This article is just my speculation…
The other day I was going through one of Master Funakoshi’s books, “The Essence of Karate”. In reading it one sentence really caught my eye,
“As a child, I suffered from a very weak stomach until I started training in Karate…”
When I think about it, I too had a very weak stomach until I started Karate. I know that there is no medical data that identifies for certain what condition Master Funakoshi may have had, but I know what was wrong with me.
A weak stomach can be a symptom of anxiety, self-doubt and lack of confidence, as it was in my case. Consequently, my theory is that Master Funakoshi also suffered with anxiety prior to him beginning his training at the age of 13 and that Karate helped him improve his mental health, leading to physical wellbeing.
“Once I started Karate, however, it would seem that my ailment was afraid of karate, as it disappeared, and I have not succumbed to illness for even a single day since that time.”
Working with students who suffer with anxiety like myself I can see how Karate training and positive reinforcement from instructors can improve a person’s mental wellbeing. It does this by boosting self-confidence and helping to emphasise self-worth through a structured progression. Given my experience perhaps Master Funakoshi’s revelation that Karate cured his stomach weakness prompted him to promote Shotokan Karate as a holistic system of self-development and self-improvement as well as a martial art.
If my speculation is correct then I believe that this would be the first documented case of Karate helping to fight a mental health condition through structured training methods. For me this seems quite plausible and would be seen as a positive demonstration of Karate practice leading to health benefits.
About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate. Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.