Pain in the neck

I was walking out of the gym, and there were several young people sitting around waiting to be picked up. Each one of them was hunched over as if they had kyphosis, with their faces in their phones. The first thing I thought of was that we are going to have a whole generation of people with major neck, shoulder and back problems. I think this is already starting to manifest because I see too many young people coming in to get muscle relaxers and narcotic pain meds at my pharmacy.

The bad thing is, muscle relaxers and narcotic pain meds do nothing to correct the problem (NSAID’s do help with inflammation). They only mask symptoms while causing side effects and getting people addicted. Trust me when I say you want to save the road of medications and surgery as an absolute last resort because it is a dead end. You will get a much greater benefit from learning how to stretch as well as finding a great Neuromuscular Therapist or Deep Tissue Massage Therapist. We are very lucky in Raleigh, NC to have Triangle Trigger-point Therapy, where Teri Bellairs works her magic helping people.

As I have mentioned before, Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a great way to improve your flexibility while strengthening your muscles. It’s even better if you can find a partner who can assist you beyond your activating muscle’s limits. With AIS you hold each stretch for two seconds only, which is different from most other methods. If you don’t have a partner, you can use a rope, towel, martial arts belt or a wall to give you the extra stretch needed to release tension. Stretch periodically throughout the day for best results. The first chapter of my new book includes a detailed stretching regimen. Look for Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd edition later this year. Thanks.

Weight Training

I was in the gym yesterday, and overheard a conversation between a personal trainer and her client that prompted me to want to share some of my experience with weight training.

I began serious weight training in 1984 when I joined a gym as part of my family’s membership. I was excited because there was a lot of equipment and a lot of people to learn from. Whenever I saw someone, male or female, who had an impressive physique, I would ask them for some tips. I asked a lady what she did for legs, a guy what he did for lats, and another lady what she did for abs and so on. I worked out with several friends my age or older and we exchanged tips and ideas over the years as well as trying any new exercises we discovered. It was a great social environment but also a great learning experience.

Weight lifting has been a long time hobby and I have concentrated my work outs into exactly what I know works for me. I use a Push/Pull routine, doing Pushing exercises one day, Pulling exercises the next day, and then resting at least one day. I use this method because if you have a Chest day, the exercises work chest, shoulders and triceps. If you have a Back day, the exercises work back, shoulders and biceps. If you have a Shoulders day, the exercises work shoulders, chest and triceps. If you have an Arms day, the exercises work biceps and triceps but also back, chest and shoulders. This leads to over-training and takes away from your overall performance.

I work legs on my Push days and do about 16 sets in addition to the 12 sets I do for chest and triceps (plus I do about 6 sets for abs). I don’t do a lot of shoulder exercises because you work shoulders on almost every upper body exercise you do. Your shoulders either work directly or stabilize your arms while you work triceps and biceps. I also like to do a few sets for upper body, then do some abs, then do a few sets for legs so I keep blood flow even and I don’t take any breaks, to make the workout more like a cardio routine. I am including a copy of my exact workout routine as well as many more tips and guidelines in the second edition of my book FOCUSING MARTIAL ARTS POWER. which will be out later this year. Thanks and hope you are hitting the gym.

Aim High

It’s great to see a knock out in MMA, but even better when it comes by way of a head kick. There are many reasons why we don’t see these highlight reel kicks more often. Skill, timing, ability, flexibility, situation, experience and knowledge are all factors that come into play. So, what can you do as a fighter to increase your success with head kicks?

The first step is to start improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the faster you will be and obviously the higher you can kick. I prefer using Active Isolated Stretching as a great way to get the best results. At the same time you also have to work on your wrestling ability so you will have better take down defense and better ability to get up after you are taken down. This also means you must train a lot of Jiu Jitsu so you can defend or get the submission if you run into an equal or better wrestler. Together, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu make you feel more comfortable doing head kicks because you aren’t worried about the take down.

The next step is timing drills. This involves working with several opponents with varying sizes and experience so you can learn when an opponent is open. Square off and have each opponent do any combos they choose. Watch and use your footwork to circle to the side and always be ready to throw the head kick counter. Repeat this until it becomes natural for you to kick when they are open, which is usually during or right after a technique.

For offense, you have to create openings. Work on your speed and ability to cover ground, and learn how to extend your hips so you can kick your opponent from deceptive distances. Use feints or throw a few low kicks before sneaking in the head kick. For more on this, look for the second edition of my book, FOCUSING MARTIAL ARTS POWER. Thanks.

Don’t take another step

Now that I have discussed my number one pet peeve with fighters (see Hands Up) I am ready to move on to my next. A common flaw I see with fighters is they warn their opponents. Specifically, back when I used to watch boxing, pro boxers would move or draw back before punching which would alert the opponent to cover. The MMA equivalent of this is stepping before you kick (or with Muay Thai, stepping back with your leg before kicking).

Fortunately, there has been some major improvements in this in the past 10 years. There are now a great many pro fighters who have figured out that if you warn your opponent about the first technique, your whole combo is less likely to work because the first technique lets them know that the second, third and so on are coming. The interesting thing is once you step, move, etc and warn your opponent on the first technique, the movement from that technique satisfies whatever natural need it is we have to move before we punch or kick. So, you don’t have any preparatory movement for the subsequent techniques in the combo but now the opponent is ready.

If you can avoid warning your opponent on that first technique, think of the increase in your percentage of contact. It takes specific training to break these bad habits and a lot of it, but if you can break this natural habit of warning you will be much more successful as a fighter. The only time it is okay to warn your opponent, is if you are using it as a check or feint to set them up. More on that in future blogs. Thanks.