Tag Archives: work out

In the Beginning…

In the beginning, I was a mediocre academic student who’s only real success was a few short stories. About the same time I began studying at Langagra I also started learning Dragon-Style Kung-Fu at the Kerrisdale community centre. I suppose I must have been about twenty years old at the time. It was a class that only ran once a week, and was about ninety minutes in length. My decision was probably as influenced by the popularity of the Matrix films and my love of Bruce Lee as much as anything else.

I did well in my creative writing and literature classes and average-to-poor in just about every other course I took at college. My first year at post-secondary school was fairly enthusiastic. I liked the freedom and the anonymity, I liked meeting (very few) new people, I liked being able to choose the subjects I was interested in. However, by the second year I had exhausted all the courses I actually enjoyed and reached the point where I had to choose things that fit into a program.

Suddenly, I needed direction.

I found that direction in the second part of a Medieval History class when I met Roland Cooper. For better or worse, however, it had nothing to do with what I was doing at Langara.

Roland was one of the very first members of Academie Duello, which at the time consisted of two instructors (Devon Boorman and Randy Packer), I believe two students, and a weekly practice in the leaky covered area of Robson square. (This was many years before they renovated the square back into a functional ice rink, at the time it was uneven cement with a ceiling that didn’t keep out the rain very well.)

He told me about Duello, and I eventually decided to check it out. when I was younger I had a TINY bit of experience training in modern sport fencing, and like most people I was surprised at the realities of using a heavy rapier. The second I was handed a sword to practice with I loved it, which was about five minutes after I showed up. If I remember correctly, I was the third registered student at Duello.

The class grew slowly as we shared the space with the break dancers who used to hang out on the opposite corner of the square. Another friend of mine, Simon Ranier, joined at the same time I did. This effectively doubled the number of students. I can’t remember exactly when Jonathan Whiteley and Chris Moone became regular students. I believe one on them was already there before me and one came shortly after. I do remember that they both had some experience fighting in the SCA so they seemed like super-sword-wizard-masters to me at the time.

Fencing and Kung-Fu didn’t conflict with each other, so I continued to do both, even after Duello started running a second night of classes at Capri Hall on Fraser St. In fact, I cannot distinctly recall when I decided to abandon Asian martial arts and focus entirely on Western ones, but it did happen eventually.

The early Academie Duello crowd posing with Mandy Patinkin (aka Princess Bride’s Inigo Montoya) at Robson Square

I loved what I was doing. I started putting one foot in the SCA in order to compete in a few open tournaments (which introduced me to a whole bunch of people who fought in a completely different way than I was used to), and it wasn’t long before my fencing friends were pretty much my only friends. Swords became my life, and I thought I was the coolest guy in the world for knowing how to use them.I liked being able to say that I was an aspiring swordsman, even though that usually received the reply ‘so, you mean like a pirate?’ or, ‘but weren’t the samurai the best?’.

It was gradual, but Duello kept growing and kept garnering more media attention. After a few years the school started looking into a plan for a permanent location somewhere in the downtown area. There was a period of hunting and planning, but eventually it happened – we acquired the second floor of a old building on Richards St.

There were a lot of renovations that needed to be done before the space was really presentable, and I am ashamed to say I took part in none of them. Nevertheless, we started holding our practices around the rusty railings and holes in the ground as the location became more and more polished.

That room would become the centrepiece of my life for the next three years.

At this point I had utterly abandoned school in favour of swordplay. I still wonder sometimes how differently my life would have turned out if I hadn’t made that reckless decision. Would I have finished a degree, would I have secured a better job? Probably not, to be honest. Schooling had always been an endless, upward struggle for me.

Most people don’t know that I am a little on the learning disabled side, since I primarily come off as eccentric. Yet it is true, I have a good old dose of the ADD, coupled with an almost crippling inability to do anything directly mathematical. If it wasn’t for the fact that Mother utterly exhausted herself to force her children though school, I probably wouldn’t have even managed to get to college. As such, the first seventeen years of my life were a constantly stressful period where I usually felt as if I was beating my head against a wall. The English Language was the only thing I excelled at and, apparently, martial arts for some reason.

Thus, experiencing the fairly foreign sensation of being potentially really good at something, I latched on to that ego-boost completely. It wasn’t long before I was spending four or five days a week at Duello, often barely working enough in my off time to keep myself alive. I was consistently short on rent and I ate a great deal of Kraft Dinner, but I had a sword in my hand every moment I could.

An attempt to run a morning class two days a week eventually led to the formation of the trinity that would define the coming years. The people who regularly showed up at seven in the morning dwindled down to myself, Courtney Rice, and the co-founding instructor of the school, Randy (David) Packer. There were a few other people, notably Clinton Fernandes, who showed up some of the time, but it was the three of us who were there almost without fail.

I cannot really believe that I loved what I was doing so much that I woke up at 6 AM to go down to the fencing salle. I have never been an early riser, and it is a testament to the times that I got up that early twice a week when I didn’t really have to.

At this point I was a ‘red cord’ at the school. This was the highest rank that any of the students had achieved at the time (and I think still). The camaraderie between Randy and myself had developed into a actual friendship, and I gradually came to be regarded as his assistant instructor. After the morning classes the school ostensibly stayed open until 10 PM, and on Monday’s and Wednesdays we were there pretty much that whole time. Courtney would sometimes have to leave for work, returning in the evenings. Between those times, Randy and I spent an about seven hours in the salle, often remaining for another few hours to take part or instruct the evening classes.

Those were long days.

We ran small afternoon classes, reviewed curriculum for things Randy wanted to teach, brainstormed new drills, experimented with techniques, or just fought amongst ourselves.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my personal life was a wreck at this time. I was broke, hungry and even more socially unsure of myself than I am now. Yet despite all that, there were these little pockets of time on those long, quiet days that were perfect.

Fighting in the morning and then sharing a sip of good rum and smoking a pipe of smooth tobacco on a warm, summer afternoon… Tiny little minutes where things just seemed so good. (“All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain.” Sorry, I love that scene in Blade Runner.)

I think one of the most valuable things to come out of this period was the Palestra classes. (Palestra was the name of the gymnasium for martial artists and athletes in ancient Greece. Randy has since coined the phrase Palestrics to mean any athletic or martial activity done with a partner.)

These were hour-long conditioning classes that occurred just before the regular evening classes on Monday and Wednesday. The idea behind them was to create a long, intense workout that would help to condition students for any kind of martial art they might wish to train in. While we had limited equipment to work with, Randy never failed to come up with something exhausting and challenging for the few of us who submitted to this hour.

Though my approach to training has changed quite a bit over the years, I still thank those early days on Palestra for my general work ethic. It taught me that ‘pain don’t hurt’, to quote Roadhouse. It was probably the first time in my life that I really started to work out as well as practising martial arts techniques, and it set the bar for the rest of my career in that area.

Now, a slight aside; Despite this generally bad-ass work ethic, I have never once in my life enjoyed working out. I LOVE fighting, sparring, slow work, combat drills, even hitting the punching bag – but I very much do not, and have not ever, liked working out. I sometimes like the social atmosphere that comes from exercising with friends, but I was the kid who only attended enough gym classes to pass and then skipped the rest to go read somewhere. While it’s true I love the sense of satisfaction that comes at the end of the routine, working out is all about the destination and not the journey for me. I push myself to do the best I can because I want the benefits that come from it.

There are some I dislike less than others, but even the gymnastic, cartwheel, acrobatic stuff is not really all that fun for me. Like anything else in life you love doing, working out is the side of martial arts that I do because I must, not because I want to.

Enough digression, back to the reminiscing;

There we were, the Kings and Queens of cool. We had an intense conditioning workout, long days in the salle, and as much swordplay as anyone could ever want. Things were good. I felt that we all had a a plan and life was looking up.

That plan didn’t work out quite the way we had thought…

TO BE CONTINUED

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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.