Design and Balance


The magnificent design of the human body is a wonderful creation, capable of learning, insatiably, curious about ourselves and our surroundings, needing to be loved and desiring to be useful. William Shakespeare once said, “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In forms and moving how express and admirable in action like an angel, in apprehension how like a God!”


The splendor of the human body can be recognized when one observes the hand movements of a concert pianist or those of a skilled surgeon, and most certainly in the timing and muscle coordination that propels a world class martial artist when performing a long and difficult kata, whose every move is precise, powerful, flowing, balanced and exciting.


There is incredible complexity and optimal integration in human anatomy and physiology that require awesome movement, coordination and communication among the body’s organs and cells. Our bodies consist of eleven organ systems, four basic body tissues, and dozens of different specialized cells, an estimated 30 to 100 trillion cells (depending on body size), some 100 million are red blood cells, while several hundred million are nerve cells.


Your body is like a machine, with each body part having its own job to perform, yet each part must work in conjunction with the entire human machine. Your body will wear out and break down if it is not properly maintained. Worn out and broken machine parts can readily be replaced. In the human body, this is not done so easily. This is why it is so imperative for the serious martial artist to exercise, eat a healthy diet, study to keep the brain honed and sharp, and to develop a spiritual attitude that is a positive influence over the entire body structure.


It is the author’s belief that once the martial art student understands the wonderful creation of the human body, and how it works, the more he/she will determine to protect it, and to keep it in perfect working condition. Just as an automobile needs maintenance to keep it operating at peak performance, so much more does your complex body deserve continuous maintenance to stay in top shape, at any age. You simply cannot perform at your best if your personal body structure is not prepared to do so. It is impossible to separate peak performance from excellent health. The two go hand-in-hand.


The human body must also be in chemical balance to remain healthy. If only one chemical variable in your body gets out of balance, then disorder, disease, and even death may result. The goal of the serious martial art student is what it has always been in the past, to assist the body to do what it has learned so well to do on it’s own to survive. For this to occur, it is a must to give it a fighting chance in an unhealthy environment of smoke, smog, chemicals and fat laden fast foods.


The brain and your educated mind must guide your body to live in a healthy way maintaining realistic, sensible habits. It is the body that is the hero, not science, machines or new inventions. The human body seeks out the most favorable conditions for itself. It corrects imbalances in fluids and salts, mobilizes to heal itself, and deploys resources as needed. Harmful outside influences could move conditions into the abnormal range. Most diseases occur because we humans let it happen. Make no mistake about it, to maintain a healthy body takes constant work and care of each individual. A few examples of how your body regulates itself to maintain health is as follows:


  1. Your body temperature remains about 98.6° F., whether you are exposed to heat or cold.


            A.            When you exercise vigorously, or if you are outside in the heat of summer, you sweat. Sweating is nature’s way of cooling the body.


            B.            The body also removes excess heat from the blood in the skin. When you get hot, your skin gets red. This is due to the blood vessels in the skin enlarging, allowing more blood to flow near the skin surface. The heat in the blood warms the skin and this heat is transferred into the air.


            C.            Now when you are cold, muscles contract causing shivering and chattering of teeth. You may walk around and rub your hands together. All of these processes generate heat. When you are cold your skin turns pale because the blood vessels contract, keeping the blood deeper in the body so less heat is lost to the air.


  1. Another example of body self-regulation is that the heart must meet the regular metabolic needs of the body, while the speed of beating must also vary according to the stress placed upon it. During vigorous exercise the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises; blood flow increases to the heart through the veins, which causes impulses to be sent to the brain (medulla), which sends impulses to the pace maker to speed up heart rate. If this were to continue, the heart would beat too fast. The safety net is that the increase of blood pressure in the aorta and the carotid artery in the neck causes other impulses to be sent to the medulla, which then slows the pacemaker. These two processes, heart beat increase and heart beat decrease, are kept in balance to allow the heart to beat at the correct speed to meet exercise demands.


  1. In the case of water and electrolytes, balance and health means that the quantities entering the body are equal to the quantities leaving the body. This optimal balance is a result of nearly perfect efficiency of the body systems. Anything that changes the concentration of water will change the concentration of the electrolytes. When there is an electrolyte deficiency, a person may experience a strong desire to eat salty foods. This is why it is extremely important for martial artists to drink plenty of water during exercise programs. The old ways of not allowing students to take time out to replenish fluids during tests or competition to prove his/her macho abilities was not only unwise but, downright dangerous. As we study the various systems of the body, we discover that much of the body’s design is to keep this marvelous, delicate balance to maintain life. All the mechanisms of life have only one objective, and that is to keep the conditions of life constant and in balance. The more the martial arts instructor/teacher understands how our wonderful human body works, the better prepared he/she will be able to lead safe, sensible exercises, to spot the dangers of the body in trouble, to respect life so that his/her skills will be used only to enhance and protect life, and ultimately with this understanding, to be able to produce a more perfect martial artist.


This is why we state “martial arts is not a hobby, a sport, or just something to do but, it is a way of life.” The human body follows the law of use and disuse. Simply stated, if you use it, it develops, if you do not use it, it shrinks and loses function. Your body developing from use is due to the overload factor, which states that in order for development to occur, a load above normal must be used in an activity, (weight-lifting or running are examples of this). Many of the body’s tissues end up bigger and better. This overload principle is the essential basis of positive physical training and rehabilitation. This principle is another reason why physical exercise causes people to perform better at work or at sports.


This is a good time to discuss how one unhealthy habit can affect the entire body. Oxygen molecules attach to hemoglobin (blood) cells. Hemoglobin can transport up to four molecules of oxygen. Each erythrocyte (red blood cell) contains about 280 million hemoglobin molecules, a single erythrocyte can transport over a billion molecules of oxygen. It is within the lungs that oxygen molecules contained in inhaled air attach to hemoglobin molecules and are transported to trillions of body cells, day after day, year after year.


Now, someone who smokes tobacco products and who inhale harmful nicotine and other chemicals, which may also be attaching themselves to hemoglobin molecules and thus being transported to trillions of body cells, also day after day, year after year. This transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the entire body should be taking place in a sterile, germ free environment. Instead, with the smoker, this is occurring in a cavern of choking smoke. Does this make sense? It is amazing that smokers live as long as they do.


The human body is a carbon-based, chemically fueled, force fluid and air cooled, bi-pedal, communicative, photo chromatic, binocular, cellularly self-replicating, self-diagnostic, self-repairing, tissue-wise, multidexterous, continuously adaptive, computer controlled, capable of short and long term memory with conceptual retrieval and integration, capable of precise decision making and creativity, biodegradable exhaust system machine with a life expectancy of 75 years and a life span of 120 years. Truly it is the ultimate machine (Kaufmann 1997, Creation Research Society). The above is a complex, brilliant statement from a well educated scientist who demonstrates the awe and wonder of the created body that most of us take for granted. This is exactly why healthy living habits, along with restraints against drugs, tobacco, alcohol abuse and processed foods should be taught in all martial arts classes. Not only must we as teachers teach the student how to defend him/herself, but we must also convey the message on how to prolong life and to make it more enjoyable as we travel along the journey.


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This page was last updated on 02/20/11    

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