A little more on conditioning

In this Vlog I mention the approach I take to anaerobic threshold drills. I thought I would take a few moments to flesh this out a little for you folks. Check out the vlog and then read more below.

I mentioned waving my work load, and here is how I schedule the wave. For illustration purposes let’s say I’m going to do my threshold work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

  • Week one; my Monday session will be one minute drills and I will do three reps. I’ll rest one minute between reps. On Wednesday the session will consist of four reps, with one minute rest between reps. Friday’s session will be five reps with one minute between reps.
  • Week two; Monday is four reps with one minute rest between reps. Wednesday we do five reps, and Friday we’ll bang out six reps. Keeping rest periods at one minute.
  • Week three; Monday is five reps, Wednesday will be six reps, and finish Friday strong with seven reps. Still only resting one minute between reps.
  • Week four; Monday begins with six reps, Wednesday is seven reps and Friday we grind out eight reps. You know the drill, one minute rest between reps.
  • Week five; Monday we start strong with seven reps, Wednesday we’ll do eight, and we’ll make Friday our bitch with nine reps. Still an entire one minute rest between reps.
  • Week six; Things are starting to get interesting. Monday is eight reps, Wednesday is nine reps, and thank God for Friday because we finish with ten reps.

That completes one conditioning cycle. With threshold drills I mix a variety of events to keep it interesting. Sandbag lifts, sprints, side-shuffles, bounding, jumps, kettlebell swings, ropes, burpees, and other non-weighted explosive movements can be chained together to provide us with two minutes of continuous effort. The objective is to stay moving, and really push our anaerobic limits.

It absolutely sucks however, we want to learn to be comfortable in discomfort and this is one method to achieve that objective. Think of this as toughness training, don’t cheat yourself, be tough, gut it out and reap the rewards.

Common ground

In this endeavor we are driven to walk in a variety of circles that at times have seemingly little or no common ground. The objective is to find a way to holistically integrate everything we do by finding that common ground, the truisms that transcend the boundaries of each element. Thinking about this while looking through some pictures from last years Rangemaster Tactical Conference, I found one in which the legendary Mas Ayoob photo-bombed us. Seeing this photo reminded me of a few things that stuck with me from that training session and from the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

  • 1) Be a student of the game, always. I watched legends in this field, guys I read about in the police academy, taking blocks of instruction alongside folks that had never taken a formal class. These living legends were there to learn first, and even when teaching they still have an inquiry mindset.
  • 2) Be genuine, humble, and have a sense of humor. If Tom Givens, John Farman, Mas Ayoob, Chuck Haggard, Craig Douglas, and Wayne Dobbs can crack jokes, ask questions of regular Janes and Joes, and freely give of their knowledge? You know where I’m going with this… Be cool. Don’t be an asshole.
  • 3) The little things we do mean a lot more to others than we think they do. Mas Ayoob took a good chunk of time to walk me through the history, the why’s and how’s of the Ayoob Wedge so that I would better understand it for my own use and to share with others. That had a ginormous impact on me as a student and coach/teacher.
  • 4) My dad used to say that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason; to listen twice as much as you talk. Having the opportunity to stand nearby and listen as legends in this endeavor discussed various aspects of this thing we do was priceless. Some things didn’t mean much to me at the time but a few months later it clicked. As Super Dave Harrington says, “Everything is important. Everything matters.” Even a conversation that at the time doesn’t make a lot of sense might later give you the insight you need to make a good decision. Don’t overlook the value of a seed planted. Be a sponge, particularly when in the company of folks that have been doing this as long or longer than you and I have been alive.

In summary, while this post is specific to my thoughts about the 2016 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, I could switch out some names and it could easily be about a SBG training camp or Shivworks Collective course. It’s really interesting to me that I keep finding the same common ground with everyone I’m privileged to train with or spend time around. If I were to make a Venn Diagram where the circles of the Shivworks Collective, the Straight Blast Gym, Rangemaster, The Site, and guy’s like Super Dave Harrington’s influence meet in my personal development there would be huge overlap in the areas stressing; training hard but intelligently, being cool, don’t be an asshole, and always be dangerous.

You need to be punched in the face

Quite a few years ago I read an interview with an actor that was burning it down in Hollywood. He was featured in quite a few action movies with some fairly epic fight scenes. This actor, as the star of the movie, always won the fight regardless of the odds. This was all well and good as entertainment but somewhere along the line the actor began to believe the hype. In the interview the actor talked about his wife receiving love letters from her fans. The actors response was that he wanted to write these fans and tell them, “you’ve seen my movies haven’t you? That’s me in those fight scenes. I’m actually doing that.”  

Once I was able to stop shaking my head it occurred to me that this actor was similar to a lot of us. Untested, and unchallenged, he wrongfully assumed “beating up” stunt men paid to take falls and make him look good equalled skill. He, like all of us, really needed to get punched in the face. When it comes to self protection skills we need to have been hit. We need to regularly put ourselves under pressure, have someone trying to tear our head off and know we can deal with it. We have to learn that which doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger. The more comfortable we can be in uncomfortable circumstances the better we will perform when the chips are down.

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Circa 2000, Coach and founder of the Straight Blast Gym International contributing to my brain damage. 

There’s really only one way to know what we are capable of, if we can take a hit, stay on our feet and throw a shot back even harder. We have to BE about it. This is simply a search for the truth, do I have what it takes? Am I able to do what I think I can do? There really is no other way. We can delude ourselves like the actor, thinking untested skill equates to actual skill or we can test ourselves regularly and KNOW our capabilities. Of course the punch in the face language is any test that involves opposing wills. We can encounter the same challenge on the mat in any Brazilian JiuJitsu academy or Judo dojo. There is never any shortage of folks willing to toss us on our head or choke us out in their own quest for the truth.

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Look at this man, the one, the only, The Nature Boy Ric Flair. You don’t get this look of supreme confidence by living an untested life. Test yourself my friends. WWRFD?

Do the work, be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Train intensely, train intelligently and be dangerous.

Lighten up Francis

This post is a bit of a cautionary posting. The self defense world is full of guys named Francis, they just don’t know it. When I hear them talking immediately this scene from the movie Stripes starts playing in my head. I just can’t help it. I think one of the worst things folks can do is make this endeavor an overly grim, serious affair. That’s not to say we think this is badminton, we understand we’re talking about dealing with multiple adversaries with malevolent intent, and the stakes involved.

Some of us have actually had to solve that problem in real time and been in situations where we legitimately believed we would die if we lost the fight. Yes Francis, we realize it is serious business. When I look at my training history and the intensity I brought to practice and training, I can certainly categorize it into pre/post incidents. Most folks I know that bear some scars can say the same. If they survived their first incident and are intact enough to get another chance, they realize how much more intensely they need to prepare for the next incident.

Yet as serious as all of this might be? At some point we’ve got to lighten up or it all becomes a drudgery and unsustainable. When practice and training become something we HAVE to do as opposed to something we GET to do, the countdown until we walk away from all of this has begun. This thing we do is a life long endeavor, we will spend our life attempting to achieve a performance objective that will always be just a little further away. If we don’t find a way to have fun with this, we will never sustain the effort. Watch the two clips below, the first is a short clip of baby Gorillas playing. The second is of adult Gorillas fighting.

If we watch these clips we see very little difference in the physical movements. Wrestling, and striking with the only real difference being the mental or emotional state of the Gorillas. One clip shows effort they can sustain for a long time, and learn a metric ton that will apply to real world application, the other clip not so much. My friend Luis Gutierrez created a program a long time ago that still works today, it’s called PAW which stands for Play As the Way. I often look at the PAW approach to training and think we as adults could stand to inject a bit more fun and games into our training program. The movements are the same, the intent is not.

Now, I’m willing to admit that I, and most of you, are wired a little different which explains why we do the things we do. While some guys and gals are spending their evenings playing softball or bowling, we are getting punched in the face, choked out, hit with sticks or running and gunning at a USPSA, IDPA or 3-gun match. Sometimes we do all those things at once in a multidisciplinary evolution. So yeah, we are wired a little differently however, we have to keep it all in perspective. This is fun. We enjoy doing this stuff. Really we do, see this black eye? Proof I had fun!

In his book; The New Toughness Training for Sports, Dr James Loehr writes about the need to find positivity and fun in the grind of daily or ongoing effort. Dr Loehr tells us that the Ideal Performance State that is necessary to excel in competition is developed in practice and training. We can train while in a flight or fight state or we can train while in a challenge response state. The place we develop this is in the training hall where we teach ourselves that this is fun, this is a challenge or a puzzle that we enjoy solving. Although this book was written some time ago, it is still an excellent resource.

If we aren’t having fun and enjoying the massive amount of time we spend on this journey, it’s time to re-evaluate our approach. Find a way to lighten up, have some fun, train with intensity and intelligence, and when the time comes be dangerous.

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Apparently it’s much more fun when you win! This is a pic of my brother David and our father after one of David’s boxing matches.