My usual blog posts are written with a degree of confidence as I at least know a little about the topics I cover. This is more a request for information, particularly if there are any medics or bio-scientists that happen to read this.
I am now 66 years old and have been practising kendo for nearly 50 years. I still work, through choice and practice kendo at least two or three times a week. I travel regularly between the UK and Spain and numerous other destinations for kendo and work and, fingers crossed, still seem to have some energy to spare. My chiropractor told me recently that I “have the bones of a 30 year old man”, which sounded as if they were something I keep in the cupboard.
In the past I augmented kendo with visits to the gym and regular runs in the belief that keeping my overall fitness level up would be of value to my kendo. I have long since given these up. I don’t make any lifestyle concessions and despite my wife’s advice continue to eat and drink the wrong things and surprisingly still seem to feel OK.
So I suppose my question is – does kendo make a long-term difference to fitness levels and if so why? As far as I can see jigeiko is anaerobic. We engage for short bursts of full-on activity, and then retire to a safe distance. Suburi , kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko are closer to aerobic training but generally we don’t encourage seniors to do too much of these.
I have been witness to the numerous kenshi in Japan who train into their 70s and 80s, in some cases 90s. Many of these sensei train twice a day, 6 or 7 days a week. In comparison to many other sports where it is unusual to see someone continue past the age of 40, kendo is highly unusual.
Obviously kendo does not make you immortal. Many of us have lost kendo friends who have passed away or who have had to stop because of ill health. I have no statistical evidence and I am sure that there are differences in the stats for professionals and amateurs and those based in Japan and Korea versus the rest of the world, but kendoka seem to keep going for longer.
I understand that as we age in kendo we replace physical strength with kigamai and kizeme. What I don’t know is whether kendo actually helps improve our health as we age and in which way it benefits us. Any illumination on the subject would be much appreciated.