Can blood tonics improve athletic performance?
By: Thomas Richard Joiner, 2014 ©
Published in martialforce.com
In order to perform on a high level in today’s competitive environment athletes are constantly searching for new ways to not only sharpen their mental acuity, but also improve their over-all strength and endurance. This on-going search for an elixir that can improve athletic performance has not gone unnoticed by the multi-billion dollar health industry. Proof of this is the plethora of so-called energy increasing performance enhancing products that inundate the shelves of our local grocery and health food stores.
Generally falling under the heading of “nutritional supplements” these power boosting training supplements are often referred to as newly discovered, when in fact, they are either old remedies that have been re-packaged and sold as new, or recently developed concoctions that are based on ancient health practices.
Frustrated by manufacturer’s claims that are often exaggerated not to mention the possibility of harmful side-effects, a renewed search is underway by increasing numbers of athletes—including martial artists—to find substances that are both safe and effective. In their on-going search for the proverbial “magic bullet,” many have begun to re-examine ancient practices that over the years have succumbed to modernization and as a result, had been all but forgotten.
One such practice that is beginning to receive a fair amount of attention is the practice of using Chinese herbal blood tonics for improving the quality of one’s blood. Part of a select group of herbal formulas that have been used by martial artists for literally thousands of years; the rationale for their use is based on traditional Chinese medicine’s assertion that when blood tonics become part of a systematic program that emphasizes good nutrition and regular training, they make a significant contribution toward developing what is considered an optimal state of health. This superior level of mental and physical fitness we are told ultimately leads to improved athletic performance.
Before I offer an explanation about how this can be accomplished, I’ll try to explain what’s meant by “blood quality.” According to the Chinese medical definition not only is blood, which is the primary fluid in the human body, responsible for supplying oxygen to the tissues, it also nourishes the vital organs (Heart, Lungs, Spleen, Liver and Kidneys). The quality of one’s blood is determined by two things, its nutrient value, which is another way of saying how enriched it is with iron and other micro-nutrients, and its viscosity, which refers to its thinness or thickness. Generally speaking, blood is enriched in three ways: through a wholesome diet, by taking vitamin and mineral supplements, and by using herbal tonics. Likewise, viscosity or how thick or thin one’s blood is depends on dietary habits and how often one exercises. Although blood’s nutrient value and its viscosity are both influenced by the factors previously mentioned, traditional Chinese medicine has discovered that the quality of a person’s blood is most powerfully affected by the regular use of herbal blood tonics that nourish and enrich the blood while maintaining a neutral consistency that is neither too thick nor too thin.
The importance of all of this is demonstrated by Chinese medicine’s assertion that when the vital organs are nourished by blood of superior quality, maximum organ functioning is achieved. According to the ancient medicine, it’s only when all of the organs (Heart, Lungs, Liver Kidney and Spleen) operate or function at maximum efficiency that optimal health is realized. This process can be likened to the way that an automobile engine’s performance is improved through the use of high-octane fuel. Similarly, nutrient enriched blood of neutral viscosity improves the function of all of the vital organs with the result being better health, increased endurance and improved overall fitness. In addition to the measurable benefits to an individual’s over-all health, the rewards of enriched well nourished blood can also be seen in more subtle ways such as: the condition of the bones, muscles, skin, and hair. A point that also bears mentioning is that the quality of the blood and its ability to circulate efficiently and assist the synovial fluid in lubricating the joints and nourishing the sinews (ligaments and tendons), can also significantly improve flexibility.
Due to the fact that deficient blood or blood with low nutrient value is not considered life threatening, it often goes undetected. The chief complaints of people who suffer from poor blood quality are usually non-specific conditions like: reduced energy levels, lack of strength, anemia, constipation, headaches, lack of flexibility and reduced mental acuity. Chinese Medicine believes that when this vital fluid is devoid of nutrients and lacks balanced viscosity, it has a negative impact on over-all health and quality of life and diminishes athletic performance by undermining our ability to feel our absolute best and perform at peak levels by robbing us of the strength, vitality and endurance that optimal health provides.
Are blood tonics a “magic bullet” or a substitute for hard training, the answer is a resounding no. But, I am suggesting based on years of personal use as well as my experience in Acupuncture/Chinese Herbology that martial artists who may be looking for that “edge” or so-called leg up, may want to give serious consideration to using blood tonics given the physical demands that are required to practice martial arts at the highest levels.
Thomas Richard Joiner, Kyoshi 6th dan
Chinese Goju Martial Arts
Thomas Richard Joiner, author of the Warrior as Healer, Blending Botany and Budo, and Chinese Herbal Medicine Made Easy, Kung Fu Medicine, Martial Esoterica, and Slaying the Dragon is a Kyoshi sixth-degree black belt in Chinese Goju Martial Arts and has received certification in Tien Tao Chi Kung, as well as being a graduate of the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine New York City. He has conducted advanced study in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture at the Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences in Oakland, CA, trained in Chinese Herbology under Dr. Lai Fu Cai as well as studying at the Institute of Chinese Herbology in Berkeley, CA. Thomas’s martial arts education includes training in Wing Chun Gung Fu with Sifu Ralph Rodriquez, Sifu Lee Moy Shan and the late Grandmaster Moy Yat. In addition he has studied Taoist Esoteric Yoga Micro-cosmic orbit meditation, Iron shirt Chi Kung and Seminal Ovarian Kung Fu with Mantak Chia, as well as training in Chinese Goju Martial Arts under Grandmaster/Shidoshi Ron Van Clief.
Sensei Joiner’s books provide extensive insights into the centuries-old practice of incorporating herbs into your martial arts training as well as making available prescriptions for many of the legendary and most highly regarded formulas used in Asian Martial Arts for treating injuries as well as enhancing one’s training.
Sensei Joiner has been a practicing Chinese Herbalist for nearly two decades, and is the founder of an online mail order company Treasures From the Sea of Chi which specializes in traditional Chinese herbal formulas used in martial arts training. If you would like more information on herbal practices in the martial arts, Sensei Joiner can be reached at his company email: firstname.lastname@example.org.