Longevity and CMA IMA

Xue Sheng

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I have been wondering about the claims of Taiji masters and Bagua Masters and Xingyi masters living longer than others of their time so I looked up a few. Please understand this is far from a scientific study but so far it looks like it is true based on the life expectancies of the time in China and the life expectancy for the average person in China before 1949 appears to be about 35 years and after 1949 it increases by about 20 years, by 1970 it was 65 and today it is up to about 73.1.

So far it appears that Chen stylists and Xingyiquan practitioners live longer on average but this also could have a lot to do with genetics as well particularly when comparing things like the Chen family (77.3) and the Yang family (69.9). But if I include Yang Taiji practitioners it jumps to 71.7, Fu Zhongwen lived to about 91 however so far the oldest is a Xingyiquan master Wang Ji Wu that lived to 100.

This is the break down so far

Xingyiquan = 78.6
Chen Taijiquan = 77.8
Baguazhang = 77.3
Yang Taijiquan = 71.7

Also I did not include people like Li Cunyi who lived to only 47, still old for his time but not as old as the rest. The reason I did not include him is I am working on a separate category of those that trained both Xingyi and Bagua and he is one of them as is Wu Kung-I who lived to 70

So it does appear at this point that on average a CMA IMA guy did live longer than most of their time. But I have not seen any ages of other CMA practitioners either and it could just be good physical fitness keeps you healthy so you live longer too.

I am still looking and still trying to see what the, if any, difference is between the styles as far as longevity goes of its practitioners.
 

7starmarc

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An interesting question, though you'd need a lot more data to make anything out of it. Also, it would be interesting to see if there's a difference between those who practice the martial art, those who practice the "exercise" of Tai Chi, and those who perhaps go through chi gong exercises only.

Also, as CMA may be the only real structured exercise program in some regions or times, a comparison to other exercises (e.g. running, swimming) would be interesting as well.
 
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Xue Sheng

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An interesting question, though you'd need a lot more data to make anything out of it. Also, it would be interesting to see if there's a difference between those who practice the martial art, those who practice the "exercise" of Tai Chi, and those who perhaps go through chi gong exercises only.

Also, as CMA may be the only real structured exercise program in some regions or times, a comparison to other exercises (e.g. running, swimming) would be interesting as well.

Actually this is geared purely at Old China, and the guys people think of as masters or part of a great lineage, as compared to the life expectancies of that time and the claims of longevity and health that were made by those that practice these arts. So Taiji for health does not really enter into it and other exercises, although that would be interesting as would taiji for health if I were talking modern times, I do not believe there are any old records from China about runners or swimmers that I could gain easy access to. Pretty much every one I am looking at here for age is long since dead. Although there is one in there that passed away just this past year one in the 90s and couple in the 80s and a couple in the 70s but the majority passed away pre-1960s

However it would be interesting to compare the ages of say practitioners of external styles to this and after I am done messing around with IMA I might just do that. Just to see if the claims of longevity in IMA are actually true or not as compared to EMA.
 

tshadowchaser

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An interesting study I have no information to add but would be very interested in seeing your results when this study is complete
 

grydth

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T.T. Liang credited Tai Chi with saving him from an early death in his 40's, from alcoholism and other vices. I think he lived on to 102.

Of course, you have a very daunting task if you want to make anything scientific out of this. Liang may have prospered just by giving up excessive boozing and partying. Or, the move from China to the USA with changes in food/air/water could have done it. Or, was there a medicine or diet he began...

There probably are few classic age records on young masters who died early, so is anything near a whole picture available? Since Tai Chi may come as part of an overall lifestyle change, who is to say it is the - or even a - factor in increased longevity?

I wish you the best, but this be a Herculean task....
 
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Xue Sheng

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T.T. Liang credited Tai Chi with saving him from an early death in his 40's, from alcoholism and other vices. I think he lived on to 102.

Of course, you have a very daunting task if you want to make anything scientific out of this. Liang may have prospered just by giving up excessive boozing and partying. Or, the move from China to the USA with changes in food/air/water could have done it. Or, was there a medicine or diet he began...

There probably are few classic age records on young masters who died early, so is anything near a whole picture available? Since Tai Chi may come as part of an overall lifestyle change, who is to say it is the - or even a - factor in increased longevity?

I wish you the best, but this be a Herculean task....

Thanks

But I really have no desire to make it a scientific study and I don't plan on publishing a thing. I just am looking at when these guys died as comparison to the average life expectancy at the time to see if there is possibly any truth to the legends of old. And I thought others would be interested. This is more along the lines of "HEY!!! Check this out." kind of thing.

And so far looking at a few guys that died at the age of 70 and 80 in a time when the average life expectancy was 35 is pretty impressive. But then the farmer down the street that smoked, drank and chased women his whole life may have out lived all of them and I do not have access to records like that, even if they exist. Actually what would interest me more is the comparison between Internal Martial Artists and External Martial Artists

And Thanks, I forgot about TT Liang, I shall add him to the list.
 

Empty Hands

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And so far looking at a few guys that died at the age of 70 and 80 in a time when the average life expectancy was 35 is pretty impressive.

Something you should know about life expectancy: it is calculated including very young children. Coincidentally, prior to modern medicine, most children never lived past a few years old. We've all seen the old pictures and heard the stories. Lots of zeroes and 0.5's will drag down your average without really telling you how long an adult will live. Most adults at that time who actually made it out of childhood probably did not die at 35.
 
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Xue Sheng

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Something you should know about life expectancy: it is calculated including very young children. Coincidentally, prior to modern medicine, most children never lived past a few years old. We've all seen the old pictures and heard the stories. Lots of zeroes and 0.5's will drag down your average without really telling you how long an adult will live. Most adults at that time who actually made it out of childhood probably did not die at 35.

You know… I knew that but I completely forgot to consider that, I was just thrilled I fond any info at all on life expectancy in China pre-1950

I once had a discussion with one of the historians at Fort Ticonderoga about life expectancies during the period of the revolutionary war and they did say the infant mortality rate is what brought it down and that those that survived childhood tended to live much longer.

Well now I have to look for different data to see what the average age of those that got past childhood
 

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Another thing to consider: were these people members of the social elite or wealthy? If so, they probably had access to better nutrition and medical care, as well as avoided working 14-hour days in the rice paddies or doing other hard labor that tends to take a toll on one's general health and lifespan. Instead, they spent their time training.

Also, would these results be particularly different from anyone training in any other martial art? For example: Hung Gar was said to lead to an early death due to heart disease from all the dynamic tension and hard qi exercises. But Hung Gar master Lam Jo in Hong Kong lived well into his 90s (not exactly sure if he has passed away yet...). So he is a very prominent exception to the rule...
 
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Xue Sheng

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Another thing to consider: were these people members of the social elite or wealthy? If so, they probably had access to better nutrition and medical care, as well as avoided working 14-hour days in the rice paddies or doing other hard labor that tends to take a toll on one's general health and lifespan. Instead, they spent their time training.

Also, would these results be particularly different from anyone training in any other martial art? For example: Hung Gar was said to lead to an early death due to heart disease from all the dynamic tension and hard qi exercises. But Hung Gar master Lam Jo in Hong Kong lived well into his 90s (not exactly sure if he has passed away yet...). So he is a very prominent exception to the rule...

Interesting thing here is that I am actually not trying to prove anything but just see if the "legends" are true and after I get a handle on that I am ABSOLUTLY going to compare it to people trained in other arts that are from China and not considered IMA.

My sifu told me a story once about a man that came to visit his sifu (Tung Ying Chieh - who died at 65 by the way) and they appeared, at least to my sifu, to be good friends. However my sifu thought the other guy was much older. He was later told by his sifu they were about the same age and the other man was a very good martial artist when he was younger but trained in a very hard style. Per my sifu the man had pretty major arthritis in his hands and could not walk to well. Also he claimed this was not uncommon for many external guys of the time. It would be interesting to see if this is the case or not overall.

And to diet that was mentioned earlier that I am sure had something to do with it. A rather accomplished Yiquan Sifu form NYC died recently of a heart attack and if you look to the Yang family Yang Chengfu died rather young but he was close to 300 lbs when he died.
 

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another anecdotal bit of evidence is that it seems like there are lots of stories of people claiming that they were weak and sickly as a child, and then they began training in martial arts and they have been much healthier and stronger throughout their life. I think Funakoshi perhaps makes that claim in his autobiography. But it seems like this kind of story is sort of common in the martial arts. Anecdotal or not, I am sure there must be some truth in it.

Just today I was talking with one of the students in our school, he's only been in the school for a short time and he's around 20 years old or so. Anyway, he commented on our sifu's age, thinking that he must be around 40, maybe 45. I told him sifu is turning 61 shortly, and he couldn't believe it. He also thought I was in my 20s, while I'm actually 37, so that was kind of nice too. But I just told him that's what a lifetime devoted to martial arts will do for you. Keeps you young and healthy and strong, and keeps your mind young too, not just your body.
 
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Xue Sheng

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another anecdotal bit of evidence is that it seems like there are lots of stories of people claiming that they were weak and sickly as a child, and then they began training in martial arts and they have been much healthier and stronger throughout their life. I think Funakoshi perhaps makes that claim in his autobiography. But it seems like this kind of story is sort of common in the martial arts. Anecdotal or not, I am sure there must be some truth in it.

Just today I was talking with one of the students in our school, he's only been in the school for a short time and he's around 20 years old or so. Anyway, he commented on our sifu's age, thinking that he must be around 40, maybe 45. I told him sifu is turning 61 shortly, and he couldn't believe it. He also thought I was in my 20s, while I'm actually 37, so that was kind of nice too. But I just told him that's what a lifetime devoted to martial arts will do for you. Keeps you young and healthy and strong, and keeps your mind young too, not just your body.

Yup, ain't it cool. But I am STILL waiting for someone to think I am 20 :D

Sun Lutang, Tung Ying Chieh, Jing Yunting to name a few all were allegeldly sickly and got stronger from martial arts.

And my Yang Sifu is in his 70s and many guess 50s.
 
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punisher73

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I believe it was in the book "Shotokan's Secrets", but the author had a chart very similiar that dealt with the life expectancy of okinawans and how long the early karate masters lived in relation. It also showed that there was a significant difference between the ages of karate masters and the "average" person.

Think about the average "old person" here in the US and how many of them are still active? The ones that I have known that were still active lived above the average age. I think it has more to do with being outside and getting fresh air and moving the body around to keep healthy, no matter what method you use.
 
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