Thursday, 23 October 2008

Facing Fear

An interesting article caught my eye today which you can read here. A UCSB study has found that physical strength and fighting ability is revealed in human faces.

I have a post that is still in gestation which details some of my thoughts on physical activity. It includes the kinds of exercises we should pursue - and combat is one of them. If the paper above is correct and we have evolved mechanisms to determine an opponents ability in combat, you can bet your bottom dollar that some form of combat will be key to our physical well being and so should be a part of our training.

I myself do an hours Lau Gar Kung Fu and Lau Gar Kickboxing a week. The sessions are excellent for general conditioning and follow a classic interval training model with bursts of high intensity work (for up to two minutes), followed by rest. Some session concentrate on skill work and some are more fitness oriented.

Wider Picture
I have no interest in being 'hard', it is the wider implications of combat that interest me. Some of the kicks in particular require excellent balance (spinning kicks for example). Sparring improves reactions time and full body agility - ducking, bobbing and weaving. A key tool for the successful martial artists is speed and explosive power - jumping in to kicks and springing forwards with a jab. You develop all round kinaesthetic awareness.

If fitness is your thing then three one minute rounds on a kick shield (with a minutes rest between rounds), will get your heart working in a similar way as a sprint. The last round will demand real heart.

One of the real advantages of combat is that outside of skill work where you may follow a particular drill, sparring and pad work has a degree of randomness in that there is only a broad structure to your work. The detail within is ad-hoc and provides the randomness and novelty that should be present in every good workout.

Can you kick it?


Chris said...

That is interesting. I've started doing a Krav Maga class each week which - while challenging and useful in itself - is working my body in a lot of new ways, new positions. For all we talk about functional exercise, in combat it is where the action really happens. There is great variety flexibility and agility. There is also variety psychologically challenging your mind to react to threats etc.

Great blog by the way

Asclepius said...

Chris, thanks for the kind words.

I actually looked at Krav Maga amongst other MAs such as Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and Judo. I was looking for 'the best' - but as somoeone pointed out to me, it is all just punching and kicking. There is no best. (I also know now that there is 'striking' vs 'grappling').

I might go for a more grappling oriented activity in the future (such as Judo) as this offer a more isometric form of exercise, but striking arts are more 'explosive' - and that is where my inclination lies at the moment!

As you say, you hear a lot of talk about 'functional training', maintaining variety and avoiding plateaus but the fighting arts offer all that and more - in a way that traditional gym training cannot compete with.

When I was looking at ways to improve my agility, balance, reactions and all those other 'apex predator' qualities, suddenly it dawned upon me that they all come together in an 'attack'. I promptly signed up for to a martial arts class within a few days!

You observation about 'threats' is also another interesting part of the equation. If you think about the fight or flight model - where our physical exercise would historically have been at its most intense, 'fear' would be a big part of the experience.

Sparring can introduce this 'fear factor' as can that other love of my life, rock climbing. I think it is important for us to court fear as part of our paleo training - within reason of course!