In our lives we often have little or no time to ever relax. When was the last time you sat down and simply thought about taking a deep cleansing breath? If you are busy with work, teaching martial arts in the evenings, dealing with the numerous personal, family, and emotional issues that life brings, this edition of Dojo Medicine, entitled Dojo Stress, has an answer for you, but you have to do it in order to get the desired response of stress reduction.

Stress can have numerous effects on our system and most stress responses trigger hormonal release and catecholamine release, which can cause many physiologically damaging problems. It is possible to have “eu-stress”, or good stress that motivates you to get the job done, or meet a deadline, but eu-stress is generally only about ten percent of our daily stressors. “Distress” or bad stress makes up the other ninety percent! We often manage it poorly by getting angry, tense, or even using other more dangerous methods to reduce it. We need an approach to handle distress that is done in a habitually healthy way.

One of the most common side effects of physical activity is stress reduction. Martial art training is one activity that is uniquely tailored for this role in our lives. Often martial art training is an overlooked aspect of “DOJO Medicine” that cannot be underestimated in its value to our students and ourselves. When we train our bodies we generate various endorphins, hormones and other by products that cause vasodilation, increased blood circulation to the central organs and help reduce toxin loads significantly.

In Japan the term used is “misogi”, which loosely means “purify the body and spirit”. As we exercise and train in martial arts activities there is a major emphasis on stretching, breathing, and meditation that we do not see emphasized in other physical activities. The cleansing breath removes carbon dioxide (the major metabolic waste product of the body) and breathing also increases ventilation, which in many cases improves oxygenation, tissue recovery, and allows for at least a brief moment of focus that is all about you.

Taken as a total package few other physical activities move into the realm of stress reduction or relaxation in the way martial arts training does. I have heard it said: “That when you have a bad day, you should train…When you have a good day, you should train and when you are stressed out, you should train”.

In other words the answer to stress reduction and many of our problems can be found in the training process. Most problems seem less daunting and more approachable after we work up a good lather! After all it is not about getting to the top of the mountain, it is about the process of continually climbing lifes many mountains stress is one we never summit, but we can learn to deal with it better through martial arts training.