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JuhaK's picture
Practical lifestyle

Hi. I'm relatively new here, this my first post to this forum. I just wanted to ask one thing I've been struggling lately. Where I come from violence is not an issue, but of course it's fun to learn self protection against violence, that's why I'm learning karate. But in western world number one killer is cardiovascular diseases, not a criminal violence. I'm a sceptic and critical thinker and just like my karate I want my lifestyle be practical and working. I just hate all kind of pseudoscience b...sh.. But in martial arts these healthy lifestyles are quite often ignored. For example, there might be some extremely great martial artists who seems to be very strict about paleo- keto- vegan- or whatever diet and no argues is allowed. Or some perhaps not so science-based medicine is practised. How do you deal whit these, what I call McDojos of food and health industry? How common are those in martial arts?

Marcus_1's picture

Welcome! Have you looked at the Karate Nerd website? Jesse did an article on eating well if I recall. Okinawa has the highest proportion of centurions in the world I believe and this is in the main due to their diet. Basically they only eat until 80% full and never 100% they also eat a lot of soy based products

JuhaK's picture

Yes, I know who Jesse is and what his thoughts are, I have been one of his seminars, great martial artist. This might be difficult subject, because it is obvious we don't want to name anyone. No Iain I am not talking about you. ;) But do you find it problematic and controversial that pragmatic and practical martial artists also promote some pseudoscience nonsense?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Being a martial arts instructor does not make one a nutritionist or a doctor. An individual may tell you the diet they personally subscribe to, but if they were to advise others what diet they should follow then they are outside of their field of expertise and should be ignored. I’m my experience, the critical thinking that gets applied to martial arts in the pragmatic community tends to get applied to other topics too. For example, Jamie Clubb has talked about this a fair amount in his podcasts and writings:

With a lack of critical thinking, fad diets are taken on board with fervour by the dedicated martial artist who wishes to improve his training. And just as many have irrational belief in the supremacy of their chosen style, so they will invest themselves in whatever piece of pseudoscientific diet that appeals to their ideals.

Nutrition is an important part of athletic performance. You need to feed the muscles you have broken down in training and then grow them with sufficient sleep. It is that simple. However, very few people can sustain a diet for the rest of their lives. This is pretty much an established fact, and yet new fad diets are still big business, and gaining support from all sorts of lifestyle and sports publications. When it comes to losing weight most diets work during the initial stages. This is because we are thinking about what we put in our bodies. We become mindful of our food intake.

This is the crux of the matter. We need to be mindful of how we train and how we eat. When thought is applied, you have a better chance of success. Mindful training makes you question the validity of an exercise and better research your routines. You can measure your results in the efficiency of your physical martial arts skills rather than just jumping on the back of a semi-body builder type regime as most people do. Being mindful eating helps prevent “mindless munching”, helps you monitor your calorie intake and will make you think twice about excessive eating of sugar, fat or salt.


For my dietary advice I go to the well-established, the per-reviewed, and the truly scientific. I take the advice of the World Health Organization, The National Health Service, etc. I would avoid any individual “expert”, and I’d certainly never listen to anyone advising a diet whose expertise was not in the field of nutrition. As I say, I’ve no problem with people explaining their own diet and training program; but advice to do the same should not be given to others by the unqualified.

Shredded Sports Science is a great channel for those wanting information on diet and training that has scientific validity (funny too):


All the best,


Anf's picture

As Iain correctly notes, being a martial arts instructor doesn't make someone a doctor or nutritionist. This is very true. A big problem is that some instructors are happy to let their students believe they are expert in areas they are not. Unfortunately, and I have been guilty in the past, some people might think, the person at the front has clearly done this for a long time, and he is still looking fit, so he he must know what he's talking about. This belief is, as I and many others have learned, a recipe for disaster. Totally avoidable chronic injuries anyone?

There is also, in my opinion based on experience in several clubs spanning several decades and several styles, a culture of misguided belief that a violent encounter is inevitable, and that you'll be OK as long as you train right. This of course is an unspeakably huge pile of unspeakables.

I once read a quote, I can't remember where or who by, that noted that some people are so afraid of the remote possibility that they might one day get beat up, that they go and get beat up at least once a week. I don't think the instructors are at fault for cultivating this idea. I think they themselves have been brainwashed to believe it (of course not all, and those here tend to think much more scientifically than the 'run of the mill' ones).

Health and fun are key. Trouble is, many clubs market health and fun as benefits, when in fact a good chunk of their students are wearing various ankle and knee braces and if fitness is your goal, two hours a week in a hall is not the most efficient use of training time.

I'm aware that all of the above sounds rather like a scathing assessment of martial arts. That's not so. Martial arts are great. I love it. But we should not kid ourselves. There are far better ways to get fit, to get strong, to socialise, to look after ourselves, to nurture good health etc. Martial art can be fun, if we don't take it too seriously to the detriment of our health. Of course it can contribute to lots of good benefits. But for me, the best thing is it teaches you how to move. For me, understanding body mechanics and developing improved coordination and balance and motor skills and reactions etc is undoubtedly, for me, the most valuable attributes of martial arts training. If we are pragmatic, it is great. If we get bogged down in dogma and misplaced loyalty to a corporation/association, then it all goes a bit pear shaped.

deltabluesman's picture

My views line up pretty closely with what Iain wrote.  I personally would be annoyed if a karate instructor tried to force me to change my diet.  It's one thing to mention it off-handedly, but some people go way too far.  I actually think it's a pretty common problem in pretty much any social group though.  I've met a lot of people who try to push their favorite diet onto everyone else.  It almost immediately gets under my skin.  

I do know of some instructors who give counseling on weight management/cutting weight for competitors in sport martial arts.  I think that's a different animal entirely because at least in those circumstances the student has decided to compete.  There's usually an understanding between the student and instructor that nutrition management/dieting will be necessary.  Much different scenario (and of course it comes with its own set of potentially serious risks.)  A lot of amateur athletes will accept this kind of advice because they don't have the money for sophisticated nutritional counseling from a licensed dietitian. 

I have met many students who do expect their martial arts instructors to have some knowledge of conditioning, fitness, & strength training (separate from the nutrition counseling).  I have even known a few strength coaches to say, "Oh, I don't design programs for martial artists, you need to go get that information from your martial arts instructor."  I personally am comfortable having a martial arts instructor design a workout program for me to do.  Obviously, it's crucial for the martial arts instructor to be competent in doing this, and I have to engage my critical thinking skills & common sense to evaluate what I've been given.  But I don't have a problem with martial arts instructors giving workout advice.  I have to emphasize here:  that advice has to be subject to criticism and questioning.  It has to be safe, good advice.  If they're going to venture into these waters, they'd better be competent.  (In fact, both of my current martial arts schools have strength & conditioning coaches on staff and integrate the conditioning work directly into the weekly class schedule.  So it's seen as part of an integrated whole.  I think that's an excellent way to do things but it can be very expensive and really only works for larger schools.)

As far as pseudoscience/woo is concerned, I think it depends a bit on what is being done.  I wouldn't accept anything dangerous or anything that exploits others.  But if it's harmless, I usually just let it slide.  I don't have the patience to spend time arguing with people about qi or meridians, etc.  

Good topic.  

JuhaK's picture

Thank you for your answers. I totally forgot Jamie Clubb, that was great link. Like deltablusman wrote it not just martial arts, same problems is everywhere. Maybe I have to loosen up a bit and let those be. And also hope people don't get p###ed off too much when I criticise they acts.