Naginata Physiology part 2

by Gur Nedzvetsky, 3rd year student of Physical Education (BA).

Fat – why we don’t lose much body fat even though some of us practice almost every day?

Fat is a necessary component of the human body. However, in modern times obesity is a serious health concern (see European Health Interview Survey – EHIS 2019). The main reasons are unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. However, this article is not about the problem of obesity, but rather to help understanding the basic healthy levels of fat in the human body.

The fat can be divided into two categories: Essential body fat, which is crucial for body activity, and non-essential body fat, which is not needed by the body to function, but that is rather stored in various parts until it is needed for energy conversion. 

  Essential Fat Non-Essential FatStandard Fat percentage for people aged-18-40 (not professional sportsmen)
Men 3% of body weight 12% of body weight 14%-24%
Women 12% of body weight 15% of body weight 23%-33%

For young men having above 25% of body fat is considered unhealthy. For young women the number is 34% body fat.

As we grow older, our body tends to store more fat. However, it doesn’t justify obesity – rather that parameters must be age related.

There are several ways to measure body fat.

Unfortunately, the most precise tools are also quite expensive. But these days we have several types of scales and calipers that are not expensive and can give a reasonably good result.



Another frequently used tool is the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI uses the following simple equation: BMI=Weight (kg)/Height2 (m).

Example: A man who is 1.80 meters high and weights 80 kg will have a BMI of 80/3.24 = 24.7

The only problem with the BMI is that it doesn’t consider the percentage relativity of muscle and fat. Therefore 2 people who weight 100 kg and are 1.80 meters high can get the same BMI of 30.86, even though one of them is a bodybuilder who has a small non-essential body fat percentage, while the other guy is a potato couch who has a big fat percentage and a much smaller muscle mass. But both weight the same 100 kg, and their height is 1.80 meters. 

That being said – in most cases people are not extreme sportsman but have a standard body fat percentage and therefore the BMI can be used.

BMI Rank
25.0 – 19.0 Normal
30.0 – 25.1 Above normal
35.0 – 30.1 High
Above 35.0 Very high

In relation to the previous article (Part 1: ENERGY <link here>), we now understand that calories are used to make energy, and that the type of training, it’s duration and the body mass of the practitioner are all related to the consummation rate of this energy. Our distribution of muscle and fat ratio in the body also have impact on the results of our training.


When our muscles contract – they cause our body organs to move. The bigger the muscle – the more energy it can muster. The lighter the body – the faster it will move. And speed is crucial at shiai. Therefore, one of the ways to become faster in shiai is to lose excessive fat while developing muscle mass.

Developing muscle mass: In my opinion, the best way to develop correct “naginata related muscles” is to practice correct naginata as frequently as possible. A good tactic I use with my students is to break down a complicated technique to its components, and then practice each one separately in various ways. For example, footwork can be practiced in various running styles, speed ladder, stairs training, different jumping styles. We usually dedicate 10-15 minutes to these kinds of exercise at least 2 times a week.

The only thing that the regular naginata practice may lack is the emphasys of building core muscles, for which I add additional training time every few times a week. For those who don’t know what core muscles are – it’s the muscles in the area of abdomen and pelvis. In other words – our belly.

Losing excessive fat: There are 2 ways to do it:

1. Aerobic training. This topic will be expanded in the next articles. But for those who can’t wait and want a super short explanation – naginata practice and martial arts in general can burn fat when done intensely, but it is not the most ideal way.

For those who want to burn fat efficiently and on a regular basis however – the best advice is to add additional trainings such as running, swimming, riding a bicycle or doing any other sport that includes a repetitive action for a prolonged length of time.

2. Eating diet. In many cases – changing the diet to a healthier form is the most efficient way to lose fat. However, I am not a qualified nutritionist and therefore my best advice is to go to a professional and build a personal plan that will be based on your personal physiology, medical condition, age and lifestyle.

Sources: EHIS 2019, “Phyisical Fitness” by Dr. Yoav Meckel