Monday, 7 February 2011

Week 5 - progress report

This is the beginning of the fifth week of my pre shodan training programme - just 18 more to go, eek, scary!
So, how is it going?

Endurance and speed training: I have focused pre-dominantly on shadow sparring and various kicking drills for my endurance training. I started to get on better with the shadow sparring once I had developed a set of sparring combinations to work on. This way I can get some combinations really drilled into my head whilst working on my stamina - kill two birds with one stone I say! The kicking drills do the same thing - they enable me to improve my kicking techniques and leg strength whilst getting my heart rate up at the same time. I do some of the shadow sparring hitting the air and some hitting the bag. I haven't managed to do as many endurance workouts as I wanted, just one or two sessions a week (I'd aimed for 3) but time is limited. However I'm going to aim for 2 sessions this week. This morning I did 15 minutes solid of shadow sparring so I was pretty pleased with that.

I know a lot of martial artists like to go running as a way of improving cardio fitness and stamina. In fact, I know some have to do a timed running test as part of their black belt grading. But does running build the right sort of endurance for martial arts? Martial arts usually requires short bursts of intense activity, particularly for sparring. A kata performance can be very energetic but it only last for a couple of minutes at most. I could understand sprint training as a good form of endurance training for martial arts, but jogging a few miles? I've never been a runner so I accept that I could be completely wrong on this issue - what's your view?

Weights and conditioning: I'm not aiming for big bulging muscles here, just improved tone and strength. I read recently on Fitness Black Book, that to improve muscle size you need to exercise the muscle to failure - the number of reps or weight used is irrelevant, it's the effort that counts. If you don't want your muscles to get overly large but just stronger and toned then don't exercise the muscle to failure. This presents me with a dilemma! I don't particularly want big muscles (not that women's muscles get that big anyway) but the hundred push-up challenge that I'm doing requires me, in the last set of reps, to do push  ups until I 'max out', i.e. exercise to failure. Not wanting to do the challenge half hearted I'm 'maxing out' on the push ups but I'm watching those muscles don't get too big!

Flexibility and balance training: I love doing the flexibility training. I find doing the long, slow stretches very relaxing - a good counter balance to the endurance and weights training. I tend to do the stretching exercises on the in between days (i.e the days I'm not doing the other stuff). I generally do the balance exercises first and maybe a bit of kata and then spend half an hour stretching. I've even tried adding 5 or 10 minutes of meditation onto the end of it when I'm feeling at my most relaxed. I'm really working on the hips at present. My instructor told me that my shiko dachi (horse stance) is not low enough when I'm doing seienchin kata so I think being able to open up my hips more will help with this.

I'm also working on various karate techniques, mainly basic kihon stuff but I'll talk about the benefits of doing that in a later post.


  1. Running- you need cardio. Also, running is VERY effective for getting away from threatening situations. If you can't build up endurance from fighting 10-15 minutes a day, then running is a practical way of gaining endurance because it only involves one person. It can be really lonely, though, so I suggest music and a growing soundtrack.

    If you stress your body out in different ways, it learns to adapt to many different situations. A rising tide raises all boats. If you only stress out your body in one way, the same way, it will simply find the least wasteful way to accomplish that activity. It is hard to make a judgment on what works best--that is inherently subjective--but if I had to take a stand, I would try to incorporate running into your routine.

  2. I personally like stairs, lots of stairs. I do five flights ten times every other day ... stairs are a good supplement if you have them available.

  3. T, okay, you put up some convincing arguments why running would be a good idea. "Stressing your body in different ways" could be the clincher that makes me get some running shoes. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Charles, stairs are good. I generally take stairs instead of lifts if I can. There's just not so many tall buildings around here as you're probably used to. I rarely go into a building that's more than 3 floors high - we are a relatively low-raised country!

  4. I'm not a fan of running. It's hard on the body. I've also read that running a lot gets you really good at running, but not much else. Interval cardio training is likely your best bet (you mentioned sprints, which is a form). It more accurately reflects the type of exertion in the martial arts. It also has all the heart benefits and has been proven to boost your metabolism far more than steady state cardio.

    I wouldn't worry about muscles getting too big, it's hard to do. And body weight exercises are fantastic for functional strength and if done properly with good form, will hopefully keep you injury free as you prepare.

    Keep up the great work, it can't be easy.

  5. Journeyman, I have been told that running is bad for the joints (knees and ankles)and I have to admit that people you see out jogging in the streets don't generally look like they're enjoying themselves- they often look as if they're about to keel over and die!. I used to do some interval training on the running machine and cross-trainer when I belonged to a gym. My personal trainer at the time clearly thought it was the way to go. I may still give running a try just to see how I like it but I do have a cross-trainer machine at home so I might try some interval training as well and see which I prefer. Thanks for your comments.


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