Guest post by our member David Cross from Indiana.
I have been a martial artist for the majority of my life. I’ve noticed recently an increased focus on training for “real situations”, and coincidentally, more requests to train new students in martial arts for “self-defense”. This comes with a litany of questions like “what is the best martial art for self-defense?”, “how do I handle this specific technique?”, “what if someone does X technique”, etc.
All of these questions and answers are framed around the idea of being accosted by a hypothetical boogie-man who is lurking around the corner, in the shadows, and in your refrigerator. Although these are valid questions and concerns, I want to approach things from a different perspective. Although the monster in the shadows is scary and intimidating, there is an alternative monster that has claimed more victims in the modern era than any homicidal maniac, crazed lunatic, or zombified rodeo clown; it’s bad health habits.
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, all of these things kill more people every year in the United States than homicide by a significant margin.
According to the FBI, the number of homicides in the United States in 2019 was 16,425. However, data from the CDC shows that the amount of people who died just from heart disease in 2019 was 659,041. In other words, 40 times as many people in the United States died from Heart disease than from homicide in 2019. (This does not account for other health issues such as complications from diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.)
We talk a great length about situational awareness in martial arts to prevent possible bad occurrences, and largely it comes down to two principles, know your surroundings and avoid bad areas. Bad health habits have the deep dark corners where they dwell as well. They hide in Netflix, on the couch, in “drive-thrus”, down the cookie isle at the grocery store, in our pantries, and in our arteries. While you are practicing martial arts, you are actively avoiding these “bad” areas. Additionally, becoming physically healthy is a form of situational awareness against the main risk towards our health.
Just like training for an opponent, we can train to fight things like our A1C scores, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels. We can study our own footage of health habits, see where we make our mistakes, improve our techniques, and then win the match when we go to the doctor for an annual physical examination. In fact, an argument could be made that these things pose a greater risk to our health than random acts of violence. I like to make the joke that having all of the tactical gear on Amazon won’t save you if you can’t get up a flight of stairs. Martial arts has given me a lot in my life, but most importantly, it has given me my health.
Take this perspective for what you will, but I would encourage anyone to approach their own health with the seriousness that they would approach ring-fight or a self-defense situation. In doing so, you are truly defending yourself against the biggest threats to your life.
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