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.

Hands up!

David Nelson - Hands Up!

Keep your hands up

Before you old school folks think this is a robbery or a scene from the Lone Ranger, let me clarify that I am talking about professional fighters. I am a HUGE fight fan–I love football too, but in the past few years (does 16 years count as a few years?) since the Cowboys have been sucking it up (the Romo years especially) and my life has gotten very busy with many other things, fighting is the only sport I have been able to follow. I used to be a big fan of boxing, circa the Mike Tyson to Roy Jones, JR era, but with the reinvention of MMA by Dana White and with TUF I found myself unable to watch boxing.

Nonetheless, I was at a party in December 2012 where the host ordered the boxing pay-per-view Pacquiao VS Marquez IV. I decided to watch with true interest since it was the first boxing match I had watched in years. Boxing is an incredibly effective and good style of fighting, I might add, but only if it is part of an overall style that includes kicking, ground fighting, clinching, throws, take-downs, knees, elbows and defense against all of the above. So, anyway, if memory serves it was the 6th round of the main event when the two fighters exchanged punches that put Pac on the mat, and hard.

It was a nasty and great KO for sure, but I have to admit that up to that point I was mezmorized by how many openings these great boxers have in their defense. In addition to the obvious complete lack of defense against MMA techniques, as fast as both of these pro fighters are with hands and footwork, they both share a common problem; they drop their hands when they punch. These pros are not alone. Another prime example is UFC 155 (also in December) and the main event fight between Dos Santos and Velasquez.

I watched Dos Santos demonstrate a great deal of toughness and heart as he took a major beating for 5 rounds and lost his belt. At several points in the fight, even in the beginning when his mind was fresh, his hands were down around his waist as if he were at a business meeting and not in a cage against a heavy striker. As a fight fan and a martial artist this perplexes me. So, we have the question, why do these professional fighters (there are many, many other examples) not keep their guard up when they punch, kick or in general?

The short answer lies in their training. I will be the first to say that 99% of the world can’t handle the amount of training and endurance required to be a great fighter in the UFC. But this is not a good excuse. In the Army we used to say, “Do in training what you intend to do in war.” We said this because when it hits the fan (as it does in combat but also in a cage fight) you will revert to what you know, what you train and what you are most comfortable doing. This is also why it is likely no one will ever beat Anderson Silva because he is so comfortable and no one can put enough pressure on him to shake his nerves (or, when they do briefly, he just beats them anyway).

Back to training. Double check your training habits. If you are dropping your guard when you punch or kick you should make some changes–now. I suggest you start thinking about keeping your guard up on every possible drill and exercise and stretch you do. A few examples are standing hamstring stretches, sit-ups and every fighting technique drill, but I am sure you can get creative and come up with many other ways to add this to your game. I don’t think you will find this is bad advice, but please get back to me if you disagree. Thanks.

More on David Nelson

Martial Arts Expert, David Nelson in Lao Warrior

Writer/Actor David Nelson staring in Lao Warrior

As you might have guessed, David Nelson is a popular name. First let me say I am not the 155 pound MMA fighter (no disrespect intended to him or anyone else who has the guts to step into a cage to fight). I am older than him and my weight class is 185 pounds (look out Anderson Silva). I have not had any MMA fights either amateur or pro, but I have been training in MMA since 2005 and in martial arts since 1984. Even though I am not Randy Couture, I am considering my first amateur MMA fight later this year.

I started with Tae Kwon Do (TKD) and got my first black belt in 1987. I joined the Army in 1988 and was honorably discharged in 1991. I came home and joined the NC National Guard and went back to work as a stocker for Food Lion. In 1992 I started college and began the road toward getting into and completing Pharmacy school, which I did in 1996. I also finished my time in the Guard and received my second honorable discharge in 1996. This gave me time to get back into TKD.

I studied at a great school in Danville, VA (respect to “Brain”) before moving to Greensboro, NC (for a girl-I know, big mistake). I continued to train at another great school where I competed in many TKD tournaments and got my second black belt in 1999 (had to get up and check my certificate to be sure about the year). From there I moved (not for a girl this time) to where I live now, Raleigh, NC.

In Raleigh, I trained at 2 more TKD schools and competed in more tournaments before deciding to diversify. I started with Wing Chun, then Muay Thai Kickboxing, then I found the Royal Tiger Academy where I have been training under Master Saykosy ever since. I am currently working with Master Saykosy on an action movie Lao Warrior, and we plan to release later this year. More on that in future blogs. Thanks.

 

Martial Arts for Everyone