Martial Arts Defend Against Aging/Article Reprint from

Posted on March 26, 2004, 3:51 a.m. in Aging
(HealthDayNews) -- Baby boomers bent on getting back into shape may want to give their love handles a karate chop: A new study finds the martial arts to be safe, effective exercise for 40- and 50-somethings.

"If you want to do something that's fun, different and good for self-defense -- and good for long-term self-defense against disease -- do the martial arts," says study author and physical therapist Dr. Peter Douris, of the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, N.Y.

His findings appear in the March 25 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

For most people, the decision to get fit usually means buying a gym membership or shelling out money for expensive home-exercise equipment. But what about alternative methods, such as practicing the martial arts?

In their study, Douris' team examined the overall fitness of 18 individuals between 40 and 60 years of age. Nine of the study participants had been practicing soo bahk do, a Korean martial art similar to karate or tae kwon do, for about three years. The other nine participants maintained a more or less "couch potato" lifestyle.

Overall, the soo bahk do devotees "were much more flexible, had more leg strength, less body fat, better aerobic conditioning and better balance" compared to the sedentary study subjects, Douris reports.

The martial art practitioners had an average 12 percent less body fat than the non-exercisers, the researchers report. They also seemed much stronger -- while sedentary types could only muster up 37 sit-ups in a row on average, the soo bahk do practitioners averaged 66 sit-ups before exhaustion set in. The martial arts group also displayed more than double the balancing power of non-exercisers and outperformed the sedentary types when it came to flexibility.

The study did not compare the benefits of the martial arts to that of gym workouts, running or other fitness options. However, Douris estimates that the average soo bahk do class raises students' metabolic level -- a measurement of changes in the metabolic rate -- to about a 10, a level equal to that of jogging.

And he believes that older individuals, especially women, needn't be put off by fears they will be injured trying out karate-like sports. "It's not like ju-jitsu or judo, where you're doing a lot of flips and throws," Douris explains. "There isn't that much of that in soo bahk do. You do fall down when you're 'free-sparring,' but there's people in the classes that are 60 years old -- they get right back up. There's plenty of women in these classes, too."

Dr. Douglas McKeag, a sports medicine expert at Indiana University in Indianapolis, believes the martial arts "are a perfectly acceptable way to boost fitness, certainly in middle age it makes a great deal of sense. The sport is capable of delivering the type of stimulus that the body needs to get in shape." But he cautions that, as with any new sport, beginners "have to come at it relatively slowly and intelligently."

Douris, 47, has been practicing soo bahk do and tae kwon do since he was a teenager and says he routinely beats competitors half his age in tournaments. He calls the sport "self-defense against aging."

In a second study, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that another one-on-one contact sport, wrestling, boosts the immune system of adolescent boys.

The researchers measured levels of immune system white blood cells in blood samples from wrestlers aged 14 to 18 years old, taken before and after a typical 90-minute wrestling bout.

Wrestling appears to produce "significant and robust" elevations in immune cells, indicative of a healthy rise in immune function, the researchers report.

The finding came as no surprise to McKeag. "The fact is that wrestling, as with any form of exercise, can keep a person healthy." Exercise stimulates all of the body's organs, he says, including the lungs, heart and other vital structures, creating "a much more efficient body."

Mind Body Balance

In many parts of the world, the balance between the mind and body allows a person to live a healthy life despite challenges like chronic pain.

For example, I participated in contact sports like football, basketball, karate and kick boxing, jumped off roofs and fallen off rigs, trucks and trailers when I worked in the farms in Kern County. I was told by my doctor that my arthritic pains were due to the repeated pounding my body took while jogging on pavement streets. Of course when I started this regimen in the mid-1970’s after reading the book The Joy of Running by Jim Fixx, above all things, to maintain good health.  Aside from a bout with gout, which might I add was the most painful moment of my life, my body and limbs held up pretty well. When I approached 50—years-old, the early morning stiffness I tolerated for the past 10 years transitioned: I felt aches, burns and pain in the joints. It wasn't an immediate onset, more like gradual, targeting my right instep, ankles, knees, lower back and right shoulder, worse on cold wet days, non-existent on warm mornings: What a mess, sometimes not able to move an inch because of the swelling and pain.

As a martial artist since 1972, I was fortunate enough to learn qigong and tai chi when I trained in the Bay Area and San Francisco Chinatown. It took me three years to learn and about a month to forget when I decided to resume karate, kickboxing and long distance running. Little did I realize that 30 years later, I’d resume the Chinese ancient exercises due to the pain. Who knew that when I was taking punishment in a football field weighing 126 lbs. that I’d be shuffling like an old man when I turned 50.

A child from the Woodstock Generation, I learned that synthetic substances weren’t good for the body. Even medical Marijuana was better (to some of you all “way better”) than some of the stuff we got at a pharmacy. I took the NSAIDs, aspirin, and acetaminophen only when the pain was too much to bear. As I researched Traditional Chinese Medicine, I learned that illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, and heart conditions were caused if not exacerbated by blockages in our meridians. These are cavities in our body where chi or our life’s forces or energy flows throughout our body. By opening up these blockages through energy cultivation exercises like tai chi and qigong, illnesses, at least the symptoms of these illnesses would be relieved (some claim to be cured – and that would be a topic in a future blog).

So fortunate I was to be trained in these techniques; the help of several books and the Internet, I was able to relearn the ancient movements that contributed to my being able to move about nearly pain free.

Due to a Medicare program that will be non-existent in the not so distant future, I resolved to work till I die with absolutely no plans of retiring and have to be healthy and strong enough to live many more years.

My dad as a farm laborer worked till he died; ergo, like father, like son.

As a former Bruce Lee look alike (well, I thought I did) turned cripple struggling to live in pain, I learned that once you’ve reached the PAIN STAGE, aside from taking strong pain medication and/or surgery, alternatives existed that could help. Come on, part of growing old is suffering some pain. We can’t go through life complaining about it. We have the ability and wherewithal to find ways of dealing with it and getting on with our lives, which I’m sure you have some pretty good living to do. So with that said, I learned that the basics like diet, exercise, rest and stress relief were key factors in living healthy if not healthier. Different types of low impact exercises (yoga, Pilates, ball room dancing, diet, life style changes, homeopathic and herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, mental and spiritual reflection, guided imagery – all are available, relatively inexpensive, and there to help.

My future articles will address some of these subjects.

Now this is from an old Baby Boomer Sensei whose only qualification is his years on this planet. I am not a doctor, spiritual leader, nor any other expert (well, I'm old and I think I’m pretty darn good at it): I am however a karate sensei and martial artist whose picked up some neat mind body balance ideas that could be useful. Just like the following statement by one of my idols:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” - Bruce Lee

Oops Wrong Apartment? Yeah Right.

by Alan Kandel

Imagine breaking into one’s own residence. Doing just that could have consequences to say the least. But breaking into someone else’s residence and believing the residence being broken into is actually theirs to break into, well, if this sounds “unbelievable,” believe it. If this scenario sounds extraordinary, it is that too! And, as for consequences, there is some that too?

What am I talking about?

According to a Fresno Bee account (you can read all about it right here:, under the subheading: “Intruder alert.”

Here’s what went down:

“Jannine Ramirez had just won a Fresno karate competition when she arrived at her east-central Fresno apartment early Sunday and found an intruder inside. She kicked down her bathroom door, then kicked the intruder through a shower door. She continued with an onslaught of kicks and punches until he was outside her apartment on the 2500 block of Maple Avenue.”

Of course, there was going to be reader reaction. Of course!

One commenter wrote: “Bravo to you, young lady!! You have just showed that idiot that it might not be safe to go where you don’t belong. i don’t believe for a minute the story about this guy not knowing he was in the wrong apt. Just know that what you did should be commended, not chastised!”

And, a second commenter wrote: “This woman is classically paranoid and decides the guy is harmful while he states, he lives there. Has he tried to lay a finger on mother or daughter? Has she tried anything but the power monger of many men that are equally domestically violent and abusive in our society?”

Differing reactionary perspectives, to be sure!

The Bee offered some additional explanation: “Detectives determined that Wilberto Zapata, 18, was drunk and really thought he had broken into his own apartment. He was cited for unlawful entry into a home and later released.”

Did the woman over-react or just do what was instinctive and probably what was most logical to her at the time? It was an interesting set of circumstances to say the least. What do you say?

Copyright Alan Kandel. November 4, 2012.

100 Year Old (Plus) Kung Fu Master Lu Zijian

“Knight of the Yangtze” Lu Zijian dies at the legendary age of 118

by Barry van Wyk

 (Article Reprint)

ON OCTOBER 22, 2012

The front page of the Chongqing Economic Times (重庆商报) today features a glowing obituaryto Lu Zijian (吕紫剑): Chinese martial arts expert, “Knight of the Yangtze”, “Swordsman of the North East”, “Three Time Knight”, fighter against Japanese imperialism, witness to three centuries and now dead at the freakishly old age of 118. Sounds like an awesome story of a modern Chinese hero, except that much of it might be pure fantasy.

Chongqing Economic Times does have a ripping yarn of an obituary, however. We are told that Lu was born all the way back in October 1893 in Yichang (宜昌市) in Hubei province, which means that he was two months older than Chairman Mao. After 118 years of fighting foreign bullies, training and teaching martial arts, and dabbling in being a doctor and painter, Lu finally gave up the ghost yesterday morning when he died in his sleep. Shortly after Lu passed away, journalists from the Chongqing Economic Times went to speak to his former disciples and family members to get an idea of the main events in Lu’s long life. The fantastic story that emerged from this goes something like the following:

1893: Born in Hubei province to a family famous for martial arts.

1900: At age seven, Lu “follows his mother” and starts training in martial arts.

190_: Lu becomes a close associate of Huo Yuanjia (霍元甲), the famous Chinese martial arts fighter who defeated foreign fighters in publicized fights.

1911: At 18, Lu arrives in Beijing and takes as his master a former bodyguard of the empress dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) named Ding Shirong (丁世荣). Lu starts studying the martial art form Xingyiquan (形意拳).

1912: Lu moves to E Mei Mountain (峨眉山) in Sichuan province to train in baguazhang (八卦掌).

1920: Lu takes part in martial arts competition in Nanjing and wins first prize.

1924: “Patriotic industrialist” Lu Zuofu (卢作孚) asks Lu to help him take back shipping rights on the Yangtze from imperial powers. Lu proceeds to fight and win a duel with a famous Japanese samurai. Henceforth Lu is known as the “Knight of the Yangtze.”

1945: Lu is appointed as martial arts instructor by KMT generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蒋介石).  A bodyguard of US General Marshall called Tom John challenges any Chinese to a fight. Lu takes up the offer to fight the 1.9 meter American and beats him using baguazhang.

1979: Lu Zijian is elected a member of the Chongqing Municipal People’s Political Consultative Conference. Lu starts to participate in martial arts competitions.

2002: Lu obtains the highest rank in the Chinese martial arts association.

So there you have it, a swashbuckling, ever-unbeaten, patriotic and long-living fighter, teacher, man of peace and member of government. It’s a great series of events but it is filled with inaccuracies and much of it is patently untrue. Firstly, when exactly did Lu die? Chongqing Economic Daily tells us that Lu died ‘yesterday’, which is 21 October 2012. This would have made Lu 119 years old, not 118. While the Chongqing Economic Daily keeps using the word ‘yesterday’, it is unclear when ‘yesterday’ actually was.

Secondly, there is evidence to suggest that Lu was nowhere near 119 when he died. The Chinese Wikipedia entry on Lu points to an entry in a collection of documents entitled Yichang City Literature and History Materials (宜昌市文史资料) from 1986 stating that Lu was in his seventies at the time, meaning that he was actually born sometime after 1907. In fact, this same collection of archival material on the city of Yichang (where Lu was from) has information that contradicts virtually every aspect of Lu’s resume for the first third of his life. For example, another entry from 1992 records that Lu stayed on in Yichang until the 1930s, when he was forced to flee to Sichuan because he beat up a bodyguard at a brothel. Lu then went on to establish a clinic in Chongqing in 1938. He thus never became a close associate of the legendary Huo Yuanjia (who died in 1910 and may not even have fought any foreigners), and never fought General Marshall’s bodyguard.

Yet what a tale. And how ever old he was, he has now passed on. Of that at least we can be sure.

Links and sources

Chongqing Economic Times: 踢过日本武馆跨过三世纪 长江大侠走了

新华山论剑: [转帖] 江湖大骗子==》吕紫剑

Wikipedia: 呂紫劍

图破壁的博客: 《宜昌市文史资料》三篇与吕紫剑有关的文章

Lu Zijian homepage