Fighting Fit- What martial arts can do for you (Part 1)

We at DoAttend love to be associated with a variety of events. Getting to know what our clients do has exposed us to many new and interesting avenues.

This post is part 1 of our first blog post in a series of  knowledge articles written by event organizers we work with.  Written by Ashwin Mohan, program director at Savage Fighting Arts, this post explains how Martial Arts could help you stay fit.

A History

Most people think that Martial Arts are only for wartime effort – to train people to fight. This is partially true but it is important to remember that martial arts were also developed during peace time and these efforts focused only on health. Really good martial artists would make sure that the country did not have many wars by winning most of them, this gave them a lot of free time. Being very active, they started developing programmes for people to get well and stay well.

Starting at the warm-up, martial arts work on joints, circulation, and most importantly the endocrine system. All martial arts focus greatly on the endocrine system, as this is the primary system for the experience of wellness. Usually the endocrine system varies according to the environment, but also depends on a person’s mindset, which is how meditation came into focus in martial arts. Meditation regulates the hormones secreted by a person and keeps them balanced and healthy.

Martial arts in India

Martial arts in India focused on a system of anatomy that was based on the Samkhya Philosophy, which started around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Martial arts in India focused on internal health, which meant the health of 5 primary organs – the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys. There was, therefore, a lot of focus on developing the muscles around the core in Indian Martial arts, with little or no focus on the shoulders and the arms. All the power needed for thrusting and fighting was generated from the core. The movements in Indian Martial Arts were modeled on the Big Cats. The legs were kept well-trained for optimal springiness.

Basic Principles

Alignment: The first thing that a martial arts student develops is “alignment”. The feet were always kept parallel and the shoulders and arms were kept close to the body to be able to engage the ‘lats’ (Latissimus dorsi – the muscle on the lateral posterior part of the back), below the shoulder. Indian soldiers did not have big shoulders, they had big lats. Their thighs were also kept very well developed.

Then, the softer side of martial arts started coming up. Martial artists realised that practising a strike with full speed right from the beginning was going to cause some misalignment.  So they started training their students in basic locomotion. A concept called ‘antagonistic isotonics’ helps to explain the relevance of this. Muscles always exist in pairs and function such that when one is compressed, the other relaxes. However, most people are not aware of this basic physics of locomotion and can quite often be seen tensing both muscles while moving, lifting or even walking. Through martial arts, students realise that a muscle needs to be kept tense only 50% of the time. This even helps the person relax the muscle and the rhythmic contraction also makes them calm emotionally.

The bad habit of tension held in the stomach or the back affects the 5 main organs, compressing the; its enough to impair their proper functioning and not release the correct hormones. Bad posture, muscle tension and locomotion are most responsible for causing people to put on weight and excessive weight causes the joints to become weak. My teacher used to say, “Age is not how much hair you have on your head – it is how much you can run, jump and play”.

Breathing: The next thing a person learns is “how to breathe”. This is very important, because people do not spend enough time retaining the breath for it to reach the various parts of the body. A slower breathing pattern enhances health, brings down heart rate/blood pressure, and every part of the brain gets oxygenated, helping the thinking to become clearer. You will be able to see other peoples’ point of view and mature in your brain by using more neuro connections. You can see how everything is connected and you start thinking in-depth. You do not see just the surface and your emotional response to it.

You start to see deeply behind the surface and an appropriate mature response comes about as a martial artist and this is done solely through breathing.

Generation of Power: The next step is “generation of power”. There are normal aerobic or glycolic circuits that people use to generate power. Then, there are anaerobic circuits within the body, which do not need oxygen and that can generate power in a flash, in the process producing a lot of toxins, which are washed out by a healthy circulatory system. Engaging the anaerobic circuits help because it gradually increases immunity to toxins. The body is now constantly able to flush out toxins.

In Taijiquan (aka Taichi) the movement is very slow, but in complete alignment. The focus is on which muscles are tightening, keeping in mind the “antagonistic” pairs, not using an ounce of energy more than required. All of the energy is reserved to do a Fajin (projected power) move. This move is like a bullet. There are about 12 or 13 of these movements. Once a fighter uses them, the body is full of toxins, but not tired and a few breaths are enough to flush them out through the sweat.

Taijiquan (pronounced taiji chuan) has little to do with Chi (the life force), but everything to do with muscular alignment. The powers that one develops with Taiji are called Jin. There are a total of 32 Jins that I know of, which one can develop in Taiji. Bruce Lee used to do something called the one inch punch – he would be able to throw his opponent 4 to 5 feet behind with a really small punch. This is not miraculous – it is Physics. The anaerobic circuit produces a lot more energy than the normal glycolic circuit. Learning these moves can help to divest the body of toxins within a very short period of time, within seconds. (To be contd..)

To read part 2 of this post click here.

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