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Via the wonders of Google, I came across a Time Magazine piece on parkour while researching hip flexor strains. Go figure. Parkour is a fascinating activity, and obviously one that requires excellent physical conditioning, coordination, agility, strength and mental acuity. Not so different from serious training in a martial art.

There are several fascinating sequential photo montages of  traceurs vaulting from rooftops and landing, or traversing the exterior of a building in a controlled fall. If you’re an appreciator of human movement, give it a look.

Check it out here: An Urban Adventure

Boy are we on a roll lately. Some more example clips from training at the Virginia dojo last night, including agility, conditioning and SAQ drills.

Medicine Ball Arc Passes

A medicine ball conditioning and agility drill. The student in the center is standing on a wobble board to work on proprioception and balance while catching and returning the medicine ball. The other partner orbits around him in an arc, maintaining a distance of 3-5 feet. This exercise is good for developing explosiveness on the returns, balance and stability, coordination, anaerobic conditioning and agility while moving in the transverse plane. These skills build a strong foundation for free sparring and grappling encounters, as well as conditioning for the knees and ankles when they are required to cut and bound.

Agility Ladder Side Run Into Front Kick

The student begins moving sideways down the ladder towards the pad with his feet pointing straight ahead. At the appropriate distance, he changes directions, pointing both feet forwards towards the pad, and throws a front kick into the pad, attempting to maintain as much momentum as possible. The pad holder then “chases” him back up the ladder as the kicker punches continuously. The drill is intended to simulate an encounter with multiple opponents that requires the kicker to rapidly change directions while moving in order to attack a target to the side.

Kicking is often trained as if it occurs in a “vacuum.” Standing flat footed in static stances negates any momentum or agility that the student may be capable of generating. For lighter students this mobility is a crucial way to add power to the kick, making it an effective entrance and potentially disabling technique.

Agility Ladder Quick Feet Into Front Kick

The student moves down the ladder employing rebound to move as lightly and quickly as possible. At the appropriate distance, the student throws a front kick into the pad without breaking his stride, attempting to maintain as much momentum as possible. The pad holder then “chases” him back up the ladder as the kicker punches continuously. The drill is intended to simulate an encounter with multiple opponents that requires the kicker to rapidly close with an attacker for a pre-emptive strike.

Tetris Tackle Drill

A TKRI Virginia student engaging in a power and agility drill on a tape agility ladder. As the student moves laterally across the ladder, the pad holder mirrors him and follows. When the student reaches the side of the ladder, he shifts directions and moves up one square and aggressively checks the pad as he does so. At the end of the ladder, the students reverse and repeat the drill. This drill allows a student to experience applying full-body power into a target while changing directions and moving forwards. It’s designed to simulate an escape or evasion situation in which the defender needs to break through or stop an opponent from advancing.

We had a lovely night of good, hard training on Tuesday, and I brought along the camera to get some examples of our performance/power phase training on video.

The first clip demonstrates a side plank. To many, “core exercise” is interpreted as doing lots of situps. Situps target the hip flexors more than the abdominal muscles, and are actually counter productive for this purpose.  Side planks strengthen the recruitment of the abdominal obliques and associated core stabilizer muscles. The variations demonstrated here further involve the stabilizer muscles around the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee joints in conjunction with added leverage against the core muscles.

The next few clips demonstrate agility work on a tape “agility ladder.” While moving down the ladder, the student is focusing on exploiting the rebound from stored kinetic energy to move lightly and quickly but powerfully. Hitting the pad at the end of the ladder gives the student an opportunity to experience how momentum and the drop-step can produce fast, powerful punches. As the pad holder advances, the student works on employing the same stability and agility while moving backwards and throwing punches as fast as possible, using the feet to dig in to strike forward powerfully.

Dave Campbell,  shown in two of these clips, underwent complete reconstruction of his left knee two years ago. This type of training, progressing gradually from slow to full speed, has helped him to regain mobility, power and speed.

This last clip is a very short sample  of makiwara work done in a more dynamic fashion. Instead of thrusting with the body as is commonly seen in karate, the student is punching ballistically, initiating with the chest and arm to generate speed. The momentum and drive of the body is linked upon impact. Although the hips are involved as a rotational center, the drive is primarily generated by the active propulsion of the legs. The rear heel is allowed to lift and drive forward, contributing to the forward momentum and allowing stored kinetic energy to rebound into the strike. Keeping the heels flat negates the rebound, lessening the dynamism and power generated, and also encourages excessive strain on the medial aspect of the knee and compression on the posterior lumbar spine.

Thrusting with the body produces a punch that is encumbered by the agonism of the latissiumus dorsi. Although it may feel powerful, such thrusting actually lessens the velocity of the punch, subtracting substantially from the power generated.

If I could move and react like this, I’d never lose a fight.  The way he controls ground force and adjusts his balance, while repeatedly being hit with the opponents’ entire body mass is truly amazing…not to mention, his explosive speed and power.

He didn’t get that way by practicing kata.

There is a very informative article addressing training strategies to help prevent ACL injuries in athletes on the PhysicalTherapist.com site. Here is a brief excerpt:

ACL injuries are becoming ridiculously common amongst athletes from the junior high/high school level on through the professional levels of all sports. My personal thoughts on this issue have a lot to do with the poor training programs most of these kids go through. I won’t go there so much in this article, but want I want to look at is how best to prevent knee injuries from jumping.

The act of jumping and leaving the floor is not so much the problem. It’s the fact that what goes up must come down, and it’s not always pretty when it does. Landing incorrectly, with the knees in valgus, is a major cause of ACL injuries. Knee hyperextension is the other common cause of injury, but is a bit of a different animal. Hyper extension injuries are often the result of an inability to control the knee during deceleration so the body tries to pull out of rapid knee flexion and ends up over correcting into hyper extension. With these non-contact injuries, poor strength is usually at the root of the problem. This article will examine strength training as a way to combat ACL injuries.

Click here to read the rest.


"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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