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Is Bad Martial Arts Good Exercise?

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This week marked several beginnings. The equinox began the journey of the sun away from the northern hemisphere bringing longer nights. The festivals of Ramadan, St. Sophia, Navarati and others celebrate origins and understanding. The university semester began, including the full-to-capacity martial arts class I teach on Tuesday nights at Temple U's Center City campus.

When I arrived, students were sitting on the floor waiting. Some sat in bad rounded posture that you know is unhealthy at your desk. They straightened when I asked them to. In past semesters there were students who refused. Once, one stormed out shouting she didn't understand why she had to sit straight when class hadn't started yet. She didn't know that class is always in session.

Students got their equipment - bending wrong to yank weights out of bins. I told them, "Healthy bending. This class is for health." Some didn't understand the connection. Others tapped those still bending wrong, "Teacher says bend your legs." Several looked surprised. One said, "I'm getting leg exercise before class even begins." I told her that class is always in session. I reminded students to use healthy bending at home and work for every time they bend (Disc Pain - Not a Mystery, Easy to Fix). I showed them how to get more exercise by helping others who came in late.

We began stances. Students sometimes have a stereotyped idea, sometimes learned from aerobic boxing classes. They stand with shoulders hunched up, upper back rounded, head and chin jutting forward, and their behind tilted out in back. I mimicked them. They giggled at how bad it looks. I told them, "You don't look tough. You look ninety." It's true that you use shoulders to block some strikes, but you are not supposed to hunch. Don't do things to harm your neck in order to protect your neck. Overarching your lower back so that your behind tilts out in back is a frequent cause of back pain in daily life (Fixing the Commonest Source of "Mystery" Lower Back Pain) and injury when giving or receiving a blow. It's silly to go to boxing class and beat up yourself.

Look at the photo above. It shows terrible positioning that injures, and perpetuates the tightness that causes more troubles. When you lift one leg to kick (or stretch or take the stairs), notice if your other leg pulls forward. That shows tightness in the front of your hip. Instead, stand straight and keep the standing leg from pulling forward. Don't round your body to lift your leg. You will get built-in anterior hip stretch, one of the places you need to stretch most, and prevent several problems that I will cover soon.

The point of exercise is to improve life. It is missing the point to exercise in unhealthy ways, training unhealthy habits. If you are interested in learning how to retrain healthy movement in martial arts or aerobic boxing classes that you transfer to daily life, let me know and I will post more on what my students learn.

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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