*On September 13-15, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Bill Molony. Bill is 64 years old and has been training at PMA for 12 years. Alongside Matt Thomas, Bill became one of the first PMA students to earn Black Belts in both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu!
The title of this article is taken from kajukenbo, the foundation of filkenjutsu-kai.
This is the martial arts style taught at PMA. Kajukenbo is an acronym, it’s taken from it’s constituent styles, including:
• Judo and Jujitsu
• Chinese Boxing
Another interpretation is a translation from Chinese:
• Ka ( ), meaning “long life”
• Ju ( ), meaning “happiness”
• Ken ( ), meaning “fist”
• Bo ( ), meaning “way”
Thus, it can be translated, “long life and happiness through the way of the fist”.
Aging in the United States
The United States’ population is aging. While the USA is not the most elderly country in the world, the median age of US residents is rising, while life expectancy has stopped rising in recent years, and has even dropped slightly.
This will present an ongoing challenge for citizens an policymakers in many fields, including economics and health care. It also concerns individuals, as they confront their own aging, and plan to live healthy lives.
How does one define successful aging? It obviously requires delaying one’s death. Death can be caused by modifiable or nonmodifiable factors. Examples of nonmodifiable factors include unforeseen accidents, unanticipated medical conditions such as congenital intracranial aneurysms, and genetic factors that are not treatable at present.
In 2004, the major external modifiable factors were (in rank order):
1. Tobacco Use
2. Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity
5. Motor Vehicle Accidents
7. Sexual Behaviors (primarily HIV)
8. Illicit Drug Use
The same 2004 study projected that poor diet and physical and activity would overtake tobacco use. More recent trends in illicit drug abuse are obviously alarming.
Successful aging also implies maintaining a good quality of life. I would suggest that a good quality of life maintains physical ability, cognition, social connection, and emotional satisfaction with life. These are all aspects of physical and mental health.
Strategies to Mitigate Aging
Regular physical evaluations can catch high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugars before these conditions become symptomatic. Exercise has beneficial effects on blood pressure and weight. It also increases blood flow to the brain. Regular exercise with 150 minutes per week of cardio exercise and strength training is estimated to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Weight control is important for avoiding type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Degenerative changes in the spine and knees are frequently related to excessive weight. One recent preliminary study has suggested that obesity can raise your chances for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Challenging your mind by learning and social contact may decrease your risk for dementia including Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70%. Stress management with techniques such as yoga and meditation are associated with reduction in the hormone cortisol. Moderating cortisol levels improves mental function, heart function, anxiety, and chronic pain.
A recent study from Japan demonstrated significant benefit of regular group exercise in older adults. Although the participants knew that they were aging, and felt declines in both physical and mental capacity, regular group exercise helped them to improve or maintain their health. They felt socially connected and experienced a sense of security in community by supporting each other.
A small preliminary study from UCLA reported that memory training done while simultaneously exercising was more effective than memory training after exercise. This suggests the possibility that simultaneous physical and cognitive exercises may be better than doing them separately.
Martial Arts and Aging
How do all of these facts and associations relate to the martial arts? I can only relate my personal experience at PMA. I have significantly improved my flexibility and strength. I have lost weight. I have made treasured social connections with good friends in classes that are stable over long periods of time. I find the classes to be simultaneously physical and cognitive workouts. I feel a decrease in anxiety and stress after workouts. In short, I think that PMA has nudged me along the path to more successful aging.
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