Ageing and training

For the first 15 years of my martial arts training I had a teacher who was always training as part of the class.  While many sport coaches are usually on the side barking orders he was actively showing, demonstrating and practicing his techniques with us.

Unsurprisingly when I started running my own classes I could not think of a different way of teaching and, more than 25 years later, I am still training while teaching and teaching while training.  Until about 4 years ago I could probably count on one hand, within a whole year, the number of lessons I missed or I simply coached without being part of the class. More recently, partially due to a number of training incidents which damaged my back, toes, shoulders, ribs and arm I started to slack a bit, train lighter or a bit less intensively to a point where a standard training session would be kind of challenging.

Early last year I was taking it easy as I was still recovering from a broken rib which happened in October 2015 and, during a training session, I ripped a tendon in my left arm which required a surgical procedure to be put back in working order.  I noticed then that I allowed my fitness level to slip too much below a minimum expected level and this was triggering a number of niggling issues.

At that point I decided to increase the frequency and regularity of my training while reducing the times I allow myself to simply run a lesson to no more than once per month.  I also select very carefully my training partners to minimise the risk of training due to excess of force or lack of control.  Fast forward about 6 months of very regular and consistent training and I feel, once more, at the top of my game.  I decided to concentrate on fast and technical training, which I most enjoy, and leave the sheer full contact stuff to people who are 10, 20 and 30+.

I simply had to acknowledge that if I have students in my weight category or heavier and they are training for full contact fights I should not try to spar with them full contact as I can get hurt.  Apart from that I can still train regularly and consistently with a broad range of athletes at various levels of skill and fitness and keep in good shape while enjoying myself and being able to keep my technique at a high level and being worth the black belt I am wearing.

Regular training to avoid injuries

There are lots of people out there that play the occasional football or tennis match or spend a week per year skiing.  Most martial arts require a different approach and cannot be practiced occasionally if you want to enjoy the benefits that they can bring and avoid injuries.  While I adopted a regular, quasi religious training regime since I was a teen ager I see many of my students or other fellow martial artists having a very irregular training regime: I believe this can be the strongest cause of injuries and loss of motivation.

When you are at the beginning of your training you have a steady increase of performance in terms of speed, power, flexibility and, progressively, technique.  Your mind, as well as your muscles, get trained and they learn the subtle intricacies of how and when firing the right muscles in the appropriate time and order.  You can consider that some of the muscles used in certain techniques are not used much in our normal daily activities.  For the same reason these muscles have a stronger tendency to loose their performance when not used.

While in regular training you enjoy progresses in your training and this enjoyment is released in the form of endorphins that make you feel good.  If, for any reason, you stop training for a few days or weeks your muscles tend to loose some of their fitness.  When you try a technique that was nice and easy last time you did it you find yourself suddenly struggling with it or, if that happens in a self defence situation, risk your life in the process.

A regular practice for amateurs should be considered when training 2-3 sessions per week, possibly practicing all year round: each training session should be between 1 and 2 hours long.

Regular training to avoid injuries

10 reasons why martial art are an effective alternative to gym, aerobic and lifting weights

Although martial arts are not team activities there are many elements of cohesion that motivate martial arts practice more that any other sport. Let analyse why this is true:

  1. Practicing a martial art is a long time investment in your health and well being: the time to proficiency is often long enough to establish good habits in your life, those that last for a long time. If and when you stop training for a while you’ll miss it, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
  2. Most martial arts teach a broad variety of techniques that keep you busy for many years just to master them all. In this you see a natural progression and having continuously new things to learn it makes it very interesting. Many masters state that perfection can be aimed but never achieved, therefore even after many years of training you are running after perfection while you keep adapting your knowledge and techniques to you ageing body.
  3. As are you naturally going to meet people that are better than you it will be natural to have a sense of challenge to improve day after day, session after session. In general the progression is easy to monitor and to measure therefore it is relatively easy to compare results against effort.
  4. The achievement of a certain level of proficiency, lesson after lesson will release endorphins that naturally make you feel good. At the end of each training session, with the natural tiredness you’ll have a feeling of well being that is quite addictive.
  5. Although martial arts manifest in many different ways and levels of intensity the overall training will ensure the practitioner to be a well round, balanced athlete with a decent level of fitness, stamina, strength, flexibility and coordination.
  6. Although martial arts are usually practiced in pairs and groups, some of the training can be rehearsed solo: that allows the practitioner to keep training, at least on some of the exercises, when she is on her own.
  7. Martial arts practice involves a reasonably complete workout rather than concentrating on a single part of the body. Different styles will put more emphasis on different areas of the body while practicing a balanced mix of exercises.
  8. Martial arts are a great stress relief: the aggression accumulated during work or while at school can be easily channelled and released in a controlled manner toward the practice of your techniques. It’s likely that after training the amount of aggression you had before starting is reduced or completely gone and you feel calmer and more in control.
  9. Martial arts training ensures that your whole attention will be directed toward your training, with minimal distraction. Even when your feel at an adequate level of proficiency and most moves come naturally without the need of thinking too carefully, your partner / opponent is there to punch you, to kick you or to throw you. Self preservation will naturally motivates you to put full attention in what you are doing.
  10. The sense of challenge and cooperation that can be found in many martial arts club I have experienced can foster friendship and social entertainment outside the training hall (dojo, kwon, dojang…).