Monday, July 30, 2012

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes

This is a continuation of Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Beginners 

For more advanced practitioners with a solid cardiovascular base, your heart and lungs stop being the limiting factor for your performance as much, and your utilised muscles become a limiting factor. Your muscles utilise 3 different energy systems, and without getting too much into the chemistry and biology of it, they can be explained as:
  • ATP-PC: All exercise starts with this system and it lasts for about 3-10 seconds of near max effort. It provides energy very quickly and is important for max strength and powerful movements.
  • Anaerobic system: Kicks in about 3-5 seconds in, and runs for the length of your exercise. High rate of energy generation, but can reach its limits relatively quickly.
  • Aerobic system: Starts running after about 10-30 seconds of effort. It has a slower rate of energy generation but lasts for much longer.
Your aerobic and anaerobic systems work in concert, with each feeding the other, both utilised in different quantities to meet your energy needs, as your intensity increases you utilise your anaerobic system more, and at longer lower intensities, you rely on your aerobic system more.
Importantly your body becomes better at performing using the energy systems at the levels you use them at. That means to improve your cardio while sparring, you should make your cardio workouts as similar to sparring as possible. The current national rules for WTF sparring this is 3 rounds of 1:30 with 30 second breaks in between for Open Division Black Belts, so we should train like this.
So we will structure our workout with the same times in mind, but we are going to add one extra round to add that volume of training to your work. So in the case of 3 rounds of 1:30, we will do 1 and a half minutes of work, then 30 seconds rest, doing nothing. Then we repeat that 3 more times.
If your number of rounds, and/or round and rest times differ, adjust your interval times accordingly.
So what do we do in that 1 and half minutes? Well we can take 2 different approaches (and use them together.) Firstly we could do some general conditioning, this is any form of cardio, such as running or swimming; my favourite being the rowing machine as nice easy full body work. In our work time we want to get as far as possible in the minute and a half we have, this is our benchmark for performance.
A sample session would look like this:
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Finish
Now, what do we do with these distances? Well I'm sure you understand the importance of not going all out in the first round and having nothing left for the last, so we're going to take an easy approach to scoring your effort; you just record the shortest distance achieved. So if you got to 200m, 205m, 190m, 315m; your score would be 190m, as it is the shortest, this is the score you want to improve over time, so pacing is very important.

This style of general conditioning is really handy, as you can do it by yourself, and track your results easily and objectively, but the carry over to your sparring performance isn't as good as it could be, that's where sport's specific conditioning comes in.
Sports specific conditioning aims to replicate your actual competition environment as closely as possible. So what I like to do is pick a few of my staple moves (for instance axe kick and roundhouse) and aim for high repetitions. An example would be:
  • Alternating legs roundhouse kick for 1:30 (record number of kicks)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Repeat 3 more times
Again you would record the lowest number of kicks for the 4 rounds and try and improve this.
I would also do this for my axe kick, making sure to keep my scores separate as they aren't comparable.
Another variation is to add in a some footwork as a separate drill (e.g inch in to roundhouse, inch back out) you will get less repetitions for the same time, but it better simulates the requirements on your body.
Try these out and let me know your scores.

Alex is a Kukkiwon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo -
New Form Fitness –

Who to Look Out for in the 2012 Olympics

The Olympics have just recently started, but the Taekwondo games haven't begun yet!

There are a few competitors every person should be looking out for:

Steven Lopez- Obviously, he is one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport. After coming out with a bronze at the last Olympics, he is determined to earn a gold medal this time.

Lutalo Muhammad- All of England's eyes will be on this athlete. After the recent controversy of him replacing the #1 in his weight division, Aaron Cook, his performance will determine whether this was a wise choice or not.

Yousef Karami- Representing the Islamic Republic of Iran, Karami is one of the best competitors in the sport, leaving a trail of gold medals and landslide victories in his path, wining numerous World Championships and the Asian Championships over the last 9 years.

Lee Dae-Hoon- the recent rookie addition to Korea's national team is expected to do very well. Known for a slightly reckless style of fighting, his appearances in the ring are expected to entertain the crowd.

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Beginners

What is the best form of cardiovascular fitness for a Taekwondo athlete? Is it a long distance run? Short sprints up a hill? Swimming? To find the answer we have to know a little something about how energy systems and how the body adapts to exercise.
The core of your cardiovascular fitness and health is the performance of you heart, lungs and your vascular system (veins, arteries and capillaries). If you are just beginning to exercise, then chances are these will be the weak links in the chain, and thus the limiting factor in your cardiovascular performance.

To increase the performance of these links efficiently we tend to use long steady state cardio. Going for a run, swim, walk, bike ride etc., will all meet this need and exercising anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes is generally enough volume to improve as a beginner.
What you need to pay attention to is your pace. Since you are trying to build up the performance of your heart and lungs, you need to pay attention their limits. The mistake most beginners make when starting out is exercising at a pace that feels good for their legs (in the case of running) but they quickly get “gassed”. A good tip for finding your pace, is exercise so that you are able to talk but not be able to carry on a conversation. Once you find this pace, try to maintain it for the time you set out to exercise for.
For Beginners:
  • Pick an exercise such as walking, running, bike riding or swimming
  • Pick a time to exercise for, from 20-60 minutes
  • Maintain a steady pace for this time, pay attention to your breathing (should be able to talk but not converse/sing)
  • Record your distance covered, laps, etc.
  • Next time try and increase your distance in the same time, or run the same pace for a longer time
Once you're comfortable with your cardiovascular performance and you want to improve your performance in your sparring matches, read the next part: Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes

Alex is a Kukkiwon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo -
New Form Fitness –

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Back Kick

What is the Back Kick?

The back kick (뒤 차기 - Dwi Chagi) is much like the side kick taken up to eleven. It is easily the most powerful kick in a Taekwondo user’s arsenal, an excellent move for both offense and defense, and its mastery will make the user a very formidable opponent to anyone they compete against.


The standard back kick (executed from a fighting/sparring stance) on its most shallow surface is a side kick with an extra step before execution, albeit instead of being delivered in line with your body’s profile it is perpendicular to the profile.  From sparring stance twist so that your back is show to your target , bend and lift up your rear leg so that your heel is at least at your knee height, stop your shoulders from twisting and extend your leg so that the bottom your heel comes in contact with your target at about torso height. If you did everything right you should have executed a crude back kick.

However, crude doesn’t win points, and this simple explanation does not really emphasize where the strength of the back kick comes from: the twist. The reason the back kick (and the back spin kick by the same principle) can completely outclass the side kick in terms of strength is the speed and power the torsion of your hips and shoulders can provide. The hips and shoulders generate immense amounts of rotational energy, all of which gets transferred into linear momentum through the halting of the shoulders. The generation of this rotation begins, like with all spins, the head. Spinning your head around to see your target increases your overall speed as well as ensures you remain on target. Additional torsion is generated by swinging your arms in the rotational direction and then swinging them back mid spin. The halting of the shoulders is exactly what it sounds like; when your back is facing your opponent (after about 180 degrees of rotation) simply lock your shoulders in place while allowing your hips to continue to spin and your leg to extend. Your torso should be collinear with your kicking leg, not your balance leg, but your head should be looking over your shoulder at your target.



The ideal situation for the counter back kick is when your opponent jumps, lunges, dashes, or does any straight motion right towards you.  The reach of the back kick ensures that once they commit to the movement there is no escape. Even if they halt just outside of their kicking range the stretch of your kick should allow you to make solid contact.  But let’s say that you are in the midst of an onslaught of blows and in full retreat. Your opponent is too close for you to fit in a side or front kick and they have too much momentum for a roundhouse kick to stop. A small extra step back into a hopping back kick will stop them dead in their tracks (providing that they are not attacking with pushing kicks and you maintained a good stance during your retreat). Back kick is even a counter to another back kick if you are faster or have longer legs (preferably both) than your opponent.  A less tangible benefit to the back kick is the fear a good back kick user can cause. Catching your opponent off-guard may cause them to become too afraid to make a committed assault.


The offensive back kick is a bit trickier. In order to properly execute and offensive back kick you need to force your opponent to move back in a straight line, as opposed to the defensive back kick where your opponent’s motion sets up the kick for you.  This requirement makes the back kick an excellent finisher to a combination. Although it’s a bit more risky, a stepping back kick can be used to close a large distance between you and your opponent. The step in is a fake (or real) roundhouse kick, and if they retreat backwards, chase them with the back kick.  The risk comes in if they decide to dodge to the sides, because if you fail to notice and throw out a back kick you will leave yourself wide open to whatever your opponent wants. On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you are too close to your opponent.  Neither of you are able to kick, yet if one backs the other follows.  From here there are two paths: take a quick back step or use jabs to create the space. Both have the same result, as once the space is created a quick jumping back kick will be hard to avoid.

Final Thoughts

While throwing slow or poor kicks never puts you in a good position, throwing a bad back kick is especially precarious. Besides the large amounts of practice required to mechanically perform the kick, timing is also a key element, the lack of which could turn an otherwise flawless back kick into a perfect opening for your opponent, or worse. Of course this presents a catch-22 of sorts: the only way to get better is to practice but practicing may not make you better because a poorly executed kick may hinder you both physically by getting countered and mentally by not feeling comfortable using the kick. Other kicks do not have this problem as they are easier to use in a probing manner, whereas the back kick requires a full commitment to function properly. Because of this drills are especially important for developing a base confidence level in the back kick.


DISCLAIMER: As for all kicks, but especially one as powerful as the back kick, there needs to be well-communicated boundaries regarding equipment usage and power. Not everyone may be willing to take a full strength kick even with the proper equipment, especially if there is a drastic size difference between partners. None of these drill require you to slug the target at hard as you can. Real power and effectiveness comes from the technique, not how hard you can kick, so please be considerate when practicing.


These drills are designed to help develop the fundamentals of the technique. They work by isolating key components of the technique so that the individual skills required receive focused attention.

Horse Kick

  • Punching Bag
  • Partner
  • Kicking Shield

At the start of this article I framed the back kick in terms of a side-kick variant, and while the sidekick is a very apt comparison for an introduction to the kick, it does not give weight to the differences between the kicks. This drill serves to demonstrate what separates a side kick from a back kick by focusing on the second half of the back kick.

Stand at about arm’s length away from the shield/bag with your back facing the shield/bag and enter a small horse stance. Turn your head over your shoulder to look at the shield/bag while dropping your body down so it is about parallel with the ground and throwing your arms to the opposite side. At the same time your kicking leg (same side as the shoulder you’re looking over) should be brought straight up and then extended straight back in a manner similar to a horse’s kick (hence the name of the drill).

Partner’s Note: Even though your gear is called a shield, you should not try to an immovable wall when kicked, it will hurt. When contact is made don’t tense up, but don’t fall back prematurely either, as an unexpected miss might injure your partner. Simply allow yourself to be pushed as far as your partner pushes, and both of you can continue to practice safely.

Bum Rush

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear or kicking shield

This drill practices the stopping power a back kick can provide by focusing on your weight distribution after the kick, as well as some timing practice. A kicking shield is preferred as it will be more comfortable for the holder but sparring gear will do.

Stand across from the holder about six feet or so, enough that neither of you could touch each other with a fully stretched kick, in fighting/sparring stance or back stance. The holder will attempt to run straight at you and knock you over. When they come close enough, deliver a full back kick to stop them. After contact, your weight should be focused on your kicking foot as you drop it down in front of your target, i.e if you were to try and hold your kicking leg up you would fall forward onto it. If your weight is still focused on your balance leg (or your body is too straight) your kick will be unable to stop your partner and they will knock you back.

Partner’s Note: It is very important that once you start charging you do not stop. A more advanced form of this drill involves you trying to bait out the back kick with fake charges, but once you actually charge you must commit. Be sure to give a brief resting period in between each kick so that your partner can readjust their stance.  


Once the fundamentals of the technique have been learned, these drills enter the realm of application. The situations provided in the drill are much more alike to an actual sparring match than before, but still controlled in scope.

Open Counter

  • Partner
  • Sparring Gear

This drill helps develop speed and body reading as your reaction must vary with what your partner chooses to do.

Stand at about kicking distance from your partner in an open fighting/sparring stance (open meaning your front leg is the opposite of your partner’s, so left leg and right leg and vice versa. It can also be thought of as having both torsos face the same direction). Your partner has the choice of delivering a normal roundhouse kick, or a jumping front-leg roundhouse kick. If they deliver a regular roundhouse kick, immediately deliver a regular back kick or take a small step back to avoid the kick, and then immediately counter when they miss. If they jump, then you too must jump, but a sparring jumping back is closer to simultaneously switching feet and kicking than it is to an actual jump. Jumping too high will result in a slower kick, meaning you are less likely to get a point for your counter if you are even fast enough at all. It should be noted that the retreating steps are optional as they are not the focus of this drill, but it allows this drill to be a little two-in-one for both stepping and back kick.

Partner’s Note: Again, once you and your partner have reached a comfortable level, adding feints will allow your partner’s reading ability to improve even further.

Closed Counter

  • Partner
  • Sparring Gear

This drill is very similar to the open counter drill, except it is a bit more fast-paced due to the difference in allowed kicks.

Just like the open counter, stand across from your partner in a closed stance this time (you should both have the same leg forward i.e left and left or right and right, or your torsos should be in opposite directions). This time your partner’s options are a sliding front leg roundhouse kick or a regular roundhouse kick. When they throw a sliding roundhouse kick, immediately counter with a back kick, this time without steps. However, when they throw a normal roundhouse kick you must step back to avoid it first, and then counter.

Close Jumping Back Kick

  • Kicking bag
  • Partner
  • Sparring gear of kicking shield

This drill practices the close range back kick, but also helps develop the coordination required for more advanced spinning techniques (such as 360, 540, 720 etc kicks).

Stand in a small horse stance with one shoulder on or very close to the target so that your body profile is perpendicular to the target. From there, jump with both legs at the same time while turning your head away from the target and deliver a back kick. You should notice that it is very hard to lower your shoulders as you did before in a normal back kick. That is because in spinning techniques your body must remain straight to allow you to stay balanced while you spin. The rotation must be generated from your arms instead. This also makes it more difficult to add power to the kick, and while a jumping back kick will never be as powerful as a standing one, moderate power can be achieved with practice.

Partner’s Notes: As opposed to earlier techniques, try to hold your position more during this drill. Again, do not tense up but try to offer more resistance.

Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear or kicking shield

This drill practices the most simple attacking back kick combination. This drill has more advanced applications that will be discussed in the advanced section. A kicking bag can be used instead of a partner in this exercise but will not provide the full benefit that a partner will. This exercise also has benefits to your partner that, should you choose to use the kicking shield, will be lost.

Stand apart from your partner like in the open/closed stance drill. If your stance is open, attack with a regular roundhouse kick. Your partner should attempt to backstep to avoid the kick, after they step drop you kicking leg to the ground and perform a back kick with your rear leg. If your stance is closed the idea is the same, but instead of a normal roundhouse kick deliver a sliding front leg roundhouse kick. To increase your speed when you deliver                                                            the roundhouse kick instead of driving through like a single roundhouse kick, return to the chamber position before putting down your kicking leg. As a side note kicking like this greatly increases speed thus allowing for more kicks in a combination.


These advanced drills now use multiple separate techniques in tandem to fully explore the usage of the technique in sparring scenarios.
Side-Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Kicking shield

This drill practices the combination of two of the most powerful counter-moves: the side kick and back kick. This drill can also be adapted for practicing back spin kick (add a kicking target above the shield.

Stand in a manner similar to the jumping back kick drill, except this time place your front leg on the shield so that it looks somewhere in between a chambered side kick and a fully extended one, tending towards the chamber. Adjust your weight so that the majority is on your balance foot. When ready, turn your head around and drop your front leg back and deliver a back kick simultaneously. The drill is somewhat reminiscent of the horse kick drill in this way. A more advanced form of this drill is to start farther back and have the holder step in to your side-back kick combination.

Partner’s Note: It is especially important not to move during this drill, as you will be supporting some of your partner’s weight and moving may cause them to injure themselves.

Chasing Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear of kicking shield

This drill is a more advanced variant of the Back Kick Combination drill. It incorporates advanced stepping techniques to allow you to more closely follow a retreating opponent. As for the back kick combination drill, using a kicking shield or bag will not provide the full experience of the drill, but is still permissible.

This drill is nearly identical the back kick combination drill. The differences are firstly: the starting kick is not important and can be replaced with a fake kick or a step if you choose, and secondly: when delivering the back kick, after your leg is chambered perform a small hop to chase your partner. The hop and kick are not to be delivered simultaneously, however, as that would equate to a switching back kick (a counter move). This hop allows you to cover a greater distance while still maintaining the power of the back kick. It should be noted that the goal of the hop is to cover horizontal distance, not vertical distance.


  • Incredibly versatile
  • Incredibly powerful
  • Very fast with practice
  • Psychological deterrent to attacks

  • Easy to avoid
  • Misses leave user exposed
  • Inefficient without practice and experience

Friday, July 27, 2012


Here are some tips from a RBSD fighter. His name is Luke Brown and his fighting style relies on realistic situational training.

Don't get emotionally attached to your system. If something from somewhere else works better, use it. If another entire system is better, drop yours like it was nothing and switch.

Technique should be similar to instinct, because it's what you do anyway. There's no reason to learn things that are going to go away when things goes down. Elbow cages and the SPEAR are the best example of this that I can think of. If things are flying at you, you'll automatically do something similar to that, anyway.

Train for multiple attackers and don't think that stacking works every time. Nobody wants to get hit, so the one that gets you will probably be to the side or behind (360 degree defense).

Train for emotional content. All the sharpness of technique in the world isn't going to help when you freak out and can't think.

Do scenario drills over regular sparring. It's exceedingly rare that someone will square off with you in the street.

Give yourself permission to hurt your attacker, fully accepting whatever consequences occur. A big problem with martial artists, even good ones, is that they hold back too much when fighting happens.

Don't let your pride stop you from running if it's real bad. If you're fighting 3+ people, you should find an opening and get the hell out of there.

Once the fight starts, don't stop attacking until the fight is over or your opening has been made to get away. You should be on them like white on rice, not giving them any time to think. It should be a constant barrage of whatever techniques you got. If you're not going to run, then the fight's not over until your attacker is unconscious, running away, or screaming in pain because something is broken (maybe not even then).

Train righty and lefty and from non-fighting stances. A lot of fights start after you get hit. If they're on your left, you'll probably be left foot forward when it starts and visa versa.

Don't forget that you have teeth, nails, elbows, and knees.

Don't forget that they may have a weapon you don't see.

Don't forget that the world can be a weapon. Rocks, dirt, sticks, walls, the corner of a building, etc.

A fist can break a face, but a face can break a fist.

Although you might be using techniques, you should fight with the ferocity of a wild animal protecting its young. Rip them apart. Make noise. Scare the hell out of them. When they're freaking out, they're fighting like crap.

Luke Brown


Luke Brown's training place for RBSD street combat skills can be found at

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Krav Maga Effective?

       Martial arts crazes come and go, and the new craze seems to be Krav Maga. Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense system that has gained popularity all over the globe in a matter of just a few years. The real question is: is it effective?

Just as with any martial art, just about anything can be made "effective". Krav Maga was originally a form of "street MMA", an attempted precursor to JKD, by which it tried to take effective techniques from all arts and unite them under one banner. This was adapted by the Israeli army in the 50's and is used to this date.  However, the fascination with "Krav Maga techniques" is ill-founded, as the attacks, strikes, and defenses are cobbled together from other martial arts. The knife attack and defense techniques in Krav Maga can almost all be found in older military manuals from World War 2 and the conflicts afterwards. Many techniques are taken straight from Taekwondo and Karate "one step" or "reaction" sparring drills. What does all of this mean? It means that Krav Maga has all the necessary tools to become an effective martial art, with the proper training. Regarding the nature of Krav Maga's "no nonsense" self defense attitude, this means that the proper training would most likely be military training.

The civilian world can't offer this kind of training, due to a combination of potential law suits and a general lack of perserverence and willingness. So what is being seen more and more often? Quite similar to the McDojo-ization of Taekwondo, Krav Maga is undergoing a "dumbing down". Businesses have made millions on selling Krav Maga as an effective method of self-defense while offering poor instruction, opponents that don't resist, and no full contact sparring. Millions more have been made selling it as a cardio workout program to overweight soccor moms and bored white-collar workers.

However, when regarding "true" Krav Maga, ineffective methods and practices also exist. Many gun defenses are downright suicidal. Having techniques that are "too dangerous to use in a sparring situation" are highly suspect in the first place and simply aren't practiced, such as fishhooks. This is why Krav Maga is only practiced in U.S Army branches that are unlikely to see hand-to-hand combat, while a seperate system is taught to the U:S Army and Marines. The argument that "if the Israeli Army uses it, it must be effective" is very poor when one considers that the Israeli state would have collapsed numerous times without U.S military funding and intelligence.

All in all, Krav Maga has potential. Is it quite there yet? Not by a long shot. It has yet to constistently prove itself in the ring. Is there hope? We will see.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Elbow Strike

Striking with the Elbow

The elbow is a striking surface often neglected in arts outside of Thai boxing. Why is it useful? The elbow is a far harder striking surface than the fist. There are also less pain receptors and nerves. The fact that the elbow is more tapered than the knuckles also allows it to hit smaller targets.

When Should You Strike With the Elbow?

Just as with any strike, the elbow can technically be used at all ranges. Jumping elbows are a spectacular, if rare, occaison where elbows are used at a longer range.However, the prime range is within clinching range, that is to say, within less than a meter.

Where Should You Strike With the Elbow?

Prime targets are areas that are usuallz too hard to strike with the fist.

1. The skull
2. The face
3. The sternum
4. The area behind opponent's elbow

These areas would usually break or injure the fist or instep if struck.

How to Do a Hook Kick

What is a Hook Kick?

The hook kick is a kick that is predominantely seen in Taekwondo. Although seen in some forms of Karate, it is a spectacular knockout kick mostly observed in Olympic sparring.

How to Do a Hook Kick

1. Start out in the standard fighting stance. You will be kicking with your rear leg.

2. Chamber your leg into the standard chambering position.

3. Rotate the supporting leg and foot. Bring your knee past the intended target.

4. Snap the lower part of the leg and extend it to within 5 to 7 inches of the target, Then snap it towards and through the target by retracting the kicking leg while snapping it back. At the same time, pull back the entire leg with your hips.

What Part of the Foot Should You Be Striking With?

There are two options: the heel or the flat of the foot.

The heel is the more traditional method. There is a slightly decreased range, but the striking surface is far denser and heavier. The flat of the foot is used more in Olympic sparring for an extended range. This method is slightly faster, but does not deal as much damage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can You Lose Weight With Martial Arts?

   Millions of Americans and people all over the world are constantly looking for a way to maintain a healthy weight. Because activities like running or weightlifting is mundane for many people, funner activities are often desired. One of these is martial arts. Can they help you lose weight? Yes and no.

There are many different kinds of martial arts. There are hard martial arts, soft martial arts, martial arts that focus on striking, and others that attempt to submit the enemy. Which ones are best for weight loss?

One category can be ruled out almost immediately: internal martial arts. This includes Aikido, much of Hapkido, Tai Chi, and certain schools of Kung Fu. These schools often focus more on meditation and mental development. Exercise is often very light. The techniques rely mostly on leverage and control in a manner that exerts little or no energy. Thus, these arts are not ideal at all for weight loss or muscle gain.

The two most effective genres of martial arts for weight loss are striking arts and grappling arts. Striking styles such as Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Karate require lots of aerobic and anaerobic exercise to achieve a level of skill. Bodyweight exercises that require management of your own weight are very common, such as pushups and situps. Repetitions of kicks and punches are a consistent part of exercise and can be executed in an aerobic or anaerobic manner, depending on whether speed or strength is the goal.

Grappling arts are also very effective for weight loss. Although much of judo and jiujitus relies on using you and your enemy's momentum and weight against them while actually sparring/rolling, practice consists to a great extent of incredibly difficult core exercises ideal for losing weight.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Stretching Bad for You?

Seeing as stretching is a common and traditional part of Taekwondo, it may seem like a shock to some when they are told that stretching can be unhealthy and detrimental to their performance. Specifically, static stretches have been proven to be damaging to runners by studies ranging from the deserts of Las Vegas to the frigid areas of Scandinavia. All over the world, the traditional idea of stretching and holding a certain position before a workout is being thrown out the window.

 As quoted:

“Science has moved on… many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 or 30 seconds, known as static stretching-primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them.”
 -William Holcomb, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

While the research has largely been conducted on sports such as running, Taekwondo contains many of the same elements. Taekwondo contains elements of both cardiovascular and anaerobic exercise, as well as many of the same muscular movements in the legs as running sports. Overstretching is a problem, especially when done to the point of pain, and will weaken both strength and speed, such as diminishing the "snap" of a kick, before a workout or sparring match. The muscles will sometimes not even cope with the strain they are being forced to exert, causing collapse or severe injury if overstretched. Stretching has been proven in tests to decrease the force a muscle can exert by about 30% for a short time after the initial stretch.

What do kinesiologists and scientists recommend instead? A warm up that begins slowly and increases in intensity. For example, before class, it would be recommended to first jog, then run, then sprint for a short while. Basically, this is just cardio/aerobic exercise. For kicking exercises, it would be recommended to begin swinging the leg back and forth, slowly working up to a stretch kick. This is called dynamic stretching. Why is this better? Exercises that put your body into motion supply blood to the muscles of the body, while warming the muscles, which allows them to extract and use oxygen from the blood stream far more effectively. Oxygen is required to produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate)", a molecule that breaks down in order to release energy to the body. "Cold" stretching skips this vital step, which can do more harm than good.