Iaido Articles

Best Martial Arts for Longevity


 " Life is long, if we know how to use it properly"

 Longevity, by definition, is the great duration of an individual life. I believe the majority of people would agree longevity is a good and desirable thing. The key is, how to attain it? In today's fast paced world, where stress often dominates, and diseases such as obesity, cancer and diabetes have skyrocketed, how does one aspire to attain longevity? The most important elements for optimal health have been swept under the rug for the many people as the hustle and bustle of everyday life takes over. 

Technology has made things a bit easier for us, yet made us also a bit lazier and unhealthier. We no longer walk from point A to B, we no longer garden for our food, and many no longer even get up from their work desks for hours at a time. The same goes with our diet. In essence to "save time" we hit the local drive-thrus more times during the week than we should.

Health and diet play a major role in my life, I am well educated in both fields, yet I find myself doing this as well. There just is not enough time in the day! In addition, more and more people are suffering from sleep due to this highly stressful life we've created for our society. Vacations? Very few. Community involvement? Limited. Longevity? No, we are seeing quite the opposite here in the United States.

However, there are places on Earth that have mastered the art of living long and healthy. For example, the island of Ikaria on the coast of Greece is called "the island where people forget to die", because the proportion of 100-year-olds is the highest ever seen. They walk everywhere they need to go; garden, grow and harvest their own food; prepare their own wine, which they drink often by the way; physically knead their own bread, and stay involved in family and community life.

In Okinawa, Japan, the general trends are the same: plant based home grown or locally based diets, walkable communities, and what they call "maois". Maois is a committed social network that lasts a long time, sort of like a personal board of directors. When a child is born, his parents place him in one of these groupings where he makes lifelong friends to later drink saki with! Believe it or not, this gesture of community involvement has been known to add at least eight years onto life expectancy.

What do these top two countries of longevity have in common? Healthy diets, exercise regimens, and community involvement. They do not hop on the treadmill daily for 30 minutes, or hit an aerobics class, they have exercise intertwined in their lifestyles, every day, all day. Unfortunately, we do not have this luxury. Unless you pack it up and move to a community that lives this lifestyle, most likely, you are driving in your car to and fro, possibly having groceries delivered to you, and ordering pizza on Friday nights. Your social life is minimal, and you hardly even get to sit down to family meals anymore. Me, included. So, how can we change all this in our lives? How can we strive for longevity?

We have unlimited choices everyday that we can make towards our optimal health that will aid in a healthier longer life. The first step would be to get involved in a group that focuses on overall health. The Martial arts communities are known to acknowledge nutrition, conscious living, and of course, exercise and fitness. The schools themselves usually offer a family oriented atmosphere where growth in all categories is strived for and acknowledged accordingly. Of course, there are some forms of the martial arts that are primarily focused on self defense and or competition, more injuring the body then doing it good. But there are also other forms of the arts that aim for strength, flexibility, mental awareness and low impact cardiovascular health, more of an overall healthy lifestyle, and that's what we're looking for here.

Such forms include Tai Chi, Brazilian Ju Jistu and Aikido. They are all martial art forms that take the emphasis off of deteriorating hip and knee movements, or hard impact punches to the head, and body, and focus on more subtle exercises to get the blood flowing to all the right places. Although we may not live in a walkable community, such as Okinawa, we can still incorporate some of their longevity techniques into our lifestyle by participating in beneficial activities such as these martial arts.

Tai Chi

According to World Health Net, has been directly correlated to longevity. Research by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee of was conducted on over 61,000 middle-aged and elderly men in Shanghai, China. Their health and lifestyle were tracked for five years. 22,000 of the participants reported that they exercised at least once a week. Taking into consideration factors such as the men's age, health conditions, and whether they were smokers, exercise was found to be tied to a 20% lower likelihood of dying. The study showed that of the 10,000 men who practiced tai chi, 20% less likely to die than men who didn't exercise. In addition, the research indicated that men who walked regularly were 23% less likely to die during the study, and men who jogged were 27% less likely to die. In conclusion, the study revealed that walking and jogging, like practicing Tai Chi were indeed associated with reduced mortality.

Medical research has also shown that tai chi has proven to be beneficial for congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, depression and anxiety. Some research also indicates that the practice of tai chi can enhance the immune system , and is beneficial for increasing joints movement in people suffering with severe osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ is known to be more than just a sport, but an overall lifestyle. That is what we are looking for in terms of a martial art for longevity. Yes, students gain overall strength and stamina, but what you can't see going on is really what the Brazilian jiu jitsu lifestyle is about. It's taking the lessons learned on the mat and applying them to your everyday life. Using patience in learning techniques, stress relief in the cardio, and the internal benefits such as lower cholesterol, more flexibility and mobility and weight loss. All important factors in health and overall longevity.


Or the gentle martial art, focuses more on harmonizing with your opponent to bring peaceful resolutions to situations involving conflict. This Japanese art form is influenced by internal and meditative disciplines with an emphasis on internal and physical integrity. All martial arts are a form of training for self defense, yet Aikido, like a few others, aims to create a warrior that is not only a killing machine, but a model of courage and loyalty, as a means of promoting positive character, and disabling conflict before it even begins. Aikido ties together relationships, fitness and positive thinking, all aspects tied together for healthier living.

In Asia, it is very common for masters in the martial arts to live long, healthy lives. 

In conclusion, one must be conscious about the kind of lifestyle they partake in to reach their optimal health and longevity. Incorporating a healthy diet, exercise and community are all important factors to consider. Be picky about what physical activity you allow in your life. Make it beneficial and not destructive in nature. With the limited time available in our live, choose something an activity and community that focuses on all areas of life, not just one. Choosing a martial art that complements your life could reward you trifold.


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