Karate punching power ‘all in the brain’

Brain imagesBlack belts show structural differences in specific parts of their brains (in white)

Packing an impressive karate punch has more to do with brain power than muscle power, according to research.

In a close-range punching contest described in Cerebral Cortex, experts consistently out-hit novices.

Scientists peered deep into the brains of the experts to reveal alterations in regions controlling movement.

These changes were linked with better coordination and speed of punch, a team from Imperial College London and University College London concluded.

Karate punchThe research shows that experts consistently out-punch novices

Ed Roberts from Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “The karate black belts were able to repeatedly coordinate their punching action with a level of coordination that novices can’t produce. We think that ability might be related to fine tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum.”

To determine the speed of the punch, the researchers filmed and timed the movement of the infrared sensors attached to shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips of the people.

The study of brain structure and function has been accelerated by the development of new medical imaging techniques, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

The current study used a special MRI technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging. This is useful in the investigation of a variety of brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, brain abscesses and brain tumors.

Brain imageThe brain’s grey matter stains more darkly than white matter

The brain contains two main types of tissue – grey and white matter. The regions controlling and coordinating movement are known as the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex and are composed of both. However, the study showed that changes in the structure of the white matter were associated with improved coordination.

Changes in white matter structure have been observed in other individuals engaged in repetitive physical activity – pianists for example – and can also be induced simply by thought.

In a study published in the journal PNAS, the authors showed that regular meditation resulted in white matter changes in regions of the brain associated with emotion.

Commenting on his findings, Dr Roberts said: “Most research on how the brain controls movement has been based on examining how diseases can impair motor skills.

“We took a different approach, by looking at what enables experts to perform better than novices in tests of physical skill.”

Also, by looking at healthy subjects, it is hoped that scientists will gain a better understanding of how movement is controlled.

One of the main diseases affecting white matter is multiple sclerosis (MS). This is a chronic degenerative disease that affects millions of people around the world. But the cause of MS remains unknown.


Powerful punch is all in the brain, study finds

A powerful punch is not the result of strong muscles, but the features that make up the brain, scientists have found.

The Brain: A User's Guide
The ability to punch is all down to white matter in the brain, new research has suggested
A study of karate experts has shown the make-up of the brain is the key to determining how much force is generated when sportsmen or women punch at close range.

Scientists, who compared karate black belts trained to punch with physically fit members of the public, found the brain’s white matter – which acts as the connections between brain regions – correlated directly with punching ability.

They concluded the power of a punch is not down to the strength of muscles but the timing, with synchronised movement between the wrist and shoulders essential.

While it is not yet certain whether differences in white matter were the cause or effect of successful punching, scientists suspect the brains of those who can punch changed and developed as a result of training.

The study, which has now been published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, used 12 karate black belts with an average of 13.8 years experience, who were fitted with infrared markers on their arms and torso.

Their results were then compared with the efforts of 12 control subjects of similar age, who exercised regularly but were not trained in martial arts.

Over a short range distance of 5cm, those who had black belts in karate were found to punch harder.

Brain scans on each group revealed the white matter in cells, mainly made up of bundles of fibre that carry signals, were different in structure.

The scans used in this study, known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), detected structural differences in the white matter of the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex, known to be involved in controlling movement.

The difference correlated not only with the synchronicity between wrist and shoulder movements when punching, but also the age at which karate experts began training and their total experience of the discipline.

These findings suggest that the structural differences in the brain are related to the black belts’ punching ability.

Dr Ed Roberts, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “The karate black belts were able to repeatedly coordinate their punching action with a level of coordination that novices can’t produce.

“We think that ability might be related to fine tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum, allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.

“There are several factors that can affect the DTI signal, so we can’t say exactly what features of the white matter these differences correspond to. Further studies using more advanced techniques will give us a clearer picture.”

The research was carried out by Imperial College London and University College London.

By  – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/9475009/Powerful-punch-is-all-in-the-brain-study-finds.html


The Formless Form

“I hope martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts and not the different decorative branches, flowers or leaves. It is futile to argue as to which single leaf, which design of branches or which attractive flower you like; when you understand the root, you understand all its blossoming.”

Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Traning blog – London Class with Shihan Leo Lipinski

First Sunday class at Barnet in 2014 was fantastic. Three solid hours of training with three or four minor stops for 2-3 min explanations.

Kihon covered and applied within randori kumite.

Sanchin, Tensho covered in detail; followed by geikisai 1, 2 and Saifa.

More kihon and more randori kumite paying attention to fundamental Seiwakai kumite technology.

Finished the class with Shisochin, which was nicely broken down and performed several times.

More Sanchin and Tensho.

Tip of the day: when teaching lower grades keep on self teaching youserself advanced moves and kata.

As always, a pleasure to see familiar faces in the dojo.

Karate Discovery – the Student

Karate enlightenment comes as a personal and inner revelation. Throughout your training, guided by your sensei and senpais, one follows a path but walks that path somehow alone.

Explanations are given, descriptions and demostrations are delivered as you keep training, copying and attempting, to the best of your ever growing abilities, the techniques shown to you. No one can train for you and, consequently, no one can feel for you. Despite all the guidance, it is when you feel the technique that the explanations start makes sense.  They become revelations.

It is a processes of interiorisation only achieved via constant training. Sometimes those feelings come and go like the flashbacks of a dream until they become permanent.

Once you feel karate is there to stay.

Karate Discovery – the Sensei

A sensei has three major roles:

1. To teach the right technology (content).

2. To explain them in a pedagogic and engaging manner (method).

3. Keep students’ motivation up until they have developed their own feelings. (Inspiration).

Thus a sensei has three major obligations:

1. To seek for honest and true knowledge from a number of sources and share it all without keeping anything for him or hersef in order to fulfill his or her ego.

2. To engage with the student and explain as if you were a student yourself. In fact, a good sensei must always remain a student because there is no end to knowledge.

3. Be empathetic, demanding and always lead by example.


5 Benefits to Physical Fitness You Can Gain Through Karate

There are a whole host of reasons why people take up karate. Whether or not you do so to improve your fitness and physical form, participation in karate certainly brings with it a range of benefits towards this. For both young and old, karate can enhance your physical fitness in a number of ways. This doesn’t simply aid your performance in karate, but can also be useful in everyday life and is certainly beneficial for promoting your health and well-being. Karate therefore offers a great alternative to the gym, running, or taking part in any other endurance activity. As an enjoyable activity that boosts confidence and promotes social skills and self-discipline, it certainly does have a lot to offer.

Increase cardio-respiratory fitness

Karate requires movements that involve the muscles of the upper and lower limbs, as well as those of the core, significantly increase the muscle’s requirement for oxygen and glucose for respiration, the process that allows the release of energy to power the muscles. These essential components are delivered via the bloodstream and the increased need for them by the muscles triggers an increase in heart rate for faster delivery; this also aids more efficient removal of carbon dioxide, one of the waste products of respiration. The breathing rate also increases to allow oxygen intake to rise and aid the removal of carbon dioxide. As a result cardio-respiratory fitness is improved, allowing enhanced performance during training, but this also helps to achieve a healthy blood pressure and lung function which are beneficial for long-term cardio-respiratory health. A diet rich in heart healthy nutrients that contains oily fish, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and pulses, as well as the likes of olive and rapeseed oil can further promote the circulation.

Improve flexibility

Warming up prior to a karate session helps to promote flexibility itself, as does stretching after you have completed your workout. Even on the days when you don’t participate in karate, consistent daily stretching is the best way to enhance your flexibility; though to avoid injury, stretches should always be completed after you have warmed up rather than cold. Improved flexibility aids your performance in karate, enabling you to achieve a greater range of movement to tackle more complex moves and to achieve a higher kick. It also helps to protect you against soft tissue injuries such as torn muscles and ligaments. However, everyday activities that involve bending and stretching also become easier with greater flexibility and this is of particular benefit as we age, as our flexibility naturally declines with age. Low back pain, which is believed to affect 80% of us at some point in our lives, can also be prevented through increased flexibility. Choosing foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, D and K can all help to support the joints, aiding greater flexibility.

Enhance balance

Even if you don’t have great balance when you start karate, regular participation will soon see you become steadier on your feet. Standing on one leg to perform a kick in multiple directions requires significant balance and even more is required when turning and jumping kicks are performed. However, learning the correct techniques to execute these moves and through practice, improvements in balance can be achieved. Adopting the correct stance, maintaining focus and regular exercises designed to perfect your balance all help to enhance this skill, which not only helps you to become successful in karate, but provides wider benefits. With more control over your balance, day-to-day tasks that require you to reach up and lift objects are easier to complete, but also helps you to avoid injury as you are able to correct your position. By reducing your risk of falls, this also helps to protect older adults from fractures that are otherwise increasingly common as a result of osteoporosis.

Promote gains in strength

Different moves in karate work a variety of muscle groups, offering a whole body workout. Each lift and kick helps to strengthen a group of muscles in your leg, while punches and blocks similarly help to strengthen those muscles in your arms and core. By strengthening your muscles this increases their power, allowing you to exert far more force and perform more powerful moves. The stretching that is integral to a karate session additionally helps to tone and lengthen your muscles to maximize your muscle gains. Developing your muscles again helps in your everyday life, but is especially helpful for anyone wishing to reduce their fat stores, as the creation of extra lean body mass boosts the metabolism. Strength training, particularly when through a weight-bearing activity like karate, also helps to promote an increase in bone density to guard against the loss of bone mass that occurs with age. An increase in muscle size and strength can additionally be supported by consuming a balanced diet rich in lean protein. Sources of protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs and pulses are typically rich in iron, zinc and B vitamins, all of which are necessary to promote tissue repair and muscle-building.

Boosts stamina

Karate promotes both cardiovascular stamina – the ability of our heart to supply our tissues with oxygen during sustained activity – and our muscle stamina – the capacity of our muscles to continue for the duration of the activity and its intensity. By enhancing our cardio-respiratory fitness and our muscle strength, this naturally helps us to increase our stamina, but specific training drills can be used to further build on our stamina. Being able to last longer during training allows you to push yourself harder to achieve greater results, further increasing the benefits that can be gained through participation in karate.

By Claire Morris

How Karate Can Become Part Of Your Child’s Healthy Lifestyle

Many parents across the Western world share a common concern regarding the lack of exercise and discipline in their child’s lives. While previous generations would have spent their childhood free time outside playing, many of today’s youngsters spend hours in front of the television or games console. Admittedly today’s world is different and it is much harder to give children the freedom to play outside for safety reasons. However, this doesn’t mean the only other option is to keep them indoors. There are plenty of safe alternatives to keep your children active and healthy, and karate could be just the solution you need.

The benefits

Karate brings fitness and focus into children’s lives. Some parents are concerned that it promotes violence but this isn’t the case as it actually helps to develop self-discipline and socialisation skills in youngsters. This is particularly apparent in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as karate helps to develop concentration and self-control which are exactly the skills that are underdeveloped in kids suffering from ADHD.

Classes begin with a bow to the teacher, or master, and then pupils move on to learn and practice karate skills, including kicks, punches and blocks. This all involves concentration and attention from the children, which is a great way to help them develop those skills.

Some people consider the respect learnt through karate to be the most beneficial outcome for kids. Students bow to the teacher and are expected to stand still to wait for the next command. As the sport is steeped in such history and tradition and is portrayed so positively in modern films, such as Karate Kid, many children seem to appreciate and connect with this form of discipline and respect when they have failed to do so elsewhere in their lives. Once this discipline is learnt it often carries over into other aspects of their lives such as their behavior at school and at home.

A healthy way of life

Karate sessions will keep your child active. Regular participation in karate lessons will improve your child’s cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility and balance as well as core muscle-strength. It is recommended that the age of six is a good age to start karate as by that time children have enough muscle control to punch and turn safely. This is essential if they are to progress and get the most from the karate sessions.

One of the benefits of karate is that children can practice it at home without the need of special equipment or teammates to practice with.

A confidence boost

Taking part in karate sessions can also be a great confidence boost for your child. Whereas many other sports are all about winners and losers karate is more focused on personal development. Progressing though the various belt colours as their skills improve gives children a great sense of satisfaction and confidence in their abilities, providing them with an ‘I can’ attitude. The sport also encourages children to cope with uncomfortable situations. In terms of karate this can take the form of performing in front of fellow students or stepping into the ring and sparring with them. The development in confidence will translate into other aspects of their lives such as giving presentations in school, and speaking with older kids or adults more confidently and authoritatively.

Parents can get involved, too

It is a good idea for parents to work as closely as possible with their children to ensure that their lives are lived in a healthy and positive manner. This can cover parents getting involved in various aspects of children’s lives to help them learn how to live their lives healthily and to guide them in the right direction. A classic example is parents cooking with their kids, which according to licensedprescriptions.com helps kids to ‘learn a skill which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives’. The same can be said for karate…What many parents don’t realise is that karate can be a great way to bond with children. Many karate schools, including Surrey Karate Academy encourage the involvement of parents in their sessions. Involving parents is the best way of helping them to appreciate that karate really isn’t a violent sport. In fact it is great for parents to see the safety measure that are put in place during classes as well as the important self-protection skills that it teaches their children so these can be continued at home.

Being involved in karate lessons with your child is also a great way to bond with them and to encourage them to stay dedicated and committed to progressing. What better way to show your child that you are interested in their hobby than by taking part with them? Practicing with your child at home is also a great way of developing your relationship and spending quality time together.

An enjoyable life skill

As well as the many benefits of karate covered above, karate is also a hugely enjoyable activity for kids to take part in. They may be enjoying themselves so much that they don’t realise that their life is changing for the better around them, and that is exactly as it should be!

Article written by Claire Morris