all, it builds your self-confidence and makes you comfortable in all situations, like when you are in danger or simply working out of your comfort zone. With all its power packed advantages, Karate might just be the ideal activity for you to take up.

Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin-Kung-Fu-11Countless of records gathered by historians and scholars on Chinese History suggest that martial arts in China have been around for a few thousand years. One such example could be Shuai Jiao, a form of wrestling which was popular long before (a few centuries) Shaolin temples even existed. Chinese abbeys were full of riches and therefore monks needed to be protected from robbers and pillagers. Monks that lived in monasteries were often trained in self defense and knew how to operate guns, so they were probably knowledgeable in some primitive form of martial art.

When the first Shaolin temples were established, around the year 500 AD, in the region of Henan, there was a legendary Indian monk who endorsed Buddhism, and whose Chinese disciples were said to possess martial skills that excelled those of simple mortal men. The monk’s name was Buddhabhadra, although he was known simply as Batuo. It is believed that before being inducted as Chinese Shaolin monks, the disciples may have been army men.

The ensuing years saw the principles and laws of Shaolin Kung Fu take form and monks were now developing their own fighting techniques. The following centuries were times of deep turmoil and here we can actually find documented evidence of monks defending a Shaolin temple from bandits, around the year 600. There is also some evidence that indicates that Shaolin monks paid their tribute to a deity known as Kimnara King who was considered to be the creator of certain bare hand fighting styles and even of the staff, whose mastery Shaolin monks were famous for. There is some evidence dating back to the 16th century that suggests that Shaolin monks indeed practiced martial arts and that this was a part of their everyday life.

A few centuries later, “Recording Effective Techniques” was published and when copies of this book reached East Asia, it influenced deeply martial arts in Southern Japan and Korea.

The Japanese Samurai

2348597171_2a4deca69dLegions of legendary Samurais played a very important role in the history and culture of Japan and left a strong imprint in the minds of its people and the rest of the world. Spelled 侍 in Japanese, Samurai were actually military nobles or officers of the emperor’s court during the Middle Ages and during the early modern era in Japan. Their rank or social status could be compared to those held by knights in Europe.

In Japanese, the spelling 侍 also coincides with the Chinese verb to express “to wait on” someone. That particular character could also mean to escort someone, especially someone from the upper class. Moreover, in both China and Japan, the word “samurai” could also refer to people who were to serve the members of noble families. By the time the 12th century arrived, simply the concept of a Samurai was closely associated with the highest ranks among warriors.

The samurai would normally belong to a particular clan, which in turn was controlled by a feudal lord. The samurai were schooled since an early age as skilled military servicemen who had great knowledge about a wide range of subjects that included various war strategies and tactics, and their members endorsed fervently a set of codes of honor and rules known as bushido. Samurais are still today considered to have been amongst the best swordsmen in the history of all civilizations in the world, and the level of mastery that they are said to have attained in swordsmanship has surpassed any other culture worldwide. The most remarkable fact about the philosophy of the samurai is perhaps that references to their principles, codes of honor and teachings are even of relevance today in Japanese modern society, Japanese academia, politics and even in different schools and movements of martial arts all over the island of Japan.

Ninjutsu: Spies and the Way of the Ninja

ninja_01-415x260Spies in Japan have been around for well over a few centuries. Ninjas, also known as shinobis were undercover spies or mercenaries, were known for their stealth and methods of deception, and are said to have risen during the time of feudal Japan. The main tasks which ninjas were assigned ranged from spying, sabotaging, infiltrating and last but not least, assassinating or even protecting high risk targets. They served even as personal bodyguards. Unlike the samurai, ninjas or shinobis were considered dishonorable and well beneath the strict set of codes of honor that reigned the samurai realm. Shinobi spies and mercenaries had already been observed to act covertly during as far back as the Sengoku period, in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some sources even claim the possibility that they even may have operated during the Heian or Kamakura periods, well into the 12th century.

According to some historical records, the ninjas, or shinobis, spelled either 忍者 or 忍び in Japanese were already involved in the Genpei War, a war in which the legendary Minamoto no Kuro Yoshitsune hired mercenaries to help him defend his palace during sieges. It is often said that during the era of Kenmu, Masashige Kusunoki, ninjutsu was already a rather cultivated art of war form. The War of Genpei is estimated to have gone on for at least 5 years, starting in 1180. Ninjutsu is believed to have been developed by indigenous peoples from the Japanese regions of Iga, Kouka and Shiga.

Ninjutsu was a sort of collection of survival methods for times of war in Japan during the feudal era. Ninjutsu practitioners made use of their martial art skills which included espionage, stealing strategic information, stealth and deceit. Ninjas also were highly skilled in the art of disguise, concealment, free running and even archery.

Japanese Martial Arts: Karate

Karate-from-JapanKarate, in Japanese (空手), means open hand; or empty hand. It is mainly a striking art which employs punches, open hand techniques, kicks, palm heel, knee and elbow strikes. Traditionally, grappling, throwing, locking, restraining, and striking vital point can also be a part of this combat art form.

Karate originated in the Southern-most region of Japan, namely, Okinawa. It is probably one of the most popular forms of martial arts around the world. This is probably due to the fact that, after the Second World War, American troops settled in Okinawa and established an American Military Base which still today exists. While living there, many American soldiers took an interest in the art form and began learning it and started spreading it all over the United States. Given the heavy cultural influence that the US holds over the whole world, known in some contexts as Cultural Imperialism, Karate began to grow not only in the States, but also in Europe and South America and the Caribbean. At the same time, due to the mass migration of Japanese families to the American Continent, many people who had learned and become proficient in Karate back in Japan started teaching it in the US, and even opening up their own schools and martial arts instruction centers.

Karate was later developed and added by the Japanese but the roots of Karate are with the indigenous people native to the Ryukyu Islands. Initially, these islands in southern Japan had been heavily influenced by the Chinese, culturally, economically, linguistically and in many other aspects. As such, martial arts practiced in these region of Japan were also influenced by the Southern Chinese culture and one predominant martial art in the area was the Fujian White Crane. Karate was influenced by this martial art to a great extent.

Korean Martial Arts: Tae Kwon Do

tkwqTae Kwon Do is one of the most popular Korean martial arts world wide. Tae Kwon Do is a rather new form of combat and it was developed in Korea by different practitioners of martial arts rather recently; namely in the 50s. The salient fact about Tae Kwon Do is perhaps that its development was made possible through the combination of Karate, various Chinese martial art styles, together with already existing native Korean styles, such as Subak, Gwonbeop and Tae Kye On.

Following the end of the Imperial Japanese occupation of Korea, many martial artists that had studied combat arts in Nihon during the rule of Imperial Japan opened dojos to instruct people in the martial arts in Seoul. These dojos, or schools were also known as kwans. In the 40s decade, the word Tae Kwon Do was usually utilized to refer to the different arts practiced in the many kwans in Seoul, given that at every kwan had its very own distinct stylet. The South Korean military decided to incorporate Tae Kwon Do as an official training for their servicemen. This helped this novel, incipient martial art to spread and grow amongst civilians and soon began gaining popularity all over the country.

This particular combat art form features many high and mid air, as well as spinning kicks. In fact there are many complex kick techniques in Tae Kwon Do. In order to allow for quick, spinning kicks, the practitioner usually takes on stances that are perhaps less stable than those employed in other martial arts, which tend to be a little wider and taking up more space. However, it is believed that this adds agility and speed.

In relation to agility and speed, there has been extensive research and investigations in biomechanics and Newtonian physics. The force of a blow increases quadratically with its speed and only linearly with its mass, which means that speed is more relevant than size when it comes to generating power.

Martial Arts as Spiritual Realization

fade730a_img1As mentioned before, martial arts could be used as a means of achieving knowledge and development within the realms of spirituality and even religion. Especially since many of them are widely known for having been, developed, practiced and passed on by monks and nuns. Such is the case with Buddhist Shaolin monks in temples all over China, Nepal, Tibet and Thailand, who practice an art form known as Shaolin Kung Fu, which is probably one of the most popular Chinese martial art forms in the world.

In fact, all over the Asian continent, the act of meditating plays a fundamental role in religion as well as the process of training in some sort of martial art. Especially in many countries that have Hindu and Buddhist roots, as mentioned before, practicing martial arts can be employed as a means of achieving enlightenment. For example, Japanese martial arts have also historically been affected by philosophy standards that have their roots in many Mahayana Buddhist concepts and proverbs, such as emptying one’s mind. In Aikido, also a Japanese art form, for example, there is a well founded philosophical principle about energy, peace and the way they both flow from one’s mind and serene soul out to the world, and how it can be used to influence others, whether it is an opponent or simply a regular person.

In Korea, for example, martial arts also emphasize the growth of the apprentice’s psyche, spirit and the establishing of moral principles etc. In many of their most renowned combat arts, such as Tae Kwon Do and Tae Kye On, the achievement of inner peace is primordial and can only be attained by perseverance, deep meditation and hard work. One of the most interesting things about these Korean art forms and their practitioners is that they endorse that the use of physical force can only be justified as a defense mechanism.

Martial Arts: Definition

kickMartial arts can be classified as different contact sports, that involve the use of one’s own body and, sometimes, even the employment of weapons as a means of self defense and attack on an opponent. These sports or combat practices originated mainly in Asian countries, more specifically China, Korea and Japan. Some of the most popular martial arts include Karate, Kendo, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Ninjutsu, Judo etc .

These millenary contact sports or art forms make use a different set of systems, moves, stances, rules, laws and traditions that govern them. However, perhaps one of the most interesting things about martial arts is that they have traditionally been practiced by millions of people around the world for many different reasons. For example, as much as they might come in handy as a means of self defense and attack to be employed by and for law enforcement and military members, they can also have a large number of many other applications. These might be, physical and mental fitness, spiritual and mental growth and enlightenment, competitions, not to mention artistic purposes such artistic, sheer amusement and even pleasure. Martial arts can even be classified as a means of promoting culture as well as the historical rituals and traditions that constitute the identity of different millenary cultures and civilizations.

It has been widely discussed and debated whether the term fighting arts or fighting systems should be employed instead of “martial” arts, on account on that the origins of many of these were not really “martial” because they were not created or even practiced by actual warriors, but instead, they were seen as an artistic expression of sorts. It might be prudent to note that the term martial derives from the Latin word “Mars”, in reference to the Roman god of war.

History of Martial Arts

History of Martial Arts

Thermae_boxer_Massimo_Inv1055When referring to the history of the martial arts as we know it today, it is rather hard to stipulate the actual origins of these millenary art forms. However, we could perhaps refer to certain evidence gathered by archaeologists and historians around the world, which would suggest or indicate the presence of a form of art similar to the martial arts as we know them today.

The evidence in question has to do with findings related to ancient weapons and figurative art; and more specifically the finding of various frescos as old as 5 thousand years, in which the depiction of some form of a fight can clearly be observed by the naked eye. Perhaps, the most ancient of these frescos showing a battle scene, are a series of paintings pertaining to the Ancient Egyptian era. These ancient works of art date back to roughly 3 thousand years BC and depict some sort of wrestle.

Also from the same millennium, only perhaps a few hundred years later, there are also frescos depicting some sort of battle art form. These frescos were rescued from the ancient city of Babylon in the now extinct ancient culture of Mesopotamia. In Southern Asia, certain paintings and sketches estimated to be from the year 2 thousand BC have been found in which some types of fight or struggle using swords, and such combat weaponry are depicted.

It is worth noting, however, that wrestling is believed to be an innate human pastime and sort of game, especially played by youngsters. As such, it is also seen in many other species of apes. Let us be reminded that apes are the closest species to humans and we humans descend from the same family or species as many of them.

In the ancient Chinese Empire, for example, the Yellow Emperor, a reputed general who ruled Ancient China in the 29th century BC, wrote documents about astrology and, of course, martial arts. Existing literature on combat and art forms related to battle were registered to have been around as early as 4 thousand years ago.