Why Karate Is So Good For You
Watching someone that you care for suffer with dementia is a tough process. The thing is that even though you cannot see anything physical, the brain is basically attacked and the disease eats away at compartments that include the person's DNA. Their memories of childhood, their friendships, who they loved, what they did, a lifetime of memories and experiences that are systematically stripped away. It is indeed a cruel disease that slowly erodes people of their identity and of their personality and who they are to sadly become who they were.
Because there is no physical manifestation of the illness it is not always apparent that people are ill, but they are. So what does all of this have to do with practicing Karate, I hear you ask? Well, for me there is a clear correlation between stimulating the brain and keeping physically agile and fit. What I am finding as I get older is that while the body naturally is challenged to keep at its peak performance, in reality I am enjoying the benefit of training more than ever. Putting on a gi and getting stuck in is a real force for good, and the harder the training physically for me the better. That is why when I teach, I actually want to train as well as the people who are being taught. That feeling that you get when you are in a line of like minded Karate-ka, all putting 100% into every technique, block, kick, punch, strike, and although you are shattered, you just keep going.
For those who do not train, it is hard to understand just what this feeling is like, there is a state of mind that you can acquire that just keeps pushing you, and a good Karate Sensei will bring that out of every student, irrespective of grade or standard. They have this ability that is unique; my own Sensei Shihan Cyril Cummins, 8th Dan, had this gift that he nurtured over many years, to the point that the dojo, although packed with all sorts of people of different creeds, colours, and religions, were quite simply united in their desire to give this man 100%, as Shihan’s own Sensei, the incredible Keinosuke Enoeda, 9th Dan, also did with those who were fortunate enough to train with him.
So, do I genuinely believe that practising Karate can fight of the effects of old age, illness, and even horrid diseases like dementia? Well, actually I do. The brain power required to learn a kata, or a complex combination of advanced techniques, to the level required of your grade is an ongoing challenge, that you can never allow to slide. The more senior you become, the greater the expectation of both knowledge and the ability to deliver at the level expected is taken as an automatic given. I have found this myself when teaching at different dojos and courses. Students are curious to learn and so they should and they should be encouraged to ask questions and if you are asked, then you need to be able to answer them. This does not mean that there are definite answers to questions; you have the right, and hopefully the knowledge, to offer your own interpretations.
One of the many things that truly impressed me about Shihan Cummins was his huge capability to offer multiple answers and interpretations to many questions. I honestly was in awe of this man’s ability to unfurl numerous bunkai to both the most complex and simple kata. I would struggle to get one or two worked out sequences to Kata Oyo, but he would have ten and often more. His brain could read kata in a way like no one else that I have ever met and probably will never meet his like again. He was unique and even at the very end of his life after a brave battle with a cruel cancer, he was still teaching, sharing, encouraging people to learn not only from himself but also to go and explore and learn for themselves.
So, I was along with thousands of others lucky that I could train with this amazing man, and his legacy lives on to this very day with a multitude of good Karate men and women who teach Karate the way that he taught to them. What a truly brilliant legacy to leave and what a great example to have set. So, the benefits of training are there to behold for those of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities, and maybe more important it keeps you fit, and strong as well as able to withstand illness and disease when and if it comes calling.