One thing many of us have in common at the moment is we’ve had time to think.
Even including those people who continued to work, the Covid crisis has spawned an opportunity for reflection, change and personal growth.
Time to question who we are/what we are, our emotional state, our life so far and what the future holds. How have our past personal and working lives contributed to, or detracted from, our present level of health and happiness?
The big question – are we happy with our life and if not, what would we change?
Mental health is more prevalent in our fragmented societies than ever before and according to MIND, one in four people in England is likely to suffer mental health problems. (For those interested in finding out more on mental health I’ve placed some links at the end of this
Our recent Karate Jutsu survey found three quarters (70%) of respondents acknowledged that
that lockdown had affected their mental health to some extent, with 1 in 5 acknowledging that they found it mentally draining or that it had affected their mental health considerably.
Most are less fit as a result of lockdown, with many complaining of weight gain, lethargy, and poor eating & drinking habits.
Interestingly, 50% of respondents to this survey did not train with us.
The effects of lockdown on the mind seem to have had a knock on effect on the body.
When respondents were asked what they would like to improve about their own emotional wellbeing and mental abilities, “calmer”, “more patient”, “less anxious”, “better memory” and “more focus/motivation” were frequently stated.
There’s no question that mental health problems ultimately affect physical health, but the concept that poor physical health can create poor mental health is less talked about.
Good physical health is an important foundation for good mental health. Many individuals with mental health problems tend to also have physical health problems. If poor physical health has led to poor mental health, addressing the issues in the body can be a very helpful step in improving issues of the mind.
So the next stage – choosing the right activity to suit your goals.
Doing or not doing any regular from of exercise is a conscious decision and organised exercise
doesn’t appeal to everyone. However, for those of us that do exercise regularly, we made a choice which exercise to do. It could be anything from walking and running to gym work or group classes or a specific sport.
The choices we make reflect something about our own personal needs and drives as well as the
actual feeling that exercise gives us, both during and afterwards. The choice of WHICH exercise
we choose may even be a predominantly subconscious one. The modern advertising world cleverly taps into the idea that some of our decision making is more subconscious than conscious.
Our decisions determine whether we gravitate to group or solo settings, inside or outside, high or low intensity/volume/duration, high or low skill factor, and how goal orientated the activity is or otherwise.
The question, which may appear a strange one, is did you consciously choose the activity/exercise you are doing now or did you somehow “fall into it” and if so, what kept you coming back? Were social factors like friends or family the reason?
Take the example of running. Some people just don’t like running, other people can’t run and some people can’t stop running! Exercise can be addictive too. “To run or not to run” – that is the question for some of us when deciding how to keep fit.
One way of categorising exercise, and even movement, from a “mind” point of view is by how much conscious effort is required. This is largely determined by the skill factor involved in the movement/exercise.
Walking is the best example of an exercise that has little skill involved and requires little conscious effort, being a repetitive, cyclical movement.
Humans love to “walk and talk”, courtesy of embedded auto pilots in the spinal cord known as Central Pattern Generators (CPGs), which keep the legs moving and help minimise the degree of conscious input needed from the brain.
In the same way an engine idles, the conscious brain or driver can then decide how to drive the car or how to walk – fast/slow, long/short rides, left/right.
While walking and talking, it’s the spinal cord/legs doing most of the “walking” with the conscious mind free to do the talking.
Thinking is tiring for humans with large brains requiring 20% of the body’s oxygen. Imagine if you had to think about every step you took, you’d be exhausted and wouldn’t get very far! Walking in pitch black gives a glimpse of what this could be like.
CPGs look after repetitive/cyclical movements and allow the conscious mind to “switch off”, something that actually creates more dissociation between mind and body. This partly explains the popularity of walking, running, cycling and swimming – repetitive, cyclical movements that can be done with minimal input from the conscious mind. A bit like dreaming, the conscious mind gets a rest and the subconscious mind at last gets a look in!
No criticism of these activities ( I do them too) is being made when I say they are almost “mind-less”. It’s both their strength and their weakness depending on your perspective and what you are looking for.
Even things like weight training can become too “routine” and suffer from a lack of variation, favouring auto pilot over conscious intention and familiar routines over challenging new ones. Some people prefer to give their minds downtime while exercising, approximately 40% according to our recent Karate Jutsu survey. However, 61% of people preferred their mind to be “switched on” or involved while exercising as opposed to not involved or “switched off.”
From birth, the rate of physical development of babies and young children is determined by the rate of brain and nervous system development. Bodies need brains.
Activities which involve a high skill factor and, by definition, a high level of conscious effort and concentration, nurture integration between body and mind. In fact, they depend on it.
Martial arts, yoga and dance all require absorption of the conscious mind with minimal input from the auto pilot CPG’s – the complete opposite, in a mental sense, to walking and running.
Another way our modern world constantly dissociates the mind and the body is by keeping the body under active while stuck in a chair with the mind overactive – commonly known as office work, and don’t forget students of all ages.
Dissociation of bodies from minds has become a silent disease, not fitting in a convenient pigeon hole as mental health problems “catch up” with physical ones across the world.
Exercising in groups, especially after lockdown, was a popular alternative to exercising alone or online with goal orientated activity and a structured progressive system also preferred over doing the “same old routine” by a whopping 75%.
Most of the parents in our survey said that home schooling their children was one of their biggest challenges and nearly all (86%) agreed that their children would benefit from taking part in a structured programme to develop their physical and social skills.
Karate training is precisely that and gives a fantastic workout for both body AND mind.
Karate, like yoga, has many different styles each with a different approach and emphasis.
The Karate Jutsu approach is about the growth of the individual within a group setting, with the mental aspect of training as important as the physical. The process of learning and refining physical skills is a journey of the mind as well as the body, and on that journey we discover things about ourselves, about our minds.
Karate Jutsu places a strong emphasis on precision of technique backed up by scientific principles. It is this attention to detail that naturally involves and integrates minds during the performance of a physical activity.
People tend to associate the mind with mental tasks and in that regard, are not appreciating the wider scope of the mind. Playing music or chess is a good example of how minds can be used in diverse ways – our “thinking” can take many forms.
Developing skills such as coordination and balance requiring high activity of the conscious mind. These skills and abilities transfer into other sports and other aspects of life.
Structured classes within a progressive, goal orientated system.
Consistency and effort rewarded with a grading system using different colour belts.
Develops optimal strength to flexibility ratio.
Excellent for hyper mobility with weak muscles or stiffness with strong muscles.
Postural symmetry/Spinal alignment with equal emphasis on left and right sides.
Therapeutic effects on back pain, posture and mild scoliosis.
Karate techniques taught with scientific principles.
Increased safety/less risk of injury.
Aerobic and anaerobic fitness
Improves heart and lung health and oxygenation of all the body’s cells.
Evenly balanced workout for both arms and legs with punching and kicking techniques.
Improves imbalances such as strong arms with weak legs or weak arms with strong legs.
A mental calmness following the release of tension and stimulation of the mind in new ways.
Very helpful for hyper activity in children.
Self confidence from improved structure and physical abilities including defending yourself.
Ideal for body conscious teenagers or victims of bullying.
Improves self discipline, self belief and self esteem.
Important for anyone with a negative history of self worth. Maybe get to know yourself better?
Develops determination and mental strength to push through challenges in training and in life.
Mental strength can be the X factor that makes the difference in difficult times and situations.
Our instructors have a good understanding of the body in terms of anatomy and biomechanics.
Important for new students to have confidence in their instructor’s ability to teach them.
Nurtures a respect for one’s self and for others.
Builds camaraderie and friendships.
Mental health problems respond to more physical activity just as physical health problems do. The brain lives inside the body and works better with good oxygenation.
Requiring a large input from the conscious mind, karate training offers a more “mind-full” experience than long duration, low intensity activities like walking and running. The addition of the skill factor and the martial factor may also make it a more meaningful one.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
B.Sc. (Hons) Sports Science
D.O., N.D. Osteopath and Naturopath
Tim Goullet has been training in Karate Jutsu Kai for 37 years under the expert instruction of founder and Chief Instructor Kaicho Bernard Creton 9th Dan. During this time, he has taught classes in Karate Jutsu to both adults and children in London and Surrey.
Tim is also a Sports Scientist and Osteopath and taught at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine for 20 years. This understanding of anatomy and biomechanics helps to maximise the benefits of training in Karate Jutsu.