One of the common sights in the world of martial arts is the sight of martial arts instructors who sport what I would call “buddha bellies.” Others would call it a “beer belly.”


I am not talking about the slight paunch that comes with age for most people. I am talking about massive bellies that a number of instructors have. Quite frankly, it’s quite appalling to see these high ranking instructors sport such physiques. For one thing, they are part of the increasing numbers of people who are becoming morbidly obese. That’s right, morbidly obese.
For those who don’t know me, I was a hearing officer for the Industrial Commission of Ohio adjudicating workers’ compensation cases for 16 years before I moved to Canada. Over those years, I saw more and more obesity among injured workers. Invariably, the more obese the person was, the more difficult it was for them to return to work. The main reason, besides a lack of motivation, is that the obesity significantly delayed their recovery from their injuries. In any case, by the time I left in June 2007, there were significantly more obese people in the workers’ compensation system than at the time I started at the Industrial Commission in October of 1991.
This appears to be the case among martial arts instructors. It’s distressing to see them in a state of morbid obesity. For one thing, they are endangering their health. There may be a certain amount of irony here as they spend years training for various self defense scenarios, while ignoring the most obvious danger to their well being, the obesity. It has been amply established by various medical studies and from my experiences in the Ohio workers’ compensation system, that obesity has devastating consequences, ranging from increased stress on your knees and lower back,  significantly delayed recovery from orthopedic injuries, a higher risk for cardiovascular problems, diabetes, stroke, and a whole range of other medical problems.
Besides ignoring or overlooking the obvious danger to their own health, there is another issue and that is, what kind of message is that instructor sending to their students, particularly to children?  It has been documented that children are becoming more and more obese at alarming rates. One would hope that, in some cases, a fit and trim instructor would provide a positive message to counter the societal pressures of junk food and drink.  I think that it’s a crime for an obese instructor to be teaching children.
Just my two cents !
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4 thoughts on “Buddha Bellies

  • June 4, 2015 at 10:50 am

    I so agree with you, friend. In the U.S.A., obesity is incredibly high. It is everyone and everywhere, practically. I notice it not to be judgmental but because I believe a lot of health issues could be resolved if weight was a little more controlled. Believe me, I have my taste for sweets or for good food, but moderation is the key. Obesity is a cultural behavior. So, for instructors and for everyone, it is a good time to reflect on your body and your health and be the best role model for others that you can be.

    • June 4, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Right on Andrea! We’re on the same page!

  • June 4, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Obesity is obviously a serious health threat both for the individual and, considering the high rates these days, society as a whole. It is indeed an epidemic. However, waggling a finger at it (with all due respect) is not helpful. The causes of obesity rarely simplify to “don’t eat so much and move your ass”. The “low fat” movement started in the 70s was hugely (no pun intended) harmful. There is evidence that genetically engineered wheat that came out around that time has also caused problems. There is increasing evidence that gut flora play a big part in obesity. And some people are genetically predisposed to fat accumulation, which these other factors compound. And over and over again it has been shown that calorie-restricted “semi-starvation” diets simply do not work and usually exacerbate the problem. Research into current nutrition science shows how appallingly bad the “conventional wisdom” of the past 50 years has been.

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

      I agree with everything you said. I also blame the fast food and junk food industry as well. The economics have not been great either. Fast food is often much cheaper than buying healthier alternatives. No wonder why the poor have a higher rate of obesity. My “finger wagging” was aimed at martial arts instructors who are in the position of promoting fitness for children but not setting a good example.


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