Foundational Martial Arts and Fitness Training

This may be the most important blog post on the subject of martial arts and fitness that I ever write. When I was 22, I was in the best shape of my life, and I can point to the very reason why: I was building strength, endurance, flexibility, and martial arts skill atop a well-established foundation.

When I turned 30, I fell away from my training (I’m 34 as of the time of this writing). I’ve been trying to regain my previous levels of fitness and performance, but I’ve only just realized why it’s been so difficult: I forgot all about foundation.

Why Foundation is So Important

Ever hear the phrase “you can’t run before you can walk”? Now, those of you who have children may be thinking “but my baby ran first.” But having kids, I can attest to the fact that it never works out well for them when they don’t have the walking foundation down first. And you need the same foundation for your fitness and martial arts practice.

So what am I talking about here?

A basic foundation of strength, endurance, flexibility, and core martial skills.

I’m not talking about benching 100s of pounds, running miles, doing the splits, or being able to work the dummy like Donnie Yen. (That’s step 2.) What I mean is a basic foundation for these things.

Tangential Story

When I was 24, I attended a seminar with a Hapkido expert. It never occured to me before then that I was stronger than the average practitioner of traditional martial arts. But then one of this guy’s students was trying to perform a throw on me (and I was told to provide resistance), and he just didn’t have the power to do it –– and this wasn’t some out of shape paper tiger, this kid was around 19 and fit. But he said something I’ll never forget: “man, you’re really strong!”

Being the weakest person in my group of friends at the time, that came as a shock. I lifted weights and ran like crazy, but everyone around me did more of both. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it (how insightful were you at 24; don’t answer if you’re currently 24, give it another decade), but after a few years, it got me thinking about how important fitness is to training in the martial arts. And now that I’m out of shape, I can see just how important it really is.

Building a Foundation

In the story above, I make myself out to be Hercules. But I’ll tell you, I’m far from it, and have never been to that level of strength. But I had that basic fitness that allowed me to do just about anything, including resisting a fully-trained kid in his prime from taking me down (there was some skill involved in that, to be sure, but that’s not the point here).

So how did I build my foundation? Modern fitness experts refer to the method as “greasing the groove“, but my version added a bit of a spin on the typical method.

I had a simple circuit that I worked through 2-3x daily (usually just once, to be honest, but I was consistent to do it at least everyday). I did this even on days where I had martial arts training (most days back then), weights, or cardio. But if I didn’t do anything but this, then I tried to fit it in right when I woke up and right before bed.

The first few movements of my circuit were focused around cardio (jumping jacks, burpees…I’ll list my routine at the bottom of this post). And it was a “one and done” thing for me. I knocked out a single set of each move, then moved on with my day, barely breaking a sweat. But it gave me incredible gains.

My Groove

Before I post my full routine, I want to point out a few things. You’ll notice that there are martial arts movements…because I’m a martial artist; consider those to be optional for someone who isn’t. I also have some equipment ($10 exercise cables from Walmart; I used bicycle intertubes when I was in high school, but snapped them more often than not). The equipment is optional. You can do most or all of this with nothing but a floor and a door post.

Floor Equipment Level: 10,000

Where something says X-Y, that means start with the first number, but each time you work through the program try to push one of the exercises a bit, but only one, and not to failure (unless you’re failing at or before the first number, then go ahead and fail and build your strength).

  1. Jumping Jacks (25)
  2. Burpees (the 5-count variety; 5-10)
  3. Walking Lunges (20; 10 each side)
  4. Cable Rows (if you have cables/workout bands, wrap them around something and pull them with one or both hands to your waist or chest; 10-15)
  5. Cable Curls (either keep the cables where they are, lift your elbows and curl to your shoulders, or put the cables beneath your feet and curl; 10-15)
  6. Push-Ups (10-20)
  7. Knuckle Push-Ups (5-10)
  8. Finger Push-Ups (push-ups on the tips of all your fingers, try to remove fingers as your progress in the program; 5-10)
  9. Chest Isometrics (just push your hands together in front of you, as hard as you can, for 8-12s)
  10. Backfist Isometrics (bend your arm slightly and put the outside of your forearm against a door post, then press against the post as hard as you can for 8-12s)
  11. Planks (30s-1m)
  12. Crunches (20-50)
  13. Leg Lifts (only 12″ pulses, not all the way up; 20-50)
  14. Butterfly Kicks (like leg lifts, but kick your feet like you’re swimming; 20-50)
  15. Open and Close (feet 6″ of the ground, then open and close them; 20-50)
  16. Samson Stretch (lung position with one knee on the floor, then push your hips forward to stretch the hip flexors; 15-20s)
  17. Single Leg Stretch (either sitting on the floor, putting one leg on the top of a couch or bar, or both; 15-20s)
  18. Toe Touches (just bend over and touch your toes; 15-20s)
  19. Should Width Toe Touches (toe touches with you feet spread, alternate between going down to the floor, then to each leg; 15s each)
  20. Splits (go as far as you can for 10s, then move directly to “American splits” with one foot on the toe and one on the heel for 15s, then back to the center for 15s, then to the other side for 15s, then back to the center for 20s –– this is a great stretch!)
Sunglasses Optional

And that’s it! It might seem complicated because of my direction, but it’s a mere 20 moves, and most of them are lying on the floor or stretching. It shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes after you’ve done it a few times. The best part is that you can take your time after the first portion. Blitz through the first 3 moves, then slow it down and just move at your own pace.

If you’re in a hurry, or just starting out and think that looks intimidating, start with this:

  1. Jumping Jacks (25)
  2. Burpees (5)
  3. Lunges (10 total)
  4. Push-Ups (10)
  5. Planks (30s)
  6. Crunches (25)
  7. Leg Lifts (25)
  8. Any stretches you feel you need (you should at least hit hamstrings, hip flexors, and groin)

I left out the cables from the above because I’m assuming that if you are just starting out, or don’t have a lot of time, then you don’t have that equipment (or time to set it up). If you do, add those in there.

What About the Martial Arts

I left it out because I don’t think most people who follow this blog actually practice martial arts, but just in case I’m wrong, here’s what I add just before my stretches.

When I practice martial arts, I choose a “lead” (which foot is forward in my stance) and switch it the next time I practice. So if I choose to put my left side forward in the morning, I might put might right side forward in the evening, or the next day (if I’m lazy and skipped the evening workout).

  1. Straight Lead Punch (most people call it a “jab”; 20)
  2. Straight Rear Punch (most people call it a “cross”; 20)
  3. Hooks (I just throw a left-right cadence; 40 total)
  4. Uppercut (same as hooks: a left-right cadence; 40 total)
  5. Lead Front Kick (any variation you know; 10-12)
  6. Rear Front Kick (10-12)
  7. Lead Round Kick (10-12)
  8. Rear Round Kick (either stepping it down into the alternate lead or spinning all the way through; 10-12)
  9. Lead Side Kick (10-12)
  10. Spinning Back Kick (10-12)

And if I’m feeling froggy, I might throw in some elbows or knees, but that’s honestly pretty rare. I do, however, perform 1-2 kata –– always an Ung Moon (JKD’s trapping form) and usually a Karate, Tai Chi, or Chi Kung form for good measure.

What This Did For Me

After training like this for several months, I not only had abs for days (seriously, I didn’t even need to flex to see them), but I had the core strength, endurance, and flexibility to lift weights, run, jump rope, or perform martial arts techniques for hours on end.

Remember, this is not the “be all, end all” of training (you won’t become Bruce Lee on this program). This is a foundational program that can get you started. But foundations are just that: something to build on.

I’m going to do this for the next three months, then move on to more intense routines.

Are you going to try it? Let me know what your results are if you do.

 

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What is Your Jadepunk Tale?

I call a Jadepunk campaign a Jadepunk Tale. As anyone who roleplays can tell you, a campaign can be a single game session or a twenty-year adventure. Since Jadepunk has been out for awhile, I’d like to get a sense of how other people are playing the game.

What tales are you telling? Who are the archnemeses of your players? What’s your Jianghu society’s name?

Even if you aren’t running a game of Jadepunk currently, what would your Jadepunk game be about?

Leave your answer in the comments below (and link the community to any campaign materials you may have online). I’ll start with a description of my favorite Jadepunk Tale –– the one that I have yet to play but that started the idea of Jadepunk, and that I hope to write a novella about very soon.

Second Letter From Kausao City

For those of you who aren’t caught up, I recently received a letter from Kausao City’s governor’s office describing how the Kausao City Post Office is being used to contact rebel sympathizers outside of the hegemony. After more than a week of searching for information regarding the seized letters mentioned in that correspondence, I received another letter.

Here it is:

 


Jianghu Sympathizer,

I’ll refrain from using names for mutual protection. In fact, it may be too dangerous to contact you at all. I hope our desperation has not compromised you.

Jonica…A contact in the Four Winds Trading Company has alerted us to a plot to kill the Kaiyumi crown princess during her first visit to Kausao City, and frame a prominent Jianghu society in the process. We already have a tough time convincing recruits that we’re a legitimate rebellion – we’re losing the propaganda war. If the princess, a known critic of the Council of Nine, were to fall, seemingly by our hand, the Jianghu may be too discredited to carry on.

One of our number – again, no names – has informed us that you have contacts within the Empire. It is our hope that you can impress upon them how dangerous it is to allow the FWTC to remain sovereign outside of the Empire. The treaty that created the Kausao City hegemony dictates the corporation can only be regulated by the Aerish government.

We have already sent word to the princess, and are praying to Ehal that it arrives before her retinue departs. If you can lean on your government and keep the FWTC too busy to become embroiled in such distant plots, you could save a lot of lives.

With gratitude,

The Swift Songbird Society


 

I’m not sure who they think I know, or how one voice could make a difference, but I’ll do my best. Though picket signs outside the Capitol might be too much.

Then again, I do know someone who applied for a government job last year, an assistant to some middle manager somewhere. I wonder if he got the job. I’ll check.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to post here and keep a record of my findings. And, again, here’s the original letter – for your files.

The Jianghu rebellion is the centerpiece of the Jadepunk roleplaying game.

Kindle Sense Crimes

In the first years of the 21st century…

So begins Equilibrium, the super cool movie that earned Christian Bale the role of Batman. I’m fairly sure that every reader of this blog has seen the film. (if not, what the hell are you waiting for? Don’t worry; there be no spoilers here.)

The big problem of Equilibrium centers around what the Grammaton Clerics call “sense crimes” – observing anything that causes you to feel emotion. It was determined that the ability to “feel” is what caused violence among humanity. Take away capacity to feel, establish world peace.

Are We Heading Toward an Equilibrium in the Real World?

While we have physical books, we maintain control of our knowledge – it’s hard to censor what’s on someone’s shelf. But what if we give into the digital age?

What if we allow digital books to become our norm? Wouldn’t that give an oppressive government the ability to change the books without our knowing? Is it possible that such a thing could eventually lead to suppression of all emotionally engaging content?

Could we be allowing a future where Kindle Clerics hunt us down for our “sense offenses?” (Only without the cool gun kata.)

I’m ready to enter the Amazon Monastery and study to become a Kindle Cleric, learning to use the Paperwhite Tablet Kata. Because when caught in a web, I’d rather be the hunter than the hunted.

What about you? Spider or fly?

Post intended as satire.

Letters From Kausao City

I just received a strange letter from The Governor’s Office in Kausao City. Did you get it yet? It’s sort of…well, I’ll let you read it for yourself.

I’ve attached the letter at the bottom of this post but transcribed it below for those of you who can’t read Túyangan:

 


From: Office of the Governor of Kausao City
To: The Peoples of the Great Nations

It has come to our attention that some employees of Kausao City’s mailing service have been colluding with terrorist cells that collectively call themselves The Jianghu. City Watch agents have found three letters that describe treasonous activities against The Council of Nine. Rest assured; those responsible will be brought to justice.

The Governor has launched a full investigation, but until all suspects are found, we ask that you show all letters delivered to you by the official mailing service to your local Kausao City ambassador’s office.

Failure to comply with the above mandate will result in your immediate arrest and extradition to Kausao City for crimes of collusion with known terrorist cells.

Thank you for your cooperation,
Catriona Naser
Assistant to The Governor of Kausao City


 

I’m going to try and get my hands on some of these “treasonous” letters and find out more (can they really extradite us for keeping them?). If I manage to find any, I’ll let you know – you might want to subscribe to the blog (at the bottom of this page) to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Here’s the letter, so you can see for yourself.

UPDATE: Another letter has arrived.

Kausao City is a fictional location in the world of Jadepunk.

 

Q1 Goals in 2017

In 2017, as part of my commitment to adding value to my community, I’m going to start posting my quarter goals throughout the year. (Maybe y’all can hold me accountable.)

Personal
My personal goals are pretty simple:

  1. Attend at least 24 martial arts classes (2+ classes/wk).
  2. Go on 12 dates with my wife (1 date/wk).
  3. Play 24 hours of video games, no more, no less (2 hrs/wk).

Business
These are the goals you’ve (probably) been more interested in hearing about.

  1. Finish the Jadetech and Vigilance Committee product lines.
  2. Finish fulfilling the Shadowcraft Kickstarter.
  3. Launch (my final) Kickstarter: Age of Anarchy.
  4. Write and release Fist Full of Jade, a Jadepunk Tale (fiction).

The difficult part of this would he the first two. All of the drafts are complete, but Jesse Ferguson will have a tough time getting all of those books through layout.

That’s it for Q1. Enter your email at the bottom of this page to get all those lovely blog posts straight to your inbox everyday.

Now, who’s going to be my accountability partner?

Flaws are Great and First Vlog Episode

Did you see my first Vlog post? It’s a follow up on the post I made here last week about letting perfect be the enemy of great. But I said something in it that I felt deserved its own post: “great things have flaws, and perfect things don’t exist.” And that’s so true. How many… Continue reading Flaws are Great and First Vlog Episode