As a young boy, I remember watching my dad in awe as he smashed through hard objects with a single strike. As he just turned 60, I still watch in awe! This undertaking goes way beyond looking cool, it can be a meditation; being in the moment, projecting your mind through and beyond the challenge and assessing each obstacle with a beginner’s mind. The process and training that it takes to perform this feat involves years of consistent training. This gradual process of building bone density, when done correctly has many therapeutic applications for our health too.
Conditioning takes time my dad, often writes “a drop of water repeated over time can make a hole in stone”. This is the idea to embrace when we undertake the conditioning of bones. Around the age of 30; the marrow rich area in our bones which is responsible for red blood cell production slows down dramatically. The bones turn yellow from fat cells and muscles take longer to recover because the lymphatic system becomes inhibited. The lactic acid that builds up without conditioing the soft tissues like bones, fascia, and tendons becomes stuck around the joints. The bigger muscles which may have served us in our teens and 20s may look intimidating but real strength has no start and stop. Kancho always cautions his students, we are not training to be weight lifters. In martial arts, giving the opponent a notice of when a movement starts and stops can lead to peril. Instead, a connected power that is ever ready offers the gift that keeps on giving.
Noticing my dad train into his 50s and 60s, he spends a good amount of time staying flexible and conditioning his bones. Bones are soft tissues and as such, like braces can shift and become stronger by conditioning. I dont know any astronauts personally, but they’re immune/lymphatic system declines proportionally with the length of time in space. On Earth, the bones support the weight of the body. The size and mass of the bones are balanced by the rates at which certain bone cells (osteoblasts) lay down new mineral layers and other cells (osteoclasts) chew up those mineral layers. In microgravity, as the bones do not need to support the body, all of the bones, especially the weight-bearing bones in the hips, thighs and lower back, are used much less than they are on Earth. In these bones, the rate at which the osteoblasts deposit new bone layers is reduced (but no one knows exactly why, though it is thought that changes in force and stress are somehow involved), while the rate at which osteoclasts chew up bone stays the same. As a result, the size and mass of these bones continue to decrease as long as the astronauts remain in space, at a rate of approximately 1 percent per month. These changes in bone mass make the bones weak and more likely to break upon they return to Earth’s gravity. It is not known how much of the bone loss is recoverable upon return to Earth, although it is probably not 100 percent. These changes in bones may limit the duration of space flights.
Whether we wish to blast off in space or train the bones like Kancho, it is a preparation that takes time; be patient and compassionate with your body. It is this patience and perseverance that leads to reach our goals.
Up next, will be ways to condition your bones.