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Here's a post I'm about to submit to the Chicago Swordplay Guild (CSG) [chicagoswordplayguild.com]:
Sorry, but I haven't been to a class at the Chicago Swordplay Guild since 2008-11-15:
- Nov 22: Carpet cleaning.
- Nov 29, Dec 6: Flu.
- Dec 13: Daughter's aikido test.
- Dec 20: Son's aikido test.
- Dec 27: No class.
However, I have been doing CrossFit Workouts of the Day (WODs) since Nov 23, roughly taking every 4th day off. I've had to scale a few of these. The dates of when I did a WOD are not always the same as the date of the WOD.
- Jan 2: With a continuously running clock do one 135 pound Clean and Jerk the first minute, two 135 pound Clean and Jerks the second minute, three 135 pound Clean and Jerks the third minute... continuing as long as you are able.
- Jan 1: "Murph". For time: 1 mile run 20# vest, 100 Pull Ups, 200 Push Ups, 300 Squats, 1 mile run 20# vest. Partition non-running as needed.
- Jan 1: Dove into Lake Michigan.
- Dec 31: "Fight Gone Bad". 3 rounds with 1 min of each of these exercises with 1 min rest between ronds: Wall Ball 20# 10', Sumo Dead Lift High Pull 75#, Box Jump 20", Push Press 75#, Row (calories).
- Dec 29: Shoulder Press 1x for 5 sets, Push Press 3x for 5 sets, Push Jerk 5x for 5 sets.
- Dec 28: "Michael" 3 rounds for time: Run 800 m, Back Extensions 50x, Sit Ups 50x.
- Dec 27: 20 min of Thrusters 95# 5x, Hang Power Cleans 95# 7x, Sumo Dead Lift High Pulls 95# 10x.
- Dec 24: Back Squats for 5 sets of 5 reps.
- Dec 21: "Cindy" 20 min of 5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups, 5 Squats, or "Mary" 5 Handstand Push Ups, 10 Pistols, 15 Pull Ups.
- Dec 21: 800 m run, 4 times, resting between.
- Dec 19: "Filthy Fifty" For time: 50 Box jump, 24 inch box; 50 Jumping pull-ups; 50 Kettlebell swings, 1 pood; Walking Lunge, 50 steps; 50 Knees to elbows; 50 Push press, 45 pounds; 50 Back extensions; 50 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball; 50 Burpees; 50 Double unders.
- Dec 17 In 20 min rounds of: Run 400 m, 15 L Pull Ups, 15 Hip Ext.
- Dec 17: 7 Split Jerks.
- Dec 14: Run 10 Km/ 6.2 miles.
- Dec 13: 3 rounds for time of Box Jumps 50x on 24" Box, Dead Lifts 21x at 185#, Pull Ups 30.
- Dec 11: "Nasty Girls": 3 rounds for time of 50 Squats, 7 Muscle Ups, 135# Hang Power Cleans 10x.
- Dec 10: "Annie". For time 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 reps of Double Unders and Sit Ups.
- Dec 8: 7 Clean and Jerks.
- Dec 5: In 20 min, as many rounds of these 5 exercises. 5th round jumping pull ups.
- Dec 5: For time: 100 squats, 2 muscle ups, 80-4, 60-6, 40-8, 20-10.
- Dec 4: Five rounds for time of: 50 pound dumbbell, walking lunge, 10 alternating steps. 50 pound dumbbell, swing, 15 reps.
- Dec 3: Three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps, for time of: 95 pound Thruster, Pull-ups.
- Dec 1: Shoulder Press 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 reps.
- Nov 30: "Tabata Something Else" Complete 32 intervals of 20 seconds of work followed by ten seconds of rest where the first 8 intervals are pull-ups, the second 8 are push-ups, the third 8 intervals are sit-ups, and finally, the last 8 intervals are squats. There is no rest between exercises.
- Nov 28: Kata
- Nov 27: Swimming
- Nov 23: Three rounds for time of: 21 Knees to elbows; 1 1/2 pood Kettlebell swing, 21 reps; 21 Push-ups; 15 foot Rope climb, 3 ascents; 20 inch Box jump, 21 reps; 21 Back extension; Walking lunge, 150 ft.
I've decided to make "non-practice" notes on CrossFit from a martial perspective, but first a summary of CrossFit:
CrossFit is a strength and training methodology used by hundreds of firemen, military folks, and martial artists that was developed by Greg Glassman, a former gymnast since the 1980s. The CrossFit site provides a great deal of free information including these seminal link explaining themselves:
- "Foundations" (2002-04)
- "What is Fitness?" (2002-10)
- "Understanding CrossFit" (2007-04)
- CrossFit Exercises. Videos of exercises, lectures, and such.
Here are a few other links on different seminal topics in CrossFit:
- "The Garage Gym" (2002-09). The basic equipment (at the time). Also in the first issue of the CrossFit Journal.
- "Garage Gym II: The Revolution" (2005-07). An update on the previous article. The CrossFite home page also has a short list of recommended suppliers.
- "Killer Workouts" (2005-05). Anyone participating in intense physical activity (like CrossFit) needs to be aware of Rhabdomyolysis [W].
- "Broad, General & Inclusive Fitness" (2007-07). Video of part of lecture by Greg Glassman.
- "Sport of Fitness Seminar" (2002-02 and 2003-03). Video of part of lecture by Greg Glassman.
For those who don't want to follow the links, let me summarize CrossFit in a paragraph. In CrossFit (although the concept should be applicable everywhere) health comes in a continuum from sick to well to fit. So engaging in health promoting activity and study is not just for "athletes" but anyone who wants to be healthy. In CrossFit, fitness should be "broad, general, and inclusive" as in the tasks in life, work, and sports varies by a great range. Thus while some may want to specialize, most should be able to do general random tasks. EG: A marathon runner specializes in endurance but may suffer in strength. There are 10 general physical skills that CrossFit wants to cover: Cardiovascular and Resperatory Endurance (oxygen processing), Stamina (energy processing), Strength, Flexibility, Power (more force in less time), Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy. There is a hierarchy of components for health: Nutrition, Metabolic Conditioning (cardio and stamina), Gymnastics (calisthenics or moving the self), Weight Lifting and Throwing (moving the non-self), Sport/Life (application and expression of health/fitness). Exercises should be functional (roughly approximate real life functions) and varied (hence widely different WODs). Intensity is preferred because powerful sessions save time and can provide metabolic conditioning too. CrossFit is empirically driven as in measuring, counting, timing, data sharing, experimenting, etc. CrossFit is a sport, the "sport of fitness" because games, playing, and competing are more fun and motivating than simply demanding fitness. CrossFit implements this sport by having people doing WOD all over the world and having them share metrics and experiences over the Internet. The inclusive factor means that the exercises should be scalable (modified depending upon age, gender, capabilities, etc.) and subbable (modified depending on equipment, capabilities, etc.).
Now onto notes on CrossFit from a martial perspective.
As far as improving fitness, CrossFit is broader and more general and more inclusive than martial arts. Martial arts focus on combat activities which most of us rarely, if ever, use in everyday life. In its defense martial arts, is broader and more general than other activities, like say running. In the CrossFit hierarchy of health components, martial arts is a "sport", i.e. a particular application of fitness. Martial arts can develop general fitness, but CrossFit develops general fitness more broadly, more generally, and more efficiently. Six months of CrossFit would advance the 10 general physical skills of a person better than 6 months of martial arts. One of the reasons is a matter of logistics. Martial arts, like CrossFit, can be done solo, but martial arts should usually done with others for two reason: Martial arts is very skills oriented and requires constant instruction at a lower level. Combat requires combatants, and preferably a variety of opponents. Most people probably don't realize it but martial arts is a very social activity! "Extra-curricular", in-person, out-of-home gatherings can be difficult to schedule around work, school, kids, chores, etc. In contrast, you can do most CrossFit workouts alone, at your own home, on your own schedule, even if sick (like I was), all the while feeling connected to the CrossFit community. It is much easier for the average person to do 5-6 days a week of CrossFit than martial arts. I am of the opinion that most people should do something like CrossFit for general fitness. People with specific sports/activities, should spend that precious scheduled time doing things very specific to their sport/activity. Even the warm ups should be largely sport/activity specific if possible.
Another thing I like about CrossFit that most martial arts do is intensity (more work in less time). Most martial arts workouts are intense and 1 hour long, maybe 2 at most. The Chicago Swordplay Guild has 4 hour long workouts, the very length of which reduces intensity. The problem with a 4 hour work out is not just that it is hard to maintain physical intensity, but mental intensity and focus as well. There's a reason that most movies don't run 3-4 hours long. The CSG motto is "ferrum non verbum" (steel, not words), and yet the workouts are padded with scholarly discussions. Some of these are discussions would be better of done after class or over a beer or in a forum or through "homework". In defense of the CSG, some of the discussions have to be done on the floor. Also in defense of the CSG, it's using Chicago Park District space and does not have full control of the space and hours. As much fun as the abrazare/unarmed half of the class is, I've had tons of that already and I want to focus on the armed portion, hence I'm going to start going to just the last half of these 4 hour classes.
I love how both CrossFit and martial arts emphasize technique/mechanics. See "Virtuosity" (2005-08). Good mechanics and beautiful technique is not just pretty but it increases safety, efficacy, and efficiency. Interestingly enough, Greg Glassman points out how you have to push the intensity such that it challenges the the perfection of your technique in this video: "Question & Answer Part 2, Coach Glassman". Perfection of technique v intensity. There is such truth in this. If you don't challenge or risk your technique, then you can't acquire virtuosity in your technique, or innovate new techniques.
I'm impressed by the work CrossFit puts into the core.
- The trunk/torso consists of 3 parts: The thorax/chest, the abdomen, and the pelvis. I consider the "core" to be the lower 2/3 of the trunk/torso. The Japanese would call this the hara.
- Martial artists often say use the "hips", but that's imprecise. The hip is actually the end of the femur (the thigh bone) and should really refer to the joint between the femur and the pelvis. CrossFit does a lot of squats, so they focus on opening/extending and closing/flexing the hip. Just to be absolutely clear: A fully flexed hip would have the knees the chest. There should be a large range of motion (ROM) from the hip joint and a lot of power.
- Not surprisingly, CrossFit does not do much with hip rotation (either laterally/externally or medially/internally), abduction (lateral lift), or adduction (medial lift). In contrast, kicking martial arts cover almost all hip ranges.
- Another major "joint" covers the lumbar vertebrae (lower back) and sacrum (the triangular base of the spine wedged into the pelvis at the sacroiliac or SI joint and just above the coccyx or tailbone). Relative to the hip joint, the SI and lumbar have little ROM and are meant for stabilization. There are two major positions to lock into (as opposed to a relaxed or neutral pelvis):
- Posterior/forward pelvic tilt, aka maintaining the lumbar curve. CrossFit does a lot of lifts, so they focus on maintaining the lumbar curve (which emphasizes stability), instead of letting you rounding your back (which might tempt you to lift with it). This is what they're talking about when they say lift with your legs and not with your back. The Fabris stance in rapier is one of the few times that the lumbar curve is used in martial arts.
- Anterior/backward pelvic tilt. aka hollow back or tucking in your tailbone. CorssFit does in running, gymnastics, at the top of squats, etc. Most upright martial arts utilize the tucked tail because the tucked tail is good for hip extension. Most of the ground martial arts use this too in falls and rolls.
- Midline stability involves stabilizing the abdomen by using your body to form a natural girdle or lifting belt. Usually you tense the obliques and create pressure in the abdominal cavity. This is often done by trying to draw the navel to the anus or similar visualization technique. In martial arts this has to be developed so that you can maintain it pretty much constantly (as in ready to receive a stomach blow) while being relaxed otherwise. Midline stability is what allows you to connect the lower body to the upper body and to transfer power and momentum. Midline stability is used everywhere in CrossFit and martial arts.
I have yet to see it in CrossFit but the above discussion on the core misses misses out on core related movements such as rotating on the vertical axis (think turning to void a bull, or turning into a blow) and traversing (think voiding to the side). While front and back movement (essentially hip flexion and extension) is common (walking, running, lifting), martial arts and chores also do a lot of vertical rotation and traversing. I suppose they'll do it with agility ladders, chopping exercises, and the like.
I'm enjoying seeing so many stance fundamentals in CrossFit: Toes and knees aligned in facing, knees bent, mind center of mass, mind eye placement, be tall. Similarly the aggressiveness in timing required in some techniques (like the Jerk) is very reminiscent many martial techniques.
CrossFit uses a lot of waves of contractions and waves of momentum transfer --very clear in the Olympic lifts. Blows and throws and blocks involves lots of momentum transfer. Of course martial arts must temper maximal momentum transfer with tactical considerations. EG: Lead with the sword forward, then step in.
CrossFit's explorations into the pose technique (pose, fall, lift) for running is also very interesting. Relying on the natural spring board of the arch of the foot makes sense. Using the gravity and the forward fall makes sense. Lifting just the foot instead of pushing makes sense for running (or robotic dogs), but a very quick single step for a blow should take advantage of a push instead of just a lift. Distinctions should be made between many steps (running), few steps (sprinting), very few steps (fighting). Clearly racers start from the balls of their feet. It's all very reminiscent of bare foot, natural foot techniques, which is done in both WMA (with period shoes) and EMA.
One of the reasons that CrossFit appeals to me is the emphasis on functional exercises. Martial arts often does exercises that approximate fighting techniques or movements.
The aikido unbendable arm demo has been around for years, but its nice to see the unbendable arm discussed from a Western perspective via Tony Blauer. I suppose the thrusting sword grip can utilize the unbendable arm if at least some of the fingers open up more. BTW: CrossFit throws in some combatives stuff but I don't think it's really their shtick. I have noticed that a good number of the CrossFit affiliates are Krav Maga folks.
Lastly I wanted to mention that CrossFit focuses on the "lower" general physical skills, while martial arts focus on "higher" skills. In one continuum you might have this: Physical, Tactical, Strategic, and Political. Or with a chess analogy: Physical covers the rules of how the pieces move; Tactical covers responding to the previous move while thinking ahead 1-2 moves; Strategic covers the over all layout leading to the end game; Political covers whether you should win or lose this game and why. A problem with the chess analogy is that the physical skill is equal for all players, but in a fight being able to physically move faster may win the fight. On the other hand: When communicating being able to physically shout louder is a fairly trivial skill compared to having something pithy to say. Or as Herodotus says in Oscar's sig: "Force has no place where there is need of skill.".
Sorry if this ran on and it wasn't edited enough, but I've already spent more time on this than I had intended to.
I've just watched a good number of fights by Lyoto Machida [W], a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who currently has 13-0 record that includes top opponents like Tito Ortiz, B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, and Stephan Bonnar. Machida's primary art is Shotokan Karate (his father is an instructor) with some Sumo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He typically uses a "southpaw" stance (in upright fighting this is usually for the left-handed with right-leg forward).
I did Shotokan Karate daily for 13 years myself (to 3rd degree) and it's about time a Shotokan guy started making it in MMA. He does techniques that are very karate. The front leg sweep is tricky because you have to catch the momentum and timing. The "spinning" back kick is a big tempo but very powerful. The one point-orientation of JKA Shotokan fosters very careful live-or-die kind of timing as opposed to brawling slug fests. A fair number of stesso tempo (same time) attacks of slipping while striking. He bows too!
The trend in MMAs is that fighter must now be well rounded in striking, wrestling, and grappling. I haven't seen much of Machida's grappling (not even with BJ!), but his striking is very good, his dirty boxing is good, his take down defense is good, his take downs are good. Machida plays smart: He plays defensively, elusively but also goes for the points and goes for the fight-ending moves. His sense of measure or distance is good, he know what he can reach and what his opponent can reach. He does a lot of feints and draws out openings from his opponent.
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