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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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5 Power Snacks to Keep You Going during Training!

almonds03Whether before training or to keep up energy levels, a common question asked is what to snack on before training! Keep it simple, you should aim to always eat protein with a good source of carbohydrates (Preferable low GI carbohydrates two hours before a workout). Easy to prepare on the go, here are 5 snacks to help give you that edge!

1. Dates filled with peanut butter
The fiber in dates will help naturally stabilize your blood sugar levels, while peanut butter is an excellent source of protein that will release energy slowly throughout your workout.
2. Hummus with hard boiled eggs
Body building food! If you’re a bit of gym junkie, here’s something that smacks a punch when it comes to protein; while the nutritional value of hummus adds to the combination.
3. Pistachios and Raisins
Pistachios are rich in potassium, an electrolyte naturally lost through sweat, and while teamed up with the carbohydrates provided by raisins makes for an unbeatable pairing!
4. Sweet potatoes topped with Greek yogurt
Easy to make and a great source of low GI Carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One sweet potato has more potassium than a banana and combined with black beans or Greek yogurt, you pretty much have a meal on your hands; let alone a pre-workout snack!
5. Almonds and walnuts
Almonds alone are inundated with good fats, fiber, selenium, vitamin E, and Omega 3s; not to mention they’re another great source of protein! Walnuts act as another powerful anti-oxidant and are even linked to added cardiovascular benefits.

Feel prepared and energized the next time you hit the Dojo, ready to work hard and make the most of your training!

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The Science of Focus: Why Even the Best Athletes can Lose Concentration

The scene is the 1993 Wimbledon women’s single final. Novotna is leading Steffi Graff 4-1. But just before the threshold of her first Wimbledon title, Novotna hesitates, her form loses conviction and her serve becomes insufficient. Stifled and disconnected, Novotna suddenly resigns to letting the grand slam slip from her grasp!… So what happened? You might have found yourself in a similar, but more forgiving, situation… Practicing your pairs or attack combinations only to find the knowledge escaping you. Interestingly according to Russell Poldrack (neuroscientist at the University of California) and Matthew Syed (Olympic contender and Author of “Bounce”) it has nothing to do with nerves or fear, but is all about the relationship between two parts of the brain.

aaron focus

Neural imaging shows that beginners will use the explicit pre-frontal cortex (responsible for conscious concentration) while a seniors will use the implicit basal ganglia (Responsible for touch, feel and muscle memory).

Seniors are highly capable because they are able to integrate complex combinations into one fluent whole, or unit. This intrinsic mental understanding is practically impossible for a beginner to apply because the technique, footwork or form is too incomprehensible. Beginners need to apply their focus on a step-by-step process, proving that practice makes perfect!

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If we go back to Wimbledon in 1993, in this particular case Novotna switched from using the experienced implicit part of the brain to the explicit; reverting back to a beginner in an instant. As psychologist Sian Beilock, (University of Chicago) explains, ‘Once a motor skill is de-chunked, each unit must be activated and run separately significantly slowing athletic performance’.

It’s important to release the shackles and develop that mental freedom that becomes the building blocks of any sport. Experienced athletes instinctively know the combination, automate it, and naturally store it as one function after hours and hours of perfecting their craft!

Anyone can relate to a loss of focus in the sporting world! Remember, don’t get frustrated. Next time you’re in the Dojo be sure to relax, start slow and feel your form gradually flow! Martial arts really is a state of mind!

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New Mirrors Installed at our Stoke Newington Dojo!

mirror04An array of facilities and equipment is necessary to help develop those impressive martial arts skills. Below, we’re happy to show our new addition to the Dojo to help improve technique, form and many other necessary abilities in martial arts and self-defence! Already being put to excellent use, it’s been two weeks since the new mirrors have been installed at our stoke Newington Dojo! Check this space for future additions or changes!





Be sure to sharpen your technique and hone your abilities with our facilities the next time you’re in!















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The Importance of Core Strength.

Just how important is your core?

Tommycore0.3To answer the question: when it comes to martial arts, and athletics for that matter… very! Make sure you don’t neglect this powerful aspect of your training. Core strength forms the foundations of your balance and movement, and therefore impacts the delivery of your technique and striking ability. Your core will regulate your posture and even stamina as your ‘athletic performance’ is stabilized, helping to be more efficient when utilizing energy under high intensity.

Three things you should know:

  1. Do not neglect your lower back (erector spinae)! Your lower back is equally important as your front and can be easily targeted with dorsal raises, a military favourite.
  2. Your obliques, transversus abdominis, erector spinae, and rectus abdominis all form your core, and are muscular fibers running in different directions. That means make sure you work your core with a variety of exercises (bicycle crunches, plank, side plank, leg raises…) This will help you be a little more innovative when conditioning as well as fight boredom!
  3. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, due to constant activity, the core fibers are so resilient you can train every day of the week without rest! Although admittedly the credibility of that last point is up for debate.


Be sure to try some of our core conditioning exercises in the Dojo. Put you’re core strength to the test this Fitness and Strength Week!

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Kickboxing Helps to Beat Those Pesky Cravings!

CharlotteD6Looking to kill off unhealthy cravings, well Kickboxing may very well be the answer. According to nutritionists martial arts consistently makes a tremendous impact when it comes to planning diet and nutrition, therefore significantly improving lifestyle through the simple means of generating good habits! Often sugary snacks can be very distracting and make it all the more difficult to achieve goals! However with the impact of martial arts most athletes, whether amateur or professional, find that such a physical and mental focus enforces a natural drive to be more aware of when and what to eat in order to be successful at the discipline.

Next time you make the trip to the Dojo you can be content knowing you’re developing good nutritional proclivities in a good environment!

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Keeping Energy Levels High Throughout the Day!

Whether you’re a martial artist or advocate of sport, recovery and refueling will have a big impact in your day to day lifestyle.

aaron pose03So what’s the best way to make efficient ‘energizing’ altercations to your lifestyle? Once again, the power of habit makes the biggest impact! Most athletes develop healthy habits through competitive training and routine. Initially it is important to keep a log of activities that highlight physical demands during the day such as diet, exercises in the Dojo and the gym, or even how well you sleep. Professional athletes pay attention to their fluid intake, how many times a day food is consumed and focus on recovery periods. The key is often consistency, striving to achieve good habits by utilizing healthy goals. Here are a few pointers to keep that chronological clock ticking throughout the day and all the way through training!

The Morning Haze

Typically, you’d think this is the one time you’d be alert and ready for action, especially after a good night’s sleep… Nope! Guess again. Why? Because of something psychologists call ‘sleep inertia’, which can last from 10 minutes to 2 hours and is so mentally and physically infringing it is likened to being intoxicated! (This is because the pre-frontal cortex in your brain, which is responsible for complex problem solving, is deprived of glucose.) Try drinking a glass of ice cold water which will increase blood flow to the brain, revive dehydrated cells and, for those looking to control weight, increase the metabolism.

For breakfast, try to consume rolled oats (high in B vitamins linked to energy production and zinc which aids the immune system) and make sure to consume carbohydrates with protein, especially if you’re training hard and need to recover. Porridge is an excellent choice, maybe mixed with bananas to help steadily release glucose into the bloodstream throughout the whole day. According to Susan Kleiner of High Performance Nutrition: ‘Work fibre into the diet. This will slow down the release of insulin and help digestion.’

Lunchtime Drop

First of all, it is important to understand why your energy levels fluctuate during this time of the day. Often the induced ‘crash and burn’ is associated with a high sugar intake, increased melatonin levels or processed foods, etc. Essentially resulting from an unbalanced diet or inconsistent lifestyle. In the case of combating melatonin (a sleep hormone), experts say a walk in the sunshine will make all the difference as recent research reveals sunlight directly influences serotonin levels, or mood and stress.

In terms of nutrition it’s important to consume carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index before training: for example try lentils, or a red lentil soup, which also contain a healthy amount of fibre and protein.

Pre-Training Snack

workoutTraining in martial arts can be taxing both mentally and physically, especially after spending a full day working. It means working far harder than the average person and an energy drink or bar simply will not be enough to compensate for the physical requirements of the body and mind. Make sure not to consume a large helping before training; a small flapjack, bananas or dried mango work well to release energy gradually throughout intensive training. However, the most important energizers are often overlooked; for instance, water and green tea, or consuming low-glycaemic carbohydrates two hours before training. All of which help hydrate, improve awareness and speed up the metabolism.


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The Martial Arts Place
88 Avenue Road
Swiss Cottage
London NW3 3HA
020 7586 1222

The Martial Arts Place
35-39 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 8DR
020 7254 0332


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