When I first started training martial arts, I did so with an inferiority complex.
Most of my physical education experience up to that time was outdoors. Rugby, football, (grass) hockey, athletics and cricket. I didn’t do well at these. I was usually the last or second to last guy to be picked on teams in compulsory sport. In fact, I was so bad that I didn’t even notice that when it came to rare indoor physical education sessions of volleyball, crab football, weight-lifting and gymnastics I actually out-performed many of my sporting peers. The root cause, not spotted until I left school and changed doctors, was that my childhood asthma was very poorly managed and physical education coaches of the time were either not trained or not invested in helping lower ability students progress through that type of medical hurdle.
Beginning training in Karate at the age of seventeen I did so with the automatic perception that I was worse than the students to my left and right. It was a new club so we were all the same grade, but I was certain that everyone else was better.
I took matters into my own hands.
Every evening, before going to sleep, I made sure I worked through all my fixed kihon sets at least ten times on each side. I would also work my fixed kumite sets and my kata. I didn’t have much space so there was a lot of shuffling on the spot.
Personal training outside of class is something I have never dropped. Whether I was only making two classes a week or eleven classes a week, I’ve made time and found space. That may have been training on the spot in a narrow gap between a bed and a wall, walking down to Squash Court 3 at Birmingham University every weekday for a 7-9am session before lectures, or finding an empty space at a Leisure Centre for an hour. I’ve stretched and trained in front of the television, in the kitchen while waiting for a kettle to boil, in hallways waiting for others to get their coats on.
Repetitions count. Static repetitions of martial arts moves may not be ‘as good’ for learning as repetitions that are adapting to the fluid dynamic of paired training, but so long as they are not done to exhaustion and are not hindering recovery from any other training, they will be beneficial.
I’ve not limited my ‘out of class’ training to my martial arts techniques.
I’ve had a few gym memberships over the years, but I’ve generally preferred to see what I can do ‘cheaper’ around my own schedule at home. When I was 21, shortly before I qualified as a fitness instructor, my sister bought me a weights bench and I still have that today even though I’ve changed the types of weight and exercises I use. I’m lucky because I have my own dojo these days where I can set up my bench, keep my free weights and bar, hang my heavy bag and speed ball, attach resistance straps to the bag hook, or use my rowing machine, but I’ve seen others do the same in garages or garden sheds. There are multiple things anyone can do to improve their strength, power or achieve hypertrophy without buying kit, just so long as they can find a space to train.
You don’t need much space to train. If you have room to do a push up, there’s a lot of different bodyweight exercises you can do in addition to kata or kihon on the spot. Weather permitting you develop explosive power jumping on the spot outdoors. You can improve your VO2 max running up and down stairs (again possibly best in a venue where you aren’t going to wake people or cause cracks in the plaster work).
There is so much you can do outside of class and it actually takes so little time. Micro workouts count. Too often people feel that they have to lump everything together or be in a particular place, placing self-imposed obstacles in their path to greater health. Listen to a podcast or audio reading of a work text while exercising, use the rest breaks between sets to make bullet point notes of the last few minutes (I do this a lot). Watch your favourite show while working out on the spot, listen to your favourite tunes.
You won’t know what you can do until you try. Start small: choose something that is easy to do regularly and then increase either intensity or frequency or both, then add something else. It’s amazing how much supporting exercise we can add into our lives without feeling as if we are ‘losing’ any time. Technically speaking by improving cognitive function and health through exercise we are gaining time.
I hope you enjoy the benefits of personal training as much as I do.
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