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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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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

Over the last year, Bob and myself (with the help of folks in our respective groups) have been working on a variety of projects related to our Fitness for the Fighting Arts (F4FA) programs. In February of last year, we held the inaugural F4FA seminar in Virginia. At last year’s TKRI/Seijinkai Summer Camp Bob introduced many of the injury avoidance concepts to attendees. Currently he’s working on an instructional DVD, which will put extremely useful information about activity-specific injury prevention and performance enhancement strategies into the hands of trainers, instructors, coaches and practitioners of the various fighting arts. We’re also working on developing a series of seminars and workshops that are tailored to the concerns of specific fighting arts and sports.

In an effort to make all of F4FA content accessible in one location, we’ve developed a home web site to house the F4FA project:

Fitness for the Fighting Arts

Some of the content is still under construction, but we hope that the new menu will be easy to navigate and simple to understand. Several areas on the site offer information about the program and related materials:

About Us- the Maximal Advantage Training System

Seminar and Workshop Program Packages if you’re interested in hosting an F4FA seminar, browse the program options and contact either myself or Bob, depending on your region of the country.  More information on each package and pricing information will be coming soon.

F4FA Instructional DVD Samples

Articles and Resources

More information will be added in the next several weeks, but if you’re interested in finding out more, contact Robert Miller or myself using the email addresses supplied on the site.

Kata and waza are both limited by themselves. They are useless until one learns how to apply them in context.”

Motobu Choki

I’ve been fascinated lately with the struggle to define what karate is, why it is or is not special among fighting arts, and specifically, what role kata play in all of this. A quick look around karate blogs and discussion forums makes it evident that more and more practitioners are looking for answers.

Some seem to content to lean on the dojo kun or Confucian-esque observation of customs and “correct behavior”, which implies that karate is not unlike the Boy Scouts. Often this comes with a distinct air of “if you don’t do it like this, you’re simply a heathen running around on the mats.” When other martial arts groups that use codes of conduct are pointed out, many traditional karate people act like wine critics and put on an air of superiority- even when the codes are worded the same as the dojo kun. So much for open-mindedness.

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Bob tipped me to this resource, which deals with the necessity of training movement skills in the frontal plane.  While it is written with regards to Lacross players, the information can obviously be applied to karate training with very productive results. All of the conditioning exercises shown are a valuable addition to any karate training program for both injury prevention and performance enhancement.

 

Multiplanar Training: “The Forgotten Plane”

Dr. Brian Paris, DC, CBP Fellow, NASM-PES
Colin Cooley, MS, NASM-PES

If you’ve ever heard something like “we’ll do 500 punches/kicks to relax you- after your muscles are too tired to be involved, you’ll have pure technique” then you have heard some of the inaccurate training information that has plagued karate training for a while. It might make sense on the surface; relax those pesky prime movers and let my hips take over. Sensei says that muscle and strength won’t help me, only perfect technique.

Right. In the meantime, the damage that this sort of thing will cause to your joints, tissues and functional movement patterns will probably end up counter balancing any development that you may make. If the example above were so, why don’t we see professional American-style football coaches making their players do biceps curls and pushups to failure right before working on precision passing technique? This topic can get into some sophisticated concepts and jargon pretty quickly, but suffice to say, quality of practice and movement is more important than quantity- and focusing on quantity can sharply reduce quality.

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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.

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"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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