Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (October 17th 2011)

From Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA,
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro
under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione


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Strengthen your bones through gradual and safe conditioning

The human body adapts through use. And, in particular, bone density and thickness increase from repeated, controlled, moderate stress.

For instance, runners have denser leg bones than normal. Power lifters have greater overall skeletal strength. And seasoned citizens are advised to exercise, in part to keep bones from becoming weak as they age – to retard or prevent osteoporosis.

In karate, we want the bones that are used as weapons to be especially strong. The weapons used for striking, like hands, feet, and elbows, as well as blocking weapons such as forearms and legs. As Anko Itosu advised, “Turn your hands and feet into swords”.

Start slowly, under the supervision of an advanced Deshi, and develop gradually, with care given to avoid injury. Done properly over the years, you will help armor your body against attack.

The process of strengthening bone is by repeated striking of the bone against the Makiwara (striking post) and heavy bag, arm training, body conditioning, and the overall conditioning from Kata and other exercises. This is because repeated striking and stress cause micro fissures (hairline fractures), whose tiny gaps are then filled with osteoblasts that simultaneously draw calcium and phosphorus to the site as it heals; making the bone more dense and slightly thicker than it was before training. And therefore stronger than it was.


Figure 9. X-ray films of playing (right) and nonplaying (left) arms of a professional tennis player.
Note increased cortical area in the playing arm, which can result from greater cortical thickness and/or diameter. (Source: From Jones et al. (295).)†


This is similar to how modern resins, polymers, and welding fluxes repair broken items stronger than before, whereby a new break to the same item will likely occur anywhere but at the repaired site.

Therefore, martial artists who do a lot of Makiwara training, Atemi-waza (breaking techniques), and body conditioning exercises have stronger bones along the site of conditioning than normal. (In addition, this training inures one to pain by also conditioning the surrounding tissue and nerves, be that phenomenon neurological or psychological.)

Three related words of caution:
1) Children under the age of 18 should not do extensive conditioning of the body because their bones, joints, and connective tissues are not fully formed and it can cause permanent damage.
2) Those adults who cannot train a given body part should take that into account when strategizing for a fight. If you can’t train your fist against the Makiwara for instance because of an injury or because you’re a hand model, then you should develop elbows, kicking and other techniques to compensate for your lack of punching. Because if you don’t develop your fist as a weapon against the Makiwara, it will not be a wise choice in a real fight.
3) If you should injure yourself, you must give yourself adequate time to heal before resuming conditioning of that body part. Otherwise, you’ll just re-injure the same site and it may never heal properly if injured repeatedly.

So strengthen your bones through gradual and safe conditioning.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro
under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione

New York, NY • USA
kyoshibaker@aol.com

Related sources:
† http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cphy.cp080239/figures
http://www.helmberg.at/bone-metabolism.htm
http://bartleby.com/107/18.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolff%27s_law
http://www.squidoo.com/WhatIsMuayThai
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone