Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40
Monday 28 November 2011: Issue #9
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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.
Welcome to this weeks edition of Alive and Kicking, the
newsletter for martial artists over 40.
I want to have a chat today about conditioning and fitness. For
the last year I’ve been fortunate to have been in a position to
work with a personal trainer. And not just any personal trainer
either, but a one-time New Zealand National WTF Taekwondo
Since my early 20s I’ve struggled with my weight and fitness. In
fact sometimes I do wonder how I managed to keep going in martial
arts because sometimes, quite frankly, I was really in poor
Actually, in saying that, I’d hate to see what sort of shape I
would have been in had I not been doing any Taekwon-Do at all!
Even though I have never acquired six-pack abs (more like a big
one-pack ab!) at least I was in the dojang twice a week or more
for most of the last 20 years. And couple that with the
occasional grading here and there where I really had to pull
finger and get into some sort of reasonable shape, I guess I had
a fairly good base level of fitness.
Back in January when I first joined a gym and started training
with Steve, one of the first things they did was put me through
their standard fitness test assessment. I can tell you now that I
was in probably the worst shape I’d ever been in. I am 168cm
(5’6″) and at 111 kgs (244 lbs) I was extremely overweight. And
for the whole of the last year my Taekwon-Do training had been
sporadic – I’d hardly trained at all. Well because of that, and
because Steve didn’t want to kill me, he put me on the ‘baby’
level fitness test.
This test was a “functional” test, and involved a short burst of
rowing, some bag lifting, pressups, sled pull, squats, kettle
bell swings and a short run. (I think that’s right. It gives you
some idea anyway). The idea was to get through one lap of the
circuit in less than 5 minutes. I totally blitzed it in less than
Steve just about fell over. He had assumed a level of fitness
based on my weight level and current activity levels, and on his
vast experience, and I totally blew it out of the water.
The following week he had me do the intermediate version of the
test – two laps of the same course in under 9 minutes. I blew
that time out of the water as well.
What the point of telling this story? Well, what I am trying to
get to is the idea that there is a lot more to fitness than just
being lean and able to run long distances. If there had been a
long run in Steve’s fitness test I would have failed miserably.
Running is just not something I can do.
But something in all the years of training I had done meant that
I had some base fitness in a range of different functional
activities that meant I could perform well in this fitness test.
There was pulling, pushing, squats, hip drive, short bursts of
intense effort. Lots of anaerobic activity, but for long enough
to bring in an aerobic element as well.
Just like the martial arts! Martial arts are similar. Lots of
short bursts of activity, perhaps incorporated into a long
session which brings in the aerobic element.
So if fitness is something that you struggle with, or you are a
bit overweight and have this perception that being overweight
means that you are not fit, I encourage you to think again. You
might not be a runner, you might not be on the cover of a fitness
magazine, but if you are regularly training in the martial arts
you may be a lot fitter than you realize.
I’m really looking forward to the coming weekend. We have an
instructors seminar for our national Taekwon-Do organization, and
it’s bringing together most of the instructors from all over New
Zealand. The weekend is absolutely packed with activity, and it’s
going to be a blast.
I find that I have to attend something like this once every
couple of years or I just go stale. The opportunity to train with
a talented bunch of instructors, but more importantly the chance
to sit around and renew old acquaintances, is just so refreshing
I just know it’s going to put me on a high for months to come. It
happens every time.
But what I am really excited about is that one of my students is
testing for her 4th Dan this weekend. This is the first student
of mine I have had testing for this level, and the amount of work
she has put into her preparation is just huge. It will be a very
exciting and proud Friday night for me.
I just can’t believe that I now have students attaining this
Especially when you consider that one of the first things I said
to my instructor when I started in 1989, was “I don’t want to
test. I just want to train”!
In his wisdom, my instructor responded “Sure, that’s fine” 🙂
That is it for Alive and Kicking this week. As always, I really
love to get your feedback.
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All the best!
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Quote of the Day
The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat but in
the perfection of the character of its participants.
– Gichin Funakoshi
Just For Fun
There are two rules for becoming a master in Martial Arts.
Rule 1: Never tell others everything you know.