Tag Archives: plyometrics

In the Middle…

A brief Biography of My Life as a Martial Artist, part II;

In regards to my later days at Academie Duello,  there is one more pivotal moment in my life that should be mentioned; the Duel.

Randy and I decided to stage a mock-duel at the first annual sword camp that Duello was hosting. (This has since come to be called Cascadia North, and has changed venues.) It was to be a fight to first blood with sharpened sabres – a demonstration of the ritual of the tradition and, in the case of ourselves, the psychological experience of agreeing to such a fight.

Gut-wrenching would be my choice of phrase.

A full account of the demonstration was included in one of my earliest blog posts, and can be found here; https://scienceofdefence.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/duel/

However, back in day to day life, there were a few conflicts arising in the latter days at Duello. Partially it was my own attitude, especially during the Palestra classes. I began to question some of Randy’s ideas, and as such I frustrated him as much as myself by my stubbornness. Some mild ugliness ensued.

Also, put simply, Randy was becoming increasingly interested in expanding both what he was teaching, and how he was teaching it. There were many experiments in conditioning and instructing that he was not able to do within the parameters of the regular classes at the school, and it became apparent that he would have to strike out on his own if he was going to really develop them.

Naturally I felt that I should leave with him, since I was his friend as much as I was his assistant instructor and staying behind seemed like it would be rather awkward in regards to my position at Duello. Not only that, but at the time I was receiving no real pay for my time coaching the newer students. Though I did make some money from teaching a childrens’ summer program, as well as a workshop that I ran on my own, it was not nearly enough to keep me from being very poor. Following Randy to a new project meant that, if the concept was successful, I could actually be a partner in the profits and business planning.

I believe it was late in the year 2007 that we agreed that we were both going to resign from Duello and try and start a smaller club on our own.

We were to be dubbed Nova Spada, and the locations we eventually settled on were Sapperton Pensioners’ Hall in New Westminster, and the Cloverdale rodeo Grounds in, obviously, Cloverdale.

Our focus changed drastically from what we were teaching at AD. We all but abandoned Rapier for the time being and went back to square one on trying to figure out what the best way to teach might be. Rather than focusing exclusively on swords, Randy began drafting drills for footwork, basic posture and body mechanics. In terms of swordplay, we began by working through the tenants of the i.33 manual – which is one of the first martial arts documents known to the western world. We also dabbled in Marozzo, as well as beginning to develop the style of unarmed combat that would eventually mature into a whole new style of fighting.

It was at the Cloverdale fairgrounds, in a large concrete arena, that the 5×5 system was born. Originally it was just a thought about knife fighting. “Hey, there are really only so many angles a knife attack can take, and really only so many responses a person can make in time – so why don’t we boil those down and make a free-style drill out of it?”

I think we knew right away that we had hit upon something valuable. The 5×5 knife drill became our favourite thing to work on, and it wasn’t long before we realized it wasn’t that hard to adapt it to all self-defence scenarios. Thus began what I still feel was one of our best inventions. The idea that all aggressive attacks and all ‘flinch’ responses to them can be boiled down to a simple set of principals.

I won’t go in to the exact details of how the drills work, since they are only partially mine to give out. I believe Randy is still working them at his introductory classes at http://boxwrestlefence.com/classes/ for those who are interested.

Now, I wont lie, getting out to the Cloverdale location sucked. I had to bus to the skytrain, ride the train to Surrey Central, walk up a hill to where Randy lived at the time, then the pair of us would drive out to the fairgrounds. The whole trek could take up to two and a half hours. Once there we would run classes for another couple of hours, and then I repeated the whole process to get home.

At this point I was also working forty hours and five days a week at my regular job, and spending both my days off at Nova Spada. Eventually my value and enthusiasm as both a student and an instructor began to fade. I knew nothing of nutrition in those days, and I was essentially working non-stop for seven days a week. I was exhausted. I would sometimes make the journey all the way out there only to feel strung out and half-asleep most of the time I was there. It was not good.

However, as it turned out we didn’t keep the Cloverdale practice running all that long. The expense of the two locations was not practicable considering the amount of money we were taking in, and some of the financial help we were hoping for didn’t come to be. Thus perished the Cloverdale Practice. There were a few classes we ran outside in parks and the like, but it wasn’t long before we were only running sessions at Sapperton, and only on one day a week.

The Nova Spada group in Cloverdale

The Sapperton practice, which would endure for another three years after we abandoned Cloverdale, went through many a metamorphosis. At first we were running classes much the same; alternating sword work with knife and unarmed work. The 5×5’s finally came in to their own as a system of training. However, after a while we were at a loss to know where we should go from there.

During that time classes became very informal. There was a period where we were more of a drop in facility with no structured classes. Randy and I more or less stepped back as instructors, working on bettering ourselves while occasionally giving advice to those who asked for it. The one advantage of this un-ambitious period was that we were actually able to pocket a small percentage of our earnings as opposed to putting all the money into new equipment.

Nevertheless, neither of us were really happy with the way things were.

I was constantly trying to think of a way to get things rolling again, as I felt that we were coming up with some really great material that was begging to be taught. Eventually I hit upon the idea of taking a page from history and trying to re-vision ourselves as a guild – kind of a less biased version of the London Masters of Defence from Elizabethan England.

When I first proposed this idea to Randy I didn’t think he was that taken with it. I thought that he felt it was too big a leap from what we were doing. I was a little disappointed, but I shrugged it off and filed the concept away for future use.

However, the idea was not as rebuffed as I had initially thought. A few weeks later we began discussing it again in more detail. By this point my girlfriend, Holly Maclaren, had become a regular part of our endeavours, and we all began planning how we would re-brand the school. The four of us, Randy, Courtney, Holly and myself began meeting at least once a week to brainstorm, plan, plot and scheme. It was a fairly lengthy and often frustrating process, but in there end we disseminated what we had done with Nova Spada and created Scatha Combat guild.

The early days of SCG were spent offering a series of workshops designed to bring in some new students and spark some more interest in what we were doing. Randy and I both ran long, two hour sessions that covered our own particular skills. Randy did two part introductions to the fencing master Marozzo, as well as German longsword and other favourites of his, I did the same on the basics of Bartitsu. and Angelo’s Highland Broadswoard (or Backsword) military style. We also ran classes devoted entirely to fitness for the first time.

To a certain extent, the plan worked. We did get more interest online and a few more people started to check us out in person. After a few months of this, we were ready to start buckling down to regular classes again.

Eventually the standard night ran along these lines: work out, 2×2 drill (a simple practice of all the basics strikes against a target), the 5×5’s then some in depth work on a particular field, followed finally by free sparring.

The biggest shift over time was the work out portion.

When we first began running classes we still kept the model we had used from Palestra; run around, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, a little plyometrics. However, over time our conditioning portion of the night became a melting pot of new and old ideas. Randy was always trying to find the best ways to train people to move more naturally and more gracefully, so we we always experimenting with something new. We researched everything from Parkour to La Canne looking for new ways to condition our students for athletic movement.

What we ended up with became a mix of basic gymnastics, the essentials of Capoeira, and a smidgen of on-the-floor break dancing. It was a fascinating blend.

I was not a fan of the gymnastics at first. I liked the idea of making all our students capable of handstands and planches, but I wasn’t sure we were going about it the right way. The issue I had was that a lot of the basic exercises are a both very difficult, and not particularly rewarding for the first few months. For one, it was frustrating to feel like there was a whole aspect of strength that I completely lacked (and I did). Also, I sometimes felt that we were throwing ourselves into the more difficult positions when we hadn’t really taken the time to build up the co-ordination of the basic postures.

Eventually I came to accept that the attempts at seemingly impossible feats of gymnastics were in fact building a much better sense of movement in our students, and a balance that they had never possessed before. It took time, but the day finally came where I could hold a free-standing hand stand and I realized the progress I was making. However, I still wished we had taken a little more time to work through and coach the basics before pushing forward into the more intermediate stuff.

Meanwhile the four of us were still planning to expand our business. Our hope was to make a business plan, attain some money, and set up a small, permanent location somewhere in Vancouver. Once there we could advertise the hell out of ourselves and perhaps get on our way to actually running a successful establishment.

I still get starry eyes over the idea of having a modest club somewhere, and being able to show the world some of this amazing stuff that surfaced over the last half-decade.

Yet that was a dream that ended up staying in the realm of fantasy…

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Physical Culture

I have decided to forgo my natural hesitation to talk entirely about working out and take some time to talk about all the different exercise routines I have experimented with over the years.

Over the last near-decade of martial arts training, I have come into contact with many different approaches to working out as part of a training system. Some of these little routines provided useful tools that I still use, and some I interred in the graveyard of inefficiency. The majority of these different approaches to getting fit came from working with David Packer, beginning in the early days at Academie Duello and carrying on through our smaller martial arts clubs, Nova Spada and Scatha combat Guild. Utilizing the decades of experience he had in martial arts, personal training and now nutrition, we were constantly searching for more efficient ways to train ourselves and our students.

David R. Packer

David R. Packer

Mr. Packer has an unabated passion for finding the best way to train people, not

only for martial arts but for fitness in general, and I spent a good batch of years as a fitness guinea pig while he sought out the best methods. We tried everything from from push-ups to one-handed cartwheels in the attempt to make our students fit, agile, adaptive and strong.

(Incidentally, David’s current work can be found at boxwrestlefence.com or at “box wrestle fence” on facebook)

As it stands now, I have taken all the bits and pieces that I found gave the best over all results and created a two-week routine that seems to be giving me the kind of well-rounded fitness that I strive for. Over the last year I have lost about fifteen pounds of body fat, added more muscle tone, and increased my speed and strength noticeably – so no complaints here.  I also spend a total of about 2 hours a week biking to and from work when the weather is clement.

Honestly, It’s good for you.

It is important to mention that I also took a much more stern approach to nutrition as well. In terms of eating habits, it isn’t really anything special; I try to burn about 3000 calories a day (though I don’t always manage that) and I try to eat a couple hundred calories less than I burn. (I got a calorie counting app for my phone that is useful, though now my first instinct when I eat anything is to reach for it…) Wheat-y things are generally not good, and I do my best to only eat a few of them for breakfast and not later in the day, vegetables are good, lean meat is handy, and fish oil supplements help balance out the body’s fat intake and seem to make it easier to concentrate as well, whole grains are useful for maintaining energy levels, sugar is only an occasional treat and usually comes before or after some exercise, A moderate amount of alcohol is actually good for

Oh, how I miss thee…

most people (thankfully, otherwise I’d go mad) blah, blah, blah. None of this is a revelation, just the bare basics of nutrition I have picked up from people who have studied such things.

God, how I miss eating whole pizzas though.

There are a few general conclusions for working out that I have decided upon, and they are;

Don’t do the the same thing all the time. The reason I space my routine out over two weeks is so I can do something completely different every day. I also change the order in which I do each group of activities once in a while too. There are two reasons for this. A) You will avoid hitting a plateau from repeating the same cycle all the time and B) Doing the same thing all the time is really, really boring. If one keeps things new and tries things one hasn’t done before one will find it much more interesting.

And so here it is, my humble attempt at a regular work out routine;

I generally spend about 20-45 minutes working out five days out of the week. In addition to this, I spend an average of about 24 minutes a day biking to work and back at a steady pace. I spend one of the other two days doing something relatively light, i.e. a short bike ride or walk, and the other day is spent stretching or resting and drinking a beer.

I usually spend about 7 minutes warming up before working out (warming up, NOT stretching. stretching comes after a workout and not before.)

Every other day I add the (shudder) pP90x Ab Ripper routine to my warm up. I have been doing this one for a while now, so I have taken to adding a 30 Lbs weight to some of the movements. I did go through the whole P90X program thingy, and while it does provide a certain amount of results, it’s gets really dull really fast and I hate listing to that man talk at me the whole time. Of course, that’s just me, some people like that stuff. Also, it relies almost entirely on the weight lifting/calisthenic style of exercise and that neglects a lot of other important areas.

The Ab workout can be found here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xiydct_p90x-disc-12-ab-ripper_lifestyle

Obnoxious? Yes. Douche-y? Yes. Useful for vanity? Unfortunately, yes.

I personally like to spend about half the time doing the more standard lift things, push things, pull things brand of exercise and the other half doing more dynamic, gymnastic style stuff that build up the old agility, flexibility and. despite what you might think, strength.

INDIVIDUAL WORK OUTS

Because clearly celebrities should always be role models…

WEEK ONE: The standard, look-pretty stuff

Full Body: Perform 3 total sets of the circuit, 10 reps of each exercise
Clean and Press Pullup
Incline Pushup
Triceps Dip

Chest and Back: Perform 4 total sets of the circuit, 10 reps of each exercise
Incline Bench Press
Pullup
Incline Pushup
Incline Pec Flys

Shoulders and Arms: Perform 4 total sets of the circuit, 10 reps of each exercise
Incline Biceps Curls
Triceps Dips
Lateral Raises
Shoulder Press

Full Body: Perform 3 total sets of the circuit, 10 reps of each exercise
Clean and Press

Pullup
Incline Pushup
Triceps Dips

Plyometrics:

It must be good, look at all those bad-ass shadows!

This one is, again, stolen from P90X, and to my mind the only really impressive work out that system offers. I can’t find the whole video on line, but there is a brief description here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/237497-list-of-exercises-for-the-plyometrics-p90x/

Plyo is a long, intense way to spend an hour. Technically you could abridge it down to the basic moves, but with something this challenging I like to just shut off my brain and do the best I can since thinking only makes it hurt more.

Light Stuff

30 minute bike ride, long walk, etc…

Rest or Stretch

If I’m stretching, I’ll spend about 40 minutes starting at my neck and working my way down the rest of my body until I feel I’ve hit all the major muscle groups. A relaxed class of Yoga would suffice, I suppose.

WEEK TWO: The Cool Stuff

Stealing more pictures of Mr. Packer, as I sadly have none of myself because nobody likes me 😦

(Sometimes I alternate between the boring stuff and the cool stuff. As long as I do all the workouts over two weeks, I’m pretty happy with myself.)

Day 1: (3-4 sets)

  • Cartwheels (1 minute left and right)
  • Handstand push-ups (using a wall is just fine)
  • Cobra sprint (lower like you are doing a push up, but hold yourself there and kick your heels up to your butt as fast as you can)
  • Back bridge push-up

Day 2: (15 minutes)

  • Wind sprints (or 30 minute jog)

Day 3: (3-4 sets, hold each for 30 seconds)

L sit: If kids can do it, it must be easy

  • L-sit
  • v-sit
  • manna
  • planche
  • teddy bear hand stand

Day 4: (3-4 sets)

  • No cheat bridge
  • split push-ups
  • wall walks
  • ginga (basic Capoeira footwork)/kick (1min.)

Day 5: (15-30minutes)

  • Boxing (In term of calorie burning and muscle toning, proper boxing is one of the most effective forms of exercise I have come across. It’s also really fun to hit stuff.)

Day 6:

  • bike for 30 minutes

Day 7:

  • stretch

Now, this week’s worth of sweating isn’t set in stone. Most of the routines are taken from two books; ‘Building The Gymnastic Body‘ by Christopher Sommer and ‘Capoeira Conditioning‘ by Gerard Taylor. I will often change up the specifics, taking something different from one of the two books every few weeks.

So there you have it, for anyone who was interested and some people who weren’t, my preferred outlet for staying fit.