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The modern understanding of “the core” and the need to properly condition it has become well known among athletic and active people, including martial artists (yes, the importance of the hips has been belabored for centuries, but the modern anatomically based concept is not necessarily the same thing). The core refers to the muscles, connective tissues and bones of the torso, yet to many it’s just the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack’).  However, the core can be more accurately thought of as the support, stabilization and movement system for the spinal column. This stack of 33 vertebrae (24 moving and 9 fixed) is connected by many ligaments and muscles, which provide oppositional tension akin to the guy wires on a tall tower.

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This is a follow up to Bob’s introduction to rhabdomyolysis as it relates to martial artists.

Rhabdomyolysis is the destruction of skeletal muscle leading to the release of the muscular tissue components  creatine kinease (CK) and myoglobin into the bloodstream (Huerta-Alardin, Varon & Marik, 2004). These components can pose a potential serious risk to the kidneys as they are cleared from the blood stream. Rhabdo can be caused by numerous factors, and can cause symptoms ranging in severity from mild to life threatening. Classic symtpoms include muscle pain, weakness and darkened urine (ranging from pinkto cola colored). Blood tests reveal elevated serum CK and myoglobin levels. More severe cases may present symptoms such as malaise, fever, tachycardia, nausea and vomiting (Huerta-Alardin et al., 2004). In severe cases acute renal failure can result, requiring medical attention.

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Tea or Cola Colored Urine Associated with Rhabdomylosys

One of the most disturbing aspects of the martial arts is the lack of adequate sports safety training among martial arts instructors. Deference to tradition regarding training methods and expectations of performance often blinds instructors to the intrinsic dangers associated with fight training. While it is probably impossible to ameliorate all of the dangers associated with fight training responsible instructors should make every effort to be aware of the symptoms of training related injuries, and related conditions.

Rhabdomylosis is potentially fatal condition coaches and trainers of all sorts should be aware of. It can be caused by excessive exercise, and other activities that traumatize skeletal muscle tissue like katakite, tanren, or even pummeling drills. When pounding and crushing activities are combined with intense physical activity the danger is probably greatest.

Here are a couple of links to articles of rhabdomylosys that may be useful for both instructors and trainees:
Wikipedia-Rhabdomylosys

Rhabdomyolysis ( /ræbdoʊmaɪoʊlɪsɪs/ or /ræbdoʊmaɪoʊlaɪsɪs/) is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle (Ancient Greek: rhabdomyo-) tissue breaks down rapidly (Greek: –lysis). Breakdown products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream; some of these, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.

CAPPA: Athletic Safety First-Rhabdomylosys

The practice of martial arts has come to be diverse in terms of the wide range of  arts and schools available and in terms of the population that is involved. Physical fitness and talent may only be required to a small degree, or they may be paramount to success. Students may be dedicated about conditioning, or they may be “weekend-warriors” whose primary physical activity is a class.  An instructor may be qualified in a technical realm but not be a good source of information in others, such as the nature of violence. The need for Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is just as high as in any other vigorous physical activity, yet appeals to tradition, history and authority and “experts” often lead students and practitioners to accept dubious information or ignore new information, which can have consequences on a number of levels. For this discussion, the practice of the various martial arts can be divided into two realms: recreational (i.e., oriented at self defense, fitness, cultural, etc.) and competitive (amateur or professional competition). Most of this discussion will focus on the recreational realm.

An extreme example of a lack of critical thinking and evidence-based practice can be found in  the cult of personality that has developed around Ueshiba Morihei, founder of the Japanese art of Aikido.

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Part  1 was entitled Basic Physical Training Concepts for Karate Practitioners. This installment’s differently worded title is a reflection of our broader focus on fighting arts and sports as opposed to simply karate.

Stagnation: Too Much of a Good (?) Thing

Martial arts are often marketed and practiced as if they are a finished product with set training and methods. The entrenchment of this idea varies from circle to circle, but it is quite common. It’s very appealing to both new students and long-term students alike. Predictability and stability are things that we tend to gravitate towards in our choices of recreational activities, as can be seen by the guy who goes to the gym and does the exact same workout every visit, or the  karate sensei who plans each class to be a further exposition on the basic techniques that the last year’s worth of classes were based on. Stagnation of training activities can take the form of:

  1. repetition of specific skill-based activities: techniques or drills, especially elementary techniques
  2. repetition of physical conditioning exercises past the point of useful adaptation

For new students the appeal of a set training format is very strong, as it minimizes the new material that they have to learn on a given night, which reduces anxieties and confusion in front of more experienced students. A handful of things can be learned, whether that be a drill, technique or conditioning exercise,  and then repeated reliably in each successive class. This is a comfortable routine, and if it is tied to claims of efficacy or magical thinking, the new student may place an inflated value on whatever he or she has done the most, regardless of ability.

For the long term student, stagnation may be appealing due to one of two factors:

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All throwing techniques, including trips and tackles,  involve movement in the transverse plane. Initiation may involve sagittal or frontal plane movements, but the follow through and landing will occur around the thrower’s longitudinal axis to a greater or lesser degree.

For the person being thrown, this means that:

  • Landings will involve rotational forces and increased risk of damaging the ankles, knees, shoulders and neck. Pursue isometric strength conditioning as well as concentric conditioning, especially for the neck.
  • Falling skills should be thoroughly practiced in all three planes of motion, as well as from kneeling, standing and moving positions.
  • Failed throws wherein a foot remains planted will pose a high risk for knee injury, particularly ACL damage. Agility training can help a student to recognize these conditions and react quickly to move an endangered leg.
  • For students and fighters whose activity is throwing and takedown-intensive (Judo, wrestling), specific programming for muscle hypertrophy should also be included to protect bony surfaces and joints and to help diffuse impact forces.

Rotating around my longitudinal axis as I land

For the person throwing, this means that:

  • A throw will involve torsion on all joints involved in the technique. Specific strength and stability conditioning involving transverse plane movements can help to increase joint stability and ensure proper muscular activation around the ankles, knees, hips and core.
  • Depending on the other person’s weight and velocity, a successful throw will involve accelerating and potentially decelerating several times more than one’s own weight and mass.  Strength conditioning programs typically emphasize movements in the sagittal plane, while the frontal and transverse planes are less emphasized or neglected.
  • Progressive balance and stability conditioning, comprehensive core conditioning, and agility/reactive training in all three planes are strategies that can reduce the chance of avoidable injury while improving a student or fighter’s performance.
  • If a throw begins to fail at any phase, your body will be required to decelerate and stabilize the load while in non-optimal conditions, and several times your own weight and mass will pose a threat to your knees in particular. Condition the knees in all planes of motion, emphasize single leg balance and stability skills.
  • Throwing and takedowns  occur predominantly in the transverse plane. Most athletic injuries occur in the transverse plane.  Do not neglect conditioning in the transverse plane (do I sound like a broken record yet?) .

Gill travels around Chopper's longitudinal axis

Here, John’s knee is involved in stabilizing and producing force in the transverse plane

Drop us a line for more info on specific conditioning and programming ideas.

Train Smarter to Fight Harder

There’s a growing recognition of the benefits of evidence-based training methods for the fighting arts. More and more martial arts sources are beginning to discuss the benefits of periodized training and activity specific conditioning. As tempting as it may be to assume that these developments “already exist” within traditional or standard training approaches, sports science and the broader Human Movement field are way ahead of the training notions that are common in most fighting art. Consider that martial artists have always adopted the  most promising training methods of their time- why should now be any different? Although more people are catching on, there still isn’t much practical information on how a student, fighter or coach can go about implementing these strategies into their own training and practice.

For the past several years we’ve been working on introducing modern periodized training methods to the broader martial arts community. Our blog is chock-full of relevant studies, reports, and training tips for avoiding training injuries, improving performance and making the most out of training time. With credentials in both the fighting arts and modern evidence-based training methods, we are poised to offer further consultation and information that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Our Fitness for the Fighting Arts DVD’s and educational materials are still in the works, but in the mean time we are available to offer consultation for martial artists, amateur and pro competitive fighters, coaches and club owners. If you are interested in tapping the knowledge base of NASM-certified trainers with over 45 years of experience in training and teaching, visit us HERE to find out what we do, how it can help you, who we are and samples of what we can offer, and how to contact us.

Improve how you train, improve how you teach, improve how you perform.

Bob reviews a movement analysis with a 2010 F4FA Seminar participant
Explaining rotator cuff stretching methods at a 2010 F4FA Seminar
Discussing performance problems related to impact conditioning at a 2010 F4FA Seminar

If you spend any time looking at ads for  gyms, fitness fads/gadgets,  or catalogs, you’ll notice a cookie-cutter image that repeats itself over and over: rippling abs, cut groins, peaked biceps, etc.  Many martial arts supply catalogs, advertisements and media persist with the stereotypes described above.   Yet fighting arts are obviously high-demand activities, and the fitness required varies for different levels of participation (hobby, competition) as well as different focuses (wrestling, boxing). The fact is that the demands of a fighter’s activities will dictate how he or she trains, and those two factors will dictate how his or her body adapts in response (along with genetic and morphological factors). So what does the appropriately fit fighting artist look like? Hint: probably not the same as fitness models or body builders.

I stumbled across a very interesting photo collage over on the excellent Stumptuous.com. The photos show various Olympic athletes alongside each other for comparison. For our purposes, notice the contrasts between wrestlers, judoka and boxers.

Athletic body diversity reference for artists

Stumptuous

The FSRI Virginia club will once again be hosting the annual FSRI Summer Training Camp in Ferrum, Virginia. Camp will run from June 24th-26th (Friday-Sunday). As always, all comers are welcome, regardless of what they practice.

The rough theme for the weekend will be “Train Smarter to Fight Harder.” Instruction will feature:

Robert MillerNASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness for Fighting Arts Certified Trainer

David Campbell– chief instructor of the TKRI Virginia club

Randy Simpson– NASM CPT, Fitness for Fighting Arts Certified Trainer. Simpson’s classes will explore Gentile’s taxonomy of motor skills as a method for planning instruction and analyzing the complexity of fighting skills, and present partner drills to foster development of game skills for close range fighting in a variety of environmental conditions and action goals.

This year’s camp will reflect the transition that TKRI has been making away from “traditional” karate and towards a broader approach to the elements of training for fighting skills and self defense. We invite boxers, wrestlers, judoka, MMA students and competitors and other martial artists who have an open mind and the desire to explore methods of pursuing the goals common to all fighting arts. The skill-based training sessions will focus on practical, intuitive responses to violence, rather than historical or theoretical conjecture.

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An Investigation of Leg and Trunk Strength and Reaction Times in Hard-Style Martial Arts Practitioners

There’s a lot of useful and interesting information in this paper, but one of the conclusions stand out:

This study has revealed (rather surprisingly) that the trunk strength is not significantly increased in practitioners of hard-style marital arts. Given that this physically demanding sport is associated large and random movements of the trunk, it would be wise for training regimes to increase focus on trunk stability exercises to increase strength of the abdominal and back muscles. This may lead to an increase in performance and possibly lessen the likelihood of injury or incidence of low back pain; this however, would require further research.

For some strategies to strengthen the musculature involved and avoid muscular imbalances, look here and here.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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