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Dash3
Dash3's picture

The karateka is one who truly lives, regardless of how long that may be...

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Iain, I know where you are coming from. How many studies have we seen in recent years saying bacon will eat your babies, or like most recently you could get arsenic poisoning from rice, when it turned out that in order to get measurably toxic effect you would have to eat large amounts of non-washed white rice - far more than anyone would. On and on it goes - this will give you cancer, that will give cancer, eat less fat, eat more fat. I don't blame you for being reflexively skeptical.

The claims you reporting are much smaller than the claims made in promotional video that sparked this discussion. If it’s just that overtraining and getting hit are bad for you then that seems pretty obvious. That’s not the claim first made though.

The video is somewhat sensational I agree, but the claims are substantiated, discussed in detail, examing the aviable evidence and research and done with respect to what we get up to in karate. It's NOT just overtraining and getting hit. For example, deep and long stances, and some other practises such as sanchin are examined. It's worth thinking about what they have to say from a medical point of view and the promotion of inflammation.

I strongly maintain that for the vast majority of people karate will increase their life expectancy. They are not “profoundly wrong” to think that at all. All the evidence would say they are right to think that. Including actual scientific studies into the effects of martial arts on health and longevity.   

I'm sorry Iain but the evidence is against this. You assert that karate will increase longevity, these claims were examined and proved not to be so. If you think that's wrong you would have to show where in the study they have gone wrong, or cite the studies where they contradict this one. You can say that a moderate amount of exercise (of which karate could be a component) improves longevity, and the book cites evidence for this. They are at pains to point that out because of the evidence that there is no further benefit to anything more than that. Dr Armstrong also waxes long and lyrical about the benefits of karate and martial arts, and the more philsopohical goal of quality of life versus longevity. His own style had the worst outcomes, so he is hardly approaching this in a biased way. For example, he points out that having a sense of purpose in old age is thought to be enormously important for longevity and suggests that Okinawan culture promotes this.

I never said they did. What they did claim was karate would cause the 150 karate polled to die younger that they would have done.

Iain, with respect you have said quite a few times in this thread that there are numerous sudies showing the benfits of exercise. eg:

A very strong claim that karate will shorten lifespan has been made. This is despite the well documented health benefits of exercise. 

We need to remember that they publically claimed that karate per se will cause the average karateka to die younger than they would have and that’s palpable nonsense when the effects of exercise are so well established.   

 

To be clear, they aren't suggesting that exercise shortens lifespan, but that is the connection you seem to be insisting on. Their hypothesis, supported by the evidence they give, is that it is chronic inflammation. You really should read the book  - the inflammation can be caused, promoted, or exacerbated by a mutlitude of factors including stuff we do in karate. Given the evidence they have collected and other peer reviewed work the view that karate as it has been practised until now has not only not promoted longevity, but actually reduced it, the claim is substantiated. Here is a list from the book citing data from Bianco et al reasearch paper 2007 giving the median years of age of death:

Karate - 72

Track and Field anaaeorbic - 73

Boxing - 73

Swimming, Ice hockey, Baseball, football (USA NFL), Wrstling, Basketball, Track and field aerobic, Tennis 74-79

Judo - 82

That’s not enough. Nowhere near enough. Any good medical study would need medical records to accurately account for these things. Anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be used. 

Iain, I gave you examples, not the limit of the discussion. This is a statstical analysis, individual variability is not of interest here. Someone further upthread pointed out that the smoking or drinking habits of any one individual in a sample group does not invalidate the finding, because unless there is a correlation with (say) smoking and karate (eg if there was some pre-training ritual involving smoking lots of tobacco), we would expect that smokers and drinkers would be prevalent in the rest of the population too.

They go on to explain exactly how smoking and drinking promotes inflammation on a biochemcial level and is by far the most interesting part of the book.

 If all that is really being claimed that we karate should not get hit full contact and over train because that can be bad for us, then who would argue with that. That’s not the claim publicly made though.

No that is NOT what is being claimed. What is being refuted is the notion that karate promotes longevity, there isn't the hard evidence to assert that, on the contrary, people practising karate in the group they studied (for which they give good reasons) died younger, much younger than the expected age at death, as given determined by the national statistical bodies of the countries in which they lived. Dr Johnson has no interest in suggesting no one do karate as 6th Dan practioner himself, but as medical practioner he has a duty to point out what we can do to mitigate. That's surely reasonable?

However, the unassailable truth is that all meaningful evidence from all reputable bodies tells us the claim they made in marketing the book has nothing to support it.

Karate will help you live longer. Any claims to the contrary are unsupportable

 I think that's a pretty hard call to make Iain. They cite "meaningful evidence" from "reputable bodies" and researchers which is actually supporting what they say. And at least from a medical point of view they have presented evidence that karate will NOT help you live longer. Really, to assert that you need to show evidence that contradicts this study, and the flaws need to be germaine to the premise - ie you can't really say that because you disagree with their statements on Funakoshi then the stats must be wrong. To reiterate, they are suggesting that chronic inflammation is the factor affecting longevity, not exercise. They suggest and reason that there are certain practises in karate that promote inflammation and suggest ways to either mitigate within karate itself, or reduce other factors so that the inflammation is either reduced or not made worse. Cheif amongst these strategies is diet. A full 1/3rd of the later part of book is devoted to that plus other interesting factors, such as martial status, bereavement, pressure at work etc.

Sorry to press you on this Iain, but if I could beg your indulgence just a little longer:

A lot of karate ka are people with a certain type of mindset. It is further encouraged, especially in some schools which can lead to a macho culture, or training execessively hard, or too much. Plus it's addictive - and the kick you get from hard training can diminish over time, requiring harder and harder training to get it. Additionally, regular "beastings" in the dojo combined with ego and that particular mind-set can lead people to train harder - there is that comeptitive element as well. I've seen it, I've experienced it, and as a result I have trashed my body and I have spent the last 3 years picking up the pieces. It's very hard work, frustrating, and has left a massive dent in my ego.

I need to add: I had an underlying (infalmmatory) condition that hastened and contributed to the breakdown. For me it was a wake up call but had I known about the issues discussed in this book it is possible I may have reined things in in time. Maybe not. But if someone like your very good self had pointed them out I might have paid more attention. Others may be training with chronic inflammation with attendent risks that are well supported by mutltiple studies. I raise the subject here because you, and people who visit this forum are some of the very best teachers and leaders in karate around the world and very much the "authority" often invoked (in our logical fallacies..heheh). So my own experience, very much consistent with the pitfalls discussed in the book, is why I am pressing for you and the karate community to consider the issues this book raises. This does NOT mean no karate, or no contact sparring, or complete limitation of certain practises AT ALL and the book does not propose that. It makes practical sensible suggestions about minor modifcations, avoidance of bad practise, and general awareness of the factors in the rest of your life that combined with karate could contribute to chronic inflammation which is what they hypothesise is the reason for shorten life spans in the karate practioners in their study.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Stevenson,

I fear we are talking past one another and I don’t want to just keep repeating what has been said in previous posts. I’ll therefore keep this brief and then bow out. I think there’s more than enough above for people to see why I have grave misgivings on this.

Stevenson wrote:
Iain, I know where you are coming from. How many studies have we seen in recent years saying bacon will eat your babies, or like most recently you could get arsenic poisoning from rice, when it turned out that in order to get measurably toxic effect you would have to eat large amounts of non-washed white rice - far more than anyone would. On and on it goes - this will give you cancer, that will give cancer, eat less fat, eat more fat. I don't blame you for being reflexively sceptical.

Remarkable few actually. What does happen is that the media is not good at reporting science and sensationalises papers.  John Oliver did a pretty good show on this (comedic and adult only in parts):

Stevenson wrote:
The video is somewhat sensational I agree, but the claims are substantiated …

No they are not. It’s not a valid scientific study. There are studies that have been done into the health benefits of martial art that conclude the exact opposite.

Stevenson wrote:
I'm sorry Iain but the evidence is against this.

Not it’s not. One book disagrees. The vast majority of the evidence would support the view that martial arts increase longevity.

Stevenson wrote:
You assert that karate will increase longevity …

I do. And that’s based on evidence. There is the aforementioned scientific study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine that was contradictory to this book. There are also innumerable studies on the health benefits of exercise generally.

Stevenson wrote:
…these claims were examined and proved not to be so.

No they have not. This one book stands along is a sea of evidence to the contrary. One book. That’s all. Their hypothesis is a million miles away from being “proved”.

Stevenson wrote:
If you think that's wrong you would have to show where in the study they have gone wrong, or cite the studies where they contradict this one.

No I don’t. The burden of proof is on those making the claim. If they did an actual paper that was submitted to peer review – i.e. reviewed by true experts in the field and not laymen like you and I – then I’d be way more open to it.

Stevenson wrote:
To be clear, they aren't suggesting that exercise shortens lifespan, but that is the connection you seem to be insisting on.

No I’m not. Please re-read the above post.  They said that the 150  people polled on their internet site were “profoundly wrong” to think karate would improve their longevity. That claim, I maintain is without foundation (now where near enough information to make that claim). I also think they are wrong in the way made much of the death dates of past masters (insufficient controls for lifestyles, family history, medical history, etc). I also know they have misrepresented the past masters in such a way that is falsely appears to lend support to their hypothesis (full quotations in context show it is contrary to the proposed hypothesis).

At no point in the thousands of words I have written on this have I stated that I think they are saying exercise per se will result in early death. It’s the claims about karate that I have problems with.

Stevenson wrote:
Given the evidence they have collected and other peer reviewed work the view that karate as it has been practised until now has not only not promoted longevity, but actually reduced it, the claim is substantiated.

It’s not. That’s not how science works. They can, quite rightly, point to practises also present within karate that have been shown to be harmful. What they can’t do is then extrapolate that to state with authority that karateka are profoundly wrong to think it will increase life expectancy. They are on the first rung of the scientific method … but their claims suggest they are at the top.

They’d need to show that the well-established benefits of the physical activity karate provides were outweighed by the potentially harmful practises. Using masters’ death dates is not even close. They’d need to follow the protocol of proper medical studies to make a medical claim. You’d need to do a proper study, with medical controls, that is submitted to peer review. Then and only then, can they make such claims.

Stevenson wrote:
Dr Johnson has no interest in suggesting no one do karate as 6th Dan practioner himself, but as medical practioner he has a duty to point out what we can do to mitigate. That's surely reasonable?

Pointing out that that there are potentially damaging practises that we’d all be better avoiding is entirely reasonable. No problem there. I do have a problem with making claims there has not been the studies to support.

Stevenson wrote:
They cite "meaningful evidence" from "reputable bodies" and researchers which is actually supporting what they say.

They have those things saying that karate will, on balance, reduce the longevity of karate? If they do, then that’s the scientific paper I’m looking for. I don’t think they have that though. They have their book. They have an initial hypothesis that has not been subject to the rest of the scientific method.

Stevenson wrote:
So my own experience, very much consistent with the pitfalls discussed in the book, is why I am pressing for you and the karate community to consider the issues this book raises.

If they had come out and said there are things in karate we really should not be doing, then I think lots of people would have been open and interested in what they had to say.

What they did, at least in their promotional video, was made a claim that on balance karate will take time off your lifespan. That’s a huge claim that they have not submitted to the procedures needed for such a claim to be seriously considered.

They also mispresented (twisted?) historical information to fit their hypothesis. So if the message is about potentially damaging practises, they should have stuck to that.

I’ll also point out you are still alive. You concern is not the same as their public claim. You can’t say, “karate took years off my life just as they said it would”. You’re not dead.

They did not make public claims about the damaging effects of certain karate practises on the body, they are taking about longevity.

If you and others want to point us toward papers that show we could improve the way we train; I’m sure we’d all be interested. I’d share that far and wide. Maybe some of the papers referenced in the book would be a good place to start.

As for the book itself … I know it’s made historical misrepresentations, and I have grave misgivings about what they publicly have claimed for the aforementioned reasons.

I’ve seen some of their other books, and they are good. As for this one, I’ve written way too much about it already.

Stevenson wrote:
It makes practical sensible suggestions about minor modifcations, avoidance of bad practise, and general awareness of the factors in the rest of your life that combined with karate could contribute to chronic inflammation which is what they hypothesise is the reason for shorten life spans in the karate practioners in their study.

It's not a study (in a scientific sense). It’s a book.

“Hypothesise” is the right word though. An hypothesis is the very first step of the scientific method. It’s an “educated guess” based on prior knowledge and observation. That’s what they have here. And that’s nowhere near enough to start throwing around words like “profoundly wrong”, “confirmed”, “substantiated” or “proved”. It’s wrong to do that. Scientifically wrong.

I’m out.

All the best,

Iain

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Hi Iain,

This is the last I'll say on this as well.

I’ll also point out you are still alive. You concern is not the same as their public claim. You can’t say, “karate took years off my life just as they said it would”. You’re not dead.

Their claim is that the effect of karate (and similar pursuits) is that it can promote chronic inflammation. This can lead to heart disease and cancer, as well as other auto-immune related problems.

Just two days ago, I had a basal-cell carcinoma removed, and I am currently having treatment on the NHS for an auto-immune problem stemming directly from a period of over-training in karate. I have seen a sports cardiologist and my heart is fine, but my CRP levels were elevated. C-Reactive Protein test is a senstive test for inflammation and something the authors of this book recommended as something karate practioners take every two years to see whether or not there is a sign of chronic inflammation.

No they are not. It’s not a valid scientific study. There are studies that have been done into the health benefits of martial art that conclude the exact opposite.

 It's as valid as any I have seen and I have seen a few. If by "valid" you mean "peer reviewed" I'll remind you of the point I made regarding the veracity of peer reviewed studies esp with regards to statsitics. The base claim - which they refute - is that karate promotes longevity. The criteria they used to determine the sample group is not unreasonable, they were selected for a lifetimes study of the subject, and on that basis, unless the data was completely flawed all the way throughout, something that would be highly unlikely, and on the basis that the results were so over-whelming, there is no evidence supporting the view that karate per se promotes longevity.

The vast majority of the evidence would support the view that martial arts increase longevity.

They report evidence, and argue, and explain the biochemical value in exercise. But not all exercise is karate and not all martial arts are karate. If there is a "vast majority" of evidence that karate promotes longevity, that is not conlfated with exercise, then where is it? Remember it is the CLAIM that karate promotes longevity that is being tested - it is NOT the null. The null should be that it makes no difference.

There is the aforementioned scientific study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine that was contradictory to this book. 

Iain here is an excerpt from the abstract of that paper:

 The final analysis included 28 papers (one general martial arts, one kung fu, sixteen tai chi, six judo, three karate, and one taekwondo). Among the disciplines of martial arts, tai chi was the most well-studied, followed by judo, karate, and taekwondo. Research topics varied widely, and included health, injuries, competition, morals and psychology, and herbal medicine. Most found positive effects on health. Tai chi is no-contact, low-impact, soft body and mindfulness exercise, which has been widely adopted by elderly people and proven to be a beneficial health promotion exercise. Research on judo, karate, and taekwondo mainly focused on improvements to athletes’ competitive abilities, rather than on health effects. We did not find any published randomized controlled trials or controlled clinical trials on aikido, kendo, sumo, kyudo, qi gong, or other disciplines. 

This paper is not looking at the health effects of karate and the scope of the study is much smaller and narrower than the one in our infernal book. It is in no way a contradiction to a very clear finding they make regarding longevity. The book cites other studies - peer reviewed studies - examining other sports and their effects on longevity. I'll say again, the book highlights issues we ought to think about, look into, and consider thoughtfully. My own experience has primed me to be more receptive, but we should all try to overcome our prejudices, biases, and beliefs, no matter how long held and cherished.

I'll close with a quote from the preface:

I did have some hesitation in putting this text together due to the fact it may suggest a significant negative component of studying the martial arts, something I have put multiple hours of effort into almost every day sine I began 30 years ago (I began a short stint in Judo which then lead to karate). However, if one notices a truth in an art that seeks enlightenment, be it good or bad, it should be discussed. Hopefully, the hypotheses as to why lifespan is reduced in karate-ka, will provide some clues allowing for better outcomes in the decades to come.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

OK, I could not help myself :-) Two points for the sake of clarity:

Point 1

Stevenson wrote:
Their claim is that the effect of karate (and similar pursuits) is that it can promote chronic inflammation. This can lead to heart disease and cancer, as well as other auto-immune related problems.

It can. But organisations like the World Health Organisation are clear:

1 - Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide.

2 - Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

3 - Physical activity has significant health benefits and contributes to prevent NCDs.

These are findings confirmed in innumerable studies. For their stated hypothesis to be right, we’d need to confirm that these well-established health benefits (benefits known to reduce heart disease and cancer) that karate provides, as a form of physical exercise, are overridden in the majority of karateka due to chronic inflammation. The list of old masters is not enough to do that. Nowhere near enough. It’s not enough to make claims that karate will reduce life span and that your average karateka is “profoundly wrong” to think karate will have a positive effect on their longevity.

Not all karateka are overtraining like it seems you did. I’d suggest that the vast majority don’t.

The burden of proof is on those making the claim. They can’t make the claim they have unless they can show that karateka, as a whole, are generally overtraining / getting damamged to the point where it will override the hugely beneficial effects of physical exercise. They have not done that.

We are, therefore, wiser to stick with what is established i.e. physical exercise promotes longevity. The claim that karate overrides that because of chronic inflation, etc is not even close to being scientifically established.

They don’t know what the masters in their table died of, thier lifestyles or their medical backgrounds. So it’s wrong to claim it was definately karate related. Maybe if all showed elevated levels in a CRP test they’d be able to make a stronger case … but they don’t have that information. There’s an unfounded assumption that’s happening and that’s not scientific.

I maintain the claim that karate will reduced the life expectancy for the majority of practitioners can’t be made on the basis they have. They undoubtedly have valid points about the harmful effects of impact and overtraining (science backs that up), but they have a long way to go before they are in a position to claim, with scientific authority, that these effects are so widespread in karateka to such a degree that the well-established benefits of exercise on longevity are overridden. This is a key point for me.

Point 2

Stevenson wrote:
I'll close with a quote from the preface:

I did have some hesitation in putting this text together due to the fact it may suggest a significant negative component of studying the martial arts, something I have put multiple hours of effort into almost every day since I began 30 years ago (I began a short stint in Judo which then lead to karate). However, if one notices a truth in an art that seeks enlightenment, be it good or bad, it should be discussed. Hopefully, the hypotheses as to why lifespan is reduced in karate-ka, will provide some clues allowing for better outcomes in the decades to come.

I welcome the words “suggest” (not "proves"), “clues” (not "facts") and, above all, “hypotheses”. They are correct it is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is not truth (but unfortunately they make that unscientific leap in the above paragraph). Not even close. It is the very first step in seeking truth. They need to move through the scientific method to better ascertain if their hypothesis has more validity. They’ve not done that, but they should if they are truly seeking truth. They should defiantly do it before asserting truth!

It is also incumbent upon we laymen to remain sceptical (in the truest sense of the word). The balance of evidence we have, at the moment, suggests that karate (as a form of physical exercise) will enhance longevity for the majority of its practitioners.

My objections to their claims – as discussed throughout the thread – is they have not been subject to the scientific method, and yet they made very strong claims in their public video (along with historical quotations I know to be false and out of context).

So now we have an hypotheis, and they should test it; as good science demands. If the millions of karateka worldwide are shortening their lifespan then that’s huge. So do proper controlled medical testing that looks at karateka across the board; that controls for medical history, family history and genetics; that could objectively measures CRP levels in karateka to see if it was dangerously elivated in the majority (to a level that would not only neutralise well the established health benefits associated with physical activity, but so strong as to actually take time off your life expectancy); that is submitted to peer review; and on and on. If that evidence supports their hypothesis, then, and only then, can they make claims about the longevity of karateka with the kind authority they have. Until then it is beholden on those seeking truth (us) to demand that those making claims (them) show them to be truthful through the best method we have for establishing truth i.e. the scientific method.

They have not followed the scientific method. They jumped from hypothesis to unsupportable assertions of fact. It’s bad science. So bad in fact that it’s not even wrong (to paraphrase physicist Wolfgang Pauli). To be shown wrong, they’d need to have done better science.

I hope this clarifies that I’m not saying they are wrong, nor am I seeking to prove them wrong (they’ve not proved themselves right). What I’m saying is that they have not done enough to give their claim any weight. And in the light of information that is infinitely stronger, it is prudent on me, as a seeker of truth, to believe that which has the best evidence to support it. I maintain that it would be unscientific and illogical for us to accepts as truth an hypothesis that has not been subject to the scientific method.

Stevenson wrote:
I'll say again, the book highlights issues we ought to think about, look into, and consider thoughtfully. My own experience has primed me to be more receptive, but we should all try to overcome our prejudices, biases, and beliefs, no matter how long held and cherished.

No doubting that that the practises shown to be harmful should be considered. I’m with you there. I’m also totally openminded and would not deny evidence that karate was shortening the lifespan of its participants. I don’t think we have anything close to that though. If they (or someone else) move on from the hypothesis stage, do good science, and come back with something that suggests all karateka are indeed shortening their lifespan, then I’m all ears. A book citing a hypothesis is not enough for me though … and that’s because it’s not enough for science.

As individuals, we need to make our own choices. I chose to make mine on what I feel is the strongest evidence.

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Hey Stevenson, all the best with your health.

Again, coincidence does not imply causality. A causal link between karate and chronic inflammation seems far fetched. Watering it down to "similar pursuits" makes it even more dubious. What sets "karate-like activity" apart from other forms of physical activity? Every hypertrophic training is connected to an inflammatory response by definition. But that isn't chronic.

There is no denying that certain modes of training are rather unhealthy. High-performance sport and healthy habits are mutually exclusive. But that's not karate. The claim that it shortens your lifespan promotes FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in my opinion. We should be more concerned with risk factors for chronic inflammation such as obesity, diet and chronic stress.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Alright, last go at trying to convince you all that the subject matter of the book is worth consideration. :)

Iain - you haven't read the book. I have done my best to characterise it but just isn't the same as examining a complex nuanced subject that has been researched by qualified medical practioners in their own words in a text, and you really don't have any justifiaction for claiming it is 'unscientific' without giving it due consideration. I entreat you to read the book and think about the implications.

Regarding Point 1 - again you conflate karate for exercise. You do not have to do karate to get exercise. You make a couple of subpoints:

- Benefits of exercise versus harm. This is discussed in the book. They dopn't merely look at the health benefits of exercise, but the type of exercise, how much exercise, and the qualitative value. For example, if you are running purely for health, you can calculate how much time your spend running against the stastistical likelihood of it maintinaing your health and longevity. But what if you enjoy running? Then such a calculation is moot. This feeds into the context of training for karate. It's more than just exercise. Please don't keep beating the drum about exercise - we know!  But it turns out the amount of exercise you need to achieve maximum benefit is actaully quite moderate. Beyond that, there is NO EVIDENCE that it will do you any more good, if longevity and health benefits are your goal. Read the book and look at evidence for yourself.

- The majority of karate ka don't train the way 8th Dan's selected did. This is your most salient point. I suspect that is right, and I also get the impression that their own experience of karate is the same kind of total dedication - training almost nightly. Within this point you say:

For their stated hypothesis to be right, we’d need to confirm that these well-established health benefits (benefits known to reduce heart disease and cancer) that karate provides, as a form of physical exercise, are overridden in the majority of karateka due to chronic inflammation.

Again, the reason you feel you should say this is because you haven't read the book. And again it conflates karate with exercise. They weigh up the merits of exercise against other factors - many other factors and they explain how exercise benefits - both the evidence and the mechanisms involved. But they distinguish between types of exercise, they show the evidence for the amount that lead to health benefits, and they are doing it by reviewing the peer-reviewed literature. But with regard to karate: They say that according to their own polls, most people believe that Karate will enhance longevity. We can debate whether that poll was large enough, but I think it is just an attempt confirm what they thought anecdotally. They tested this belief by selecting people who had done karate all their life - the "8th Dan" filter. They then used widely avaible statsitics about age expectancy at time of death, and they explain how they got that. Of the 118 in their list, only 5 made it past the expected age of death. Less than 5%. That's why they conclude that karate per se does not increase longevity - at least based on this evidence.

Pont 2:

I don't know how much you know about statsitics, and while I don't claim to be an expert by any means, I do know a bit. You would be exactly right to say that the sample size is too small, if the proportion of those not making it past their expected age of death was less than a quarter and/or within the range of the confidence interval. The confidence interval governs the range of varibility expected in the normal population or expected error range of the data. If the sample is too small then the confidence you can have that your result is not spurious, ie not just an artifact of the variation in the sample, is much weaker. Yet this is often the basis of a lot studies that get accepted uncritically especially by mainstream media, but also go through peer review.

So suppose your sample size was just 10. Only 1 made it past the age expected at death, lets say for argument sake that was 80. The rest all died at 70. That age may be too close to the range of variability (which you can calcualte and have to jusitify) from the normal population in order to have confidence in the result. But suppose the other 9 died at 50. The difference takes the range outside your expected range and you may suspect you have a signal. It's not conclusive because the sample size is too small. Within the overall population there will almost certainly be a some who will die at that age. But the chances they turn up in your sample aren't very good. It would be like throwing 6's on a dice 9 times in a row.

If the sample size is 10 times larger, then getting such an "anamlous" (from the null) result is the same order of magnitude larger. There are 2 things to look at - how far out of the expected range of variability, and the preponderance. You are trying to see if your dice is loaded. The results these guys collected would tell any statistician that they have something - it's a huge signal so the sample size does not need to be massive. The confidence that your results are not within the range of variation grows if the signal large in relation to your sample size. If the signal was smaller, you would need a larger sample, but if your signal is big you can get away with a smaller sample.

What it MIGHT simply tell you is something about people who get to be 8th Dan's, rather than the general karate population (your earlier point), simply to test the simplistic premise of karate promoting longevity, on the basis of this evidence you can say that it is not true. It still begs the question why.

So, they propose a hypothesis that it is chronic inflammation.

They have not followed the scientific method. They jumped from hypothesis to unsupportable assertions of fact. It’s bad science. So bad in fact that it’s not even wrong (to paraphrase physicist Wolfgang Pauli). To be shown wrong, they’d need to have done better science.

Iain, you are coming from the wrong side of the null. They HAVE followed the scientific method, it just hasn't given a result you "like", and without reading the book and critiquing it fairly you are in no position to judge whether they have or not. You are absolutely entitled to be skepitical, but complete incredulity is logically equivalent to complete credulity. They are coming at it from an EVIDENCE based approach. Evidence is not always conclusive but it allows you to say some things and not others. What you are characterising as assertions of fact are not - they are statements that can be made on the evidence available. That's how scientists talk and I know it can seem misleading, but they are often making statements in that way. I know quite a few and have had many discussions on various topics. These guys are pretty typical.

You haven't picked up on a point that you COULD challenge them on. Judo is one of the sports that has the BEST results for longevity (of any sport). I don't know a huge amount about judo but it looks pretty hard graft to me and being thrown on to a mat day in day out would surely count as 'impact'. And don't judo players get their fair share of sprains, bruises and inflammatory promoting injuries? For me that's a bit unresolved....and to be fair to the authors they do mention this.

My personal take on the quality of this text? A minus for the science, C plus for science communication. 

Not all karateka are overtraining like it seems you did. I’d suggest that the vast majority don’t.

Right, so this really where I want the conversation to go. What constitutes over-training? The book points to research on this but is light on detail. I have been in the care of some sports doctors ever since my problem flared up and I have my own perspective on this. Again Dr Johnson's review of chronic infllammation within the book is consistent with my own experience.

- Overtraining occurs when the body has not had the opportuntity to recover from the previous exertion.

- It is cumulative. The physiological effects of exercise are similar to stress, illness, and injury. As they add up over time the system can become 'maladaptive'. It particularly effects the immune system and is tied into the limbic system and autonomic and endocrinological responses.

My impression is that at each club I have trainend at I have encountered people who were over-training. I did not recgonise it even as a problem, and even though deep down I didn't think what I was doing was sustainable, the never-say-die attitude, and the competitiveness can drive people beyond what is actually good for their health. I just don't think there is sufficient awareness of overtraining, generally, let alone amongst karate ka.

It's mileage, not age. My past is littered with infections which have hospitalised me, injuries the same, full contact sports, extreme work pressure. I know guys who train a ridiculous amount, and I've seen it affect their moods and their health.

The book highlights certain practises that may not be conducive to good health, especially if we factor in other things that constitute wear on tear on our system. Think about the culture or mind set that often accompanies karate - that strive for perfection, pushing yourself, the older guy (it's usually guys) trying to keep up with young pups, or leading by example. I don't think we need to change much - just a shift in mind set, a re-ordering of prioirty. Come up a bit in stances esp if you have back trouble, don't push into exercises that 'feel wrong', periodize training, and my personal weakness - take care of yourself if you have an injury. Look after our main equipment and weapon - ie our body. No more regular beastings (though the odd one or two won't hurt). You might think that is self evident but I see far too much of the macho 'toughing it', and frankly indugle in it myself. I think a shift in attitude lead by the guys I know visit here would be beneficial to karate practioners to minimise the downsides and leave the upsides, such as the enormously fun form of exercise that is of obvious benefit.

P.S. Some links of research that are discussed in the book and are thought to be the mechanisms involved in the problems of chronic inflammation or maladaptive system responses. This research was independently discussed with the doctors who have been helping me:

https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=talk&utm_term=social-science

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/29/how-bad-parenting-c...

These talk about trauma, particularly in childhood, but the docs reckon the same mechanisms are involved with auto-immune/heart disease/cancer in later life if there is continuous stress - such as an overly onerous training regime, or a death in the family, martial breakup, stressful working conidtions etc etc. So the trauma can be spread out - it doesn't have to be a single event.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Stevenson wrote:
Alright, last go at trying to convince you all that the subject matter of the book is worth consideration. :)

I appreciate you trying … but (spoiler alert) you don’t succeed :-)

Hopefully, it still provides and interesting read for people though … although I fear it it’s just you and I talking to each other due to the age of the thread.

Stevenson wrote:
Iain - you haven't read the book.

I haven’t. That’s true. But there are books on all kind of subjects I would not bother reading if what the author / publisher presents as their opening gambit contains things I know to be false (i.e. falsely quoting / misrepresenting past masters to lend support to their argument) or are in other ways very questionable. There is nothing in these exchanges that has led me to rethink my initial impression.

Stevenson wrote:
Regarding Point 1 - again you conflate karate for exercise. You do not have to do karate to get exercise … Please don't keep beating the drum about exercise - we know!  But it turns out the amount of exercise you need to achieve maximum benefit is actually quite moderate. Beyond that, there is NO EVIDENCE that it will do you any more good, if longevity and health benefits are your goal.

You are missing the point I’m trying to make. Apologies if I’m being unclear. I keep trying to express it in different ways, but it seems I’m not able to communicate the point because your replies suggest you are misunderstanding me in the same way each time.

What I am saying is in no way contradictory to what you are saying. I hope it is clearer to other readers of the thread, and I’m not sure restating it again will take us anywhere. But in the briefest possible summary:

One of the main things we can do for our health is exercise. The positive effects are huge! Truly gigantic! Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide and it is a key risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. I accept there are other ways to exercise. I can also accept that beyond a certain point the effects of longevity may diminish (although the W.H.O. report I recently read said that “the protective effects are expected to continue at higher levels [of activity]” but there was not enough data to make firm conclusions overall). However, physical activity has been scientifically shown to increase longevity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes in a way that little else does (diet being the other main one).

Karate, which invariably means exercise / physical activity, will therefore increase longevity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. That’s not me “conflating” that’s me saying that karate invariably involves physically activity … and physical activity has been shown to be one of the key things needed to increase longevity.

For their hypothesis to stand a chance of being right, ALL of that well established good would have to be undone. ALL OF IT AND MORE.  If karate shortens lifespan, then it has to be worse for you than the baseline of inactivity. Sitting on the couch (physical inactivity) would have to be better for you than doing karate. There is no way that is right. All the science tells us otherwise.

Now it is undoubtedly possible to show that other physical activities can have greater positive benefits on longevity than karate does. That’s not the claim they made though. They publicly claimed karate (in the video at least) would shorten lifespan and people would be “profoundly wrong to think otherwise”.

Karate would need to be worse for you than inactivity (the baseline) for the book to be right and for the quizzed karateka to be “profoundly wrong”.

When the HUGE benefits of activity are so well established that is a massive claim … and it seems they have little to back it up with other than an initial hypothesis that has not been subject to the scientific method.

If you still feel I’m “beating the drum about exercise” then I hope the above clarifies that what I’m trying to communicate is that their claim demands karate is worse for you than doing nothing (because they say karate shortens lifespan, and we measure from the datum of inactivity when saying physically activity increases longevity).

Karate may not increase lifespan as much as other forms of exercise; but to shorten it, karate needs to be worse for you than inactivity. To me, with all the scientific evidence to the contrary, that claim should be viewed as total BS.

Stevenson wrote:
So, they propose a hypothesis that it is chronic inflammation.

Which would have to be so bad that it has a net negative effect on longevity, and it is able to overturn all of the HUGE benefits associated with physical activity for the majority of karateka. That chronic inflammation would need to be so damaging as to override the well-established benefits of physical activity.

According to the World Health Organisation, insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide and it is a key risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. Chronic inflammation is NOT one if the leading risk factors for these things.

According to the W.H.O. the leading global risks for mortality in the world are high blood pressure (responsible for 13% of deaths globally), tobacco use (9%), high blood glucose (6%), physical inactivity (6%), and overweight and obesity (5%).

Karate can help counter all of those and hence it will increase life-expectancy.  Chronic inflammation would need to be able to undo all of that for their claim that karate has a net negative effect on longevity to have legs.

To put it another way (and then I’m totally out of ways in which I can expresses the same idea):

1) Karate demands physical activity (you can’t do karate and be physically inactive; that impossible).

2) Karate can cause Chronic Inflammation

Therefore:

(Positive Effects of Physical Activity) – (Negative Effects of Chronic Inflammation) = X

If X has a positive value, then karate will give a net increase in life expectancy.

If X has a negative value, then karate will give a net decrease in life expectancy (authors claim).

The positive effects of physical activity on longevity are HUGE and strongly established. Physical inactivity is one of the top five risk factors for mortality according to the World Health Organisation.

Chronic Inflammation is not even in their list.

I am therefore confident in claiming that karate will give a net increase to life expectancy. And, based on W.H.O. info (which draws on innumerable scientific studies), people would be profoundly RIGHT to expect karate to have such an effect.

Stevenson wrote:
Iain, you are coming from the wrong side of the null. They HAVE followed the scientific method, it just hasn't given a result you "like" and without reading the book and critiquing it fairly you are in no position to judge whether they have or not. You are absolutely entitled to be skepitical, but complete incredulity is logically equivalent to complete credulity. They are coming at it from an EVIDENCE based approach. Evidence is not always conclusive but it allows you to say some things and not others.

They have not followed the scientific method. We seem to disagree on what the scientific methods is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

To me they are clearly at “hypothesis stage”. And therefore, it is scientifically wrong to make claims of things being “profoundly wrong” or “truth”.

I can say you are categorically wrong about my motives and thinking. We all have to die of something. Everything we do to increase longevity is, at best, nothing but a temporary stall. We are all going to die. If the evidence was clear karate was going to contribute to my death, then it would not bother me. It adds so much quality to my life, that any net negative effect on quantity would be totally OK with me. However, I know my objection is based on the concerns I have expressed; as I have expressed them. To second guess me and infer I have a hidden agenda strikes me as unfair.  My objections are as stated. I am indifferent to the claim; I do however believe the claim to be questionable for the reasons stated.

Stevenson wrote:
The book highlights certain practises that may not be conducive to good health, especially if we factor in other things that constitute wear on tear on our system …{snip}

Stevenson wrote:
{snip} ..I think a shift in attitude lead by the guys I know visit here would be beneficial to karate practioners to minimise the downsides and leave the upsides, such as the enormously fun form of exercise that is of obvious benefit.

Most of what you listed there is not karate per se, but bad practise (big difference there). None of that is controversial. I don’t think a shift in attitude is needed by those who visit here. I don’t see anyone claiming that training should result in unnecessary and avoidable harm. There’s a balance to be struck in developing real combative skill (which is stressful physically and mentally; and therefore, demands some of the training is). But it is possible to strike that balance in a way that appropriate to the student and that does not cause harm. You can cycle things and put safety measures in place. There’s no controversy there (probably nothing you could promote a book on either).

The authors would have won my ear if they had put out a book pointing out bad practises. They did not do that though. What they did was claim karate would shorten lifespan (i.e. result in a net decrease in life expectancy) for most karateka (“profoundly wrong” and all that). I’m not buying that in any way, shape or form because there is so much evidence against that … but it does not follow that I’m therefore saying training should be brutally unintelligent. No one is saying that. I hope you see the distinction there.

All the best,

Iain

PS I’m not sure how the linked studies relate to this thread. Both relate to childhood trauma and neither talk about chronic inflammation from karate or similar activities. No disagreement that stress and poor mental health can have a negative effect physical health though (been there!). I don’t see how that supports the claim that karate will have a net negative effect on the longevity of its practitioners though?

On a personal note, I do hope that your health issues are quickly resolved.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Cataphract wrote:
Hey Stevenson, all the best with your health. Again, coincidence does not imply causality. A causal link between karate and chronic inflammation seems far fetched. Watering it down to "similar pursuits" makes it even more dubious. What sets "karate-like activity" apart from other forms of physical activity? Every hypertrophic training is connected to an inflammatory response by definition. But that isn't chronic. There is no denying that certain modes of training are rather unhealthy. High-performance sport and healthy habits are mutually exclusive. But that's not karate. The claim that it shortens your lifespan promotes FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in my opinion. We should be more concerned with risk factors for chronic inflammation such as obesity, diet and chronic stress.

Hi Cataphract,

Again, I think read the book and make your judgement. It is not 'far-fetched' if you examine the evidence, and I don't see how it follows that examining similar pursuits 'waters it down'. You are right, exercise on it's own is not necessarily promoting chronic inflammation - in fact it's value is that can make the system adapt to inflammatory influences thus giving some protection. But too much exercise, according to research reviewed in the book, as well as my own experience, can cause the system to become 'maladaptive'. According to my docs, your body is a complex interplay between hormones, nervous system, biochemstry, genetics, and emotion. So chronic stress or trauma can literally change your gene expression, and the metabolic pathways that govern your system. Your system becomes confused as to what is healthy response to damage or infection, and start to attack itself, or change its response to certain stimulii. An extreme and acute example of this is Rheumatic fever, where the immune system fights an infection, but the antibodies it produces happen to closely match cells in your heart, which it then attacks.

I agree, broadly speaking society in general has more of a problem with obesity than it does over-training or chronic inflammation induced by over-training, but does that mean we shouldn't also throw a light on anorexia and bolemia? For those who are training in karate I see OT as a danger - an easy one to avoid if we all just made people a little more aware of it. I wasn't aware, and now I got problems. I fight these problems with the same bloody-mindedness that got me into them, but I resent having them pretty strongly. People 'get into karate' and it can take over, and they lose a bit of balance. We don't have any kind of formal or given karate-ish direction about managing our bodies with respect to where we are in life. We all line up and do the same things. The focus is much more on pushing beyond what we think we are capable of than listening to our bodies. I believe we need to pass through the eye of the needle at some stage in our training, but how much do we focus on keeping the weapon (our bodies) in good order for the rest of the time compared to how many burpies we can bang out?

I don't know the answer to any of this. I just think it ought to be part of our compass.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Stevenson wrote:
I don't know the answer to any of this. I just think it ought to be part of our compass.

I’d agree, but sensationally claiming karate will take time off your life is not the way to get it on the table. Serve anything with a big side helping of bullshit and people don’t want to eat it :-)

Stevenson wrote:
I agree, broadly speaking society in general has more of a problem with obesity than it does over-training or chronic inflammation induced by over-training, but does that mean we shouldn't also throw a light on anorexia and bolemia?

Again, I agree. But we should not infer that chronic inflammation reduces life expectance more than inactivity does. That’s false. It therefore follows it is false that karate will take time off life expectancy. Concerns about chronic inflammation should be discussed, but let’s keep it in proportion and understand the real risks.  The authors of this book seem to have blown it out of all proportion and it’s at odds with a huge scientific consensus.

All the best,

Iain

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

For their hypothesis to be stand a chance of being right, ALL of that well established good would have to be undone. ALL OF IT AND MORE.  If karate shortens lifespan, then it has to be worse for you than the baseline of inactivity. Sitting on the couch (physical inactivity) would have to be better for you than doing karate. There is no way that is right. All the science tells us otherwise.

I do understand what you are saying, but the problem is what you are saying is that not doing karate = not doing exercise. They EXPLICITLY look at cost benefit of exercise, exercise type and health. They also discuss the qualitative issue - it doesn't matter if the exercise you do takes longer than the gain you get (stasiticially speaking) if what you are doing is enjoyable.

Also, as point of interest than in actual fact, and according to the evidence that they have, being a couch potato is actually likely to be less harmful than over-training. But these guys are CLEARLY CLEARLY not talking about not exercising.

The HUGE benefits of exercise is NOT in any doubt. As I have repeatedly said, they don't just SAY this, they present EVIDENCE in the form of peer-reviewed studies. They EXPLAIN the mechanisms.

But this isn't a binary choice between karate and being a couch potato.

So the cost benefit of karate? It seems that in terms of longevity, cost out weighs the benefits, based on the evidence they have. If instead of karate you walked 3 miles 3 times a week (off the top of my head this was in the book) you would get all the benefits of exercise in terms of longevity. Unless it bored you to death which I am afraid would be what would happen to me.

What the issue is that there are components of karate that may impact longevity, undoing the value of the exercise. You may not see this. I have trained with you extensively and it is never anything less than a privelege and a joy. We are tired out but never smashed. If it was always like that I doubt that it would be a problem. But I do see, and have personally engaged in the more 'full on' approach. It's addictive, an extremely seductive and difficult horse to get off, and on top of the horrendous things I have done to my body over the years it's caused me problems, entirely consistent with hypotheses presented in the book. And I see it quite a bit, it's like a subculture and we all congratualte ourselves and compete on how many push-ups, sit-ups, kilometres, kettle bells - the whole competitive thing...I used to think it was fun and a laugh while inwardly being a bit worried it wasn't sustainable. Turns out it wasn't. I think MAYBE we need to promote a different mind-set and culture - if there is any basis to the chronic inflammation theory. Esp for guys as they get a bit older and have the miles under their belt.

PS I’m not sure how the linked studies relate to this thread. Both relate to childhood trauma and neither talk about chronic inflammation from karate or similar activities.

Ok, so the linked studies describe research, the mechanism for which is related to how we think chronic inflammation can affect the system. It is discussed in the book...this was the part of the book that I personally found most interesting.

Whether you believe chronic inflammation has anything to do with longevity or not, there is quite a bit research into this. The 3 areas it affects is as we have discussed - cancer/heart disease/autoimmune problems. None of the research is conclusive, but there is progress.

Karate, chronic inflammation, exercise, stress - they aren't the ONLY factors that are in play. Genetics, envirnonment, infections, also gut biota all have card in the deck. You need the ducks to line up in order to kick off trouble. But given time, perhaps a lifetime engaging in inflammation promoting activies, they can end up lining up.

They have not followed the scientific method. We seem to disagree on what the scientific methods is

I am really sorry Iain, but based on this wikipedia article and my own familiarity with the scientific method, they most certainly have. You really can't judge without reading the book. You claim they make unsubstantiated arguments, but you won't actually look at their arguments that form the basis of that substantiation.

That said, it's not A* science. And it's not especially well communicated. Never-the-less, I've read quite a few scientific papers and texts in my time and it's pretty fine, I've seen a lot worse that is regarded as acceptable. I think you have to guard against your own bias's. I can't say that my reaction wouldn't have been much different had my own experience made me more receptive.

WRT my own health - thanks for the kind words. I'm fine. I'm on it 100%, taking it seriously, but not worrying about it too much. It'll take plenty of management I'd rather not bother with but otherwise things could be much worse. I just think I have a responsibility to flag up the pitfalls of over-enthusiasm relative to mindful health managment, now that this has happenned.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

 

Stevenson wrote:
I do understand what you are saying, but the problem is what you are saying is that not doing karate = not doing exercise.

I really am not saying that. That’s not what I’m saying at all.

You therefore don’t understand what I’m saying, and as I said in the previous post:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
You are missing the point I’m trying to make. Apologies if I’m being unclear. I keep trying to express it in different ways, but it seems I’m not able to communicate the point because your replies suggest you are misunderstanding me in the same way each time.

It’s the net increase / loss that I’m trying to communicate, and that there would need to be a net loss for them to be right.

I have tried every way I can think of to make clear that I’m not saying what you keep saying I am.

There is little point repeating it again.

Hopefully others will get it if they read through the thread and it will be helpful to them in making up their own mind.

We can be sure you and I have definitely made up our minds on the matter through :-)

Stevenson wrote:
I think you have to guard against your own bias's.

Again … I can only repeat what I said before:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I can say you are categorically wrong about my motives and thinking. We all have to die of something. Everything we do to increase longevity is, at best, nothing but a temporary stall. We are all going to die. If the evidence was clear karate was going to contribute to my death, then it would not bother me. It adds so much quality to my life, that any net negative effect on quantity would be totally OK with me. However, I know my objection is based on the concerns I have expressed; as I have expressed them. To second guess me and infer I have a hidden agenda strikes me as unfair.  My objections are as stated. I am indifferent to the claim; I do however believe the claim to be questionable for the reasons stated.

As I say, I'm sure there is more than enough here for people to read through when it comes to making up thier own minds.

Thanks for the discussion.

All the best,

Iain

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

I’d agree, but sensationally claiming karate will take time off your life is not the way to get it on the table. Serve anything with a big side helping of bullshit and people don’t want to eat it :-)

I agree with that, but just scientifically, you have evidence and the evidence says what it says. It's probably the 'communciation' part. But sensationalism sadly serves to highlight an issue. How else would you get people to confront their bias's?

Again, I agree. But we should not infer that chronic inflammation reduces life expectance more than inactivity does. That’s false. It therefore follows it is false that karate will take time off life expectancy. Concerns about chronic inflammation should be discussed, but let’s keep it in proportion and understand the real risks.  The authors of this book seem to have blown it out of all proportion and it’s at odds with a huge scientific consensus.

They infer based on peer reviewed research which they have reviewed. But again they don't suggest inacitivity as an alternative. Here is the research they are talking about in the page from the book I scanned: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18191751

The graph is just an illustration (it's qualitative not quantative for illustrative purposes only - I don't think they would be anticipating the level of disagreement we seem to be having) based on results from the paper they are discussing:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/t624lm1t2iv7d51/Adapted%20from%20Redak%20et%20...

Note the text underneath. Note they say 'again'. They are at pains to point out the value of exercise and discuss it in great deal in comparison to obesity and a sendantry lifestyle. But the abstract of the Radak et al makes for pretty interesting reading....

Marc
Marc's picture

Hi Stevenson and Iain,

this thread is an interesting read. Thank you for being enthusiastic about the subject and for keeping it to the point.

So the authors compiled some interesting stuff and then advertised their book with a perhaps over-generalised claim. That might be bad or good marketing, anyway don't judge a book by its cover.

I haven't read the book (yet), so I can't take any position on the actual content of the book.

Anyway, we know that today karate is practiced in many different ways by millions of people with different training goals, with focus on different aspects of the art, and with different training methods. It just doesn't make sense to say that karate as such does this or that. We need to be more specific than that.

Now, I would like to learn more about what the authors actually suggest to be beneficial and adverse training methods, movements, techniques or whatever.

Such specific points could help us improve our training. So let's talk about those.

Stevenson wrote:
Right, so this really where I want the conversation to go. What constitutes over-training? The book points to research on this but is light on detail.

Do they give a kind of definition? How much is too much?

Stevenson wrote:
The book highlights certain practises that may not be conducive to good health, especially if we factor in other things that constitute wear on tear on our system.

Interesting. Which certain practices do the highlight?

Stevenson wrote:
Think about the culture or mind set that often accompanies karate - that strive for perfection, pushing yourself, the older guy (it's usually guys) trying to keep up with young pups, or leading by example.

In my experience that kind of culture is not specific to karate at all. Although I'm sure that there are dojos in which we can see this, I have met many many more karateka who strive to improve compared to where they themselves came from and not compared to their fellow karateka. I would think that a comparative culture could easily be found in other kind of sports as well, like football, weight liftig, track and field, or gymnastics.

Did the authors find that most of the 118 masters they looked at where trying to keep up with the young?

I have no doubt, however, that they where seeking perfection.

Stevenson wrote:
For those who are training in karate I see OT [over-training] as a danger - an easy one to avoid if we all just made people a little more aware of it.

Again, that would apply to all kinds of physical activity, not just karate. People want to get in shape, they start some running, want visible results quickly, over-do it, and injure themeselves. It's why we should seek qualified instruction.

Stevenson wrote:
People 'get into karate' and it can take over, and they lose a bit of balance. We don't have any kind of formal or given karate-ish direction about managing our bodies with respect to where we are in life. We all line up and do the same things. The focus is much more on pushing beyond what we think we are capable of than listening to our bodies. [...] how much do we focus on keeping the weapon (our bodies) in good order for the rest of the time compared to how many burpies we can bang out?

As an instructor I do care about the health of my students. I take their age and capabilities into account and try to offer them alternatives when an exercise/movement might not be appropriate for them. I certainly ask them to listen when their bodies complain. This is especially important if you have students who did karate when they were young, then paused for 20 years, and now return and try to measure up to their self-image from back in the good days.

On a side note: If you do burpies until you get sick, please don't blame karate, because burpies are not specifically karate. They're general workout.

Stevenson wrote:
If instead of karate you walked 3 miles 3 times a week (off the top of my head this was in the book) you would get all the benefits of exercise in terms of longevity. Unless it bored you to death which I am afraid would be what would happen to me.

That seems to be true, a quite low level of exercise is enough to significantly increase your chances of staying healthy - as opposed to no exercise.

Being bored to death is a common side effect, especially in young children who might acompany you ("go for a walk? booooring!"). ;-)

Stevenson wrote:
I have trained with you extensively and it is never anything less than a privelege and a joy. We are tired out but never smashed. If it was always like that I doubt that it would be a problem.

That's why I say, that the generalisation is a problem. There are different ways to train. Some can have adverse effects, others do not.

Stevenson wrote:
But I do see, and have personally engaged in the more 'full on' approach. It's addictive, an extremely seductive and difficult horse to get off [...]. [...] it's like a subculture and we all congratualte ourselves and compete on how many push-ups, sit-ups, kilometres, kettle bells - the whole competitive thing...

So to clarify: What you describe is a kind of addiction and not knowing when or being able to stop. The addiction is one of competing with like-minded fellows in workout exercises.

Again, this does not seem to me to be specific to karate. It could happen in any sport.

Out of interest: Have you ever competed on how many kata repetitions, how perfect a technique, how well to stay calm under pressure?

Stevenson wrote:
I think MAYBE we need to promote a different mind-set and culture - if there is any basis to the chronic inflammation theory. Esp for guys as they get a bit older and have the miles under their belt.

OK, let's do it.

But can you please give some examples of specific things in karate training that might cause chronic inflammation? Because if we know specifics, we can go about changing them, and find better ways to reach the goal the specific things were designed for.

All the best,

take care everybody,

Marc  

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Hi Marc,

Sorry to take a while to get back to you on this - life getting in the way.

Do they give a kind of definition? How much is too much?

 Well, they discuss a lot of research but I don't feel they come to clear conclusions. Overtraining may be defined as a training load that excedes the bodies capacity to recover. The key thing with exercise is actually the recovery. Exercise actually damages you - deliberately. It's good for you because the body rebuilds itself slightly stronger in order to cope with the same challenge. So your fitness (and the health benefits) come from the recovery. The problem is, the recovery time is dependent on a lot factors; genetics, age, sex, diet, stress, injury. It transpires, according to the people treating me but only touched on in the book, that illness, past training loads, and injury can have a cumulative affect on the system, what they call "micro traumas". The body starts to rewire in order protect itself. You go in to catabolisis and it shuts down certain metabolic pathways sooner, more cortisol is produced and so forth putting you in highly stressed state. There is "Pavlovian" response (their words) to exercise where the body reponds inapproriately to the stimulus. And in fact the therapy is more exercise - ironically. But vastly more measured, carefully done, in order to retrain the body's limbic, autoimmune, and autonomic nervous system to react correctly. I'm glad to say kata is going to be important here.

Interesting. Which certain practices do the highlight?

Well, impact drills such as ude tanren, and deep stances. My take is that they consider there are a number of factors that combine; primarily diet, training with injuries, and impact. They characterise what I would consider to be an a very high training load too - talking about nightly training which seems excessive. So the criticism that this may not really apply to the majority of people training in karate is justified. Except for my experience....

In my experience that kind of culture is not specific to karate at all. Although I'm sure that there are dojos in which we can see this, I have met many many more karateka who strive to improve compared to where they themselves came from and not compared to their fellow karateka. I would think that a comparative culture could easily be found in other kind of sports as well, like football, weight liftig, track and field, or gymnastics.

Did the authors find that most of the 118 masters they looked at where trying to keep up with the young?

 Not a question they considered. Much of the book was trying to work out what the differences between karate and other sports could be promoting inflamation. They tried to compare dietary habits of different groups within their sample set to see if that had an influence, but once you start to break down a sample set that size the results will be inconclusive, never-the-less it might point to something. Okinawans did "less bad" than westerners. They looked at other sports; for example they made the point with boxing, people retire from full contact competitive training relatively young. And they tried to find other sports where longevity is effected by chronic inflammation promoting practices - which they did. Karate, at least based on the stats that they had, came out pretty badly.

My point re mindset, is that it is very much a factor in over-training, and it's the combination with other aspects of karate. Karate isn't necessarily periodic - we often train at what might turn out to be too high an intensity (I don't know - this is the discussion!) because there isn't a season where we train hard for, compete, and then wind down. Speaking personally, part of my problem was I didn't recognize the problem for what it was. At the back of my mind I suspected what I was doing was unsustainable, but I didn't appreciate that my past training loads, illnesses and injuries, could have a bearing on how much training load I could tolerate. The "never-give-up" mindset is a great mindset for karate, but not that great if your body is trying to tell you are over doing it. Part of my thinking was either I was soft phyiscally or soft mentally, either way I needed to train through it.

People want to get in shape, they start some running, want visible results quickly, over-do it, and injure themeselves. It's why we should seek qualified instruction.

Agreed. Something like this was pointed up in the book. 

But can you please give some examples of specific things in karate training that might cause chronic inflammation? Because if we know specifics, we can go about changing them, and find better ways to reach the goal the specific things were designed for.

 I touched on examples earlier. But I don't profess to know the answers - hence this discussion. It's something we should think about. The book posed the hypothesis that chronic inflammation was why karate practioners in their study died younger than they should have. They point to training with injuries as particularly problematic, but stresses on the back and knees from stance work and conditioning. Later in the book they discuss other cumulative effects in other parts of your life - most especially diet, that combined with physically stressful training as being likely to be just as important. So they propose limiting the effect of those as well.

My personal view is that we should consider our history when planning how we train. Years and years of contact sport, along with some serious injuries and illnesses, and some very stressful periods of work combined to wear out my system and body. According to the docs, to top it all off, if you get a very specific type of glandular fever, which I did - they can tell in my blood, you are much more likely to have the problems I developed. So my thinking is our long term training ought to be governed by the mindset of training for wellness, not for fitness. Everyone wants to be fit (well those I know who do karate) but that is a different mindset than wellness. Your training should promote your health, not hoping that fitness will automatically make you healthy. It turns out not to be necessarily so.

And mindfulness....I can't tell you how many Docs keep banging on about that to me. I understand the mechanisms they think are in play, but on the face of it doesn't seem a convincing approach. But karate can absolutely be used for mindfulness - especially kata. Yet another use for it. The most common athlete with my problem are marathon runners (according to the physiologist helping me) and they prescribe tai chi. It's the right level of exercise and incorporates mindfulness. So I have kata ready at hand to help. The idea is to train without the intensity - thinking about my body, balance, breathing, all the zen master yoda stuff. It's the cortisol inducing high impact training (which I very mcuh love) that I need reduce.

And finally, I firmly believe that in karate we should pass through the eye of the needle - face our fears and dissappointments and times where we are laid bare. But once that's done, or once a certain amount of heavy lifting in character has happened maybe our training priorities should change - maintenance not renovation. It might seem obvious and sensible but it doesn't really happen, and I am personally struggling hard to shift the mindset I have had with me for years.

Marc
Marc's picture

Stevenson wrote:

Marc wrote:
Do they give a kind of definition? How much is too much?

Overtraining may be defined as a training load that excedes the bodies capacity to recover.

That sounds like a useful definition.

Stevenson wrote:
The problem is, the recovery time is dependent on a lot factors; genetics, age, sex, diet, stress, injury.

Again, that seems quite plausible.

Stevenson wrote:
It transpires, according to the people treating me but only touched on in the book, that illness, past training loads, and injury can have a cumulative affect on the system, what they call "micro traumas". The body starts to rewire in order protect itself. You go in to catabolisis and it shuts down certain metabolic pathways sooner, more cortisol is produced and so forth putting you in highly stressed state. There is "Pavlovian" response (their words) to exercise where the body reponds inapproriately to the stimulus. And in fact the therapy is more exercise - ironically. But vastly more measured, carefully done, in order to retrain the body's limbic, autoimmune, and autonomic nervous system to react correctly. I'm glad to say kata is going to be important here.

Marc wrote:
Interesting. Which certain practices do the highlight?

Well, impact drills such as ude tanren, and deep stances.

Thanks for naming two specific practices. These we can discuss.

I think we'll find them easy to avoid or replace by more healthy training methods if we consider their training goals.

Stevenson wrote:
My take is that they consider there are a number of factors that combine; primarily diet, training with injuries, and impact.

I get how impact might be considered specific to karate, if people train that way. It is important to find ways to train without injuring each other. And there are ways to train safely.

But diet and training with injuries seem like more common place. Please correct me if these are found to be specific to karate practitioners.

Stevenson wrote:
They characterise what I would consider to be an a very high training load too - talking about nightly training which seems excessive. So the criticism that this may not really apply to the majority of people training in karate is justified.

Funakoshi in "Karate-Do - My Way of Life" tells us that Azato had him do "A little more, a little more, so often a little more, until the sweat poured and I was ready to drop: it was his way of telling me there was still something to be learned, to be mastered." They trained after sundown and deep into the night, so they might have gotton too little sleep on a regular basis. All in all this does sound a bit like overtraining. But then again, Funakoshi felt quite healthy most of his long life.

Do we have any evidence that the 118 masters studied did overtrain?

Well, at least Itosu in his letter from 1908 stated in paragraph 3:

"Invest energy in your training for about 1 or 2 hours everyday. If one does that over a period of 3 or 4 years then one's physique will change [compared] to a normal person."

That sounds like nightly training. But in paragraph 9 he also suggests to keep your training to a healthy level:

"Considering karate training: If one strains one's body by excessive eagerness the Ki (気) will end up in the surface/upper part [of the body], and the face and the eyes will redden. This could easily damage one's health. Caution is strongly adviced in this matter."

So the problem of overtraining was obviously known then, and he suggested to keep it at a healthy level.

btw: The translation is mine. Iain has another (probably better) one at: https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/10-precepts-anko-itosu

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
In my experience that kind of culture is not specific to karate at all. Although I'm sure that there are dojos in which we can see this, I have met many many more karateka who strive to improve compared to where they themselves came from and not compared to their fellow karateka. I would think that a comparative culture could easily be found in other kind of sports as well, like football, weight liftig, track and field, or gymnastics.

Did the authors find that most of the 118 masters they looked at where trying to keep up with the young?

Not a question they considered.

OK, so we're left with guessing with regard to competitive culture.

Stevenson wrote:
Much of the book was trying to work out what the differences between karate and other sports could be promoting inflamation.

Did they come to a conclusion?

Stevenson wrote:
They tried to compare dietary habits of different groups within their sample set to see if that had an influence, but once you start to break down a sample set that size the results will be inconclusive, never-the-less it might point to something. Okinawans did "less bad" than westerners.

In what respect?

Stevenson wrote:
They looked at other sports; for example they made the point with boxing, people retire from full contact competitive training relatively young.

Which says what about the lifespan of the common karate practioner?

Stevenson wrote:
And they tried to find other sports where longevity is effected by chronic inflammation promoting practices - which they did.

Which sports and which practices were these?

Stevenson wrote:
Karate, at least based on the stats that they had, came out pretty badly.

Why specifically? So far the only karate-specific bad practices we learned of are training with impact and deep stances. That can't be all of it, can it?

Stevenson wrote:
My point re mindset, is that it is very much a factor in over-training, and it's the combination with other aspects of karate. Karate isn't necessarily periodic - we often train at what might turn out to be too high an intensity (I don't know - this is the discussion!) because there isn't a season where we train hard for, compete, and then wind down.

Well, karate sports athletes certainly do train that way. They have competitions at well known dates and they better train in a way that brings them to top form on time, and allows recuperation afterwards.

But only very few karate practitioners actually participate in competitions. In Germany over 90something percent do not. For the vast majority karate is a leisure activity. I'm certain that there are those who do not listen to their bodies and overdo it. But most don't have the time to train every night.

Nevertheless, you need qualified instructors who make sure your karate exercises are healthy and safe. So it needs to be shown that the lion share of instructors teach karate in a way that damages your health in the long run, because they promote risky exercises that are specific to karate all over the world.

To claim this, we should identify the specific methods or exercises that are adverse to our health.

So far we have impact and deep stances.

Stevenson wrote:
Speaking personally, part of my problem was I didn't recognize the problem for what it was. At the back of my mind I suspected what I was doing was unsustainable, but I didn't appreciate that my past training loads, illnesses and injuries, could have a bearing on how much training load I could tolerate. The "never-give-up" mindset is a great mindset for karate, but not that great if your body is trying to tell you are over doing it. Part of my thinking was either I was soft phyiscally or soft mentally, either way I needed to train through it.

I'm glad to read that you can now see this kind of training as what it is: A lot of fun while one can do it, but detrimental in the long run.

The "never-give-up" mindset is in fact great for karate, if you think about self-defence situations of predatory violence like rape or abduction. Do not let yourself be fooled into believing that the threat will hurt you less if you give in. You need to fight until you can escape. There is no way to get out of the situation unscathed.

Training however, should be live protecting and life enhancing (as Iain always says). We can train "never-give-up" in a playful way with safety precautions. But we should make sure to stop before it has negative effects.

In our modern world it is very likely we never have to face physical violence in our life. And that's a good thing. Why then should we hurt ourselves night by night voluntarily?

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
People want to get in shape, they start some running, want visible results quickly, over-do it, and injure themeselves. It's why we should seek qualified instruction.

Agreed. Something like this was pointed up in the book.

I think qualified instruction is key. We need instructors who know healthy training methods and who care about their students. A good instructor will slow you down when you start to over-do it.

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
But can you please give some examples of specific things in karate training that might cause chronic inflammation? Because if we know specifics, we can go about changing them, and find better ways to reach the goal the specific things were designed for.

I touched on examples earlier. But I don't profess to know the answers - hence this discussion. It's something we should think about.

It is. That's why I'd like to see more examples from the book.

Stevenson wrote:
The book posed the hypothesis that chronic inflammation was why karate practioners in their study died younger than they should have. They point to training with injuries as particularly problematic,

That makes sense, but doesn't seem specific to karate as such. A footballer who trains with injuries will also face problems.

Stevenson wrote:
but stresses on the back and knees from stance work and conditioning.

Stance work and conditioning might be specific to karate. We mentioned it above, and this is something to discuss.

Stevenson wrote:
Later in the book they discuss other cumulative effects in other parts of your life - most especially diet, that combined with physically stressful training as being likely to be just as important. So they propose limiting the effect of those as well.

To sum up the karate specific things you listed, we have:

- impact (conditioning exercises and maybe sparring)

- stance work (especially deep stances)

And we have the more general things:

- over-training (to much damage for the body to recover)

- diet

- life style

Do they give any more examples of what kind of karate specific exercise or methods lead to chronic inflammation?

Stevenson wrote:
My personal view is that we should consider our history when planning how we train. Years and years of contact sport, along with some serious injuries and illnesses, and some very stressful periods of work combined to wear out my system and body. According to the docs, to top it all off, if you get a very specific type of glandular fever, which I did - they can tell in my blood, you are much more likely to have the problems I developed. So my thinking is our long term training ought to be governed by the mindset of training for wellness, not for fitness. Everyone wants to be fit (well those I know who do karate) but that is a different mindset than wellness. Your training should promote your health, not hoping that fitness will automatically make you healthy. It turns out not to be necessarily so.

I agree. As an instructor, my first priority is that my students leave class at least as healthy as they entered it. (But then again, we do not train for competition.)

Stevenson wrote:
And mindfulness....I can't tell you how many Docs keep banging on about that to me. I understand the mechanisms they think are in play, but on the face of it doesn't seem a convincing approach. But karate can absolutely be used for mindfulness - especially kata. Yet another use for it. The most common athlete with my problem are marathon runners (according to the physiologist helping me) and they prescribe tai chi. It's the right level of exercise and incorporates mindfulness. So I have kata ready at hand to help. The idea is to train without the intensity - thinking about my body, balance, breathing, all the zen master yoda stuff. It's the cortisol inducing high impact training (which I very mcuh love) that I need reduce.

And finally, I firmly believe that in karate we should pass through the eye of the needle - face our fears and dissappointments and times where we are laid bare. But once that's done, or once a certain amount of heavy lifting in character has happened maybe our training priorities should change - maintenance not renovation. It might seem obvious and sensible but it doesn't really happen, and I am personally struggling hard to shift the mindset I have had with me for years.

So there seems to be something inside yourself that has you push the limits, despite your knowing better. Is that what you are saying?

Take care,

Marc

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

OK, so we're left with guessing with regard to competitive culture.

Marc, the competitive "culture" and mindset is discussed in the book, but it is also my own experience. Not just "competitive" in the sense of tournaments but competitive in the sense of training hard to impress your mates. Honestly, I thought this was great! Someone proudly reporting on their box jumps, kettlebells and squat numbers in a certain time I found inspiring to do the same. Everyone gives each other a push and you set yourself targets to match or better...it's terrific. But we are competing on fitness not wellness. The problem occurs when we combine it with other factors - most particualrly injury, or past severe illness. Add to that diet and day to day stress, possibly not enough sleep. Mix in some genetics and insufficient recovery time and over time it can lead to problems.

Did they come to a conclusion?.... But diet and training with injuries seem like more common place. Please correct me if these are found to be specific to karate practitioners.......(okinawans did less bad) In what respect?

The book tested the perceived wisdom that karate promotes longevity. They selected a sample that most likely had been doing karate most of their lives and found to their surprise that the opposite was true. They then formed a hypothesis to explain why that was - chronic inflammation. They then tried to see if there was any sign in the sample that would support that. For example, social habits, dietary habits. They suggest the reason why the Okinawans did less bad in terms of longevity is because of their general diet compared to western diet. They tried to see if there was a sign that Okinawans who emigrated to western societies did less well (in terms of longevity), but this breaks the sample down into ever smaller pieces so you can have much less confidence in the conclusions. But it does seem to be a factor. Okinawan 8th Dans, although dying much sooner than the general Okinawan population didn't die as soon as Westerners, or Okinawans who lived in western cultures. It's suggestive - nothing more.

Which says what about the lifespan of the common karate practioner? ...Which sports and which practices were these? ....Why specifically? ....So far the only karate-specific bad practices we learned of are training with impact and deep stances. That can't be all of it, can it?

It's at this point that I honestly suggest you read the book - I'm practically having to reconsitute it here. The lead author is a PhD and lifelong karate practioner. They discuss at length the physiology and biology of some practises they believe MAY be leading to chronic inflammation that is strongly IMPLICATED in shortened lifespans, doing so to make sense of their findings of their 8th Dan sample. It certainly may be the case that the AVERAGE karate ka is not doing anything that goes beyond what would be life-enhancing and health promoting, but amongst the whole of the karate community there is definitely a subset that are probably harming themselves unknowingly.

One practise they spend a chapter on is sanchin kata. It's very interesting and they just barely hint that there may be a way that is not harmful and a way that might be harmful for health. Karate guys - awfully careful about treading on karate toes.

The "never-give-up" mindset is in fact great for karate, if you think about self-defence situations of predatory violence like rape or abduction. Do not let yourself be fooled into believing that the threat will hurt you less if you give in. You need to fight until you can escape. There is no way to get out of the situation unscathed.

Training however, should be live protecting and life enhancing (as Iain always says). We can train "never-give-up" in a playful way with safety precautions. But we should make sure to stop before it has negative effects.

Bingo. And I would say that at some stage of your karate journey one SHOULD be physically really tested. I do think you need to learn take and give a hit, you should fight in a competitive setting and have to find your limit and push through it - never - ever - ever - give up. But maybe, this is something we can learn and know that we can, but our general training should be much softer and careful - mindful - with just the odd bit of rough and tumble to keep us on our toes. It's telling people like myself to slow it down, focus on health not fitness. Don't be so proud of your bruises and injuries, worn like badges of honour. Channel the enthusiasm. Don't think it's easy to tell people like myself stuff like that. We don't want to hear it. You might need to show them a book like this to get them to reflect.

Do they give any more examples of what kind of karate specific exercise or methods lead to chronic inflammation?

You have covered it there pretty well, but they give detailed descriptions of the biochemcial processes going on. You know how there are different karate styles with differing levels of physical demands. They also studied which karate styles did worse (for longeivty) than others and the author discovered his own style was the worst. He then reflects on his own training over the years and the amount of injuries he has carried. There are blood tests you can take to see if you have higher than normal levels of inflamation and he suggests that dedicated practioners who might be at risk have them every two years. 

I have to stress that it was clear from what they were saying it is the accumulation of factors - not one simple single thing - that contributes to inflammation. The problem I see is reconciling the "warriors spirit" with the "gardeners spirit" - the fighter with the (self)nurturer. 

Here is a link that was suggested to me by one of my clinicians recently. The subject is about pain, but it goes deeper than that...it's about neuroplaciticity. Over time we can become over-sensitised by exposing ourselves to chronic threat. It's the same mechanisms involved that are discussed in the book, in the trauma video I posted recently, and with the chronic inlfammation hypothesis.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

So there seems to be something inside yourself that has you push the limits, despite your knowing better. Is that what you are saying?

It does appear to be. I do seem to be drawn to quite strenuous and high impact activities. But honestly, I never thought I was THAT good at them or devoted to bring on problems. Certainly with over-training, I never felt like at any stage I passed through cage-fighter fitness ready to rip the head off an antelope after running it down singled-handedly wearing nothing more than a wry smile and splash of brut. I trained hard yes, but it's the mileage and injuries and some pretty severe infections that caught up with me. And as my performance started to drop, it just made think I needed to train harder - that I was simply not fit enough. I didn't think it was sustainable, but became bloody-minded at the lack of progress - after all other people train hard. And then my body gave way.

Marc
Marc's picture

Stevenson wrote:

Marc wrote:
OK, so we're left with guessing with regard to competitive culture.

Marc, the competitive "culture" and mindset is discussed in the book, but it is also my own experience. Not just "competitive" in the sense of tournaments but competitive in the sense of training hard to impress your mates.

So they found evidence that all or most of the 118 masters they studied where competitive in their karate training? (I mean not tournaments but being better/stronger/faster/more competent than their fellow martial artists or even testing it in bouts.)

I see that you can relate to the sort of overtraining they describe in the book, but for the sake of understanding the book and the evidence they present, it is important to separate the study of the specific cohort from your/our personal experience. Personal experience or anecdotes do neither validate nor invalidate the study. They are important in and of themselves but not in relation to the findings of the study.

Stevenson wrote:
Honestly, I thought this was great! Someone proudly reporting on their box jumps, kettlebells and squat numbers in a certain time I found inspiring to do the same. Everyone gives each other a push and you set yourself targets to match or better...it's terrific. But we are competing on fitness not wellness. The problem occurs when we combine it with other factors - most particualrly injury, or past severe illness. Add to that diet and day to day stress, possibly not enough sleep. Mix in some genetics and insufficient recovery time and over time it can lead to problems.

No doubt, that combination will lead to problems sooner or later.

Still, we were talking about issues that are specific to karate, but I can't see anything karate-specific in this list.

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
Did they come to a conclusion?.... But diet and training with injuries seem like more common place. Please correct me if these are found to be specific to karate practitioners.......(okinawans did less bad) In what respect?

The book tested the perceived wisdom that karate promotes longevity. They selected a sample that most likely had been doing karate most of their lives and found to their surprise that the opposite was true. They then formed a hypothesis to explain why that was - chronic inflammation. They then tried to see if there was any sign in the sample that would support that. For example, social habits, dietary habits. They suggest the reason why the Okinawans did less bad in terms of longevity is because of their general diet compared to western diet. They tried to see if there was a sign that Okinawans who emigrated to western societies did less well (in terms of longevity), but this breaks the sample down into ever smaller pieces so you can have much less confidence in the conclusions. But it does seem to be a factor. Okinawan 8th Dans, although dying much sooner than the general Okinawan population didn't die as soon as Westerners, or Okinawans who lived in western cultures. It's suggestive - nothing more.

Ah, I understand, thanks for the clarification. So a good diet can remedy bad training effects a little bit. Not specific to karate but nevertheless an interesting find.

That leaves us with the point about training with injuries. I'd still say that that is not specific to karate. Please correct me if the authors found it to be specific to karate practitioners.

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
Which says what about the lifespan of the common karate practioner? ...Which sports and which practices were these? ....Why specifically? ....So far the only karate-specific bad practices we learned of are training with impact and deep stances. That can't be all of it, can it?

It's at this point that I honestly suggest you read the book - I'm practically having to reconsitute it here. The lead author is a PhD and lifelong karate practioner. They discuss at length the physiology and biology of some practises they believe MAY be leading to chronic inflammation that is strongly IMPLICATED in shortened lifespans, doing so to make sense of their findings of their 8th Dan sample. It certainly may be the case that the AVERAGE karate ka is not doing anything that goes beyond what would be life-enhancing and health promoting, but amongst the whole of the karate community there is definitely a subset that are probably harming themselves unknowingly.

One practise they spend a chapter on is sanchin kata. It's very interesting and they just barely hint that there may be a way that is not harmful and a way that might be harmful for health. Karate guys - awfully careful about treading on karate toes.

I'm sorry, I'm really not asking you to reproduce all the details from the book. ;-)

But I do think that it is important that we home in on specific exercises or training methods that may be bad for us. Only then can we try and improve them or avoid them all together.

I am hoping that the book might give us something to work with - something that I can compare my own training against.

So far we've learned from your recounts that they found three karate-specific things that are unfavourable.

1) Training with impact

2) Deep stances

3) Sanchin kata (the way that might be harmful, not the unharmful way)

Now I can go and check my own training: Do I promote or involve myself in training with impact? (I go for safety first so very little impact, check!) Do I teach/practice deep stances? (I do not, check!) Do I teach/practice Sanchin kata? (I do not, check!)

Can we draw any other harmful exercises or training methods from the book?

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
The "never-give-up" mindset is in fact great for karate, if you think about self-defence situations of predatory violence like rape or abduction. Do not let yourself be fooled into believing that the threat will hurt you less if you give in. You need to fight until you can escape. There is no way to get out of the situation unscathed.

Training however, should be live protecting and life enhancing (as Iain always says). We can train "never-give-up" in a playful way with safety precautions. But we should make sure to stop before it has negative effects.

Bingo. And I would say that at some stage of your karate journey one SHOULD be physically really tested.

If by that you mean that we should know our individual physical limits, then I might agree. I need to know what I am capable of doing and what I can't do.

The same is true for mental limits. Do think that at some stage one should be mentally really tested? If yes, then how? If no, then why physically but not mentally?

Stevenson wrote:
I do think you need to learn take and give a hit,

Give a hit? Certainly! We can train that on focus mitts and kicking shields.

Take a hit? Well, a) what kind of hit are we talking here, and b) how would you suggest we learn that?

Stevenson wrote:
you should fight in a competitive setting and have to find your limit and push through it - never - ever - ever - give up.

There is nothing wrong with fighting in a competitive setting. That can be a lot of fun, if there are rules and safety measures.

I disagree, however, with the "never - ever - ever - give up" part (in a competitive setting). I think the option of giving up must be in the rules as a safety measure. If I realise that my opponent is way better than me, and pushing myself any further would impact my health, I should concede that I lost, stop, and congratulate the winner on his superior skills. Losing in a competition should be neither painful nor shameful. And in case I should be the one with the superior skills, then I also don't want my opponent to ruin their health.

Real-life self-defence is another matter, of course. Because it is about survival and not at all about competition.

In competition I want to stay on top as long as I can, but if I can't I may be humble and surrender.

In self-defence I want to leave as quick as I can, but if I can't I must get on top as quick as I can, and never surrender.

Stevenson wrote:
But maybe, this is something we can learn and know that we can, but our general training should be much softer and careful - mindful - with just the odd bit of rough and tumble to keep us on our toes. It's telling people like myself to slow it down, focus on health not fitness. Don't be so proud of your bruises and injuries, worn like badges of honour. Channel the enthusiasm. Don't think it's easy to tell people like myself stuff like that. We don't want to hear it. You might need to show them a book like this to get them to reflect.

I see. So the book has already served a good purpose. :)

Stevenson wrote:
Marc wrote:
Do they give any more examples of what kind of karate specific exercise or methods lead to chronic inflammation?

You have covered it there pretty well,

Really? Training with impact, deep stances and Sanchin kata? These are the only karate-specific issues?

The rest, like over-training, diet, or life-style, is pretty common to any other kind of physical activity or life in general. It is important, of course, but does not warrant the claim that "karate shortens your lifespan".

Stevenson wrote:
but they give detailed descriptions of the biochemcial processes going on.

OK, that might be pretty interesting.

Stevenson wrote:
You know how there are different karate styles with differing levels of physical demands.

I don't, actually. I know how there are different training regimes with different levels of physical demands. But I would think that styles would have much less impact on physical demand than individual instructors.

Stevenson wrote:
They also studied which karate styles did worse (for longeivty) than others and the author discovered his own style was the worst. He then reflects on his own training over the years and the amount of injuries he has carried. There are blood tests you can take to see if you have higher than normal levels of inflamation and he suggests that dedicated practioners who might be at risk have them every two years. I have to stress that it was clear from what they were saying it is the accumulation of factors - not one simple single thing - that contributes to inflammation.

Fair enough. Sounds like good advice if you are in a risk group.

Stevenson wrote:
The problem I see is reconciling the "warriors spirit" with the "gardeners spirit" - the fighter with the (self)nurturer.

I see what you mean by that.

Stevenson wrote:
Here is a link that was suggested to me by one of my clinicians recently. The subject is about pain, but it goes deeper than that...it's about neuroplaciticity. Over time we can become over-sensitised by exposing ourselves to chronic threat. It's the same mechanisms involved that are discussed in the book, in the trauma video I posted recently, and with the chronic inlfammation hypothesis.

Thanks, I really enjoyed the video, although I don't quite see what it has to do with the 118 karate masters who (on average) died earlier than their non-karate contemporaries.

Take care,

Marc  

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Hi Marc,

Thanks for the interest and the intelligent discussion. As it happens, Jesse Enkamp has an interesting post that touches on one the main problems envountered by Karate practioners as described in the book:

http://www.karatebyjesse.com/karate-joint-pain-osteoarthritis/

Plus some mitigation advice.

Thanks, I really enjoyed the video, although I don't quite see what it has to do with the 118 karate masters who (on average) died earlier than their non-karate contemporaries.

 The video illuminates one of the factors involved in causing chronic inflammation - it's the way the body tries to protect itself. Over time, the body can become over-sensitised to certain stimulii, which in turn alters metabolic processes right down to the way genes express themselves (epigenetics). What's great about the video is it provides a very clear explanation of how that works in terms of stimulli and response. The body is highly adapative, but it can go wrong if it gets it's signals mixed up. This video explains how that can happen in simple terms.

I have a colleague who is having severe back problems - an area covered by Dr Johnson. Yet, he has classes to teach and his own training he wants to maintain. It's very hard to tell a class to go deep in their stances without doing it yourself, and as a result his back is not getting the rest it needs. This in turn leads to chronic inflammation often controlled by NSAID (Non-steriodal antiinflammatory drugs) which with long-term use can have their own side effects. As inflammation goes from acute to chronic, the body becomes sensitised as it tries to protect itself. You mental state with regards to the pain and how that influences your body chemistry further is also important - your limbic system can and does influence your immune system.

Really? Training with impact, deep stances and Sanchin kata? These are the only karate-specific issues?

It's important to look at all enviornmental factors that might promote inflammation. In comparing sports that had similar demands in terms of impact on the body they found similar results with similar sports. So it's not just karate all though karate came out the worst. The thinking is that it's what we do in karate that leads to CHRONIC problems....ie we persist in doing them. It's likely impact, twisting and stress on knees and joints, and training with low grade injury. Where sports do similar they do worse, but it seems that karate does this worst of all.

So the thing maybe is not to focus so much on the WHAT we do in karate but the HOW and how to limit and reduce inflammation. It's how we approach training with injury, how much time we spend doing things that promote an inflammatory response. It also means we should mitigate outside of karate so as not to compound, and it also means that the mindset might need to be altered (ie the effect described in the last video). Working around our injuries rather than pushing through them, balancing our training so we have time to recover, and pushing ourselves to be healthy rather than tough. I think we have to make our own judgement on how best to manage that, and just keep in mind the mileage, injuries and mindset, rather than list specific techniques we might 'worry' are harmful.

There is nothing wrong with fighting in a competitive setting. That can be a lot of fun, if there are rules and safety measures.

I disagree, however, with the "never - ever - ever - give up" part (in a competitive setting).

What I meant is that at some stage in your karate journey you should be thoroughly tested. I mean take a hit from someone who can hit hard, and give one. On your body, to theirs. Full contact. And at some point you should be pushed to exhaustion and find out what it takes to come back from there. But, I now think it shouldn't become a habit - a habitual way of testing someone. Again I refer you to the previous video regarding the process of becoming hyper sensitive to stimuli. It can have the opposite effect of making you stronger as your body tries to protect itself from getting to that point again. But I do think the 'never-give-up' spirit has to be cultivated, but it has to be in the context of the age and mileage of the student. It can't be one size fits all. 

I am hoping that the book might give us something to work with - something that I can compare my own training against.

I don't think it is as clear as that - that's too specific. Dr Johnson clearly trains in a very hard style, and he shows lots of x-rays and photos of his injuries, to illustrate that being constantly injured or not fully recovered from training can cause chronic inflammation. I know several people who I think are at risk from elements of the issues that are outlined in the book doing a less hard style. I think you have to look at your own training and your own body and self-evaluate and then ask whether or not you are being mindful of it in your training. If your knees are perfect, back is never sore, your hips don't hurt, your feet don't cramp, your elbows are fine, your knuckles and hands don't hurt or crack, and you have plenty of energy when you train then you probably don't have anything to worry about.

If you do have some of these problems, or your students do, you probably need to take measures to mitigate. Double down on low inflammation diet, focus on recovery and mindfulness, reduce the amount of impact work, maybe spend more time on running through bunkai or kata perhaps. I dunno. But Jesse makes some damn good points in his post I linked to.

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture
Stevenson wrote:

These talk about trauma, particularly in childhood, but the docs reckon the same mechanisms are involved with auto-immune/heart disease/cancer in later life if there is continuous stress - such as an overly onerous training regime, or a death in the family, martial breakup, stressful working conidtions etc etc. So the trauma can be spread out - it doesn't have to be a single event.

Speaking of childhood trauma. The test group were far from population average

    1. Funakoshi - born prematurely
      Mabuni - weak constitution as a child
      Kyan - sickly child
      Egami - weak child
      ...
  • Karate to this day is seen by parents as a program to boost the health and development of frail children.

    I've seen people wreak havoc on their metabolism in competitive water sports and undermine their health in MMA at an alarming rate. I also know a handful of karate fanatics, but you could do much worse imo. If overtraining is the problem then they should call it overtraining.

    Iain Abernethy
    Iain Abernethy's picture

    Cataphract wrote:
    If overtraining is the problem then they should call it overtraining.

    I think that’s where they really messed up for me. Their headline claim was “karate” was going shorten the lifespan of its participants. When it’s unpacked, it seems they drift away from that claim.

    Had they made they publicly claimed that certain practise within karate can be shown to be detrimental to our health then I think they’d have got a warm reception. I also think the evidence can show that to be undeniably true. And that seems to be what the recent posts have been discussing. No controversy or disagreement there. It’s still not what they claimed though.

    It is the bold claim that karateka, as a whole, would be “profoundly wrong” to think that karate would increase longevity that is not tenable. It likens karate to something like smoking i.e. you do it and your life is going to inescapably shorten.

    While certain practise can be bad for heath (not the same as longevity) I think there is way to go before they can claim that those practises are so widespread and so severe that they will result in a net negative life expectancy for the vast majority of karateka (i.e. the practises they highlight are so damaging to longevity that the well-established positive effects of exercise on longevity are over ridden in pretty much all karateka; irrespective of how they are training, because it is an assumed unknown).

    They don’t have the evidence to make such a bold claim …  but that’s what they made their headline claim in their promotional video.

    It’s a shame because anything factual, interesting and beneficial they have to say has been dismissed due to them leading with unsupportable sensationalism (and some selective misquoting of the past masters).

    Their opener was one of seemingly deliberate misquoting and claims that scientifically have no basis (i.e. all karateka should expect karate to shorten their life, and they would be “profoundly wrong” to think otherwise). Their credibility is therefore shot through before they get to things that are on much more solid ground … and they only have themselves to blame for that.

    All the best,

    Iain

    Marc
    Marc's picture

    Stevenson wrote:
    As it happens, Jesse Enkamp has an interesting post that touches on one the main problems envountered by Karate practioners as described in the book:

    http://www.karatebyjesse.com/karate-joint-pain-osteoarthritis/

    Plus some mitigation advice.

    Interesting that you mention Jesse's article. It is pointing to the same problem (chronic inflammation in joints) as the book does.

    But: Jesse's article is in no way scientific, nor does it claim to be. He does not provide any sources to back up the information given in the article. That doesn't make it less true, just less reliable.

    And: Jesse refers to studies (without quoting a source) that contradict the findings from the book to a degree:

    Although studies show that Karate is less damaging on your joints than other martial arts, some Karate styles are more unforgiving than others.

    He says that karate is LESS damaging than comparable activities. The book says it is worse.

    Anyway, I would like to focus on the practical implications of the findings in the book.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    Thanks, I really enjoyed the video, although I don't quite see what it has to do with the 118 karate masters who (on average) died earlier than their non-karate contemporaries.

    The video illuminates one of the factors involved in causing chronic inflammation [...].

    OK, but in what way does that relate to the 118 karate masters who (on average) died earlier than their non-karate contemporaries?

    Stevenson wrote:
    I have a colleague who is having severe back problems - an area covered by Dr Johnson. Yet, he has classes to teach and his own training he wants to maintain. It's very hard to tell a class to go deep in their stances without doing it yourself, and as a result his back is not getting the rest it needs. This in turn leads to chronic inflammation often controlled by NSAID (Non-steriodal antiinflammatory drugs) which with long-term use can have their own side effects. As inflammation goes from acute to chronic, the body becomes sensitised as it tries to protect itself. You mental state with regards to the pain and how that influences your body chemistry further is also important - your limbic system can and does influence your immune system.

    I'm not disputing the process and effects of inflammation, nor do I reject the idea that there might be karate specific training methods that might cause it. And if the book does a good job of describing the process and the effects of inflammation, then that might be reason enough to read it.

    What I am really keen on, however, is practical implications for designing my training.

    In your example you once again mention deep stances as a key problem:

    Stevenson wrote:
    It's very hard to tell a class to go deep in their stances without doing it yourself

    My reply to this would be: Then don't teach deep stances. Where is the harm in preventing harm from teacher and students alike?

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    Really? Training with impact, deep stances and Sanchin kata? These are the only karate-specific issues?

    It's important to look at all enviornmental factors that might promote inflammation.

    Yes, it is important. But the book does not claim that an influence of many enviornmental factors shorten your lifespan. It claims that karate does. So we should focus on the things that are specific to karate. (While, of course, we should keep general factors in mind.)

    Stevenson wrote:
    In comparing sports that had similar demands in terms of impact on the body they found similar results with similar sports. So it's not just karate all though karate came out the worst. The thinking is that it's what we do in karate that leads to CHRONIC problems....ie we persist in doing them. It's likely impact, twisting and stress on knees and joints, and training with low grade injury.

    Good, now there are some specifics. And we can start to adjust our training methods accordingly.

    Impact is easy to identify and almost entirely avoidable.

    Training with low grade injury is not a problem that is specific to karate. It can happen in any sport and is a matter of awareness of the injury and allowing yourself/the athlete the time to recuperate.

    Twisting and stress on knees and joints is an important issue. So we should try to identify techniques and training methods that are harmful to our joints and change them or drop them altogether.

    I was hoping that the book would name a few of those karate specific techniques or training methods that the authors have identified to be possible causes for inflammation. Do they?

    Stevenson wrote:
    So the thing maybe is not to focus so much on the WHAT we do in karate but the HOW and how to limit and reduce inflammation.

    The WHAT is important if there are certain things that would be harmful by design. Like impact on the head.

    And if we focus on the HOW then the claim must be rephrased as: Certain ways of training karate (or other sports) might have more negative than positive long-term effects.

    Stevenson wrote:
    It's how we approach training with injury,

    Agreed, but not karate specific.

    Stevenson wrote:
    how much time we spend doing things that promote an inflammatory response.

    And we're back on the WHAT. Anyway, we agree. So what are those things, specifically?

    Stevenson wrote:
    it also means that the mindset might need to be altered (ie the effect described in the last video). Working around our injuries rather than pushing through them, balancing our training so we have time to recover, and pushing ourselves to be healthy rather than tough.

    This implies that karate as such and in general promotes a harmful mindset of not listening to your body. From my experience I can not attest that. I was lucky enough to train with teachers who look after their students. (Although not so much back in the 80s.)

    Stevenson wrote:
    I think we have to make our own judgement on how best to manage that, and just keep in mind the mileage, injuries and mindset, rather than list specific techniques we might 'worry' are harmful.

    OK. But from my point of view that is not karate-specific at all. It is just common sense in any activity.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    There is nothing wrong with fighting in a competitive setting. That can be a lot of fun, if there are rules and safety measures.

    I disagree, however, with the "never - ever - ever - give up" part (in a competitive setting).

    What I meant is that at some stage in your karate journey you should be thoroughly tested. I mean take a hit from someone who can hit hard, and give one. On your body, to theirs. Full contact.

    I can see how that would show you your limits. But I just cannot agree with deliberately injuring yourself or your training partner. I'm not arguing against pressure testing your skills. But it must be done with safety measures in place, so nobody gets injured.

    Stevenson wrote:
    And at some point you should be pushed to exhaustion and find out what it takes to come back from there. But, I now think it shouldn't become a habit - a habitual way of testing someone.

    Again, it might be an interesting experience, but it depends on the level of exhaustion. We should not work out until we pass out, if that's what you meant. That is just unhealthy.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    I am hoping that the book might give us something to work with - something that I can compare my own training against.

    I don't think it is as clear as that - that's too specific.

    I don't think it is too specific. On the contrary: It needs to be that specific to back up the claim.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Dr Johnson clearly trains in a very hard style, and he shows lots of x-rays and photos of his injuries, to illustrate that being constantly injured or not fully recovered from training can cause chronic inflammation.

    Being injured how? In my opinion that is the whole point.

    Otherwise we could just as well look at football players or gymnastics atheletes who overtrain and do not fully recover before they go back to training.

    They claim that there is something specific about karate that is so harmful that it outweighs the well known positive effects of the physical activity. So what is it?

    Stevenson wrote:
    I know several people who I think are at risk from elements of the issues that are outlined in the book doing a less hard style. I think you have to look at your own training and your own body and self-evaluate and then ask whether or not you are being mindful of it in your training. If your knees are perfect, back is never sore, your hips don't hurt, your feet don't cramp, your elbows are fine, your knuckles and hands don't hurt or crack, and you have plenty of energy when you train then you probably don't have anything to worry about.

    I know some of those. But then again, I'm over 40, and I know many people over 40 who don't do karate and who report similar symptoms.

    Stevenson wrote:
    If you do have some of these problems, or your students do, you probably need to take measures to mitigate. Double down on low inflammation diet, focus on recovery and mindfulness, reduce the amount of impact work, maybe spend more time on running through bunkai or kata perhaps. I dunno. But Jesse makes some damn good points in his post I linked to.

    It seems I'm on the right path already.

    But if there are specific things I can change in my karate training that would make a difference I'd gladly change them.

    Stevenson
    Stevenson's picture

    Hi Marc,

    Sorry for taking such a long time to respond to your post. And let me take the moment to thank you for engaging so constructively.

    Yes, it is important. But the book does not claim that an influence of many enviornmental factors shorten your lifespan. It claims that karate does. So we should focus on the things that are specific to karate. (While, of course, we should keep general factors in mind.)

    Marc - the book merely makes a link to shortened life span. It does not explicitly state that karate shortens life span. What it is stating is that there is no evidence that it can find that karate pormotes longevity. If it did, the results of the survey would look different. This is really important distinction to make and an important thing to grasp conceptually. For whatever reason, people doing karate to this level had poor lifespan outcomes. The rest of the book is devoted to trying to figure out what that could be, and then mitigate for it in our training.

    OK, but in what way does that relate to the 118 karate masters who (on average) died earlier than their non-karate contemporaries?

    The video I posted was material given to me by the medical practioners supporting me. One of my problems for example, was chronic myalgia as result of the over-training. But most importantly it's about the connection between the mind and body - I can't tell you how much that has been emphasised and by many different doctors and clinicians I have seen. So chronic pain, can lead to chronic stress, and these mental states can have a huge bearing on our limbic system, our autonomic nervous sytems and our nervous system. They are trying to emphasise the importance of the frame of mind being central to recovery. They all say something like, "we know this sounds woolly but we have overwhelming evidence for the impact things like chonric stress or trauma can have on general health but in particular cancer and heart disease".

    In western culture, we quite like challenges and testing ourselves. The committment serious practioners give karate adds to a load that may not necessarily be healty. We want to "leave it all" in the dojo or the gym. Think ahout how reluctant we are to miss training even when we are injured. We say to oursleves that we can work around the injury, and we push through regardless. Guys are training with injuries all the time and not really holding back - and in fact the whole idea o fholding back is antithetical to the mindset we generally try to cultivate.

    My reply to this would be: Then don't teach deep stances. Where is the harm in preventing harm from teacher and students alike?

    None - but think about how we try to teach good structure. We need to build up good technque and part of that is through exaggerating the depth and function of the stances. If you are a teacher, it is very difficult to not then exaggerate your own stances in order to demonstrate to students who might be a bit lacidaisical. So if you have a back issue, and maybe a hip or a knee issue, and then you add to that the need to show "how its done" you can see that you may exacerbate your own problem. I think that mgiht be what happened to our 8th Dan's in the sample - just the continuous irritation of a minor injury over years and years.

    I was hoping that the book would name a few of those karate specific techniques or training methods that the authors have identified to be possible causes for inflammation. Do they?

    Yes and I have mentiond them. Ude tanren, certain practises of Sanchin (this was intersting chapter for me as I practise it, and they were very careful about not overstating their case and being respectful), stances, impact injuries, and over training.

    This implies that karate as such and in general promotes a harmful mindset of not listening to your body. From my experience I can not attest that. I was lucky enough to train with teachers who look after their students. (Although not so much back in the 80s.)

    From my point of view where it coincides to the medical advice I have been given is how historic injuries and illnesses play a role in your ability to recover, and the body's response to the stimulii, stress and low grade injuries from training. We think we can power through it, and in a sense we can, but at a price. I say that if we can figure out a way to adjust our training, periodise it, be mindful etc etc, we needn't pay the price or at the very least minimise it. 

    I'm afraid I have NEVER seen karate practised where the dangers of over doing things has been considered. I have seen what now looks like fairly good practise where the training is managed quite well, but mostly karate for me has been about people overcoming their fears, pushing their limits, getting tougher and fitter. And I have done it personally, and felt the pressure of competition - not tournaments necessailry, but dojo competition, to be able to keep up with my mates, not wishing to miss out on training for fear of being left behind. A lot of it is ego driven, and some of it is good tough mental attitude. Challenges are important for growth, but it might pacing things is vital for wellbeing. There is ablance to be struck and generally I have not seen it. Even KNOWING all this now - I find it really really hard to hold back. It's not my mindset....but I am working hard to change it.

    I don't think it is too specific. On the contrary: It needs to be that specific to back up the claim.

    What claim? They don't "claim" anything. They assert that they have found no evidence for a claim - that karate pormotes longevity. Until their study that was just an untested "belief". What they found was the opposite, that in fact karate practioners who had trained all their life did worse than the general population and they hopothesised a reason as to why this might be - chronic inflammation. They suggest possible contributing factors within karate, but what you CAN'T do is point to a specific technique and say "that will cause chronic inflammation". You have to look at everything in its entirety - diet, life style more generally, and then how you go about your karate that might encourage chornic inflammation. A few deep stances surely aren't going to kill you, but 2 or 3 classes a day 4 or 5 times a week teaching beginners on their importance might. It might be that you push through chronic injury, train too much, or a cocktail of everything else. You might train hard after a stressful day at work - train when injured or ill - it might compound. I think it is a general mindset that needs to be examined. Some of that stuff is really important - I DO think you need to be roughed up a bit from time to time....I think it's how the whole appraoch is managed - don;t just cultivate a warrior spirit (yang) cultivate some gardiner spirit (yin).

    I know some of those. But then again, I'm over 40, and I know many people over 40 who don't do karate and who report similar symptoms.

    And? They aren't exacerbating those problems WITH karate. If it affects their longevity you could look at other lifestyle factors that cause inflammation - lack of sleep, too much sugar, too much alcohol, too much stress, too little exercise, too much exercise (that isn't karate), poor diet, smoking....the list is long. It's not karate per se, it's how we go about it surely? I think we need awreness - that karate (or exercise like it) can be harmful if we don't minimise the possibility of chronic inlfammation. We can reduce that in other parts of our lives meaning we don't have to adjust as much in karate, and we can try to mitigate in our practise.

    Marc
    Marc's picture

    Stevenson wrote:
    Sorry for taking such a long time to respond to your post. And let me take the moment to thank you for engaging so constructively.

    That's the great thing about this forum. A constructive discussion is what everybody here likes and contributes to.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    Yes, it is important. But the book does not claim that an influence of many enviornmental factors shorten your lifespan. It claims that karate does. So we should focus on the things that are specific to karate. (While, of course, we should keep general factors in mind.)

    Marc - the book merely makes a link to shortened life span. It does not explicitly state that karate shortens life span. What it is stating is that there is no evidence that it can find that karate pormotes longevity. If it did, the results of the survey would look different. This is really important distinction to make and an important thing to grasp conceptually. For whatever reason, people doing karate to this level had poor lifespan outcomes. The rest of the book is devoted to trying to figure out what that could be, and then mitigate for it in our training.

    Maybe the book is fine in the presentation of the data they collected and analysed. Then it might just be bad marketing. Because the promotional video for the book does make the claim that karate shortens your lifespan.

    "... the data shows that it actually takes time off lifespan." (https://youtu.be/gbA-K-yKSTE?t=115)

    Also probably the title you chose for your initial post ("Karate shortens your lifespan") nudged the discussion in this direction.

    But actually my focus in this conversation is not on supporting or ripping apart that claim. It is instead on the useful recommendations the book might provide us with to improve our daily karate training routines.

    Stevenson wrote:
    In western culture, we quite like challenges and testing ourselves. The committment serious practioners give karate adds to a load that may not necessarily be healty. We want to "leave it all" in the dojo or the gym. Think ahout how reluctant we are to miss training even when we are injured. We say to oursleves that we can work around the injury, and we push through regardless. Guys are training with injuries all the time and not really holding back - and in fact the whole idea o fholding back is antithetical to the mindset we generally try to cultivate.

    I don't know if there is any evidence that that is a widespread thing in karate. I myself am reluctant to push through an exercise if it hurts. The pain is a signal that there is something wrong either with the way I do the exercise or with the exercise itself.

    Anyway, I would like to see evidence that enthusiastic karate people are more ignorant of their injuries than enthusiasts of any other sport or activity (gymnastics, football, cycling, ...)

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    My reply to this would be: Then don't teach deep stances. Where is the harm in preventing harm from teacher and students alike?

    None - but think about how we try to teach good structure. We need to build up good technque and part of that is through exaggerating the depth and function of the stances.

    Sorry, I don't agree. If deep stances are bad for our body I cannot teach them to my students as good structure. That's bad structure, in my opinion. We can have effective technique with high and healthy stances.

    Stevenson wrote:
    If you are a teacher, it is very difficult to not then exaggerate your own stances in order to demonstrate to students who might be a bit lacidaisical. So if you have a back issue, and maybe a hip or a knee issue, and then you add to that the need to show "how its done" you can see that you may exacerbate your own problem.

    Since in my classes I have a good share of students over 40 who had back/hip/knee/whatever problems before they started learning karate, I have to explicitly show them high stances and ergonomical movements. Usually they report that their problems are less prominent after training.

    One of my teachers recently replaced Shotokan's side kicks in kata with the original turn and front kick because he realised that that is the healthier option.

    Stevenson wrote:
    I think that mgiht be what happened to our 8th Dan's in the sample - just the continuous irritation of a minor injury over years and years.

    Might be. We'll probably never know unless we'll recover their medical records.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Marc wrote:
    I was hoping that the book would name a few of those karate specific techniques or training methods that the authors have identified to be possible causes for inflammation. Do they?

    Yes and I have mentiond them. Ude tanren, certain practises of Sanchin (this was intersting chapter for me as I practise it, and they were very careful about not overstating their case and being respectful), stances, impact injuries, and over training.

    Great, now we have a list that we can compare our own training against!

    It is a short list, and the items on the list are things that we can easily avoid.

    If that's what we can take from the book into our daily practice, then that's good. Because we can use the evidence presented in the book to promote healthier training methods - especially to the "tough guys".

    Stevenson wrote:
    I say that if we can figure out a way to adjust our training, periodise it, be mindful etc etc, we needn't pay the price or at the very least minimise it.

    So we agree. :)

    Stevenson wrote:
    I'm afraid I have NEVER seen karate practised where the dangers of over doing things has been considered.

    I'm sorry to hear that. Where do you live? Maybe somebody on the forum can recommend a good dojo in your area.

    Stevenson wrote:
    Even KNOWING all this now - I find it really really hard to hold back. It's not my mindset....but I am working hard to change it.

    I wish you all the best on your way.

    Stevenson wrote:
    It's not karate per se, it's how we go about it surely? I think we need awreness - that karate (or exercise like it) can be harmful if we don't minimise the possibility of chronic inlfammation. We can reduce that in other parts of our lives meaning we don't have to adjust as much in karate, and we can try to mitigate in our practise.

    So, to sum it up we could say: "Chronic inflammation can shorten your lifespan. Many lifestyle factors can contribute to chronic inflammation. Karate may be one factor if practiced in certain ways. These ways include arm toughening, certain practises of Sanchin, deep stances, impact injuries, and over training."

    Anf
    Anf's picture

    Doesn't it depend on how one trains? Karate is going to reduce your lifespan if, for example, you regularly let people kick you full force in the head and cause concussion on a daily basis. Karate is likely to extend your lifespan if you are a lazy couch potato living on a bad diet and then you decide to take up karate, in a school that focuses a lot on kata and very little on high energy full contact stuff so you get fitter and healthier gradually. Statistics can be used to prove anything. With a small sample size and no controls, it has no greater value than anecdotal evidence. It becomes harder to refute as the sample size increases of course. Before I'd give it any weight, I'd want to see average lifespans of a representative sample of thousands of karateka across all backgrounds, compared with equivalent stats for people that train in other things, and people that don't train at all, but with all groups having as much in common as possible, with training regime being the only thing that differs.

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