Alive and Kicking #16 – Martial Arts The Perfect Exercise? And A New Look At Motivation

by on January 16, 2012

in Alive and Kicking


Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40


Monday 16 January 2012: Issue #16
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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.


Hi there!

Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40.

Are martial arts the perfect exercise? In this newsletter I explore this idea, based on some stuff I learned from a personal trainer (and martial artist himself). Also another quick look at motivation and goal setting.


So, are martial arts the perfect exercise? Of course that’s a pretty broad question to ask, especially as the martial arts are so varied. With kicking arts, throwing arts, grappling arts, and all the other arts in between it’s going to be an impossible question to answer.

But if you consider that most martial arts have some elements in common perhaps it’s not such a broad statement after all.

Martial artists are always putting their bodies into situations and positions that the “normal” person doesn’t. (Hmmm did I just call everyone here “abnormal”. I think I did – sorry about that!). Whether it is performing kicking techniques, practicing rolling or falling techniques (whether on purpose or not), grappling, slow movements, fast movements, large volumes of fast repetitive movement… whatever you are doing in your martial arts practice is, well, not “normal”.

And all the time you are using your entire body. If you learn anything in the martial arts, it’s that in order to get the most power or the most effective technique, the true source of the power is never in the tool that you are using.

You may be kicking with your foot, or striking with your hand, grappling using your arms and legs, but the source of this power is your entire body, not just the foot or hand.

So the entire time you are practicing you are using your entire body, and as you do so you become more powerful and more proficient. As you progress through your martial art, this become more and more evident.

In talking to my trainer today he was saying that their industry is undergoing radical re-training at the moment. For years gyms and trainers have focused on isolating certain muscle groups and working only those muscles. More recently, the word in their world is that you have to get more functional movement happening. So you have to be doing your resistance training while moving, rather than just sitting on a machine.

And more and more the training is becoming more about the movement and less about the weight. As he has a Taekwondo background he is starting to see a lot of similarity between what is the current trend in personal training, and what martial artists have been doing for hundreds of years.

By engaging the entire body in so many different ways, martial arts really do approach a “perfect” exercise. Strength (of many types), flexibility, core, speed, coordination, endurance, reflexes.

You name it, we’ve got it!


Pain and Dreams.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about setting goals and the things to avoid. If you recall I was talking about how goals need to be specific and not generic ones like “lose weight” or “get in shape”. They need to be more like “lose 10 pounds before the end of March”

I’ve been thinking a lot more about goals recently, because although I have set goals for myself and made them very specific, I’m struggling to get started actually making any progress towards them.

Before Christmas, well for most of last year actually, I have been steadily losing weight and getting fitter. Before Christmas I went on a real burst – increasing my activity at the gym and being almost perfect with my food. So I was expecting a great weigh-in after three weeks. I was gobsmacked when I saw that nothing had changed at all – everything was the same!

That threw me a bit, and actually it threw me off the path that I was on. Over Christmas and New Year I basically gave up on the diet and just ate whatever I wanted.

Well… now I’m 6lb heavier! Not a surprise but a bit of a downer. So I set my goals and thought all would be good. I’ll get back into the gym, and pick up where I left off.

But it turns out that somewhere in the last several weeks my motivation has gone missing. I’m not sure where it’s gone, but I suspect it’s somewhere back near that disappointing weigh-in!

Anyway.. where I am getting to here is that I want to share a little bit I learned about motivation a while ago. Many people think that goal setting and motivation is all about thinking about where you want to get TO. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that motivation can be just as much about where you want to get away FROM.

Take weight loss for example. Maybe you’ve set the goal to lose 10lbs before the end of March. When setting this goal, and seeking the motivation for the goal, most people will think about why they want to achieve it. You don’t just set out to lose 10lbs just for the sake of it. There has to be a reason.

Maybe it’s that you want to be a better martial artist. Perhaps you want to fit your clothes better, or be able to admire your physique in the reflection of a window. It might be that you just want to be able to keep up with your kids.

All of those are examples of where you might want to get TO. But for a lot of people it’s hard to visualize those outcomes, or perhaps even to believe that they are possible.

If you are like that, if you struggle to imagine or visualize the future state, then perhaps you need to turn the motivation question on its head and start to look at what you want to get away from.

Someone wanting to lose weight may want to get away from the reflection they see in the mirror now. Or finding it a huge chore to play with the children. Or they want to get away from being the slowest and least fit person in the dojo.

You might think that this is a terribly pessimistic way to look at goals and motivation. But for some people it just works.

If you have tried setting your goals and motivation around where you want to get to.. but not achieved the results you wanted, then perhaps try re-framing your motivation in terms of what you are trying to get away from. It might make a huge difference!


That’s all for this week! A bit longer than I planned 🙂

If you have anything you would like to see on the website or in a future newsletter then you can get hold of me by replying directly to this email, commenting on Facebook, or leave your comments on the website. (scroll down)

Thank you for subscribing (and reading!). Back in a week.

All the best!


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Quote of the Day


If you pay attention you will realize that the stiffest tree is the easilest to break. But if you take note of the willow or bamboo tree you will see that it survives by bending with the wind.
– Bruce Lee

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