Why I don’t like boxercise

Please note that this article is not intended to criticise individual instructors, but rather a comment against the current system of education and qualifications in pad work.  I love training and teaching pad work routines.  Using pads is an integral part of martial arts training and brings great benefits.  It is a great way to improve fitness, coordination, strength and self-confidence.  My issue with Boxercise and other similar systems is the time it takes to become a qualified instructor.  Being able to hold pads and being able to punch pads are two sets of skills and to become skilful in anything takes time.  To be able to effectively teach these skills requires experience as well as knowledge of teaching in either a 1-2-1 or group situations.

012In browsing through social media I have noticed a surge of instructors offering pad work.  From the images and videos I have seen it appears as though they have very little experience of how to hold pads safely.  Seeing the way that they hold these pads raises the question in my mind why are they teaching?  It turns out that in order to qualify as a pad work instructor typically only requires a one day course – that is why they are teaching.  However, being able to obtain an instructing qualification quickly extends beyond the realm of pad work.  When I did my PT qualification we received 4 hours of kettlebell training.  After this we were assessed on what we had learnt and having passed this assessment all of the participants on my course were qualified in kettlebell instruction. I found this slightly surprising and so I spoke with my classmates about their confidence in teaching kettlebells.  Most of them said that they did not wish to teach kettlebells because they had no prior experience and did not feel that the training they had received was enough for them to feel confident in teaching others correctly.

In my opinion this system of having just a 4-8 hour course to train instructors will sooner or later result in injury.  Recent studies suggest that the shortest time it takes to learn a new skill 20 hours (for example: https://first20hours.com/) with more traditional views suggesting it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.  Certainly in the case of martial arts I think 10,000 hours is more realistic – I am not aware of anyone who has been able to proficiently learn a martial art in 20 hours!  Even the fast learning systems implemented in organisations such as the Army to fast track soldiers to be combat ready takes 140 hours.

As an example of the types of areas covered by these 1 day instructors courses please find below an extract from the Boxercise website of the topics covered in 1 day:

“Punches – learn and practise the eight fundamental punches ensuring correct & safe technique. Learn the importance of good footwork and stance.

Group Work Section including instructing skills & Boxercise Aerobics       

Boxing Equipment Discussion and good practise recommendations. Class format and design.

Padwork – Learn all the relevant safety and coaching points for using the focus pads. Also learn how to coach every punching fault so you are prepared for when it occurs in a real world situation.

Assessment – Working in pairs you will be assessed on your ability to coach, teach and instruct a novice puncher and demonstrate all punches safely and effectively. Pass mark 70%.

Class Examples of four different styles of Boxercise class, including bootcamp style.       

The Boxercise Instructor Course includes footwork drills 1-17 for the Boxercise Footwork Training System.”

This is a lot to learn in one day, especially when you consider that you then have to be able to teach someone else.  I have been practicing martial arts for nearly 20 years and have been on both sides, as the puncher and as the pad holder.  Based on my experience I would definitely say that to be proficient at either takes more than a day.

Instructors often post pictures from their training sessions and from these you can notice basic mistakes such as holding the pads too high or too wide.  From this you can deduce that the holder does not have sufficient tension in their arms to prevent injury.  It is also not very realistic for the person who punches – unless they are fighting with a very tall person with two heads.  Another common mistake I have noticed is the pad holder doing all of the work, smashing the gloves of their client.  This may sound and feel stronger for the client, but it does nothing for his/her fitness.

Here are some points to avoid when holding pads:

  • Pads at the wrong height
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    too high

Holding the pads very high causes a lot of stress on the shoulders as muscles are not able to provide support to the arm when receiving a punch in this position.  This is also bad for the person punching as they do not learn realistic targeting.  The pad holder should keep the pads at an appropriate height for the target such as the head or body in relation to their build.

 

  • Pads at the wrong width 
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    too wide

Holding the pads in an unrealistic position where the pads are too wide apart can cause the person who is punching to overstretch and slows down their technique.  In the same way that holding the pads too high causes stress on the shoulders, holding them too wide does as well.  The pads should be held within your own shoulder width at the appropriate target position (head or body).

 

  • Relaxed arms 
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    relaxed

Keeping your arms relaxed is dangerous for both the pad holder and puncher.  The puncher does not get any feedback about their technique and risks hyper extension whilst executing a punch due to lack of resistance.  Conversely, without tension in their arms the pad holder does not have much control over their muscles in order to protect their joints when receiving a punch, which might easily lead to injury.

 

 

  • Hitting oncoming punches     

01 - CopyMany instructors hit the punch of their client with the pad in order to make it sound and feel more powerful.  By doing this we create a false distance for the target and cause unnecessary impact on the joints of both the holder and puncher.  This behaviour teaches the puncher to shorten their technique and therefore they cannot develop full power.  There should be a very slight movement towards the punch just before contact so that your joints can prepare for receiving the impact, but this movement should be minimal.

  • Lack of instruction

It is not enough to just ask the client to punch with a particular combination.  You have to actively monitor and correct his/her technique throughout the workout.  For example giving tips on footwork, striking technique and body mechanics.  The instructor should be looking to spot errors at all times, but in order to do this he/she needs experience in punching and body mechanics.

In summary good pad holding helps to:

  1. Prevent injury to the pad holder and puncher
  2. Establish the correct distance for each technique
  3. Enforce the use of proper body mechanics
  4. Improve punching skill
  5. Support a smooth transition between punches

All of this takes time and practice.  As with other manual skills, our brain and muscles need time to develop neuromuscular patterns.  In my opinion a few hours on a course does not provide enough time to attain these skills and in this article I have only touched on the basics.  There is a lot more to consider in pad work such as punching technique, structure, moving, progression and use of different types of pads.  It is such a vast topic that it is not surprising that great pad holders are paid top money for their instruction.   They spend years developing their approaches.

If you want to learn how to hold pads correctly I would recommend visiting a boxing gym or martial arts club where the use of pads is embedded in their system of training.  Alternatively find a pad work instructor with demonstrable experience.

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing. Our club provides classes in Guildford area. Contact via email shinaido@yahoo.com 
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Unexpected friends

Doing my diploma in Personal Training and specialisation in posture with preparation for starting my own business gave me some free time on my hands. Spending all that time thinking about how to make my company grow was driving me to frustration and stress.

After few days of thinking how to deal with this situation, stress is not helping me to be creative, I figured that some voluntary work should occupied my brain. I started to search for a charity that I could help. The best would be to use my skills and help people with back problems and health issues. I did not know how hard it would be to find a charity willing to get volunteers. On several occasions I have been advised that the best thing would be to give donation, maybe for them but not for me as I was skint only what I could give was time and skills. I was losing hope that I would find anything local, but then by coincidence I came across website Streetlife, where local communities post events, adverts and requests. One of these was message from Julie, asking if someone could help her and Barry to run a Walking for Health group, as it was five minutes away from my house I have joined the walking group.

10177935_922460987830382_9145627927276009621_nOn first meeting all of us were shocked, walkers, Julie and I as the age difference was quite noticeable. I got the impression that members of the group were a bit suspicious about me, why would such young person join their group.

12187848_921674601242354_8937600398097010802_n At the beginning conversations were a bit dry, but week by week it got better. Chatting to members of the Fairlands group is fascinating, so many stories, experiences and adventure. Since I started to walk with this group half a year ago it has grown to over thirty members. What is different about this particular group is the leadership of Julie and Barry who decided to create sub groups for people with different abilities.

At the moment there are three types of walk:

– Hourly fast walk for with a distance around two miles

– Medium speed one mile walk

– Short walk for people who are slower or less mobile which I have the pleasure to support and attend.

All this is possible due to relentless work of Julie and Barry, here I have to mention Rokers Café and their staff who are providing us with space and drinks for our sometimes loud group. I have to say that management and staff at the Rokers are most helpful!

Those collaborations with Julie have lead us (Christine and I) to become qualified walk leaders in the Walking for Health organisation. It was a very interesting experience and gives us a chance to known each other.

11705126_923101504432997_5242777228160645236_nChristine is volunteer as well and we both securing short walks providing one to one support. She is one of the kindest people I have met for a long time.

This experience of joining the walking group surprisingly has opened other possible opportunities to me including teaching martial arts as therapy. Even now when I am getting busy with my business I always have Wednesday 10 am booked for walking with my friends. More about Walking for health scheme you can find at www……

It is always a good idea to get out of your comfort zone, life is rewarding brave ones!

Balance

Working with wide a range of clients from professional athletes to office workers and from teenagers to seniors I have noticed that a significant number of them have poor balance.  I have always been told that balance issues are more associated with the older generation.  With time we lose our ability to move gracefully due to weakening muscles, worsening sight and the slowing down of brain function.  In my work I have noticed an increasing number of young people who suffer with a lack of balance and coordination and not as a result of clinical reasons. It just seems to me that a lack of movement and physical activity is making people clumsy.

Balance, as any other skill, is fading if we do not use it, in the same way that you lose muscle strength when you do not train it. In our modern times where we spend most of the day chair bound and exercise is only done for 1 hr three times a week it is clearly not enough to keep our natural coordination and balance, which was needed by our ancestors to survive.

In the case of professional athletes the way of the training is too focussed on vision instead on the quality sensory feedback from the body.  In the case of multidirectional sports just relying on vision is not enough to provide enough information to the brain. If the communication centre (the brain) is not sufficiently trained in receiving and interpreting information from other parts of the body balance and coordination will be disturbed.

Lack of balance is leading to an increase in injuries for both athletes and non-athletes. You can actively fight back by doing some activities which improve your balance.

  • Stand on one leg

When brushing your teeth for 20 sec or more, your brain will gather information from all of the sensors around the body and with time will learn how to process it and improve your balance. If you want to make it harder then try closing your eyes.

  • Take up Taiso classes

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Taiso has many health and mental benefits, not just working on muscles but on the brain too and helps to calm ones mental state.  Via form training we can improve strength, balance, flexibility and mobility.  Our brain is stimulated by learning new patterns, building new neuron connections and reinforcing them by repetition.  Natural, deep breathing oxygenates blood, relaxes tension and calms the spirit

  • Plyometric / Functional training
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Plyometrics

This form of training is performed with your own body weight, taking you through different variations of movement in different planes and directions. Improving strength, agility, speed and balance. From my experience this is the best way to improve overall balance in active people.

  • Take up dancing
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Ballet

It is a great and fun way of challenging your coordination and balance, going through dynamic stances your body is getting used to changes in the environment whilst at the same time improving your health.

  • Martial arts
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Pad work at LB Posture Training

Martial arts are great for hand to eye coordination and balance as there are often changes of position and alternated use of arms and legs. Performing drills also increases the workout for the brain when memorising a sequence of the moves. Along with all of the health benefits you also learn self-defence and get a boost in confidence.

  • Good sleep

This is very often an overlooked aspect. Sleep deprivation will decrease brain availability to process data from our body resulting in lower balance and coordination.

 

Test your Balance

Three tests to check out your balance.

  • Both feet test

Stand on both feet with your ankles touching, arms across your chest and close your eyes. Ask someone to measure the time for you. It is normal to sway a little bit when you are standing with your eyes shut, you should stand for 60 seconds without moving your feet. Now test yourself by putting one foot in front of the other. You should be able to hold this position for around 40 seconds on both sides.

  • One foot test

Perform this test somewhere that you can safely grab on to something, for example a door frame. Stand on one leg lifting the other without touching or resting it on the supporting leg. Close your eyes. Depending on your age you should be able to hold the pose for 30 seconds eyes open, 20 seconds with eyes closed for those who are 60 years old or younger. People aged 61 and older: 22 seconds with eyes open, 10 seconds with eyes closed.

  • Ball of the foot test

Stand on one foot with your hands on your hips, and place the non supporting foot against the inside knee of the standing leg. Raise your heel off floor and hold the pose—you should be able to do so for 25 seconds.

If you need more information on how to improve you balance through the use of Taiso, Plyometrics or Martial Arts please feel free to join us on our classes or for private tuition.

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Les

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

“Black belt is the beginning” – is it?

 
12669701_1678652079039674_8880286587380242706_nObtaining a black belt is just the beginning of studying Karate.  How many times have you heard this phrase?  When you get to be a black belt, then you will learn the important stuff…  In some ways I do agree with this statement, but in others I don’t.  How can the achievement of a black belt be the beginning when we have spent years training and mastering the basic techniques in order to get it?  By saying that 1st Dan is just the beginning, shouldn’t we just start as a black belt?  Or should we forget everything that we have learnt when we become a black belt?  In terms of a schooling analogy should we say that attending University is the beginning of learning and forget about everything we had learnt at primary school, secondary school and so on?

I describe the 1st Dan black belt as an intermediate level, one where you have a solid foundation and can now progress your Karate in your individual way.  In this sense you could say that it is the beginning of your unique direction in Karate, based on what you know you can interpret it and mould it in the way that you want.

Sometimes I listen to instructors and I get the impression that they use the expression that “a black belt is just the beginning” as justification for not teaching their students properly and trying to keep them in the dojo.  I know quite a few black belts who were disappointed with the lack of progression achieved by being promoted to 1st Dan.  The result was that they quit their training, their argument being that they were not learning anything new.  So how can this be the beginning?  There are a growing amount of instructors who have been told that after attaining a black belt they will learn more, but they never did.  However, as we often mimic our own teachers, these instructors continue to promulgate this view.

In the case of my teachers, when you reached the stage of 1st Dan you are enrolled in a research programme to find your own way in Karate, experimenting with different ways of performing techniques and digging in to anatomy, physiology and psychology.  A black belt in our organisation must have their own identity and should not be just a copy of his/her teachers.

In summary, I believe that a 1st Dan black belt is not a beginning, but a progression from basic to intermediate understanding, which is just a step along the long road to perfection…

 

 

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

Seminar in Poland

This year our governing body, Isshindo Kan, organised an international seminar in Poland.

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Isshindo Kan 

Over the weekend we had a chance to meet new people from across the organisation and to practice a variety of different martial arts systems. This year I was asked to introduce and teach mobility protocols for martial artists.

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Mobility

The seminar was split into two sections:

Saturday:

The morning of the first day was dedicated to grading examinations for the Greek students of Zendo Ryu Karate Do.  The afternoon was then divided into three sections, each with a different instructor:

– Ryszard Jozwiak – concepts of Kem Vo Combat

– Stefan Reindl – concepts of Jiu Jitsu

– Artur Marchewka – concepts of Shin Ai Do Karate

Saturday evening was dedicated to an official meeting of representatives from each member country, which was followed by an informal meal and fun.

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Sunday:

Sunday was divided into three sections:

– Les Bubka – Mobility

– Dietmar Schmidt and Sarantis Theodosiu – Zendo Ryu Karate Do

– Marek Mroszczyk – Jukado Kempo

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Sensei 

The whole seminar was flawlessly organised by Marek and his students and took place in a brand new hall.

Due to unforeseen circumstances our team from the UK was reduced to two, but it was a pleasure to travel around Poland with Robin who had come across to Europe from Thailand especially to take part in this seminar.

I am very happy that so many people were interested in what I demonstrated at the seminar.  As a result of my popularity I ended up spending most of my breaks analysing and helping participants with their health problems, which ranged from bad posture, knee pains and mobility issues to back and head pains.  Lots of people are interested in getting their hands on my future mobility PDF document and to participate in more seminars on the subject of mobility.

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Mobility Session

As Robin had travelled so far to get to the seminar we decided to extend our stay in Poland and travel around some of the sites.  Fortunately for us Marek’s wife, Tiger, kindly offered us the use of her car.  As a result we were able to travel circa 1000 kilometres around central and eastern Poland.  We visited some extraordinary places with outstanding beauty.  This trip was full of surprises with a lot of very kind people helping us to discover the awesomeness of Poland.

Please find below a review of the seminar written by Robin.

“The 25th and 26th of June saw two interesting days of a martial arts seminar near Minsk Mazowiecki  in Poland. Some notes on these two days follow.

Day 1

Two young Greek Karateka were graded to acquire 1st Dan. Their presentation and interaction with Polish martial artists highlighted the different emphasis in the different national groups.

The usual welcoming talk for the seminar plus the presentation of banners for the various representatives of the national groups within the Isshindo Kan organization.

The warm up led by Sensei Marek Mroszczyk was up to the usual standard of Sensei Marek. Lots of rolling and strengthening. The older martial artist like myself might find this quite tiring and demanding but worthwhile.

Something new, for me at least, came from Sensei Ryszard Jóźwiak. The use of a small stick not much bigger than a pencil called a Yawara. The techniques and style of Sensei Ryszard are straight forward, direct and laced nicely with common sense. Sensei showed how to use this small weapon in close contact to reinforce techniques often carried out just with the hand. It was pointed out that any similarly shaped object could be used to the same effect making everyday objects into a weapon. A point that should be obvious but that is often forgotten was made in that the first priority is the combat situation not the weapon to hand.

Sensei Artur Marchewka focused on low kicks, which we tend not to do so much in Seiki Juku or Goju Ryu, and attacks to the leg to result in a take down. We trained with various partners which gave the experience of dealing with different levels of opponent. For me this section of the seminar seemed to be over all too soon.

Day 2

Sensei Leszek Bubka went through some interesting ideas on mobility of the hips showing simple exercises that, according to others, increased mobility noticeably. In my case this seemed not to be the case so much as my joint mobility, and pain, problems are more focused on problems within the joints themselves rather than the muscles around the joints although, like everyone else, my muscles and tendons could do with improvement. Of more significance and help for me were the techniques to help loosen the back.

Sensei Dietmar Schmidt discussed and demonstrated techniques for increasing the power of strikes. This involved starting with a relaxed open hand that only closed and tensed at the moment of impact. It could be felt that these strikes seemed very fast and probably would deliver a lot of power but in the basic form were seriously ‘telegraphed’ so the concept would need significant refining and shortening to be really effective in real combat.

Sensei Sarantis Theodosiu showed his ideas on shuto yoko gamen uchi which followed on from Sensei Dietmar’s loose to tense strike with body movement down and hand rising amplifying the force of the strike at the point of impact. Again in the basic form rather ‘telegraphed’ but with possibilities. There was a look at a revised form of kansetsu geri which I personally could not get the hang of. This form of the kick seemed fast but also to impact on the rising movement and in an oblique manner. Maybe it was just me but I could not get it. Lastly Sensei showed escape techniques from a grab from behind. A sideways step then pushing the attacker over the leg was very similar to techniques that I have encountered in Aikido and Jujutsu but in this case the attack included what I know as a full nelson grab and neck injury could result if the grab was fully engaged before the escape was made so escape must be made quickly.

Sensei Stefan Reindl discussed real case conflict situations and how to avoid unfortunate repercussions. The concept of minimal action then to escape and the idea of drawing attention to a potential conflict to gain witnesses for the full situation. Training at low speed with full contact, medium speed with light contact and full speed with no contact to get a feel for techniques without injuring partners in the dojo.

Sensei Marek Mroszczyk gave us more leg kicks and take downs with hold down to follow.

The two days of training were a chance for different styles and nationalities in the organization to get together and experience each other’s approach. It has to be said that it can be seen that some groups have a more practical combat approach while others are more suited to a competition or sports training style. Was the seminar enjoyable and worth the effort of travelling to attend? Yes. The training and social aspect of the weekend made it worth attending. The facilities in the modern sports centre were excellent.”

Robin Kibler.