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.