Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Characteristics of effective training

After years of training & coaching people (including myself) in various types of physical activities, I've decided to highlight the most important characteristics of effective training (whether it be fitness, combatives, or any other sport/skill) & share them to as many people as I can. There are only three: Knowledge, Consistency, & Intensity.

1. Knowledge of each exercise technique to ensure its effectiveness within the context of the workout.
2. Knowledge of how the body learns & adapts to new movement patterns & stimulus to ensure the workout's effectiveness within the context of the entire program, anywhere from 3 months to one year.
3. Knowledge of how to motivate & inspire people to keep them on the program until they achieve their goals.

Remember, fitness is on the same continuum as wellness & sickness. Yet, the general population understands that when we need to move from sickness to wellness (not sick), we need to consult the advice of a health professional, a doctor of some sort. But when it comes to moving from wellness (not sick) to fitness (healthy & vibrant), many people think they can do it on their own by reading an issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine or by buying the latest ab machine from an infomercial to hang your laundry off of. It's no wonder why 75% of people who exercise do not get the results they want. And out of the people that do get results, 90% of them are working with a trainer. Get a trainer & do it right.

Regular repetition. Significant change & growth does not happen instantaneously, but rather, incrementally; & it is impossible to have incremental change without regular & consistent practice & training. This is something that a trainer can emphasize & encourage, but in the end, this is really up to athlete. I have given exercise programs to highly dedicated clients & seen phenomenal results (including losing up to 95 pounds in 9 months), as well as given exercise prescriptions to some clients who give me nothing back but excuses. No excuses, just do it.

Get out of your comfort zone! No growth happens when we are comfortable. One thing that intrigues me is aerobic exercise. The human body has three major types of energy systems that are used to supply the body with energy depending on our exertion level. The aerobic system is the predominant energy system when your exertion or intensity level is low, like when you're jogging, walking, & sleeping. Wait a minute... The same energy system used while sleeping? Yes, that's right. Another way to think about it is that the aerobic energy system is predominant when we are comfortable or just "cruising." We've all experienced that sensation when you try to run faster than you are capable, & your legs start to burn like they're on fire. So what do we do? We slow down to a "comfortable pace" so we can continue the exercise for the desired amount of time. A trainer or coach can yell or scream @ you, but in the end, you have to push yourself because no one else can. You need to give it your all before you get anything back. Make it count.

Notice that of the three characteristics, only one of them can be truly provided by an external source, that is knowledge from the trainer/coach. The last two characteristics must really come from the athlete directly. It's true that a trainer can motivate & inspire people to come to the gym more often & push harder, thereby increasing their consistency & intensity, but in the end, it is still up to the athlete to choose how to respond to the trainer. In a society that is all about automation, where our children would rather call/text/chat with friends on-line instead of walking or riding a bike for a mile to their house to meet with them in person, it is no wonder why the general American population is obese & our future generations are predicted to be even worse. But we can change this. We need to set the example for our children. Will your legacy be one of laziness & obesity? Or will it be one of hard work & dedication? It's your choice...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sport fighting vs Martial arts

This was a discussion that came out of our Bujinkan class last week. Oftentimes, people argue that one is better than the other. And regardless of which side you take, arguments can be given to support both perspectives. However, I contest that they should be used together to make a better warrior.

My martial arts experience started when I was 10 years old, with taekwondo. After that, I have accumulated many years of experience in wrestling & boxing (as both a participant & coach), then escrima, & then the Bujinkan. Thus far, the Bujinkan has been the biggest evolution in my martial arts training. I have lived in Japan for 3 years studying in the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo under Hatsumi-sensei, Nagato-sensei, & Someya-sensei directly. I have continued to train in other martial arts as well, including judo, shorinji kempo, karate, & kyudo while in Japan, & brief interludes too short to mention in various other martial arts & military combatives. My sports & hobbies over the past 20 years have always been related to combat, so I hope my opinion carries some clout.

This link (http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/evolution.html) is quite possibly one of the best articles about how the martial arts have evolved over the past few decades because of the influence of sport fighting. It's a bit of a long read though. In summary, the argument presented in the above article states that traditional martial artists were getting defeated repeatedly by boxers in tournaments. As would be expected, if you force a martial arts practitioner to fight with rules that prohibit half of his techniques because they're too deadly, then only allow him to fight with his remaining non-lethal techniques, of course he is @ a major disadvantage. But keep in mind, boxing punching is good for sport fighting, where the goal is to score points & not kill the opponent. So in an effort to retain students & do better in tournaments, martial artists started punching like boxers, which is ineffective in a life or death scenario. Real combat & self-defense cannot be accurately tested in a sport fighting environment because the goals of combat (immediate incapacitation of your opponent, including death) are mutually exclusive with the goals of sport fighting (prove who is better without serious injury, & entertainment for spectators).

However, through my observations I have noticed the kinds of fighters each method of training produces are very different, often polar opposites. It is an argument of practical application versus academic understanding. On one side, sport fighters are typically highly conditioned athletes who are very good @ applying ineffective techniques. What eventually happens is that you get women's self-defense groups, LEO, & military learning how to score points when they should be learning how to incapacitate. On the other side, traditional martial artists in today's world are typically poorly conditioned (often overweight or obese) who are very knowledgeable of but not skilled @ applying effective techniques. This eventually leads to elitist martial artists who convince themselves they are skilled but who lack the conditioning to survive a physical encounter & without even knowing what it is like to get punched in the face. Either way, it is scary. A useful analogy would be the difference between sport paintball versus target shooting. In paintball, you learn how to fire & maneuver, team tactics, & how to use cover fire but with weapons that have poor range, zero accuracy, & almost unlimited rounds. In target shooting, you learn how to fire an actual firearm, aim correctly, & conserve ammo but without any tactics or movement whatsoever. We need both skillsets, not just one or the other...

To create the ideal combat-ready warrior, we must train in a martial art with effective technique & use sport as a way to test ourselves. Sport is great to experience the fight, to feel those butterflies in our stomachs from our fight-or-flight response (SNS activation), to get thrown to the ground or punched in the face & realize that it will hurt but we can persist & keep going. The stress of the fight must be experienced in a safe manner. For that, sport is sufficient in the psychological & physical conditioning for combat in a training environment. Having a martial art without an element of sport leads to elitism & bulging waistlines. However, when the martial artist does test himself in a sport environment, we must always be aware that the purpose of sport is not to win tournaments, but to evaluate our skill & conditioning without killing each other in training.

In a martial art's history, a major evolution, or rather de-evolution, happens when the rules for sport become standardized & people start training with the purpose of winning tournaments. We have already seen it with both taekwondo & judo in the Olympics, & are witnessing it today with BJJ in MMA. If the purpose of sport is merely to test our combatives skills, then we should adjust the rules of engagement regularly to prevent exploitation of the rules. Some days, we should do striking, boxing style. Then another day, slow it down & do striking but with only one movement pattern (like a block to a neck strike), but with an active attacker who will react & try to avoid the counter. Then weapons fighting. Then ground fighting without being allowed to stand up. Then grappling with the purpose of trying to take the other person's flag (or rubber knife) located on their hip. Then long weapons with striking. Then just omote gyaku for a takedown with control, while the attacker allows the takedown but tries to escape afterwards. Then grappling with small weapons, etc. But regardless of the skill being tested, there should be a test against a resisting opponent. Merely going through the motions with a compliant training partner is not nearly enough. Remember, the original purpose of sports in general was to test combatives skills in times of peace, including such events as wrestling, running, chariot racing, & javelin throwing. Let's continue the tradition & train with purpose...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The SIGMA training concept

The sigma training concept is not new @ all. Actually, it is quite old, ancient even. It is the concept of holism, but applied specifically to physical training. When analyzing a training program of any kind, we must look @ the whole system, the totality of circumstances to understand the synergy between seemingly isolated components to get the best results from the integrated system.

In mathematics, sigma notation is used to represent the summation of many similar terms. For our general purpose, it is the summation of countless physical endeavors in the pursuit for mastery of the human form. In a fitness sense, it is well researched & documented that we get much better results & athletic performance when we train the body as one cohesive unit, with all of your muscles working together like a team, instead of as individual components working in isolation. From a combatives perspective, it is learning & practicing in the different modes of combat (grappling, striking, weaponry) together in an integrated manner so there is no hesitation to adapt to the conditions of the fight. Whereas most fighters need to "switch gears" every time the fight changes.

It is this summation, this teamwork that allows us, as a group, to accomplish much greater things than any individual is capable of alone.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hello World!

So here it is, my first blog post EVER! I know a lot of people have been waiting for this (@ least I’d like to think there are), so I’m finally up & running & ready to share my thoughts & insights to the world about budo, combatives, fitness, & whatever the heck I want!

Bujinkan Dojo, 13th dan
Human flag @ Yuigahama Beach, Japan, September 2008