17. Adjunctive Physical Training

Leave it to Peter Gold to come up with a question light-years away from the trend of what we have been writing about. It is refreshing to step away from the philosophical/historical aspects to more concrete material, material where we can actually do something, NOW!!! Peter asks:

“What are some exercise programs you would recommend for karate-ka (beginning, intermediate, and advanced…) so that the karate-ka will be at a level of physical conditioning where he/she can practice martial arts at an optimum level?”

People who regularly practice karate develop robust physical condition. They exercise both sides of their bodies developing healthy muscles, bones and tendons. They get aerobic training and so help their hearts and blood vessels while preventing certain types of heart disease. They stretch the leg and back muscles in such a way as to improve and prevent low back strain. The sedentary beginner will notice improvement in physical health within a few months of beginning karate training, even if practice is only two times a week.

One hour intense karate training two times a week will improve physical condition but this training is really not sufficient to develop robust health and optimal physical condition. More is needed especially if a person’s work is spend by sitting in front of a desk.

In this essay I will discuss three types of physical training which are adjuncts to regular karate training; aerobic endurance training, flexibility training and strength training. There is nothing secret or even special about what I have to say. The same information and much more is available in general health textbooks and exercise training manuals. I will include some of the general health textbooks in the event that any of you want to read more. In addition, I have divided this rather long essay into parts which will be sent separately so that none of them is too long.

As I see the physical benefits of exercise they are numerous. First, certain types of exercise helps to prevent some diseases including heart disease. I will address this issue in the essay on aerobic training. Second, certain types of exercise increase flexibility and hence decrease the chances of injury to limbs and trunk. Most notable of these is hamstring stretches and the prevention of low back pain. I will discuss some of this in the flexibility essay. Third, strength exercise programs can help to improve karate power techniques and exercise certain muscle groups which prevent injuries to weaker muscle groups during exercise. The rotator cuff muscles are common examples. I will discuss this in the essay on strength training.

Please remember I am only answering Peter’s question. These essays are just for general information only. There is far more to adjunctive exercise programs in karate than what I can write in short essays. A whole volume on the subject would still be only a brief synopsis of what is known. So as you go along in these essays and find questions, shoot them off to me. There is a lot more out there to help you if you desire.


The following are some good books if you want to know more about exercise.

• Nutrition, Weight Control and Exercise by Frank I. Katch and William D. McArdle. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. This book which has had numerous editions is a wealth of information about aerobic exercise, stretching, and resistance training. It covers the relationship of weight control and nutrition and exercise. It has a lot of information and is for those of you who really want to know a lot about exercise. As a reference book it is very valuable in that it has tables of nutrition values in foods and caloric expenditures of many exercises and human activities like gardening and usework.

• Wellness; Choices for Health and Fitness by Donatelle, Snow-Harter and Wilcox. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Redwood City, California. This is a really good book on general concepts of healthy living. It includes much more than exercise (which it does the best of the next three books) such as the wellness diet, psychologic well-being, stress, addictive behavior as well as two discussions on sexually transmitted diseases and chronic diseases.

• Wellness; Concepts and Applications by Anspaugh, Hamrick and Rosato. Mosby Company, St. Louis. This is also a rather good book on wellness. It covers exercise almost as well as Donatelle but adds more on the impact of lifestyle on common conditions like diabetes, arthritis and the common cold. It also has a section on the current health-care market, something that is far more important than many people realize.—Fit and Well by Fahey, Insel and Roth. Mayfield Publishing, Mountain View, California. This is also a good book on exercise, nutrition and weight control with some information on stress and addictive behavior.

• The New Aerobics by Kenneth Cooper. This is a how-to book on aerobic exercise. It gives you the ability to look at tables with the distance you have run, bicycled, swam and the time it took you and then translate that into a number of points to determine how much aerobic benefit you are gaining in each session and during a week period. Although there are many who disagree that this program is the best way to aerobic health there are few that would state the program does not work.

The above list is far from comprehensive. It is just a few of my favorites related to exercise.