February 2008

What Does Being a Black Belt Mean to Me?

By Allie Alberigo

When I was a young martial artist, my instructor asked what being a Black Belt meant to me. He believed my answer would tell him if I was worthy of the Black Belt. I thought long and hard for many days before submitting my thoughts in the form of an essay. He took a week to respond; and, during that time, I experienced a great deal of inner turmoil, thinking possibly I answered wrong, aid something to offend him or even missed the point entirely. When we finally spoke about it – I had a bead of sweat dripping from my head, as I hoped I had made him proud – his answer to me was simply “okay.” I never truly understood what he wanted to achieve with this exercise. Sometimes, I questioned whether he wanted to achieve anything at all, but all in all it was a lesson for me. After 39 years of training in the martial arts, I should understand the Black Belt mentality and what being a Black Belt means to me. During the nearly four decades that I have been training, however, I have changed my perspective many times. It’s not so much as if I was changing my mind, but more so that my goals, ideals and understanding have shifted many times with my age and maturity. So, in essence, what I thought about being a Black Belt when I was first asked is not the same as my thoughts today. I believe Black Belts are ambassadors of their schools as well as the world. Black Belts’ actions reflect not only their schools, but also Black Belts everywhere. Black Belt represents not just physical echniques and movements; it represents an entirely evolved mentality, which most non- Black Belts will never understand. It reflects years of lessons, the maturity that develops with every struggle or goal, it epitomizes a life’s journey. So, after 39 years of martial arts, the Black Belt represents 39 years of my life that no one else can value, except me. I would never give back one experience. To me, the Black Belt represents life, as I know it today. For those of you who are young or just starting, once you have achieved a level of proficiency that is awarded with the honor of Black Belt, you’ll know that the journey has just begun. For those of you already on your quest, keep going and never quit and your life will be changed forever.



Immunity Boosters: Diet or Exercise?
By Jennifer G. Galea MS RD

You may have seen products on grocery store shelves, claiming “immunity oost” or “immunity blend;” items that claim to increase your body’s immunity to disease. This is all due to the Food and Drug Administration allowing anufacturers to use the terms “supports, enhances” and “boosts,” regarding the “immune system,” in marketing and on food labels. These kinds of “structure-or-function” claims require very little scientific evidence. Because so many nutrients have been linked to some role in immune function, these claims can be put on just about any food item. This prompted me to research the effects of diet on immunity. I was shocked when I reviewed the scientific literature on the effects of diet on immunity. I had always thought that eating healthfully and/or boosting my vitamin and mineral intake would bolster my immune system. Studies show, owever, that diet has very little effect on your immune response. Unless you are elderly or your nutritional status is severely compromised in some other way, improving your diet won’t boost your immune system. Despite these findings, it is still very important to eat a well-balanced diet, high in fiber, low in saturated and trans fats and high in whole grains. These components of a healthy diet all aid in disease prevention. A healthy diet is crucial to avoid heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. Exercise, on the other hand, is the complete pposite, as far as the immune system is concerned: exercise has a significant, immediate and measurable impact on immune function. Researchers found that when they had sedentary (non-active) individuals walk briskly for 45 minutes per day most days of the week, the number of days they were sick was cut in half! The researchers linked this to the increased levels of “natural killer cells” and neutrophils (a kind of “immunity cell”) found during exercise. These levels actually remain elevated for approximately three hours after exercise, continuing to “clean house” long after physical activity ended. Skip the special “immunity boosting” foods. Eat a consistently healthful, well balanced diet and exercise moderately most days of the week. An improved immune system is just one of the many benefits that you’ll reap!

Energy and persistence conquer all things.

Benjamin Franklin, inventor, scientist and one of America’s Founding Fathers

Translation for Adults
You won’t succeed all the time, but if you focus your en-ergy on achieving your goals, then you will be successful. You can let failure act as a roadblock that stands between you and your goals and your happiness, or you can dust yourself off and try again. To overcome those seemingly impossible roadblocks, you need plenty of energy and persistence. That energy must be physical, mental and spiritual and your persistence must be unrelenting no matter what obstacles may appear. Failure is only one of many stepping stones on the path to your goals.

Translation for Kids
You have probably heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.” What this means is that you shouldn’t let failure be a roadblock to your goals. Dig deep for that extra energy and refocus it to try again. For example, if you don’t earn first place at the karate tournament, it doesn’t mean you are bad at karate. The lesson you should learn is that you have to work even harder to become better than you competitors and win the next tournament. If you are persistent and keep reminding yourself of your goal, then you are certain to achieve it.