When I first started training Martial Arts not only was I shocked at how much of a workout it was, (I ached in places I did not know I could) but I was shocked at how much I struggled physically.
The types of training we do take advantage of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where you train a drill for say a two minute round, rest while the other side is quickly explained and then swap over the gloves and pads ready to go again. The class usually ends with some sort of burn out to really challenge your body and push your limits.
In some ways it’s the easiest workout I’ve ever done because it goes fast, is immensely enjoyable and works up a huge sweat. Then in other ways it’s the hardest I’ve ever done because I have to use my brain and memory to get the drills, move in ways that are new to me especially during ground work and because you work up a huge sweat!!
The types of training I do vary from Boxing and Jun Fan (Bruce Lee’s fighting style) to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kali.
However it’s not just actually training the martial arts that have caused my body to change and my fitness to improve. I’ve found as the martial art has asked more of my body I have had to find ways to adapt and grow in order to meet that challenges.
For one when I started I was completely burnt out after a 45 minute class, taking up running was my answer to build up stamina and my cardiovascular fitness. Every time I would run and my legs would feel like they were made of lead, my heart beating out of my chest I would picture myself on the mat and think come on you have to get through this run to be able to get through the next class.
In the summer of 2015 when I completed my first 5k run (on the hottest day of the year, what was I thinking) I literally threw my arms in the air like a sprinter crossing the finishing line. That boost in confidence shone out of me the next time I trained and has done so each and every time I’ve mastered a new technique or drill. It pushes me through the times where I can’t get something and I’m so frustrated I could cry. (Which happen to me alot because I’m an angry crier, I never cry when I’m sad only out of frustration.)
The latest addition to my fitness quest has been yoga, I am possibly the most inflexible person you could care to meet. Literally when I bend over its as though my back does not bend, a spine made from a broom handle. I use an app on my phone for beginners.
Yoga looks so pleasant in photos on Instagram and in the tutorial videos but I find it possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do with my body. It feels like a form of torture to try and touch my toes (which I am no where close to reaching by the way.) But when I get on the mat and notice my Thai kicks are landing where I want and my hips are opening up I know its worth it. One day I hope to find it a pleasurable experience.
When I was starting out the Boxing and Muay Thai classes were my favourite, every one loves to punch and kick the pads. That alone improved my mental state especially as I was working a stressful job at the time and spent a lot of hours alone. I would come off the mat dripping with sweat, anxiety blasted out and ready to spend the next few days aching from head to toe. I’d recommend it to anyone from any walk of life and I’ve met people of every type on the mat.
The other arts I found harder as like I said previously physical contact was an issue for me never mind the fact it felt complicated and hard to grasp. Kali especially often left me feeling frustrated (well actually it still does.) Slowly my confidence grew from my changing body and being able to master boxing and thai drills. I kept on trying, kept on training, kept on holding back the tears of frustration until it all started to click.
The academy where I train run a rotating curriculum which alternates the different arts for a week each and my husband laughs because each week I’ll say “Yes it’s …. week my favourite.” I couldn’t pick a favourite art anymore because the attributes I get from each of them give something different to my fitness, to my overall martial art skill and continually challenge me.
I’ve been training for two years now and have yet to go to a class where I didn’t learn something knew even when it’s a simple as tucking my chin or dropping my hips. Just when you think you’ve mastered something someone shows you a whole new way to look at it. I didn’t realise how much I enjoy learning, it’s not something we always get the opportunity for as adults who’ve finished education and reached career goals.
The best way to get fighting fit is to simply start. However big the challenge feels know and believe that you can and will overcome it. As your skills grow and your body adapts so too will your mind and eventually the impossible becomes natural. Your muscles have memory and through repetition the movements become second nature.
Listen to your body and train for what it needs. Listen to your fears and then overcome them anyway.