It’s a fact that martial arts are great to reduce stress: I have written one of my first posts on this topic. Training keeps your mind occupied because most techniques are not obvious so you cannot really think about something else while doing them. Then adrenaline is released during training, endorphins and dopamine are released while doing something that works well and they are just excellent to feel great at the end of a session.
A challenge I recently encountered was to help group of students from the University of Cambridge and then some of the members of the Springboard(); startup accelerator to get some martial arts workout and have some fun at the end of a very stressful and demanding working week. Delivering martial arts training to a large group of total novices can be difficult because of the following questions to be asked:
- how do you get a bunch of total beginners to get some martial arts workout for an hour without spending the same amount of time teaching a one or 2 basic techniques?
- are there techniques that people can do almost immediately without too much explanation and get a decent workout in the process?
When teaching martial arts at my club or in seminars and workshop I can rely on existing experience; when teaching to a beginner’s course I know I will have those students for several lessons so I can concentrate on a few basic techniques at the time, ensuring they assimilate the concepts before moving on. Here it’s different, very different; I wanted to deliver a satisfactory experience, real stuff, while ensuring they would not hurt themselves or others in the process.
Most martial arts techniques imply posture, guard, balance, weight transfer and so on… so for these workout I cut to the very basics and relied on basic co-ordination from the various individuals to pick up the basic moves.
First we used Thai pads to protect the legs and deliver low round kick to the back of the knee; it’s nice and safe and a lot of power can be delivered with low risks of damages. Round kick, particularly low one can resemble when people kick a football and it becomes pretty intuitive after a few attempts. Most people were wearing shoes to protect their feet although some, initially wearing flip-flops trained barefoot.
Second we tested circular elbow strikes, hitting focusing mitts, easy and simply amd again low risk of injury for the person performing the technique, as long as they avoid sliding the elbow on the surface of the mitt and they strike well in a perpendicular trajectory. I usually avoid punches on the mitts if, like in this case, we were not using boxing gloves and hand wraps available; there are too many things that can go wrong in a punch and it take too long for people to get all of the basic concepts.
Third we were striking the mitts in a descending hammering motion; it’s possibly the most powerful strike that any novice can learn in a few minutes and it delivers such an expectedly powerful strike.
Last but not least we tried hitting breaking boards; I had a set of three, yellow, green and brown with an increasingly high breaking point. For many people breaking an object releases a great level of satisfaction; even great is when you have the impression of breaking it and you can put it back together. Everybody managed to strike through the yellow and green and more than half attempted and succeeded in breaking the brown one.
Given the nature of the training and the limited time we simply used these techniques because they work, they can be physically demanding and a good workout without worrying too much how they would work for real; quite probably they wouldn’t and what we did was ignoring basic concepts of guard, active protection while performing the technique and what to do next. Result was good anyway as none of them have ambition of becoming martial artists anytime soon (although perhaps some might) and therefore I believe the workout did fit its initial purpose: being a stress buster and have fun.
Well done to everyone!