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Old 09-10-2002, 03:20 PM   #1
Erik
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What Is Physical Fitness?

After reading the thread on "whether your instructor was fit or not" I began to wonder just how people define fitness. So, if you had to define physical fitness in an Aikido context how would you do so? Also, if you are fit, or not fit, then how do you know this?

I'm also curious how those who practice or have practiced other arts define fitness in the context of their art?
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Old 09-10-2002, 03:35 PM   #2
Kevin Wilbanks
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Of course I'm going to reply since I'm always pontificating about this. I trained for years without being adequately fit, and had many ongoing injury problems that limited my training frequency and intensity. Then I quit Aikido for over a year and focussed exclusively on fitness, including increasing overall body strength and muscle mass, losing about 30 pounds of fat, pursuing increased joint integrity via yoga asanas, and building up significant high intensity aerobic and anaerobic endurance via interval training.

Now, when I practice, everything that happens on the mat is well within my athletic capacity. I don't get tired or winded when most others are gasping and complaining. I have the arm extension and squatting strength to do koshinage properly (except T-style on the really short 250+ guys... it's just too low). I haven't had any injury problems to speak of - other than knee bursitis from laying a tile floor. Occasionally I'll tweak something or get a little sore, but it is always resolved quickly, without any special attention.

If I knew then what I know now from experience, I would have taken at least 6 months off or delayed starting Aikido to focus on fitness at the beginning, and stuck with a supplemental fitness regimen. I would probably be about twice as good as I am now due to being able to train more and get more out of the training that I did.
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Old 09-10-2002, 04:26 PM   #3
Erik
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Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
Of course I'm going to reply since I'm always pontificating about this.
I had kind of hoped I'd get you on this. I'm hoping a couple of others bite too.
Quote:
Now, when I practice, everything that happens on the mat is well within my athletic capacity. I don't get tired or winded when most others are gasping and complaining.
This is one of my personal requirements. It varies from place to place but if I do go somewhere and get winded I up my cardio to catch up. I don't consider myself elite by any means but I do take the art relatively serious and I believe that in regular training I shouldn't get wiped out.
Quote:
If I knew then what I know now from experience, I would have taken at least 6 months off or delayed starting Aikido to focus on fitness at the beginning, and stuck with a supplemental fitness regimen. I would probably be about twice as good as I am now due to being able to train more and get more out of the training that I did.
Since most people are thrown directly into a class, how would you suggest we bring people up to speed from a fitness point of view. This is particularly difficult since people attend sporadically and we are limited to conditioning based on body-weight. I've experimented with doing a half-hour PT/aerobic program but through-put is too small where I'm at to see if it would take. Honestly, I doubt sit ups and push ups would take well with most people anyways.
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Old 09-10-2002, 05:36 PM   #4
Alfonso
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Hi Erik, you know what Rick sensei says:

Aikido is not a sport, and fitness is your responsibility. He does make a point of mentioning fitness as a responsibility though..

Alfonso Adriasola
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Old 09-10-2002, 06:41 PM   #5
Kevin Wilbanks
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Quote:
Erik Haselhofer (Erik) wrote:
Since most people are thrown directly into a class, how would you suggest we bring people up to speed from a fitness point of view. This is particularly difficult since people attend sporadically and we are limited to conditioning based on body-weight. I've experimented with doing a half-hour PT/aerobic program but through-put is too small where I'm at to see if it would take. Honestly, I doubt sit ups and push ups would take well with most people anyways.
Erik,

I think the most efficient way to train in a limited time is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or perhaps modified with moderately intense intervals to start. I think I posted this before, but attached is a flyer I printed up for clients with more specifics.

In terms of energy systems, HIIT works very well to promote anaerobic endurance and some elements of aerobic endurance (i.e., VO2max and lactate threshold). In terms of muscles, one can use a creative assortment of exercises for the intervals that use most of the body at once, thereby developing some minimal strength and substantial local muscular endurance.

Buying a few medicine balls and/or rubber cables can open up the possibilities for training movements specific to Aikido, such as resisted tenkan movements and twisting ballistic ball throws. These exercises are also fun and involve partner cooperation. If the budget is low, you should at least spring for jumpropes - the kind with the segmented beads are cheap and work well.

I think the various endurance elements trained by this kind of protocol are the first step for unfit students - twice a week to start for 10-20 minutes, depending upon the intensity level and fitness levels.

The next step would be to add a basic full-body resistance routine performed once or twice per week. This would get a bit more involved, but relatively substantial strength levels can be achieved using only bodyweight exercises - especially in the upper body. You need bars though, to do pullups and dips - see your local park. With a Jo and two chairs you could do body rows, and pushups on the floor... add lunges and/or deadlifts/squats with objects and you've got a basic routine with a pushing motion a pulling motion and a squatting motion.

Of course, how to modify these exercises to vary resistance, how to do them with proper form, and how to structure an overall program for each individual in terms of load, frequency, rest, etc... are beyond the purview of an email. If you feel like flying me out to SF, I'll be glad to provide plenty of demos and complementary training sessions...
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File Type: txt hiit.txt (4.2 KB, 58 views)
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Old 09-10-2002, 06:46 PM   #6
PeterR
 
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Physical fitness is like defining IQ - it varies with circumstance and presses hot buttons everywhere.

The pace of the Aikido class where I train is very fast for the first 30 minutes always. Warm-up exercises followed by basic exercises - if you are not sweating at the end of it you are doing it wrong.

The pace varies through the rest of the class but if it gets too slow the intensity gets bumped up with tsukuri (entering exercises) or basic exercises (go no sen kuzushi).

Yes we have people beginning with less than desireable fitness levels (for performing Shodokan Aikido) but they either fall by the way side or improve. You really improve once you start doing randori.

I think that you really don't need a beginners fitness class per se but consider fitness through out your class.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 09-10-2002, 07:14 PM   #7
Erik
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Kevin, I'm actually already doing pretty much exactly what you described. I took a book called the Boot Camp Workout and modified some of the routines for the students. I then mix it with basic Aikido flowing and movement exercises (2-step, rowing, occasional sword work) and give them about a 1/2 hour workout. I do this prior to my regular class. I also use the workouts from the book for myself as well and to make sure that I stay a step ahead of the students.

The real problem though is that the dojo is too small and I only get one night a week with them. I've got to expand the test sample so that I can get some consistency as well as a valid sample.
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Old 09-10-2002, 07:54 PM   #8
memyselfandi
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I have a problem with any strenuous aerobic exercise because of asthma...any suggestions on how I might get "fit", as they say (I'd probably develope a larger air capacity with time but I've gotta start somewhere...)
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Old 09-10-2002, 08:20 PM   #9
Kevin Wilbanks
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Ari,

See a doctor who specializes in asthma who is up to date on the latest medications. I know someone whose asthma was so bad it nearly killed her on several occasions and put her in the hospital regularly. She got a new med in the last year or so that has removed 95% of all problems - she can do anything she wants now.
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Old 09-10-2002, 08:55 PM   #10
memyselfandi
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Well using an inhaler helps (the asthma only really bothers me when I'm doing aerobic activity), but because I've lived so long with its restrictions I don't really have the kind of endurance someone my age should. I've just gotta find an activity to get me started. (note: Running won't work. My feet turn out so when I run it just makes my hips and knees ache for days ).
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Old 09-10-2002, 08:57 PM   #11
Veers
 
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Try jogging and forcing them to stay in. Sometimes mine flop (lol) if I don't focus on running, so sometimes I'm sore from that, and other's I'm so tensed up I run and keep my legs tense and then I can't walk the next day. And other times, I do it right :]

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 09-12-2002, 08:17 PM   #12
paw
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I'm not sure I have anything of value to add, but I hope this topic doesn't end at this point.

Erik asked:
Quote:
So, if you had to define physical fitness in an Aikido context how would you do so?
Pass.....
Quote:
Also, if you are fit, or not fit, then how do you know this?
By your performance.
Quote:
I'm also curious how those who practice or have practiced other arts define fitness in the context of their art?
By your performance.

Here's an example. Our bjj group rents space in a kickboxing/boxing/muay thai gym. The beginning boxing class, which all new students attend, is all instruction and conditioning. Specifically, the instructor will teach a basic technique (briefly --- no more than 5 minutes is spent on this) say a jab, and then the group will jab for one round, while the instructor makes corrections for different students. In between rounds, there is bodyweight conditioning exercises, like push-ups, burpees, various situps, jumping jacks, etc. Then a new technique is introduced and so on...

When a student "graduates" from the beginner class (the instructor tells them they are ready for the intermediate class, held at the same time), they have a basic knowledge of techniques and are in far, far better physical condition than when they started. The intermediate class has almost no instruction, but consists of drills and coaching (the instructors do not "teach" a jab --- the student has a basic understanding of a jab; rather the instructor coaches each student on perfecting their jab on an individual basis during the course of the evening). Again, in between drills are more conditioning, but the conditioning is bumped up a notch. At the end of these hour classes, the students "burn out" for one round (throw a specific punch or a specific combination for the entire round). The student "graduates" the intermediate class when they are told by the instructor that they may start to stay after class and spar.

Each step is more intense, builds on the previous step and develops a better conditioned athelete.

In this context, there is no finish line where the student says they are "fit enough". Being able to get through class is the lowest level of fitness in this model. Also, fitness is not separated from technique, they are trained in tandem, and beginning students clearly see how lack of fitness makes them incapable of performing technique (they have to stop while the others in class keep doing the drill, or they feel the tremendous effort to punch with great force, while others seem to do so effortlessly).

Hope that helps spur discussion, but then again....

Regards,

Paul
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Old 09-13-2002, 10:21 AM   #13
SeiserL
 
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IMHO, which admittedly is very literal, being physically fit means that physically you can perform the task os a specific activity. Physically fit for football is not physically fit for track and vice versa. So being physically fit is different than being in shape which is an implied standard of what the body should look like as defined mostly by culture. So, I know many people who are perfectly physiclly fit for Aikido because they perfrom at a high level but would never be the screen hero in a hollywood movie.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 09-13-2002, 12:24 PM   #14
opherdonchin
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This is discussion is great and interesting. I wonder, though, about AiKiDo and people suffering from various levels of disability (see thread on AiKiDo without Ukemi) and people who are getting a little older.

The idea, in my mind, is not to create an environment where fitness is seen as necessary to good AiKiDo. Rather, I'd like to see them as two separate, desirable, things that complement each other. That's why it seems reasonable to me to say that fitness is the student's responsibility off the mat.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-13-2002, 07:14 PM   #15
Kevin Wilbanks
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Lynn,

I'm not defining fitness in terms of appearance at all. I think with what you are saying about seemingly unfit people doing Aikido at a high level might apply, but only if you look at long term performance. My previous teacher performed Aikido at a very high level indeed, but every once in a while his 'back would go out' and he would be unable to train for days. To me this is evidence of not being fit, and I believe the cause was lack of a sufficient conditioning routine outside of Aikido practice. Given the nature of the subtle incidents that precipitated these occurrences, I could virtually guarantee that someone trained by me in a few yoga asanas and key resistance exercises will never have such problems, so long as they apply themselves to the training consistently - including taking the alignment corrections out into their daily life and Aikido. Problems like these stem from misalignment and weakness, and are easily preventable.

I think what you are talking about is body fat. It is possible to be quite fit for an activity like Aikido and still carry around quite a bit of excess body fat. The extremely low body fat standards we get from celebrities and models these days is only integral to fitness for highly competitive levels of bodyweight-moving sports like running, climbing, gymnastics, etc... I don't think there is even any real evidence that carrying a few extra pounds of fat represents any significant health risks. For everybody except certain types of hard core athletes, I agree that the washboard abs are mostly for looks.
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Old 09-14-2002, 06:47 AM   #16
j0nharris
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Thumbs down HIIT

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
Erik,

I think the most efficient way to train in a limited time is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)....
When I began preparing for my Ikkyu exam some years ago, Sensei and I began our own HIIT program. We would meet on the mat at lunch, and do about 45 minutes of jiu waza, sometimes working one technique after another as we made our way around the perimeter of the 40 foot by 40 foot mat, stopping in between to catch our breath.

After we were done and I was dragging myself to the changing rooms, Sensei, who was just about to turn 50 at the time, would ask.... "So, wanna go for a jog?"

Needless to say, I was ready when testing came around, and we kept up that workout for a couple of years until I took a job a little farther away....

-jon
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Old 09-14-2002, 09:06 AM   #17
Kevin Wilbanks
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Jon,

That sounds like great Aikido-specific conditioning, but technically, I would not call that HIIT. What you did sounds more like the equivalent of 'fartlek', which would fall more into the category of aerobic interval training.

HIIT has fairly strictly regimented interval and rest times, and, most importantly, the intervals are so intense that there is no way one could continue beyond 20 total minutes. Give it a try and you'll see what I mean: each interval should be so intense that you cannot continue at that pace beyond 30 seconds. Once you have built up to a total of 20 minutes, further increases are accomplished by upping the intensity of the intervals.

If the intervals are not this intense, the rest periods too short, or not restful enough, different energy systems will be emphasized. In particular, there will be less emphasis on the elements of anaerobic endurance and more on the aerobic. Aerobic intervals are good too, it's just a different type of exercise - in the case of what you did, it was probably more specific to you Aikido purposes than HIIT. The benefits of HIIT vs. aerobic intervals is overall time efficiency, fat-burning efficiency, and many contend that it is less likely to interfere with concurrent strength and hypertrophy training.
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Old 09-14-2002, 07:48 PM   #18
SeiserL
 
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Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
My previous teacher performed Aikido at a very high level indeed, but every once in a while his 'back would go out' and he would be unable to train for days. To me this is evidence of not being fit, and I believe the cause was lack of a sufficient conditioning routine outside of Aikido practice. Given the nature of the subtle incidents that precipitated these occurrences, I could virtually guarantee that someone trained by me in a few yoga asanas and key resistance exercises will never have such problems, so long as they apply themselves to the training consistently - including taking the alignment corrections out into their daily life and Aikido. Problems like these stem from misalignment and weakness, and are easily preventable.
I, as one with high mileage and some lumbar disk bulges, would love to learn about the asanas and resistance exercises you suggest.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 09-14-2002, 08:02 PM   #19
Deb Fisher
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Kevin Wilbanks wrote:

"I could virtually guarantee that someone trained by me in a few yoga asanas and key resistance exercises will never have such problems, so long as they apply themselves to the training consistently - including taking the alignment corrections out into their daily life and Aikido. Problems like these stem from misalignment and weakness, and are easily preventable."

Yoga is an incredible discipline and is very, very good for you, but it's not miraculous. It won't cure every single person's back pain, and more insidiously, it will most assuredly give plenty of pain to people who do it with a competitive spirit, with the wrong teacher (bad poses/counterposes), with bad alignment, etc. Most yogis, like most martial artists, have at some point injured themselves with yoga. I've injured myself. And your body is getting older every minute, yoga or no yoga, so is mine.

It's limiting to invest mentally in yoga as a panacea... as always just my opinion.

Deb

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-14-2002, 08:44 PM   #20
Kevin Wilbanks
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Deb,

You have to bear in mind that yoga is a very big tent, and 99% of the stuff that I've seen out there is nothing I would ever be involved with, because the emphasis is usually on stretching and the shape/appearance of the poses, rather than essential alignment relationships that undergird the poses. You may have experience with yoga, but the set of activities that come to mind when you hear the word may be quite different from what I have in mind.

I agree that most yogis (American ones anyway) probably injure themselves or make themselves prone to injury, but that's because they tend to pursue excessive mobility as an end in itself, and do not concurrently pursue vigorous athletic activities that would provide some reality testing to their functional capacity in dynamic situations.

Also, I said that the proper pursuit of some foundational resistance and yoga exercises could PREVENT most injuries from occuring, not cure pre-existing conditions. With a problem like damage to the connective tissue of a joint such as the spine or knee, yoga and exercises to promote strength, stability, and alignment will most likely not undo the damage. However, no matter what state you are in, learning better alignment and developing more strength is still the way to get the most athletic capacity and injury resistance out of what you've got.

Lynn,

Unfortunately, there really is no way to learn the kind of yoga I have in mind via descriptions, writings, or even videos. It requires personal feedback and instruction from someone with experience - much like Aikido. I have a few years of experience with the yoga, but not enough to even really put myself out there as a yoga teacher per-se (although many have with even less). I do feel I'm qualified to design and teach resistance and other fitness training with an attention to detail in exercise form which is informed by yoga principles.

For lower back strength and protection, I think the most important exercises are the Back Squat, the Romanian/Stiff Leg Deadlift, the Cobra/Locust, and other Deadlift variations. Doing the exercises with exquisitely controlled form, and in the context of a training routine with appropriate training loads, rest, etc... is only part of it though. It's the part that develops the strength and the beginnings of protective neuromuscular patterns. The other part is taking the feeling-lessons or proprioceptive experience from these training sessions and learning to apply these patterns in everyday life, sports, work, martial arts, etc.. and forge them into lasting unconscious habits.
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