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Saw this link over at Ross Enamait's blog.  A 1950's book on Indian Physical Culture.  What's old is new and all that.  There are only so many ways to move and train the human body, whether it's fitness or combatives.  It always comes down to 2 things:  First ya gotta learn it, then ya gotta do it (a lot). 

 
I don’t have a “BOB” training dummy.  And this is the first place I’ve lived that I haven’t installed a makiwara in the backyard.  So the other night when I was resting between sets of pull-ups, I just started pounding the 4 x 6’s and it gave me an idea.   Why not use the support posts as a surrogate BOB or Makiwara?

So I created some target areas.  One at knee height, groin height, solar plexus, and face height as a reference point. So now in between sets of pull-ups, I’ll do 10-20 kicks – front kicks, step to the side kicks, crossover kicks (see photos).  With or without a finger jab or palm heel as an “entry” or just to judge
distance.  
 
I find a lot of benefit in kicking a target that is firmly mounted and doesn’t have “give” or flex.  It requires you to have a strong foundation.  It requires good balance.  It helps with your judgment of distances.  And it makes you get used to hitting something firm and unforgiving. There’s instant feedback when you hit the post - if you’re off balance or the distance isn’t right, then you get thrown off upon impact or you can’t effectively absorb the counter force.   A valuable learning experience no matter how you slice it. 

This is a training method that goes back hundreds/thousands of years.  From
the “Pell” used by ancient Romans for practicing sword strikes (a DIY Pell found here), to the traditional Okinawan makiwara (interesting article and plan here).  I remember reading about Mas Oyama in “The Kyokushin Way”, punching and kicking trees and boulders while training alone in the mountains.  Always seemed pretty cool to me in a crazy kind of way.  
 
Bottom line, find something hard to hit and practice hitting or kicking it. You may be surprised what you learn.
 
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Happy 4th of July and a big Thank You to all our past, present, and future Military Personnel.  You keep us free and we're in your debt.

Part of my 4th of July celebration has included prep work for the Extreme Pull-up Bar installation project.  I got the 4x6's cut to size, the holes drilled, and the bar painted.  This weekend will be hole digging, leveling, and QuiKrete.  By Monday we should be back in the Pull-up business!

 
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I’m back in the saddle after returning from a week long service project with the family and church youth group to Grundy County, TN (http://www.mountain-top.org/).  
As the poorest county in the US, there’s a tremendous need and I think everyone came away with an appreciation for what they have in their lives.  Great trip, other than the 14 ½ hour drive each way, which had as much appeal as a skunk in a blender.  In fact, with a carload of teenage boys, it was like having a skunk in
the blender for much of the trip.

Quick and dirty, here are some things that I’ve seen or read this week that I found entertaining and/or informative:

The Badpiper Thunderstruck:  I gotta get me a kilt and some pipes.  If only to have something that shoots flames.   
 

Training For Warriors Power Training: Martin Rooney rocks.  Key concept – is your training just making you tired, or are you making progress towards a specific goal?    
 

Embrace the Suck - good read by John Romaniello. Made me think about breaking negative associations and giving some things that I “don’t like” a chance.  Like yoga.  Or running. Need to push thru the proficiency threshold.  
 

The Agile 8 -  I liked this quick look at some mobility drills, especially as it relates to opening up the hips.  Short video found on the right side bar of this article.  

No equipment, No Problem – Here’s a long list of sample workouts that you can do without equipment.  No more excuses, just pick one (or two or three...) and do it.  


Bodyweight Basics with Steve Maxwell -  I’ve followed Steve Maxwell’s materials for a dozen years or more.  If you’re not familiar with BW exercises, this would be a good resource.  
 

How to Make your BJJ training more fun -  I liked the look of the sprawl drill with the Stability Ball in the second video.


That's all for now.  Get out there and make it a great day.  Do something physical and/or combative this weekend!


 


 
 
 

 

 


 

 
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I’ve always liked to include “Strongman” type exercises into my training.  Why?  3 reasons:

1) It takes place outside.  Any time that I can get out in nature and move around is a good thing.  Too much of our life is spent sitting in plastic/polymer contraptions, viewing electronic patterns, and being bombarded by incandescent/LEDs.  

2) It’s fun and potentially dangerous. What’s not to like about swinging sledge hammers, flipping big tires, pushing/pulling trucks, carrying/throwing logs, or carrying stones, sandbags or anvils?  Any of those are much more entertaining and manly than your average
Shake Weight.

3) It makes time fly.  I’ve never been thrilled trying to follow a“standard” protocol of X sets of bench, Y sets of rows, Z sets of squats in a gym full of chrome, ferns, and spandex (well, maybe the spandex is ok).  I just find it very boring and difficult to stay engaged.  Most strongman activities, although just as difficult (if not more so in some ways), I just find more interesting and engaging. 
 
A recent study (The Strength and Conditioning Practices of Strongman Competitors,
J Strength Cond Res 25(11): 3118-3128, 2011) puts it this way: “Strongman style training
modalities may have some advantages over traditional gym-based resistance training approaches.  For example, traditional gym-based training exercises are generally performed with 2 feet side by side and require the load to be moved in the vertical plane.  Strongman events represent functional movements in multiple planes and challenge the whole musculoskeletal system in terms of strength, stability, and physiological demands.” 
(I like my reasons better).  This study found that most Strongman competitors are following
traditional protocols to develop strength, power, and conditioning, and then added Strongman specific implements 1-2X/week.  Most popular events practiced were the  Farmer’s Walk, Log Press, Stones, and Tire flip.  
 
It’s not difficult to get started:

Buy a wheelbarrow and some sand.  Push it around for time and/or distance.         

Have someone you know with access to forested land cut some trees of different diameters and lengths.  This might be easier if you live somewhere rural (like Central PA) than Manhattan. Carry them, throw them, squat with them.
        
Find some old tires.  Most shops will give them away for free.  Or friend your local farmer.  Car tires can be used for throwing.  Truck and tractor tires can be used for flipping, dragging, and/or hitting (with a sledge).
        
Take your vehicle(s) to an empty parking lot.  If you have a harness and rope, try towing a vehicle.  This is a lot of fun in a heart pounding kind of way.   Or without the harness, just push the vehicle for time/distance.  You can even create progressive overload by using
multiple vehicles of different sizes or by filling the vehicle with people/weights (this is where it’s nice to have skinny friends).
      
Buy one or two sledgehammers of different weights.  If you don’t have tires to hit (watch the rebound), take them out into the woods and hit a dead tree.  All of this feels better if you sing or hum any variation of the tune “John Henry”. 
         
Work on Farmer Carries with dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, KBs, suitcases, or any odd implement that you can find.  Time or distance.  
         
Buy some ornamental patio stones or paving blocks and carry them in different positions. 
Rocks/boulders can also be “obtained” from more rural areas, or better yet, go for a hike and pause frequently to try and pick up rocks/boulders you come across.  
 
I think that you’ll find if you get creative, you can have a lot of fun and get in some very functional training by incorporating these types of movements into your routine. You
may not end up on ESPN competing in the “World’s Strongest Man”competition, but it’s worth it none-the-less.




 
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Since February 23rd is “International Dog Biscuit
Appreciation Day
” it seemed like perfect timing for some “Dog Bone” Self-Defense.  Your average dog biscuit or chew toy is a perfect size and shape to be used as a kubotan, yawara, or “Palm stick” in a self-defense
situation (your average cat toy, or even the cat itself, is not worth much of anything).  
 
What made me think of this was a guy I knew that trained in his family style of karate (he was Okinawan).  His father used to carry a small wooden dowel (~ 5” x ½”) that he had let the dog play with/chew on.  He carried it in his back pocket as a palm stick and if he ever forgot about it or was asked what it was, he just said “Oh, that’s my dog’s chew toy”.  Friendly and non-threatening enough to be carried onto planes, into schools, or any other non-permissive environments.  
 
Palm sticks are used in a variety of cultures/martial systems.   Whether it’s called a yawara, kubotan, Koppo, Dulo Dulo, or Olisi Palid, they follow general principles in application.  They can be used as a “fist load” to increase the mass and/or decrease the compression of the fist which increases the amount of force that can be transferred onto/into the target. 
Depending on the length of the palm stick, either end can be used to strike sensitive targets.  The stick can also be used to grip or squeeze the opponent’s limbs and is often
useful for joint manipulations/compliance.   

A variety of objects can be used as a palm stick (see photos below).  Most can be made from objects already available around the house or in the garage.  Of course, there’s the true dog biscuit or chew toy.  Or a wooden dowel.   Or the Cold Steel Koga (although these look like weapons and in my opinion aren’t very discreet.  TSA is likely to get their boxers in a bunch if that’s found in your briefcase).   Or a “true” Kubotan.  Or an ASP canister of pepper spray.  

Tactical Pens (or any sturdy pen) work great.   Cold Steel’s Sharkie is a weapon hidden in plain sight, but why buy it from Cold Steel? Why not use a dried out (or fresh) Dry Erase marker?  The narrow tip on the cap makes a great focal point for strikes.  If you’re worried about the cap coming off, just crazy glue it on to make it permanent.   Or a Hi-Liter.  Or a flashlight (of any size, but as they get larger, for example C or D cell, they’re more of an impact weapon).

I think that with very little effort you can find ½ dozen items that can be used as true or improvised weapons.  Once you find some, take the time to hit some focus mitts with them in your hand.  Most empty hand techniques translate easily, but some quick familiarization and applied resistance would increase your comfort level.    And don’t forget to give Old Yeller a biscuit.  Woof!


 
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Been recently spending some time banging on my version of the Hillbilly Mook Jong.   I built it a couple years ago out of 1 ½” PVC.   Yeah, I know that you can’t apply a lot of force to it, but that’s not why I built it. 
I wanted to use it to work on form, not power.  I had dabbled a little bit with Ip Man’s Wooden Dummy form, but never learned the whole thing.  I finally decided to drill the individual sections and have it complete by the end of the year.  At this point I’m thru 4 of 7 “sections”.  

Some may ask, why bother with a wooden dummy form? 
As Samuel Kwok states: “The Jong’s purpose is to reinforce correct structures and angles, to foster the development of flow and to allow the correct, full expression of Fa Jing (last moment energy) which we can never use on a live training partner without the risk of seriously injuring them.”  I find that without always
having a live training partner, it’s a useful way to practice pak sao, tan sao, bong sao, lop sao etc. and flow between the techniques.  It’s also an interesting way to explore insights into the application of various hand positions, traps and guards from some of the traditional Okinawan katas.  

If you’re looking for resources, there are a couple of videos of Ip Man on YouTube doing the form. Some of them are of decent quality. The best book I’ve seen is “Traditional
Wooden Dummy” by Samuel Kwok& Tony Massengill
.  If you can afford to drop $500 - $1,000 on a true Wooden dummy, and have a place to put it, good for you, go for it.  If not, there are plenty of plans out there to make one out of PVC, whether it’s 1.5” or up to 8”pipe.  In an afternoon with $20 in pipe, a hacksaw and some PVC cement, you can
rig something and be ready to play in no time.  Have fun!


 
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Interesting article in a recent Strength and Conditioning Journal article that reviewed the research pertaining to “The Biomechanics of the Push-up: Implications for Resistance Training Programs.”    A  couple of takeaways:


 

Table of Push-up variations for novice, intermediate, and advanced exercisers:

Novice variations
:  Wall push-up; Torso-elevated push-up; knee push-up

Intermediate Variations: Standard; Wide base; Narrow base; Rapid countermovement;   Torso-shifted forward; Torso-shifted rearward; Feet-elevated; Upper-body suspended (e.g. TRX); Hands on stability or BOSU ball; Perfect Pushup; Handle grip; Fall (from knees); staggered base; alternating side-to-side; one legged; between-bench

Advanced Variations: Clapping; Self-assisted one-arm; One arm; Weighted vest; Weighted
(plates on back); Elastic band-resisted; Chain (draped over back)

Interesting tid-bits:
Wide base activates the pectoralis major to a greater degree than other positions, narrow base optimizes activation of the triceps.

It’s more challenging and demanding for shoulder girdle stabilizers to perform push-ups with feet elevated on a bench and hands on ground than with hands on stability ball and
feet on floor.

Hands on the stability ball significantly increased activation of triceps, also increased pec, rectus abdominis, and external oblique activation compared to pushups on a bench from
same angle.

The “Perfect Pushup” handgrips do not seem to increase muscular recruitment when compared to standard pushups.  (If you buy these, you should probably by a Shake Weight to go with it).

Clapping pushups outperform standard, slow eccentric, 1 hand on med ball, staggered hands, hands on 2 balls, 2 hands on 1 ball, rapid countermovement, 1 arm, and alternating
plyometric variations in pec major and triceps activity.  

Bottom line is that you only probably need 3 variations for maximum effect – standard, hands and feet on the ground; feet elevated on a bench; or Clapping push-ups if you’re really advanced.   All the other equipment, balls, handles and gizmos are interesting variations to keep things from getting stale (and help sell corner-filling dust-gatherers), but they aren’t necessary if you’re just looking for results.  Sure it’s not sexy and awe-inspiring to just drop down and bang out sets of pushups on the floor, but very few things in life are.  Keep it simple.

(Original article can be found in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, Vol 34, #5, Oct 2012, www.nsca.scj.com)


 
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Do you like casserole?  All your favorite things mixed up and baked into wholesome goodness?  Easy to make, easy to eat, and easy to clean-up.  What’s not to like?

 
So at last night’s workout, we had a little casserole of chaos.   Several of my favorite drills all stirred up and strung together into some martial arts fun.

 

Ingredients:
12-Step Solo Focus Mitt drill
Burpees
Padded impact weapons
Heavy Bag
Partners

Step 1) Partner A stands on far side of room with single Focus Mitt.  On command, performs 12 Step Solo focus mitt drill (based on a Stinger workout by my friend Pete Kautz).  If you don’t know that specific drill, make up your own consisting of assorted palm strikes, punches, elbows, knees & kicks on a focus mitt that you are holding.

Step 2) When finished with the 12-step, drop focus mitt, sprint to other side of the  room in front of the heavy bag and do a burpee.

Step 3) When you get up (or while you’re getting up) Partner B tries to hit or stab
you with their padded weapon*.  

Step 4) Partner A evades/blocks/defends against semi-sneaky attack and counter
attacks with any kick to the heavy bag.

Step 5) Partner A performs another burpee while avoiding getting hit in the face/head
with the now swinging heavy bag.

Step 6) repeat sneak attack, evade, kick sequence.

Step 7) Return to other side of the room, pick up Focus mitt, repeat entire sequence
as desired.

This little bundle of chaos accomplishes multiple things.  The focus mitt section forces you to get comfortable in applying force to something at the end of your arm – after all, that’s the ideal distance because that’s where the opponent ought to be, right at the end of your arm.  It trains cardio/conditioning.  It forces you to change planes, and trains getting down and up off the ground under stress.  The padded weapon forces you to react and then respond with a counterattack, often before you’re ready, and without having perfectly “set” stances.  Being aware of the swinging heavy bag forces you to be aware (duh), and also often creates an isometric hold position in the pushup position, further fatiguing the muscles and making a more realistic feel when having to block, evade, or counter strike.  

All in all, a nice little drill that trains a bunch of different elements and breaks up the monotony of standing in a static position in front of a pad/bag and just working on an individual technique.   Was it always pretty or form perfect?  Of course not.  It was mostly messy, like a good casserole, but it was very filling.   Why not give it a try?

*Note - padded weapons can easily be made using ½’” PVC pipe covered in pipe
insulation wrapped in duct tape.  Make different lengths, for example I have ones that simulate the length of a 1903 Springfield .30-06 with a bayonet attached (sorry President Obama, I didn’t know that bayonets were no longer in use/fashion.  I guess our “Commander in Chief” forgot to check with the Marines), a Louisville Slugger, escrima sticks of assorted lengths, and knives of assorted lengths.  This forces you to react in different ways to the different reach involved.  I’ll do a separate post about the padded weapons with pix.
  



 
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Having a strong grip is essential for the martial arts, as well
as carrying over into everyday life. It’s hard to be manly when you can’t even open the pickle jar. Holding onto your opponent if
you’re a judo or jiu-jitsu player, holding on to your weapon (Bo, Sai, Stick, Bokken, Katana, Epee, Sabre, Foil, Tonfa, Nunchaku), Football tackling, golf clubs (although I really don’t count golf as a sport, it’s more of an activity), Tennis rackets, etc.  – All of these things need muscular strength and endurance in the hands and
forearms.  
Researchers studying national level judo players at the University of Granada, Spain, found that “the fatigue resulting from 4 successive bouts affects the maximal gripping strength that each hand can generate differently, with the dominant hand being more resistant and
recovering better than the dominant one……….The gripping techniques in judo are very important tactical aspects, which often determine the result of the bout.” {J Strength Cond Res 26(7):1863-1871, 2012} 
 
So, your grip can effect whether you win or lose, and your non-dominant hand recovers differently than your dominant hand.  What to do?

Conditioning within the Martial Ropes programs all contain elements of grip strength. 
The dynamic motion of swinging the ropes, whether it’s the 1 ½” or 2”, requires strength and endurance in a broad range of motions. I especially like the grip impact when using the 2” rope with a partner.  If you are holding the  end of the 2” and trying to send a burst down the 50’ rope (which weighs 50 lbs.), it can be a struggle if you’re not used to it. 
And if you’re the partner trying to control the other end – you get a grip workout too!

Add some sandbag exercises for a different kind of burn.  I prefer sandbags without pre-fixed handles.  Although handles are convenient, I think that I get a better and more realistic gripping effect by having to bunch up the fabric in a random fashion.  This closely mimics grabbing a gi or coat and having to still hang on.  
 
Kettlebells are also outstanding for your grip.  Thicker handles, having to deal with acceleration/deceleration, and passing the KB from hand-to-hand all force the grip to adapt and grow.  By using a towel wrapped thru the handle, you can also do curls, swings,
throws, or carries.  Again, this more closely simulates grabbing clothing or a non-firm
surface.

So, the next time you’re training, don’t forget to incorporate some grip specific work, especially your non-dominant side.