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Hotel gyms seem be improving! This is from the Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore.

Gym equipment on a wall rack

The weather  is getting nicer so the St. Louis group will resume regularly scheduled Fight Training and Conditioning classes beginning the 26th of March, 2011.

The class schedule will be:
Mondays 6:30-8.00pm
Saturdays 10-12:30pm
Fridays 6:30-8.00pm

Anyone who knows how to play well with others, is respectful, wants to improve, and takes training seriously is welcome to join us as we roll around in the mud-regardless of affiliation, style, experience, or ability.

Contact Robert Miller at robertmillerattkridotnet for additional information.

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

This is some good fun. Each drill is totally unscripted and unrehearsed- the attacker is free to attack how he chooses and the defender is responding intuitively- so there is an element of “aliveness” to it that is often lacking in traditional karate. The drill is an “integration game” that allows both partners to experiment with techniques and strategies learned in other settings in a live fashion. The student in the blue shirt has been training for one year.

On all of these E&R drills, you’ll notice that not every attempt is successful. The defender’s main rule is simple: if a response does not come naturally, disengage, reset, and start over. This encourages him to hone responses that are natural for him, instead of trying to “make” techniques work, fumbling around while the attacker simply lets him. The unsuccessful attacks are included because they are invaluable feedback that lets the defender know when something didn’t work, or could have been done differently. It’s also a good reminder that martial arts demonstrations are polished and rehearsed shows, and usually do not address the realities of dealing with an impact weapon. By leaving them in the clip, the viewer can contrast the successful strategies with the ones that fail.

When the defender is successful in controlling the attacker, note that the engagement goes until the attacker is forced to the ground, forced to tap out or is choked.

Evasion and Response Drill: Random Knife Draw

The drill begins with light free sparring and negotiation for position. The student in the attacker role is carrying a training knife at his hip, and is free to draw the weapon whenever he chooses to, ideally when the defender cannot see it. The defender’s goal is to avoid incoming attacks and either control the weapon when possible or execute a response that prevents further attacks.

The instructor draws the knife at :14, and in the second iteration the student draws the knife at :55.

Attacks are done at half speed, and while we are not “knife fighters,” the attacker’s goal is to execute realistic, continuous attacks that also involve grabbing, shoving and kicking in addition to attacking with the knife. The main purpose of this drill is to expose the student to a scenario where a knife is brought into play at random during negotiation/fighting with a violent individual. Too many karate “knife defenses” are just “karate with a knife” which does not allow the defender to develop usable skills.

Evasion and Response Drill: Long Stick

Evasion and Response: Long Stick 2

Evasion and Response Drill: Baseball Bat

The attacker is wielding a plastic baseball bat as a weapon. The defender’s goal is to avoid incoming attacks and either control the weapon when possible or execute a response that prevents further attacks.

Karate people: look for a bit Naihanchi at :40, and Heian Nidan at 1:22 .

Please watch this second video clip to put the drill into a more realistic context for bat fights:

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.

If you haven’t discovered exrx.net yet, give it a look. The site is packed full of great content, covering a wide range of exercise related topics. They recently retooled the site, and some of the coolest new features are a set of interactive body maps for both muscular system anatomy and exercise methods for each region. More great resources from a very useful site.

ExRx Male Muscle Map

ExRx Female Muscle Map

ExRx Male Exercise Map

ExRx Female Exercise Map

It’s probably a gross underestimate to say that half of the equipment at the TKRI Virginia dojo came from a flea market in lovely downtown Ferrum. Over the years I’ve found a wide array of boxing gear there, most of it relatively new and in good condition, at the sort of prices that your average underfunded martial artist can appreciate. I popped in last weekend and found a practically new set of 1.5 pound hand weights, in a very handy glove design:

Perfect for light, slow shadow boxing or, if it’s your cup of tea, kata (emphasis on light and slow- no need to tear a joint out).

Robert Miller has been training and teaching karate for more than 30 years. His explorations into effective training and technique have led him to pursue training in Aikido and Judo, studies in anatomy, kinesiology, and education, as well as cross-training with a diverse range of classical and modern martial artists. To further his understanding of effective training practices and dispel  the myths about training that exist within many “traditional” karate circles, Miller recently completed Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist certifications with the NASM. This is part 1 in a series of interviews with him about the role of sports science in designing training programs for the fighting arts that are as safe as they are effective.

Bob, you recently attained Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist certifications through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). What can you tell us about how both of these fields overlap with karate training, and what can they offer to someone who trains, or teaches karate?

Personal training is a pretty broad field, it is sort of what you make of it. The organizations that certify  personal trainers vary widely in both their content, and the depth of knowledge they expect of trainers. I chose the National Academy of Sports Medicine for its rigor, its emphasis on “evidence based” training, and because they spend a lot of time dealing the “why” of various training programs. It is a very empowering program. I recommend NASM to anyone considering a career in health and fitness who wants to do more than just lead an occasional aerobics class. That stuff just leaves me cold I’m afraid. I tend to be pretty uninterested in marketing the most current, shiny, new fads in fitness. That’s probably why I resisted becoming a “ninja” in the nineties, why I don’t turn out ten year old black belts, and why I am not marketing what I do as some sort of MMA now. Same thing with fitness; I want sober stuff that works, and does not bankrupt my students/clients.

Read the rest of this entry »

We occasionally use the drills in this video to enhance our balance, stability, and our ability to use our legs eccentrically to control ground reaction forces. A great many injuries in athletics result from poor balance, and from under developed eccentric and isometric control of the body. This is especially true when moving in the frontal and transverse planes. People tend to emphasize sagittal plane movements like squats, push ups, cable pulls, and bench presses in the gym while forgetting that fighting requires that we are able to control our movements in all three planes. These drills are designed to help address these issues prior to engaging in activities that emphasize agility and quickness.


"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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