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4 Tips to Improve your Agility!

Agility05Jump on YouTube and check out the highlights of Guillermo Regondeaux, you’ll see an ostentatious wily boxer who gets the pulse racing as he demonstrating how footwork is perhaps the most important form of defense. Inspiring to say the least, and if you need more inspiration, then you need look no further than Floyd Mayweather, Muhammad Ali, or Pernell Whitaker; athletes that effervescently used agility-based training to formed an integral part of who they are in character and physique! Agility is all about training your muscles to gain the impetus to change direction and react swiftly. It’s crucial to be nimble and agile in the world of martial arts to help you utilized the distance between you and your opponent; go to the Dojo during agility week and you’ll probably find these exercises running rampant, and for good reason:

Ladder Drills

Tip: Don’t just focus on your feet, move your feet and hands Simultaneously!

When it comes to punching, your feet are just as important as your hands! When it comes to footwork, (and this may come as a shock)… but your hands are just as important as your feet! The point being, learn to move your feet and hands simultaneously over a tiny distance! Don’t just focus on your feet, ‘pump’ your arms as you move, building “sharp” attributes that will be intrinsically applied to your sparring routine. The awesome point about the “ladder” is there are a variety of exercises but the important movements are making sure to keep the knees high, and from time to time be sure to move laterally.

Box Jumps

Tip: Think about WHERE you plant your feet. (An especially important habit when learning spin-side or spin-hook kicks)

This plyometric exercise is great for building explosive movements in martial arts and beating your opponent to the punch, giving you the initiative. It may seem a little strange to find box jumps involved with agility and footwork, but they will help you to utilize momentum under pressure; improving balance, footing and… you guessed it, agility. Add a quick burpee to increase the challenge. (Make sure you DON’T let your knees go past your toes when bending your knees! This can lead to injury).

Jump Rope (Skipping)

Tip: Try not to throw your arms around. Just rotate the wrists, this will help generate more momentum and speed.

The Mayweather specialty… Often you’ll see beginners swinging the whole arm while skipping, this limits momentum and stops the exercise from doing its job; which is build your footwork and agility. Keep the arms still and just focus on rotating the wrist to begin with, speed will naturally follow. Make sure to stay on the ball of your toes and improve stamina, circulation and strength in the legs. Vary your motion to exercise agility and become more nimble. In other words: throw speed drills with high knees in mix, cross your arms and alternate feet.

Perform Cone Taps

Tip: Stay light on your feet. Mix up the pace and acceleration!

Great for making you lighter on your feet and strengthening the muscles in the ankles and feet. The idea: gently tap the top of the cone with the ball of your foot and alternate with the other foot for 30 seconds. Look to increase your pace and speed without knocking the cone over, helping you control momentum and footwork.

With emphasis on technique and agility, keep these pointers in mind. The good news is there are a variety of ways to achieve a high level of agility that you will find in the Dojo this week; drills that will help you on your way, the sky’s the limit with this technical aspect of training!

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Smart Choice: Breakfast for Champions!

green smoothie02What do top athletes eat for breakfast? One of the most common questions asked. According to many coaches, it’s not what you eat but about how you eat; the habits you pick up in your daily lifestyle to enhance a formidable athletic performance. With a number of different diets comes a variety of healthy and nutritious ways to start the day! Here are few examples inspired by top athletes such as Jessica Ennis Hill or discus thrower Lawrence Okoye to help you kick start the day with the right amount of nutrition and caloric intake!

Steel-Cut Porridge (Heptathlon Jessica Ennis Hill)
Becoming increasingly popular for the avid cardiovascular athlete steel-cut oats provide a lot more energy and fiber than rolled oats which lose fiber from being de-husked. Add a banana and you’ve got a great source of potassium, electrolytes and a natural way to lower blood pressure!

Green Smoothie (Surfer John Florence and Ultra-runner Scott Jurek)
If you’re struggling for time, grab a smoothie. A smoothie is not only hydrating but smacks an excellent source of protein and nutrition. Athletes will try all types of protein (whey, soy, pea or hemp seed… to name a few) but go ahead and try maca powder and chia seeds which are said to improve your immune system; or coconut water and almond milk to vary flavour. Another quick Scott Jurek tip: try throwing flaxseeds in the mix to give you 100% of your daily requirement of omega 3 fatty acids.

Bacon and Egg Muffin (Mat Fraser and Lawrence Okoye)
Inspired by Crossfitter Mat Fraser and discus thrower Lawrence Okoye. ‘My breakfast mainly consists of eggs! Not many, just five’, Lawrence explains. While a simple bacon and egg muffin mixed with sweet potato hash helps Fraser prepare for an explosive workout of burpees and snatches without feeling bloated. Why? Because it’s loaded with eggs that provide a perfect form of protein and vitamin D. The egg yolk isn’t too bad either by the way, containing choline, the building blocks for acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter linked to memory, mood and muscle function!).

Breakfast Burrito (Skier Lynsey Dyer)
Favourite among skiers that have to function at high altitudes! Try loading the burrito with that famous combination, egg, bacon, sweet potato and spinach. High altitude exercise means a lot of calories will be burned, making sweet potato an ideal option for high, explosive, cardiovascular workouts. More fiber found in the sweet potatoes mean a low GI index, allowing energy to be released slowly throughout the day.

There’s many ways to help boost nutrition, however the simple approach is always the most effective! John Honerkamp, a successful coach who has trained many athletes for the New York marathon, puts it another way: ‘If staging for the race means you’re going to be eating cold oatmeal on a bus, eat cold oatmeal on a bus. You know your stomach best!’ Don’t neglect your nutrition, eat well and fuel your focus and performance in the Dojo!

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We Were Born to Endure: Get Inspired this Fitness Week!

It’s 11am in California, and a blistering, shoe-melting, 40 degrees Celsius outside as Scott Jurek stumbles to the side- vomiting violently. He has just ran 70 consecutive miles in a race that very few have heard of, and has another unbelievable 65 miles to go! His team provide encouragement, but discouraged and fatigued Scott feels the race is over.

Surprisingly Scott went on to not only WIN the beast of a race in 2005 but set a record that hasn’t been matched to this day! In case you’re wondering, the race above is known as the Badwater 135 mile ultra-marathon that runs through Death Valley, California, and is one of the toughest feats of endurance on the planet. It’s a phenomenal task highlighting our ability to break limits. We’re not fast, but we have a deal with endurance! Two deals actually… As simple as it sounds, we breathe and we sweat like no other species, and that’s just the start of a fascinating ‘game-changing’ story of our physical evolution!

fitness05Step into a laboratory at the University of Utah or Harvard and you’ll probably find a healthy pig, lizard or even cheetah happily walking on a treadmill! It’s here Professor Bramble (University of Utah) and Dr Lieberman (University of Harvard) became part of a huge breakthrough: put a cheetah on a treadmill, (or any quadruped for that matter) and you’ll notice as the cheetah strides forwards the organs slam into the lungs forcing air out. When stretching out for the next stride, the gut moves towards the rear allowing air to be sucked back in! What’s the point of all this? It means that only one-breath-per-stride was inhaled/exhaled! A restriction that every ‘running’ mammal in the world is burdened with, with one exception… YOU! Human beings can inhale and exhale frequently while under exertion! The better you are at sucking in oxygen and spewing out carbon dioxide, the stronger you become, the more you endure!

fitness011So why are we not locked in a step-by-breath ratio like every other mammal? According Christopher McDougall, contributing editor of Mens Health Magazine: ‘the reason we are free to pant to our hearts content is the same reason you need a shower on a summer day. We’re the only mammals that shed most of our heat by sweating. All the pelt covered creatures in the world cool off by breathing, which locks their entire heat-regulating system to their lungs. But humans with our millions of sweat glands are the best air-cooled engine that evolution has ever put on the market.’ So, frustrated about turning the Dojo mats into an ocean? Well actually, funny enough, without sweating bullets you wouldn’t get very far, you’d either have to stop or die of heat exhaustion to be precise!

The next time you hit the Dojo this Fitness Week, keep breathing, keep sweating and keep going! You’re built for it!

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4 Super Hydrating Points you Probably Didn’t Know!

water02It’s no surprise being hydrated has its importance! Helping in weight loss, concentration, digestion, athletics, circulation and, well… Just about everything related to a good health. Here are 4 interesting water guzzling aspects that are often over-looked, especially in the athletics world!

1) How much water do you Need during Training?

water03The average person will consume about three litres a day, how much consumed during training is another matter all together and depends on the perspiration, exertion level and metabolism of the athlete. A 70kg athlete with considerable stamina tend to sip about 500ml/hour of intensive training. However if you’re a little scratchy when it comes to cardio, you’ll probably consume close to, or just over, a litre initially. (Altogether, that’s approximately five to eight 500ml bottles a day depending on said factors!)

2) Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds…

Water helps improve our performance in athletics, allowing the muscles and circulation to function properly! But what would happen if we were slowly deprived of water for long periods of time, specifically while running long distances? Well aside from a dry throat and other vexing signs of dehydration, apparently many serious athletes experience hallucinations ranging from the dark and surreal to the hilarious! My favourite account being of Marshal Ulrich who while running in a remote area of sun-scorched California, reported a err… ‘mysterious amiable women rollerblading in a silver bikini’ by his side for a whole hour!

3) A Natural Wake-Up Alarm

Drinking a glass of cold water right after waking up is a great way to boost your energy levels in the morning! Makes sense, staying hydrated improves your circulation and concentration which will aid bodily function. (It’s no surprise we tend to oversleep while dehydrated after a night out!) Furthermore, if you drink water with a high pH level (about 8.4), you’re effectively detoxifying your system, balancing acidity levels and reducing the chance of illness!

4) Healthy Eating

Research often reveals hunger and dehydration are commonly confused. Athletes who are proactive in keeping hydrated find they have fewer cravings for junk food which means: sticking to specific diets become far more achievable, and completing athletic goals becomes far more attainable. Which leads to another point: being hydrated in certain cases helps to avoid sugary drinks and encourages weight loss!

Remember, you owe it to yourself to perform to the best your ability and expand limits. Next time you hit the Dojo, make sure you’re hydrated, sharp and ready to make the most of your martial arts training!


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It’s All in The Feet… Bare Feet!

feet01Martial arts builds physical control, and prevents podiatric injuries through the crucial role of footwork! Why?… Because training bare foot not only increases balance and control, but provides the stability that naturally fights plantar fasciitis or vexing injuries commonly gained with the Achilles.

In case you feel l’ve taken one too many hits to the head, (which perhaps isn’t too far from the truth) lets introduce Alan Webb, America’s greatest miler and the 1500m record holder in 2007! Originally Alan had abysmal form with flat footed size 12 feet. But here’s the surprising fact: after structured drills of barefoot training the muscles in his feet became strong, the arch became higher, and his feet shrank down to a size 9. The point being? His form, stability and muscular strength significantly increased without the impediment of footwear! And the adaptive benefits of training bare foot are increasingly becoming apparent in the sporting world and, of course, are naturally embedded in the culture of martial arts.

The punch starts in the feet!

feet02There are 7,200 nerve endings in each foot, constantly relaying info about the surroundings to your brain allowing you to learn martial arts, move with fluidity, and develop exceptional skill! Don’t neglect your footwork! Technique, power, balance and attack combinations wouldn’t be possible without a ‘nimble’ mobility. Influencing a strong foundation from the ground up, martial arts helps strengthen the whole body.

Furthermore, if you’ve just bought a new pair of super expensive running shoes, you may want to sit down….

Despite 30 years of research, there is no evidence running shoes prevent injury to the Achilles or keep the dreaded plantar fasciitis at bay. In fact, the research from the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Therapy, American Society of Biomechanics, the British Journal of Sports Medicine,?The American Journal of Sports Medicine, The University of Oregon Biomechanics Sports Laboratory… (you get the point) OVERWHELMINGLY points in the opposite direction; as Achilles complaints increased by 10% and plantar fasciitis has remained the same! The result, many top Olympic coaches such as Joe Vigil and coach legend Lananna encouraged their Olympic athletes to train bare foot to increase balance and agility.

As Georges St-Pierre explains in The way of the Fight, ‘Shoes kill the sensations in our feet, which affects stability. You start compensating for your lack of balance with your knees, hips and other parts of your body. This is not good. It’s bad, in fact, because it leads to various kinds of joint and structural pains that evolve with time.’

Next time you’re in the Dojo and you’re struggling for power or technique, focus on improving footwork with agility based drills! Remember your feet are just as important as your hands!

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The Power of Pair Techniques!

Often you’ll notice beginners struggling during sparring due to a lack of spatial awareness, or simply miss-understanding how to utilize the distance between you and your opponent… Strikes fail to land while arms flail around grasping for balance. Footwork becomes misplaced or lethargic to a point where you may as well be spending your time running through knee-deep mud! Slowly but surely you’re beginning to wonder where it’s going wrong!

Well… that’s where pair work comes to the rescue! (And a bit of regular form fighting with intent won’t hurt either!)

attilaaaron03Pair techniques, a signature quality of TMAP, and are an excellent way to improve many mental and physical aspects of martial arts! Aspects which in time conveniently come together to give you a crucial understanding of the distance between you and your opponent, as well as the instinct to be able to execute the correct footwork and timing to strike with precision and power. It’s a great opportunity to help master fundamental skills in technique, footwork, balance, defense and form under circumstances that partially simulate sparring.

aaron attila01Generally speaking, it’s easy to neglect the important aspects of exercise (Or for some, any exercise for that matter…) In fact often the areas of training that deserve attention are, funny enough, the areas of training that can be discouraging. Looking past what some feel is tedious and mundane is actually the opportunity to develop a ‘masterful’ level of dexterity. However, it all depends on how you apply yourself! In other words, don’t neglect your pair work! Being sloppy is certain to make you miss-understand the distance between you and your opponent, or create bad habits.

attilaaaron04Be practical and make the most of your pair work by building good intrinsic habits! Be sure to strike to the head when making your partner duck or slip. Make sure you hit the target, making light contact (Remember, you won’t help yourself or your partner if your movement lacks intent!) Practice good form by finishing the kicks, keeping hands up and perfecting the angles created as you become an intermediate. Build your focus and concentrate on correcting footwork; your feet are just as important as your hands!

Remember, pair work shines when fighters are practical in training; it will help to develop valuable insight and experience that will prepare you mentally and physically when sparring.

The next time you hit the Dojo be ready to ‘fire-up’ and unlock the secrets of sparring by making the most of your pair work!


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5 Tips to Improve Your Bag Work!

TommyhandsupWorking the heavy bag can be an excellent way to train power and technique, and if used correctly, endurance. A number of skills tend to be neglected on the heavy bag due to poor form or fatigue. Here are 5 tips will help improve power, endurance and technique!

1. Try not to lose your balance by neglecting footwork.
Don’t throw yourself at the bag, throw punches! Your feet are just as important as your hands. Focusing on footwork will improve your striking power and movement. Without the right footwork the correct technique cannot be applied and your punches will be ineffective.

2. Don’t get lazy eyes
A lot of fighters don’t notice their vision drifting when striking the bag fatigued; either looking to the side of the bag, or even watching the ground! Don’t train yourself to punch blind! If you find yourself losing concentration, mix it up and try a new drill.

3. Don’t stay still
The moment you stop punching, your opponent starts punching! Make sure you move around the bag, moving side to side while generating different angles in the workout. Professional fighters will constantly strike the bag while limiting rest periods to about 2 seconds, only resting as they move around the bag!

Interestingly, boxing coaches will often tell you the intensity of training on the heavy bag is directly related to how you breathe! Many professional fighters throw hundreds of powerful punches because they breathe well and execute excellent technique. To being with focus on technique and breathing, and power and endurance will naturally follow.

5. Don’t push, punch!
Many fighters fail to strike the bag properly by inadvertently ‘pushing’ the bag with their shoulders. The heavy bag shouldn’t be swinging violently from side to side as your arms get relentlessly tired! Make sure you snap the punch and instantly bring your fist back from the point of contact. Getting to the point, (no pun intended), from the moment of impact, it’s important to limit the amount of time the fist will make contact with the bag.

TommyvisionThe next time you’re in the Dojo be sure to work these tips into your routine, and improve your technique and stamina on the bags!

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The Art of Form Fighting

aaronformDon’t take form fighting for granted, it will form the foundation of the fighter you want to be! Form fighting not only improves footwork, spatial awareness and technique, but will also help develop the fitness to boost stamina and reduce injury. Sparring for a couple of rounds will demand good form and technique. Sparring for multiple rounds will demand exceptional form and technique! But the good news is… making a start will require no technique and ‘not the best’ form, it’s all about taking the initiative to learn.

To begin with, focus should be on form (Hence the name). Make sure to visualize the opponent. (a DANGEROUS opponent, by the way!) Don’t be sloppy, working a number of attack combinations into the routine will allow you to experiment with different striking patterns and motions. Begin to accelerate on attack, snapping your opponent back! According to boxing coaches it’s important to ‘theme’ the rounds. In one round practicing defensive manoeuvres, while the next can be based on turning the tables, pressurising and forcing your opponent back.

Use the mirrors in the Dojo to check your technique regularly, however it’s important to utilize all the space available. In other words, don’t train to be static by staring at a mirror constantly, practice footwork by utilizing all the floor space!

Now it’s a matter of firing with content and increasing pace! (If you want to improve hand speed, pick up a couple of 1-2kg weights) The intensity will not only improve cardiovascular performance but will give intrinsic capability during sparring. After a round, the pulse should be racing! After multiple rounds you should be exhausted!

Remember, form fighting is the opportunity to develop good habits. Next time you’re in the Dojo be sure to feel the difference by training with intensity and intent!

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Smart Choice – What to use Instead of Sugar!

sugar alternatives01

A common question asked by fitness enthusiasts: what alternatives are there to sugar or artificial sweeteners?

It’s no surprise one of the most common traits of all athletes is lower sugar consumption. High levels of sugar can lead to weight gain, inflammations, diabetes and in the athletic world: energy fluctuations; and compounded with the suspicion surrounding artificial sweeteners makes cutting sugar down a good choice!

The history of artificial sweeteners is an interesting story in itself, which often ominously coordinates with the industrial growth of a society, NOT the nutritional needs of the public! Funny enough artificial sweeteners are in fact… artificial; they were created in a chemical lab. Saccharin (used in processed foods) was accidentally discovered in 1879 by John Hopkins after experimenting with coal. Hopkins noticed the sweet taste was coming from chemical residues left on his fingers; as a result Saccharin was synthesized. During the 1960s Aspartame (found in diet Coca-Cola/ Pepsi Max) was accidentally created while developing a drug for ulcers. While the chemical structure of the recent Sucralose (Splenda) is strikingly similar to a banned poisonous pesticide DDT. That said, it’s no wonder there’s a little speculation surrounding artificial sweeteners!

What’s a healthy alternative to sugar or artificial sweeteners? More athletes are now turning their attention to these natural sugar-kicking good examples:

Agave Syrup/ Nectar
Agave contains saponins and fructans, as well as a low glycaemic index. According to Dr. Sahelian, author of ‘The Stevia Cookbook’, saponins contained in agave syrup, (also found on quinoa, many plant roots and ginseng) have anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties. In fact, the Aztecs used agave syrup to treat wounds because of its antibacterial properties.

Taken from an herb (Stevia plant) this natural sweetener is 10 times sweeter than sugar. Comes in powder or droplets.

Honey/ Pure Honey
Honey acts as a great substitute for sugar but if you want to go one further, pure honey will make the difference. Pack with more B vitamins, fiber and nutrients, pure honey releases energy slowly throughout a workout!

Brown Rice Syrup
A very mild sweet taste but the low GI index makes rice syrup a popular secretive ingredient among serious athletes.

Black Molasses
A bit old fashioned but good for you! It contains 15 percent of the daily iron requirement (enough to contend with red meat) and is very high in Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants.

Don’t neglect nutrition! Feel sharp, active and alert the next time you practice martial arts in the Dojo!

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5 Pointers to Increase Flexibility

jack03When it comes to martial arts flexibility becomes an important aspect in helping to establish core stability, decrease chances of injury and help to inspire a level of fluidity in your basics, pairs, combinations and sparring. Here are 5 simple pointers that will make a difference!

1. Correct Posture
Make sure you stretch properly by holding the correct form! Knees down, legs straight, toes pointing upwards… Sounds simple but it’s very common for beginners to indirectly cut corners and neglect form. Making sure your posture is correct will help you understand your limits, and gradually develop a strong foundation!

2. Generate a Routine
Don’t procrastinate. Get into the habit of stretching every workout, before or even after. Creating a routine is always a fundamental way to improve.

3. Realistic Goals
A stereotypical trend of any athlete. Introduce realistic goals to help increase limits and improve insight! This will influence your initiative and enthusiasm to learn and progress.

4. Activate your Core
This will also improve your breathing as well as stamina by enhancing circulation! Keep your core tight while stretching. Leg raises are a good exercise for activating the core while stretching!

5. Finally, DON’T GIVE UP!
You won’t do the splits overnight, it’s a gradual process. Ironically, often in sports, the moment you want to rest is instant you should keeping going, expand your limits and educate your mind. Make sure you stretch consistently and enjoy the challenge; that will make all the difference in the long run.

The next time you’re in the Dojo be sure to relax and make the most of your warm up and stretch before powering through training!

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