Martial art to learn as a background for a security course?

I was recently awarded best answer in Yahoo! Answers by replying to the following question:

For someone who is looking into enrolling in a security course, what is one of the best martial arts to learn as a ind of background into self defense. I have heard that Ju Jitsu is good as far as grappling goes…. Any ideas

and here was my answer:

I agreed that ju jitsu can be the first and correct answer to your question it is also true that aikido offers as well great level of joint locks that are excellent for security work. They will surely protect you against people pushing and grabbing you although they might not be the best answer against somebody attacking you with punches or other strikes at short range. For those I’d suggest Wing Chun that also allows great attacking skills when needed. Another interesting alternative could be Silat that offers both attack and defense against strikes but with a broad range of joint and limb locks and grappling techniques.

For any of the above, in any case, you should consider a consistent practice in order to learn and assimilate the techniques: by no means expect to be proficient in a martial art within a few weeks or months.

All the best in martial arts

The role of kicks in professional fights

I recently found this video (see at the bottom of the post) on YouTube and I was impressed simply because it’s rare to see somebody using his legs in such an efficient, powerful and effective way.
When I started karate and kick boxing, in the early eighties, it was noticeable a strong predominance in kicking techniques.  At that time people like Bill Wallace and Dominique Valera were dominating tournaments worldwide and most people entering competitions felt they had to be great kickers.  I remember my master going to seminars run by these legends of kick boxing and coming back with more and more tricks about strategies and combinations of kicks to be used in training and competitions.

Then, within a few years, a new generation of kick boxers started to populate the world.  These new people were not excellent kickers, not very flexible in the lower part of their body, so they started to develop techniques and strategies to use a minimum amount of kicks in any given fights while using more and more boxing techniques.

By definition a kick is a powerful technique: it delivers a lot more power and damage then a punch but it also uses a lot more energy and it’s usually slower.  These simple rules changed completely the trends in full contact and professional fights: in the last few years you can see all fights being dominated by good punching, a few round and front kicks and literally no much else.  In K1 or in MMA people tend to punch, kick and knee in the former or, often, looking for the grappling in the latter.

Nonetheless it’s nice to see that occasionally a good kicker enters the professional arena and when that happens he/she usually dominates for a some time, at least until a better kicker comes out or somebody studies very carefully how to avoid being kicked and defeat the kicker by using different techniques.

Which stretches will help me improve flexibility for kickboxing?

I was recently awarded best answer in Yahoo! Answers by replying to the following question:

Ive recently taken up kickboxing and my kicks lack power mainly due to lack of flexibility. Could anyone give me a stretching plan which i can fit into 10 minutes of the day? Thanks alot!

and here was my answer:

In order to offer a more accurate answer it would be useful to know what kicks lack of power due to flexibility. In any case it’s relatively difficult to explain what exactly doing as it would be necessary the assistance of an instructor that understand what you are trying to do.

Leg flexibility can be improved by consistent repetitive stretching and relaxation exercises that can be done both from standing and from a sitting position. These exercises will help most kicks, and in particular the ones that do not require to open your hips (like front kick, axe, crescent kicks). Splitting your legs and working out the hips and internal abductors will help your side, round and hook kick.
Your approach is right, 10 minutes extra per day will do a great deal if you are consistent. The most important thing is trying to relax your muscles when stretching, release every tension and breath slowly: treat your muscles well and they do the same to you.

The Importance of Proper Warm Up

I am convinced that a proper warm up is an essential part of any martial art session: I see around many clubs that are quite informal about this part of training and they resolve the issue by telling students to “warm up”. People therefore chat away for 10-20 minutes while performing mild exercises that don’t really challenge any muscle and then they start training.

In the best cases these clubs are training people that are not fully ready for the next part of the class: some times this causes injuries and permanent damages and it is a good reason for putting many novices off martial arts training.

The purpose of warming up is to put body and mind in the best state to handle the rest of the training. The exercises done during warming up should improve both power as the source of speed and flexibility to reduce resistance resulting in agility and ease of movement.

As different martial arts express themselves in completely different ways it might be tricky to state what a proper warm up should be like.  Let’s then try to define what activities might be suggested according to the group of muscles used:

  1. Punching, particularly if at full contact against bags, pads and focusing mitts, requires proper conditioning of knuckles, wrists, elbows, shoulders and pectorals: press-ups or push-ups of various kind, with hands positioned at various angles can be a good way of warming up and conditioning that area.
  2. In martial arts that use medium and high kicks people should pay serious attention to their legs’ flexibility performing a variety of stretching exercises than involve flexibility of the rear part of the legs, the internal adductors and the groin area.
  3. Throwing techniques require good core training that is also of great support to punches and kicks.  Recent physiology studies have demonstrated that the core area (torso, abdomen and part of the back) is responsible for delivering power in most movements.  The power that most traditional martial arts define as coming from the hips is in reality delivered by the core.
  4. The abdominal area is a very important part of the body. Abdominal muscles are the only protection against strikes for delicate organs like stomach and liver: there are no bones here like in the chest so a number of different abdominal exercises like sit-ups of various kinds should be performed on a regular basis.
  5. The whole spine is subject to a number of snapping and twisting movements following punches, kicks and throws: warm up and strengthening the back ensures no long term back injuries.

An average warm up should last between 15 to 45 minutes, taking into account the following criteria:

  • age of the students: younger pupils need shorter warm up than people in their forties or above;
  • the martial art practiced: Tai Chi can be a warm up in itself while Judo or Thai Boxing need very specific exercises;
  • students’ proficiency: beginners might have a progressive approach to warm up while professionals need a long and well structured one.

In my experience warming up is an integral part of martial arts practice and should occupy a significant portion of each class rather than being an optional activity.  Benefits are out of question and ensure safe and healthy practice to people that want to see martial arts training as part of their life for the long term.