When most people think about karate, they think about punches and kicks and black belts breaking boards with their hands.
But one local karate sensei (teacher) is changing that. Sanjit Mandal, with a studio inside Club One Fitness in Pleasanton is using his roots to incorporate yoga poses and stretching into his classes.
Mandal's classes embrace traditional Goju Ryu Karatedo concepts. Goju is Japanese for hard-soft. Ryu means school and Karatedo means open hand. Literally, the classes teach a hard-soft style of open hand martial arts as a way of attaining true peace.
Mandal, who has both third and fourth degree black belt in two disciplines, said adding yoga to the mix helps his students, not only in class.
"Adults in general are less flexible when they get older. Increasing range of motion can increase power when they have to strike a pad or a person, God forbid," Mandal said. "There are also many benefits to keeping the joints limber."
Experts say staying flexible can keep arthritis at bay, can increase circulation, and help improve cardiovascular health.
Each of Mandal's classes include two set of stretches, one at the beginning and another at the end.
They also include warm ups to get the blood flowing and to help the body produce synovial fluid, which lubricateds joints, and muscle conditioning to increase strength and endurance.
As in traditional Karate, Mandal also incorporates moving basics, like strikes and kicks, katas -- series of movements -- and kumite, which is sparring.
Danville resident Selena Luis has been practicing Karate for a bout three years and recently began attending Mandal's classes, and said they're unlike what one might find at a strip mall.
Karate, she said, "changes your soul."
"It goes that far -- your chi, your balance and everything internally. It balances you," Diaz said. ' It makes you stronger and more agile."
While she said yoga and karate are two separate things, they both offer similar attitudes.
As in traditional Indian practices, both focus on the mind, body and spirit, what Mandal called the three battles.
"There's really nothing else out there," he said. "You can go to yoga class or spin class, but the don't address wholeness. They don't encompass aerobic and anaerobic exercise and strength."
Another health benefit of karate, Mandal said, is stress reduction.
"If someone needs to go fast in order to achieve a level, you have to push your body to go faster, so you're harnessing your own tension," he said. "By creating tension, they're more likely to deal with environmental factors that cause stress, that way when you're relaxed, you feel more relaxed."
He said interval training is built in to the practice of karate.
"You go from fast to slow to fast very quickly," Mandal explained, adding, "karate helps strengthen core muscles."
Everyone from the U.S. Army to alternative medicine practitioners has studied the importance of proper breathing, and it's a key aspect of Madal's classes.
"Breathing is a huge factor in this form of karate training. In anything you do, kicking or punching, the breath should be controlling the body," he said.
Luis said there are a couple of added benefits to Mandal's classes: Club One in Pleasanton has a playcare area for children, making it easier for a parent to attend, and gym members can work out when they're not practicing karate.