I’ve wanted to pick up a medicine ball to use in some interactive drills with 2-hand and 1-hand stick basics (a.la.  Joseph Simonet).  I just kept forgetting, and my daughter wouldn’t let me use her Jane Fonda fitness ball to whack with a  stick.  I had seen some articles on-line about making your own Medicine Ball using a basketball, reamers, tire plugs, shoe goo, and a host of other accessories.  But they all seemed overly complicated and time consuming.

So yesterday afternoon I found a dead soccer ball (Size 3) from one of my boys.  I
had a bag of playground sand sitting on the portable basketball hoop.  So I cut a 3” gash in the ball, rolled up some cardboard from the recycling bin to use as a funnel, and just started stuffing some sand into the ball.  After 15 minutes of jostling and tamping, I had about 10 lbs. of sand inside.  I filled the remaining space with about 8 plastic grocery bags.  I brushed the sand from the outside and taped an “X” over the opening.  After reinforcing the patch with two intersecting circles of duct tape, I was outside to train.  Having someone loft these towards your chest (or head, depending on how they feel about you at the time) is a great way to develop timing, accuracy, and movement.

Total time invested ~ ½ hour and I had all the materials already lying around.  Well worth it to add a new implement to the home training toolbox.  Now if only I can get a few whacks at the Jane Fonda ball, it would really brighten my day, if only out of respect for those Vietnam vets that had to deal with her treasonous blather while they were serving in harm’s way.  But that’s another topic for another day. 

Give it a try.  I think you’ll have fun.

The title above caught my eye in the June 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  At first I thought they were referring to the bad habit of many tournament competitors (not just Taekwondo, although it seems heavily practiced there!) of bouncing up and down, pulling at their gi pants, while waiting to launch their next attack.   Instead, the “skipping” refers to the “period of low-intensity effort” following the “high-intensity bout of kicking and punching” (attack).  The authors’ (Victor G.F. Santos, et. al.) premise is that by understanding the relationship between the attack and the rest (“skipping”), a specific conditioning program could be developed.  So what did they find?

Two earlier studies showed ranges of high:low intensity movement in the range of 1:3-1:4 or 1:6.  So these authors studied sparring matches at the 2007 World Championships and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  They found that “athletes in these competitions spend more time studying, approaching, and preparing a new attack on their opponents than on executing attacks.”  The high:low ratio was ~1:7.   The numbers of offensive and defensive attempts were ~15-20 kicks and punches per round (while in boxing they cite 80 punches/round as common).  
So what’s that mean to the average karate player? The findings suggest “that matches may be slightly more cadenced by better athletes, who seem to attack only when there is a fair chance of scoring.”   This is consistent with the karate precept “Strike when the opportunity presents itself.”  In sparring matches the openings open and close quickly, so you’re better off being prepared to strike suddenly and with a flurry, than to waste a bunch of energy with endless flailing that only tires you out but makes you feel like you’re doing something.  
As far as training goes, if you want to get in shape for sparring, then spar.  Keep in mind the flurry nature of the activity.  Endless roundhouse kicks or punches in a steady rhythm won’t help, you need to have breaks in the pattern.  Your non-technical training (i.e. general cardio & conditioning) would be well spent in some kind of interval training. 
For example short bursts with the Martial Ropes interspersed with a period of active rest (walking around). Or you can do short bursts of plyometric pushups, jump squats or the exercise of choice, then have a steady state “rest” on the Ropes.  Experiment and have fun.  Give me a shout and I’ll send you the complete list of authors for the above reference.