Sunday, 10 December 2017
Thursday, 16 February 2017
“Hands up, baby hands up!” what a fun song from Ottawan in 1981, but we are not here to dance just now, we are here to train.
This particular training method is one I have used more than once and only came to light recently, after I began training in Taekwondo in order to work on my kicks. What I discovered is as I was focusing on my technique with my kicking, my hands would slowly creep down. Inside this bothered me as I am or at least try to be an aware person. We are all human and learning holds no bounds as I was been reminded…so it was game on and I armed myself with a tea towel!
Now, I am epic at whipping flies in the kitchen or whipping family members too but this time it’s going around my neck. Here’s what we will do using a tea towel or any towel really for that matter.
The first drill is to grasp the towel with both hands in a basic guard position, note that its natural to hang onto the towel and let your elbows flare out a bit and you can polish this up after. Don’t pull down too much as you don’t want strain on the back of your neck. The key is to grasp the towel lightly and mindful in your hand position as you kick. At first you can just walk around your home or garden or do this whilst cooking, but don’t pop the shops okay. Practice your stance or footwork before moving onto kicks. I would suggest working some knees at first to get used to your balancing without using your arms, remember to some advanced martial artists reading this, this is aimed at starters too away from class. I taught myself this very method although I can’t recall where I picked it up from but I’m sure some of you will recognize it. After you can execute some knees and keep your guard where you want it and then move onto some low kicks. Any kicks you like remember this is about you and no one else trying to rule you. Again I’ve chosen a low sidekick, and as before you can give attention to your foot positioning after. Practice in left and right stances because we usually have an arm that is stronger, so get them both used to being upfront and guarding.
Eventually you can train higher kicks and I love the feel of that tea towel on them high kicks, but above all be careful. Of course lose your towel eventually and hold on to your Gi or neck of your top, before you can hold a guard while performing any kick or movement. If you’re feeling brave, Nunchakus can be used an advanced drill instead of a towel and blend really well into a weapons workout of Budo…and yes be mindful of the chain on your neck. I’ve used all sorts over the years such as wrist weights, dumbbells and weighted rings to train the punching guard including resistant bands, all can help you too and strengthen your deltoids. I wouldn’t recommend trying the spinning kicks while anything is around your neck, just in case you strangle yourself and burn your cooking. You still want plenty of space to be able to move freely and safely.
There is a dual purpose to this drill, you can actually use it to give your hands a rest after a punching workout. This is great as now you can just concentrate on your kicks knowing your hands are chilling out not in the way. I know of some people who clasp their hands behind their backs to kick. Even seen some placing their hands on their head a bit like the Keysi Fighting Method.
“We, like martial art, are like a mirror and need polishing daily so we can be seen clear.”
The good thing about this simple method is that it can simply be revisited over and over if need be, and let’s not forget to have fun in training, and to make the most out of your free time even if that means doing some random acts to improve yourself on any level. I myself for one, have found that during solo training things have a habit of coming out in the wash. By that I mean in class you are being taught and showed a way, in class you might not get it or there is something eating away at you that you just cannot put your finger pointing on? I have always and I mean always worked it out in private, it all irons out and do you know why that is? Your body is key way beyond all the expert advice and guidance, even this column you’re reading now is being absorbed while you’re relaxed? Think about it, in school you produce your creative work alone usually when you relate to the inner YOU for answers. Bit comparable to shadow kickboxing, working yourself out by moving through space and time. I’m not saying you should not receive your proper training and go around messing about with crazy ideas, no, you get your external training through others and don’t neglect yourself over class mates or teachers. Remember to learn we seem to follow, but some just keep following and yes they become great but you are now a copy of them or their way or path. Just look at the potency and ability of Bruce Lee who in fact ironed many creases out in private. You must have that third eye though to realise you will need advice and we can’t do it all without some help. Combine all minds you learn from within just like we all absorb parts of others energy no longer with us.
You should not feel awkward wanting to be your own person, and I’m not trying to be the next coming Jesus Christ or just another finger pointer. Take it from a real life person who has created themselves and sharing it now with you. You are real, what you see and feel and do is real. Look around next time you’re at training and ask yourself…
Do they read as much as you about the art and history or research the anatomy of the human body, or are they just good at the syllabus?
Do they train at home or do anything extra that may help them or do they just train for two hours per week?
(Here’s a good one) Can you relate to them as a person outside of martial art?
Finally I’d like us to recap and now practice all your kicks in front of a mirror and on purpose check my photos…
Are your elbows still flaring out like mine are?
Could you have your hands closer to your chin and maybe pivot your supporting foot more?
Finally you should have attained more of a fun habit and an aid to helping your own development in the martial arts, maybe sharing it with your class mates and who knows…maybe you’ll be the one who knocks?
Monday, 13 February 2017
This column I am about to write has been inspired by a few martial artists online after I stumbled across some posts regarding the combat ability of your pound for pound ratio. I’ve read some interesting ponders on a martial artists potency in their weight field. Here I will go into it and then share with you some methods that I encourage you to look at, some I have used to help me remain potent at my weight, not just for your art but life in general.
Over the years, we all have questioned or listened to what ifs and the him VS him like these…
Who would win out of Bruce Lee and Tyson?
Jet Li VS Jackie Chan?
Punching VS kicking
The list could go on but I don’t believe in politics and debates as I have erased that type of competition from my mind. Let’s get away from shadow chasing of the curious brain, because here is what the truth is or as Bruce Lee said, “My truth is not your truth.” My granddad would say to my Dad that, “A good big one will always beat a good small one.” Surprisingly enough my Dad says to me that, “A good small one will always beat a good big one.” Adding to this I was told “A good Boxer will beat a good scrapper.” And a good Scrapper will beat a good Boxer.” Where does the truth lie? Well there are a few factors to consider, the first being that my Granddad was a bigger man that my Dad so both had highs and lows in life’s survival and each from their own experience. For the world out there are environments, personal skills and ability and mind set and at times it’s just the way the wind blows. Now I do get it if comparing fighters pound for pound at the top of their game to an extent in different weight classes but again pointless, for will it ever become?
Chuck Norris once stated that, “He thought Bruce Lee, pound for pound was one of the strongest men on the planet.” Now Bruce Lee himself was a true example of pound for pound ability, if not beyond. At his weight it is clear that he could take on people bigger than him and do better than an untrained person. His strength and abilities surpassed his actual body weight and although he never competed at his peak, there are facts and feats that he did do. So what about the rest of us? The key is to be the best we can be, safely and within our limits but stretching it gradually. Martial Arts are all about movements, so pound for pound can you move to the best of your ability? Do you have a decent strength, power and skill level for your weight? If you’re a lightweight martial artist, then can you hit hard? If you’re a heavyweight can you move quick? If you look at the two warriors Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee, each was exceptional. Tyson was very quick for his size and Bruce could pack a wallop. Small fighters should hold speed and big fighters should hold power, but can they always do both to an exceptional degree?
Here’s story… A while ago a few of my work friends decided to do some arm wrestling and at that period, I was into my Isometrics. First I arm wrestled some of the bigger lads, and of course I lost, even though I put up a fight. Their limbs were bigger or longer than mine. So off I went at the end of the day disheartened inside thinking I was weaker than I thought. Then one day more people had a go and I began to win? The penny dropped after I beat 3 people, because they were the same size as me. So pound for pound I was in that moment of being stronger had I beat the bigger guys I would have surpassed myself also. I’m not saying this is the be all and end all because maybe I just copped a lucky example. Again it’s about attaining and maintaining who and what you are, think about Kickboxing champion Oliver Sykes and the power of his spinning back. Here are some methods that will keep you fit and strong without having to add muscle, most of them we are familiar with.
HONEST GRAFT – Okay, activities such as manual work and gardening. The body naturally adapts well to stabilising and lifting things. Survival and purpose based methods that feel like you’re not training when you actually are. Long walks across hills with your dog are great for the relaxation and the mind.
ISOMETRICS – Paul Vunak described a person who was strong and didn’t look it as a sleeper. This is all about training the tendons holding or pushing against things or yourself in a variety of ways. Remember to breathe and it’s better to do a little bit most days instead of over straining in a marathon session. Always do some stretching.
MARTIAL ARTS – Goes without saying that if you train yourself into a fighter or hone good self-defence skills then you have the upper hand against another at your weight that is not trained.
CALISTHENCS – Beauty & Strength. Body weight training can be a natural way to build strength endurance and a great compliment for the military and martial arts. Again there is a variety of methods but I’d suggest keeping it simple, basic and progressive. Just think, if you can do more press ups than your mate who weighs the same them pound for pound you have surpassed him. Be sure to make it healthy competition and support your partners if that where your heads at.
DYNAMIC TENSION – This moving strength method won’t get you real strong but allow you to control your existing strength and muscle control, many perform kata this way.
PLYOMETRICS – You can use power lifting to activate neuromuscular function within your body gaining explosive strength, but I’d still go with body weight moves or lighter weights. It’s your call really so stick to what works for you, and never, ever neglect the heavy bag. Plyometrics are used by many martial arts to improve speed and strength and is great for improving your output in your own weight. Please take your medicine ball if feeling under the weather, it is a great training aid.
Last but not least – STRETCHING! I don’t mean splits or anything extreme even though that is great, I mean a real world activity like cardio. Believe it or not, stretching helps you become stronger as you are lengthening the muscle. It warms you up and down and can ease aches and pains. You will experience a kind of runners high so to speak. As we age we shrink to a degree, and if you stop training for a while the two things you notice is tighter muscles and heavy breathing. Swimming can be beneficial too for martial arts, especially shadow kickboxing in water.
Often in competition, you will have your fight weight so it’s a good idea to test each other on your abilities in sparring or hitting the pads. Get a partner at your weight and compare punching and kicking power, come up with ways to improve each other. It may be a sit up contest, I rep bench press or a power side kick test. Even if you don’t compete and as you age your weight increases or decreases (as it can) then you will need to maintain some kind of level. Not just for output but for longevity and for your family. Always better to have a body that can serve you if the mess hits the fan, or you may have a job on at work. Above all, being a pound for pound fighter is really about martial skill in the stand-up game combined with conditioning. Your wins and losses will reflect this. If you just train by yourself or don’t compete, then unless you are working out with weights a lot you will stay a constant weight. At least you will have that ‘peace’ of mind that you are doing something for yourself, training is training. You cannot tell if a person is a good drawer until you see them draw a picture. Stay humble and respect the code of Budo, it’s only in the game when a martial artist’s skill should come into play.
To me though, the highest meaning of pound for pound lies not in your potency as a fighter, but as a true martial artist and his or hers positive approach to their training and others. Pound for pound… is your worth in gold coins who is a good person. Conducting yourself in the right way as much as you possibly can matter what you’re made of. Life can be challenging for us all some days, and when it does I picture Jackie Chan in Armour of God getting battered by them strange ‘ladies.’ He’s doing his best to cover and goes down onto one knee. In a fit of frustration and a quest to get through it, he fights back…
“Keep punching Apollo.”
Monday, 10 October 2016
Don't think for a minute that you are not playing your part in the world of martial arts, if not your world of martial arts. For some out there, they wont class you as a real martial artist unless your'e a black belt or fought in the ring. Although these are great and keep the world of martial arts at a professional spin, it is not the be all. To me it goes deeper or if you like, as deep as it means.
As long as you have had training and educating yourself then you train and train what you like. Personal training costs nothing but time and old cloth. Its rewards can be good and yes by all means step out if you wish to take it further at classes etc. Never fool yourself that the bag session, run or press ups don't mean nothing on a big scale because it does. It will matter to you and you know it it. Just because a person has trod a glory path lined with achievements does not mean your little bit is fairy dust, if you train your mind by reading and watching and your body by doing then well bloody done. GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR YOU! Eff the snobs and judges out there. There are various ways of investing in yourself, including seeking out good instructors and clubs, but above all you are your best teacher and maybe you don't even know it?
Friday, 12 August 2016
I often wondered why Bruce Lee used to perform exercises such as quarter lock out and a lot of inch punch work. There are many methods that we all are aware of to help improve our strikes, and different ones are used by us as different ones. It is common know how that using a full range of motion is the correct way is most exercises, however those who are at an advanced stage of their training can play around with tweaking experimentation. These practitioners are creative and fearless in their quest for self discovery, so let's have a look then.
A good example of this is a body builder who is not experimenting with partial reps in order to gain more burn. My Sensei would teach us the ridge hand strike like you were throwing a discus, this felt like a hook and more powerful.
I recall hearing Someone saying one time... "You don't hit people with your muscles."
When muscle is mentioned people often think external muscles of a body we can see, but the body has over 600 muscles and there are minor ones we don't know exist. Decent punching is mechanics of the body working under the flesh, so the skeleton is right from tendon and ligament guidence.In a previous posts I mention Isometrics and mentioned pushing your fist against the wall to train the punch 3inchs in and then with the fist closer to the body. At times when the fist is close to the body there is more muscular tension, like in hooks. A good way to gain power apart from brute force is the use of something I call DISTANCE - INCH - FOLLOW THROUGH. Now of course fighting is not really that clever to try by having your tools extended enough so you can use the last extension, so what we will do is a few exercises to work the explosive contractions of the extension and then incorporate the distance for follow through. Although at times certain minor training methods may come across as gimmicky to the judges out there, never forget that if it help then it helped. The jolts and thrusts of an explosive nature within our body's combines Plyometrics with Isometrics, these shock methods wake up fibres and joints.
Learn to explode from the nothingness and gain a body feel that only you can explain through movement.
Personally I find kata a great method for dynamic activations, only because much pad and bag work requires you to relax. When you play around with your own mechanics you can swiftly perform blocks or strikes through the air and use stopping power to jolt all your energy into one snap.
The first drill is our beloved basic press up, only this time the elbows are kept it and fists closed using the first two or last three knuckles. Again palms facing in or towards your feet is your call. Exhale on pushing and only lower about 3inches and then explode up. I highly recommend them rotating push up handles to train the inches of your corkscrew.
The second is the bench press with the same aim as the press up for those who enjoy the weights. Again, lower 3 inches and explode up. Because of the shorter range or motion more weight can be handled. This is not normal weight training, you are on the job of martial interactions and interchanged mechanics.
Next we will use some equipment, this serves to strengthen the wrist and forearms so I use some basic hand grips for making a fist, and of course a dumbbell or bar with a weight of the end for training one inch punch methods. In regards to the long bar with a weight on the end, make a stance and snap the wrist, elbow should powered by the waist, legs and foot pivot. Try to get the weight plate to make a chime for feedback. You can use a barbel bar or some safe type of pole. Good thing it is like a creative activity that is your own blue peter, think unlike the rest for they are a rest
If you have not got any hand grippers then get ready for it... Roll a pair of socks up into a ball and wrap masking tape around it, there's your poor mans gripper.
Now it's time to apply these mechanics in skill to the punch bag. I've chose the heavy bag to to power and feedback principles, pads may be used but the bag will make you feel the felt shock more at the end of your moves. This is not to be used to lock out your joint as such but seconds away from that. Stance in front of your bag, extend a jab to gauge the distance until you can rest your glove on the surface. Your arm should be dead straight, now just step in a few inches. Your arm should be bent and the bag will push back or roll off your glove this is fine. Now just shoot jabs through the bag from your boxing guard, Work from both sides, ensure your in a position and distance to get them final three inches exploding through and make that bag hop the scotch. Next try it with crosses and then try jab - cross.
And finally some kicks, we will hammer some front kicks. Basic thrust or snap the choice is yours, but same dynamics will apply. The art is in the final three inches, for this drill we are minimising the big muscle input of the quads and hamstrings. Although they make great power, we are using more connective tendon at the point of the hinge joints. Get that skeleton behind the blows. Time the bag, blast left and right, ball foot toe poke provoke. These are drills you try when solo training, because in class you may be in format. Take your time and enjoy your self, feel your own body and be aware and grateful for your ability you have no matter how great or small. Make the best of your own time and environment, the very fact you was born is a great achievement.
True inner power is in the solo realm, people always preach to look forwards but sometimes a visit to the past is called for. Remember when Christopher Reeve lost his powers in Superman II? He had to go back to find himself and get that power back. He walked in that blizzard and nobody stopped to help him. This can be compared to returning from a loss or anything in life, but when all the good and bad people in your life are no longer there then it's you alone. Just like Adrian said in Rocky III, "Just you, for you alone."
Inspirations come and go, foes come and go and friends come and go, the only one is you who must show, who must be there for yourself. It is lonely and you need to stay focused. One life that's why I'm writing these words now. Listen to advice but know when to take your own also, people will try to destroy you by having your best interests at heart. You own your own heart and know your own way of being. Waking up early or late is not always a matter of sleep... It can be a matter of conscious realisation and awakening. You don't even have to follow another's example and why? Because even if they are faultless you still have to be you. We all have a way but choose to follows another's way, try it out but move on and develop. That's real self improvement. You don't have to be an expert or a maverick, in training we tend to push the limits but what if we don't have to all the time? Sometimes easy is good, easy is nice and at times easy does not mean not trying hard enough or being weak. In times of ease we are at our happiest. Our bodies were not designed to follow a diet or use machines, we are a born functioning organism of muscle and fat burning already. Of course don't be greedy, but remember.. Sugar, takeaways and beer will not make you fat! Too much of them and lack of activity will. So with your lifestyle just make adjustments you can stick to and above all forgive yourself for having to much or saying to much or doing to little. I've never met a person who is made of gold, made of a few other things maybe and remember, we all go a little crazy sometimes... That's what keeps you sane. The thing that sets my articles apart is that I write for you, not as a world champion or teacher but a student and a friend, an everyday martial artist and I'm eternally grateful to be able to share with you all.
Thursday, 19 May 2016
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to meet a gentleman that had entertained me in films and the competition arena. Growing up I was always glad to see Mr Bill Wallace in a film containing martial arts. A very potent left leg owning a right leg that he couldn't kick with hence the name 'Superfoot'
Mr Wallace was very centered and full of one liner and quick thinking humor, holding a pair of eyes that seemed to brim with a solid old skool energy. The reason I am sitting here writing this is because if you were to say I would meet the guy years ago Id laugh it off. Of course I'm thankful to be considered for such an event, I also try to stay away from the details as I'm just a student of life and nothing more, not even close to these people yet we are all human. I grew up in a place that had pros and cons I suppose, a place that could swallow you if you surrender or a place to improve yourself from. I chose the latter but in no way am I saying I'm where Id love to be yet. What i'm saying to you now is that I was a pale skinny kid, a bit weird at times but to survive the ledge of insanity you must push the edge of sanity and own yourself. There is so many people that quit or allow themselves to be no greater than the decay around them, thing is with the internet these people could make the moves to reach out to people they hold in high regard. Sometimes you will get nothing back and sometimes you will but you have to do some work either way. We are all humans and can sicken or inspire each other and everybody can summon something positive to offer. So just by having an interest in martial arts as a boy led me to some cool people, yes some of us just communicate via Facebook world but as long as you are real and honest then that's all that matters. We all can be naughty and nice.
My main point here is that I do wonder what else would have taken my focus had I not enjoyed the odd scribble of punch and kick, regardless of if it was spent with others or myself. That didn't matter as I was always so self sufficient that way. A bit older now I don't really put others above me or on a platform, because why would I want to shift the focus off myself? I don't really feel the need to reach out to be accepted because I know myself and accept myself. Back then I didn't really understand that I was work in progress and that I was creating myself.
I guess the lesson I have learned is that we all need to practice on ourselves and not expect anything in return, because our own improvements are just that. Enough of I, I, I...its how we treat others but more how we treat ourselves, so I will continue to work on myself while everybody else is "Too busy looking good."
You know where to find me.
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
Traditional martial arts training may involve some sort of blindfold work, I found this to be very useful when I was doing Karate Do. You would have to try and use your other senses, such as hearing and if their feet stunk smell. By standing in a circle of your peers they would all come at you one at a time and then together. Yes it got scrappy and clumsy as no sight is a difficult view to go without. Some times you fluked and other times you looked like a ghost had upset you. I tried to carry these drills over into Kick/Thai in my personal workouts, they was fun and I loved testing myself. It is a deep personal thing trying to strengthen your other senses so I first tried it on the bag and speed ball. Prior to this I tried to hit the pads and speed ball by looking away, bit like some fighters do. Don't look away when sparring though especially if you owe your mate a tenner. Finally I did a bit of sparring, noway could I make it look like the movies, but with some patience things came together. Sensitivity in fluid movement and once you sparred without the blindfold on everything just looked so much clearer that it actually made some sense?