Fighting For Fitness

Special Expert Guest Article by Alexander Suaste, The Cory Holly Institute, Module Six - Training & Exercise Philosophy

The arts of war have existed since the beginning of humanity. Somebody invented fireworks in China, someone else invented grenades and pistols, and others developed sophisticated weapons like B1 bombers, F-16 fighter planes and even atomic weapons.

Without exception the passage of time has brought improvements to each invention, making them more effective. It is my personal opinion that the world of Martial Arts has to modernize and evolve as well. However, because these ancient arts originated from between 200 and as far back as 5000 years ago, they are seen as traditional and therefore "untouchable".

Normally they come from the Orient, China, Japan, Taiwan, etc., but the most contemporary have been formed and exposed in the United States to the general public. Certain disciplines of martial arts have evolved into sports such as Judo and Tae Kwon Do. Like boxing, wrestling, track and field and fencing, they have become Olympic Sport disciplines.

Let's talk about the ones we consider arts of combat. Each of these have their own traditions, legends and heroes and have become part of the culture and beliefs of the practitioners who want to preserve the movements and forms with respect to the creators and historical myths, of which most are mere exaggerations.

Since they have been passed down from generation to generation, many errors exist, and because of tradition, little or no effort has been made to improve the art and put aside the mysticism.

As with everything else, there have been exceptions and if you are or want to be a better athlete you have to ask yourself many questions. For example, what kind of body do you have, which art suits your body type, or is the environment secure and healthy? For instance, if you are flexible you have to find an art that suits your flexibility and if you are not flexible, you need to find a martial art that suits this personal characteristic.

This does not mean that a flexible person cannot learn to wrestle and a wrestler cannot learn to kick. Here is where adaptability and knowledge of the instructor is exhibited. If the instructor does not adapt to the abilities and disadvantages of your genetics and inherent characteristics of your physique, your capabilities as an athlete may, and often will, suffer. Few instructors have put forth the effort to acquire the education.

The majority of instructors have learned the same principles and ideas as explained and taught by their mentors. Unfortunately, these mentors too often rely strictly on tradition and have therefore ignored the influence of modern science on sport. In some cases tradition is used as an attractant to develop and expand business. Instructors often leave unqualified children, teens or adults in charge of large numbers of people. According to the instructors their brown belts are viewed as students that need experience to become black belts or so called Masters, but these individuals don't have understanding of crucial aspects of the discipline and art, so the emphasis again is on the mysticism and ego. As a result, they give little attention to proper application of technique and educated application of exercises.

For example, proper warm-up, stretching and adequate muscular order, or proper understanding of muscle structure and function is often disregarded, as well as what happens to the flexibility of different age groups. The expectations are often the same for everybody.

As far as technique goes, all the various styles of self-defense have something great to offer, but many instructors do not understand how to improve cardio and develop aerobic capacity, and seldom if ever is any clear instruction provided in sports nutrition before practice or competition.

In short, if you want to find a good school with professional instructors consider the following:

  • It doesn't matter how much you want to become Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan or Bruce Lee, your genetic make-up is pre-established. You cannot create a Michael Jordan from a Bruce Lee nor can you make an Arnold as agile as Bruce or Michael and the two of them could never acquire the muscle mass of Arnold.
  • To obtain the best benefits that your body can produce in the best environment ask yourself, "What are your personal abilities and what are your goals?"
  • What are the goals and training objectives of the school you have selected? What is their mission statement? Are the instructors certified? Are they qualified in areas other than the martial art? Look for qualifications in kinesiology, human kinetics, coaching, sports nutrition, personal training and first aid/CPR.
  • Never sign up with the first school you visit. Shop around, and ask if you can watch a few classes at all levels before you commit. Observe the attitudes of students and instructors.
  • Find a positive and safe environment where you can have fun and where role models inspire you in their discipline, patience, teachings. Look for great examples of health and physique.

The time of direct hand-to-hand combat in war between men is history. Don't let yourself get involved in schools that have rivalries or an attitude that fosters violence. You are there to improve your health and physique. Don't allow peer pressure to make you hurt someone or yourself. Remember that a good competitor is not necessarily a good teacher and a good teacher is not necessarily a good competitor; both are only human.

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