Thursday, December 13, 2007

Training Issues

I made it past the recent evaluations but I felt like I didn't really deserve it.

My current complaints? A whole host. I feel like I know what the issues are but I haven't the faintest clue about how to get around them. I'll list them down - if anyone has any ideas from their own experience with martial arts and competitive sports, I'm very willing to listen.
  1. I'm suffering from a power blockage at the hip area, where my leg joint connects to my hip bone. What I mean by "power blockage" is that when I rotate my hips, I am unable to transfer the power from my hips to my upper body smoothly. The end result is that I end up very reliant on shoulder and upper body strength. It gets me to a point, but I'm feeling the inadequacies of this technique already. I think this is a result of my extreme lack of flexibility but I'm not sure.
  2. My footwork needs work. I tend to step from the heel rather than stepping from the balls of my feet. It's gotten slightly better but I'm still by no means consistent with that.
  3. I can't help but to think I'm picking up bad form from stress training. I'm not sure what basis I have for this statement, but I feel it happening when I do drills - I tend to want to punch a guys face in rather than concentrate on what works for the drill. In short, I've not made the transition from connecting "executing proper form" to "winning" yet.
  4. I tend to hunch my shoulders and lean forward to get those extra 2-3 inches of range, but at the cost of being able to balance well. It's a bad habit and I'm looking to break it because of the strain it causes my lower back and shoulders, not to mention wrecking havoc with my form. I think that it's a combination of breaking in new armour and my brain cross-firing saber and longsword techniques.
  5. There's a point I get to where I'm VERY unwilling to go faster. I -think- I can go faster but I've never tried going faster. The reason for this is that I associate speed with losing control, and losing control with injuries. I'm deathly afraid of causing someone else injuries. This has related issues as well - I freak out mentally whenever I train techniques I -know- are meant to injure or kill, like drawing the sword across a human body. I'm not sure how I can get around that, or if it's just an issue of desensitization.
I think the focus for the new year for me should be (1) more flexibility exercises and stretching (2) more focus on form and less on stress training and (3) learning to stand up straight.


-ben said...

RE: 1

You need to work on your latissimus and obliques muscles.

Power = dumbell rows, seated cable pull-down, lat rows (watch your back!).

Endurance and control = get a long, heavy bar bell bar, and do many, many, many rotations in front of the mirror. Do it with control, not speed. Aiming for time is a good method. E.g. 30 mins instead of counting the number of reps.

Endurance = inline skating, build up distance here. You will also build up killer legs here. Start with 20 minutes, work it up to an hour or more.

Also, balance it out with crunches for your abs so that you do not get muscle imbalance and hurt yourself. Lat rows will quickly reveal weak abdominal muscles.

Hope that helps.
Stay well.

Khayce said...

Eh, pardon me, but why does the lat and obliques help with this? I think it's generally true that I need help with my core muscles, I'm not sure why these would help with the specific issues I've cited.

Not trying to be ungrateful, but just that all this working out thing is very new to me and I'm trying to understand the body as a system, and as it relates to swordplay.

-ben said...

Working with each other (one side at a time. I.e. the side under contraction), the lats and obliques control the spine's rotation along its vertical axis. Give a left hook hook with your fist and feel the right side of the lats doing the work. Now, for the upper body to be able to swing fast and hard, it needs a solid brace to pull against. Here, the obliques (and one might argue by extension) and legs come in. They also come in at the end of the rotation range. The stronger they are, the more rapidly you can stop your rotation (e.g. should your move miss your opponent). This means you can maintain your swinging movement at a higher speed for a longer period of time.

A rather rough analogy would be, if your car has mediocre brakes on a race track, you need to brake way in advance for the curves, losing speed and time. But, if it has excellent brakes, you can maintain a much higher speed late towards the curve, and then brake. Or, another way to look at it is, if the countering muscles are weak, your move would resemble that of a person swinging a tire iron. I.e. devastating if it hits, but if it misses, it results in an irrecoverable overswing which leaves one helplessly open to a counter-attack.

Muscles may be trained in isolation, but the entire set up works in a system. The entire system is only as strong as the weakest muscle (or joint).

That's the best as I can understand it, translating from my old rockclimbing days: forces and counterforces. Perhaps it would be relevant to your application :-)

If that makes sense to your application, you might want to read up further on it and "tweak" it as I almost always train for endurance (I enjoy climbing mountains on my bike for tens of hours continuously), rather than power, so the appropriate weight and reps may be different from yours.

Ilkka said...


These are easy to fix.

1) Think more about ground. The power comes from the ground, in other words, your position being supported by structure all the way down at all times. That's where the power comes from. This is related to some of the other points in your post. You must know the exercise where you move through your positions (volta stabile, mezza volta) with pressure given by your partner against your fist. That's all you need to fix the problem. Then apply it to gentle takedown/wrestling exercises.

Then practice your slow cuts, concentrating on the positions (this teaches you how to stop correctly, using your structure rather than strength).

For strength training stuff, work on your core stabilizers and at the same time increase mobility in your hips by dynamic stretching, try walking naturally forward while rotating your hips around, for example, without the rotation effecting the walking.

Other stuff that might help, if you don't have a partner readily available, place your fist gently against a wall, push and see how well you are connected to the ground, and through which path. Change your position slightly (go to guard position, volta stabile, etc.) and see how this effects the connection.

Remember, that in this style you lead with the weapon, the weapon opens the way and then you push with your bodyweight into the opening. Think acressere passare combination, pushing through your opponent rather than rotating in the hips, which is necessary and has its times but is generally more static.

2) From the heel? Do you mean you step on the heel? If so, that is not wrong unless you want to do a volta stabile right after your foot lands, which is faster if you land with the ball. If you are keeping the weight on the heel, turning on heels or pushing off them, then you should practice every now and then keeping both heels off ground at all times. Not always, but simply as an exercise to practice weighing correctly.

3) You are. At your level of training and with your (assumed) goals stress training is not necessary at this point. Believe in the theory and the basics, hone them in drill and then hone them in play (positive addition of freedom), stress train only to see how well things have sunk in, or to release aggression/tension in certain cases, or to spot problems that no more occur in slower practice, or to get more aerobic exercise. Done occasionally, no harm, done too much distorts the art since none of us unfortunately are yet in the technical level where we could make the system work properly in a stressful environment, meaning that the right attacks and so on would be given to bring out the right actions from the defender, that need to be practiced and so on staying true to the original style.

If the drilled style is derived from the treatises, but in stress drills other, more natural for the context (stress drill, not the context the treatise talks about which is potentially lethal combat) actions overcome the trained ones we are distorting. If then, we try to better these actions in drill, we get even further from the original material.

When we have sufficient experience (both in personal level and collectively) about the original actions in the treatise, their contexts and reasons behind them, then we can stress drill these actions by giving the right actions that simulate the circumstances for which the techniques are designed from.

A cut is a cut is a cut, a parry is a parry, but that doesn't give us the system behind the treatise yet.

4) It's not always wrong, but if you need to do that unintentionally, your understanding of distance needs work. Maybe your steps are shorter when you wear armor, and you don't notice this. Practice against a fixed target, like a pell or a tire held by a partner (use a mask just in case) to practice distance and posture. If necessary, have a second/third party to supervise your posture. Combine this with the stuff in point 1.

5) Don't go faster, it makes you tense. Instead, relax and go slower. Be smooth. Learn to better recognize the tempo (the time to hit your opponent, or do some other action). Practice again the slow cuts, practice precision - that makes you fast in the end.

For safety, use a mask. Have your partner stand still and throw cuts at his mask, and give him/her the right to give you pushups every time you hit too hard (aim for contact so soft that he/she barely feels it), and you'll get used to hitting the human target, then change roles. (Don't overdo this.)

For the accidental hits while parrying, practice timed counterthrusts/cuts carefully and you'll see how difficult it is to do those hits even intentionally, then alternate between countercuts in single time and parrying in two times. This should help, and gets you good practice.