Earlier this week I launched a Facebook Fan Page in order for me to have a platform to discuss the martial arts, fitness, and related subjects with my martial arts family. The page is open to students of all ages (from any style) and anyone interested in the martial arts. As a reminder, the page is family-friendly so please be sure to watch the way you word your comments and questions! You can find the page here if you would like to follow along: Grandmaster Forrest G. Blair.
That said, fellow martial artist John Gordon asked a great question about training but the response turned out to be more in-depth than I originally anticipated so rather than trying to make it into a simple comment I decided to post the answer here in the form of a longer article. Here is John’s question:
Very happy to see this page up!! I do need some guidance. The gym I’ve been going to has a heavy bag, which I have been doing work on in conjunction with jumping rope and plyometrics. One, how many times a week would you recommend this type of workout while I still do weight training. Two, I have become rusty with my kicks, and noticed I’ve been off balance during my heavy bag work. Any suggestions, or practices to help eliminate this?
And my response:
Hi John – good to hear from you!
I will answer the 2nd question on kicking first. The alignments for kicking in the air are different than for kicking an object [bag, pad,or person]. Here I will cite the differences. The foot to knee, hip, and waist alignments for kicking in the air are to keep the body on balance through the base leg while delivering speed and power from the pronating kicking leg. The forces to overcome are momentum, gravity, and inertia from initiation until recovery. Techniques like the front kick [an open hip movement] are different then the ones that have innervated closing of the hip and a pivoting base leg – like the side, roundhouse, and hooking kicks.
When kicking an object that has resistance, the impact of the strike will rebound back through the kicking structure. The body’s delivery alignment must be correct – #1 to drive the force into the object and #2 to receive and ground the rebounding force that will come as a result of the impact. The fault of bouncing off of a bag can be correct by restructuring the hip and foot so that the hips are not in a locked position at impact. This is called independent hip movement. For more about foot positioning, check out an article I published before on my blog – Master this First, Oh Grand Masters. Hip position and foot position on impact are the keys to correction!
To address your other question. Heavy bags, weights,and plyometrics are all strength training exercises. Remember that those key around the other part of the equation – rest and nutrition. Heavy bag training is an explosive impact on your muscles and joints due to the effect of rebounding energy. Done correctly, it strengthens the muscle origins and insertions, allowing the body to release explosive strength in a less inhibited manner. Build up slowly to avoid injuring or straining your muscles. Over a period of time,the joints, bones, ligaments and tendons will allow you to deliver more of your muscles potential in striking power. Consider it active strength building which requires more recovery time.
Weight lifting with light weights at high speed can increase speed of striking delivery for the upper body. Remember, you are trying to increase muscle strength to overcome gravity and inertia. Lifting heavier weights is about increasing the strength to move heavier loads while coordinating the stabilizing muscles that keep the body’s balance.
God’s rule is this: If the body loses balance in any way, all strength movements are shut down immediately until balance is restored! Always have one day a week dedicated to intensive stretching. Muscles shorten and contract in strength building. They must have an active muscle memory for the ability to lengthen under stress also.
Finally – plyometric training. This training teaches the body to load energy [many times with ones own body weight] from a beginning initiation muscle contraction into an elongated muscle contraction strength movement in a direction with explosive movement. This creates a sympathetic synergistic action between the stabilizing muscles and the agonist (primary mover) muscles. Think of it as the reverse of the affect in heavy bag training. Every one has a different body and tolerances. Err on the side of conservative while you discover which combination of training, rest, and nutrition work for you. Remember the body likes change and challenge to make gains. Vary your schedule 2-3-4 days a week. Experiment!
I hope I have been a help to your understanding.
Humility be thy goal,
F. G. Blair