GAME PLANS FOR CROSS-TRAINING

I came across this article at Iain Abernethy forum, and with approval to post it here by the author Josh H. from Pittsburgh. Enjoy the read

INTRODUCTION

This article is for martial artists who are interested in cross training (or just beginning to cross train) and want guidance on how to balance their priorities.  It may also be useful for bunkai-focused traditional karateka who study many different kata.

OVERVIEW

Most of you are probably already familiar with the concept of a game plan, especially if you compete.  In a nutshell, a game plan is a list (or map) of your most reliable, high percentage techniques.  Some people write them down on notepads, some people draw them out as flow charts, but I prefer to just make a list on my computer.

Here are the three core elements of an effective game plan:

  1. it should include the techniques that work best for you,
  2. it should connect some of those techniques together, and
  3. it should be relatively simple and understandable.

GAME PLAN DESIGN

As an example, let me describe how a novice might design his or her martial arts game plan.  Let’s say our hypothetical novice has a solid grasp of straight punches like the jab and cross.  He’s decent with his hook punches but they don’t have as much power as he’d like.  He almost never lands uppercuts in sparring.  His game plan could be very simple at first:  “whenever I see an opening on the enemy’s jaw, I’m going to launch my right cross.”

The novice is training in bunkai-oriented karate, so he’s been taught the basic concept of applying hikite to control limbs.  So he incorporates this in his game plan:  “whenever my enemy lifts his arms to cover up his head, I’m going to grab one of those arms, pull it to my hip, and use my free hand to punch him in the jaw.”  Now he’s starting to connect his techniques.

Our novice starts to get better at striking and he’s ready for a more sophisticated game plan.  He realizes that other students in the class are using jabs to keep distance from him and shut down his offense.  So now he adds another layer to the game plan:  “if my opponent jabs, I will parry it or slip it and I will launch a counterpunch immediately after.”  So he drills the elements of this technique until he can use them, then he starts hunting for that parry-counterpunch in sparring.  And if he’s lucky and he works hard, pretty soon he’ll start to see his game plan materialize in sparring.

GAME PLAN ESSENTIALS

There’s no perfect template for a game plan, because the core of the idea is to make one that fits your body and your attributes and your style and your preferences.  It’s about you.  But most game plans should include these essentials:

First, you should choose one preemptive strike.  (If you aren’t familiar with this idea, you can find Iain’s writing on it here:  www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/pre-emptive-striking-and-karate-ni-sente-nashi.)  The forum has a lot of resources on preemptive striking, so I’ll save space and won’t discuss it further.

Second, you should pick an “oh shit” move (we’ll call it the SHTF move).  This is what you do when you don’t know what else to do.  You can get creative here.  I personally like to use the flinch reflex:  I throw my arms up instinctively and lunge into the enemy, trying to drive my forearm into his neck or my palms into his jaw.  Iain teaches this move here:  https://youtu.be/ptpALIuZBwQ?t=20.  But you might prefer another option, such as:

***covering up and firing your jab to create space (while you move at an angle),

***covering your head and closing the gap to clinch the head (shown here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2juMhXuzEjc),

***covering your head and closing the gap to secure a body lock (if you’re a grappler, example:  https://youtu.be/ycLeAPx23Rg?t=19),

***launching a straight blast (i.e. a rapid-fire offense of straight punches, example:  youtu.be/XwnQ9hKNtOc?t=111), or

***any of these weaponized flinch options helpfully taught by Wastelander (shown here:  https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/kusanku-opening-flinch-and-limb-control).

I won’t get into extensive detail about how to choose a SHTF move, but I will suggest that it needs to involve some kind of body movement.  Not just throwing a punch, but moving your whole body (either into the enemy or at an angle).

Keep in mind that the SHTF move is never going to be perfect. It’s just meant to buy you a few seconds of time to orient yourself in the chaos. If you’re lucky, you’ll surprise your enemy and interrupt his decision cycle (sometimes described as resetting the enemy’s OODA Loop).

GAME PLAN TEMPLATE

Here is an incomplete game plan example to show you what I have in mind.

***Preemptive Strike

***SHTF Move

***Sprawl (for takedown defense)

***Fight for clinch, launch knees (example:  https://youtu.be/RUlHxXC6t1I?t=79)

***If clinch isn’t there, launch punches.

***If he lifts arm while I am punching, control limb to open strikes.

***If necessary, consider quick takedown (example:  https://youtu.be/amC7TEboz3k?t=23), strike once or twice, then flee.

***If he grabs wrist, defend (example:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r2YygHmswM)

GAME PLAN MANAGEMENT

Many martial artists will discover that they quickly “outgrow” their game plan.  That’s a good thing, because it usually indicates that you’re improving.  Here’s a few guidelines on how to keep your game plan effective:

First, keep the game plan narrowly focused on common, key scenarios.

Second, choose one technique per problem.

Third, be very careful about which techniques you put into the game plan.  Most of the techniques in your game plan should be high percentage OR should be techniques that you are planning to practice until they become high percentage.

Fourth, try to choose techniques that work in multiple contexts.  For example, in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu there are techniques that will only work against an opponent who is wearing a gi.  Unless you’re routinely competing in BJJ tournaments, you’ll usually want to fill your game plan with techniques that can work in self-protection/no-gi grappling/mixed martial arts/and gi grappling.

Fifth, “prune” your game plan frequently.  I usually update mine the day after a class finishes.  When in doubt, err on the side of deleting techniques rather than adding new ones.  As you progress, you’ll discover that some techniques will eventually become instinctual.  That’s excellent.  That’s what you want.  When that occurs, you can usually delete them from the plan.  (Exception:  I would always leave a preemptive strike and a SHTF move on the game plan, no matter how good you get.  It’s important to train those consciously and endlessly.)  Sometimes you will leave them on, but only as part of a combo.

GAME PLAN APPLICATION

As you cross-train, you’ll be exposed to a variety of different skills and techniques.  Use the game plan to manage these effectively.  After a while, most of the techniques you learn will not end up in your game plan.

Remember that you don’t have to memorize the game plan.  It’s not like you’re going to be in the middle of a fight and think:  “OK, it appears that he is now in the process of tackling me.  What did I write down on my game plan?  I will remember that technique and use it now.”    The goal of the game plan is to help you prioritize and structure your training, so that you can apply the game plan thoughtlessly when the time comes.  Game plans tell you what to practice.  Practice makes those techniques instinctive.

For this reason, I think the most important function of the game plan is for use in designing drills.  For example:  a lot of karateka will put shuto-uke on their game plan.  If so, you want to drill shuto-uke frequently against a variety of scenarios, over and over and over again.

You can also use your game plan to structure your strength and conditioning work.  This is useful because you’re not just doing sport-specific training, you’re doing game plan-specific training, so you’re dialing down on your precise needs.  I don’t want to pretend to be an expert on weight training, because I’m not, but I’ll share some of my notes to spark your creativity:

***To my knowledge, most karate styles emphasize using the hips and stance to generate power.  Power drives up from the floor, through the core, into your strikes.  This will show up in a karate game plan.   For this reason, a good default program for healthy individuals with adequate mobility would be Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength.

***For bunkai-oriented karateka who focus heavily on limb control (especially pulling arms to the hips), I would tweak the routine to prioritize chin-ups, deadlifts, and rows.  Stronglifts 5×5 (plus chin-ups, example here:  stronglifts.com/5×5/) could be a good starting point.  I would do those chin-ups from a dead hang, so you’re hitting the full range of motion.  Once the deadlift stalls, you might add in work with a grip trainer (e.g. captains of crush or something similar).  (If you can’t do a chin-up, try gradually working in negative chin-ups:  https://youtu.be/Dx740NIKX94 – these can optionally be augmented with lat pulldowns.  Over time, build up the frequency and volume of the negative chin-ups, and you’ll see significant improvement.)

***For individuals who want overall strength and conditioning development but who struggle with recovery (maybe because they’re cross-training a lot), I’d consider a program like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1.  You could do kata, footwork drills, and jump rope as your warm-up (to support striking), and do one conditioning session per week (maybe sprinting).  Consider adding lunges as part of your assistance work once your body can take it.  (https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/531-how-to-build-pure-strength)

***For individuals who are already strong, Crossfit might be a decent choice, so long as you’re careful to start slowly and you’re obsessive about good form.

***For recreational martial artists who don’t much care, consider just a basic, low-key bodybuilding routine.  To draw upon the common-sense advice of Bill Pearl, devise a program that will fit in your schedule, and don’t perform any exercise that causes pain to old injuries.

***Be careful if you’re not used to heavy lifting.  Get proper instruction on form.

Once again, I am not trying to present myself as an expert on strength or conditioning.  I am only providing those resources so you can use them as a starting point for your own research.

WHO DOESN’T NEED A GAME PLAN?

I’ve pitched this article at individuals who are just starting to cross-train or who are thinking about cross-training.  In most cases, I think these are the people who will need a game plan to stay on track.  But there are some cases where you could skip this.

For example, if you have a great instructor who has plenty of time to spend with you, and who knows your strengths and weaknesses, you really don’t need a game plan of your own.  That instructor will essentially do all of this work for you.  He or she will push you in the right direction, will give you the feedback you need to succeed, and will schedule classes so you’re drilling your fundamental skills over and over again.

Another reason to skip the game plan is if you only focus on performing a single kata, and you’ve pretty much internalized its lessons.  In that case, the kata is your game plan.  It will show you how to connect your techniques together.  It will show you how to prioritize your drills.  Once you’re sufficiently familiar with the kata, you don’t need anything else.

The last reason you might not need a game plan is because you’re already skilled enough that you know what works for you, you know how to drill it, and you aren’t planning to change it.

CONCLUSION

Game plans are a simple concept that have been around for a long time.  Even though they appear deceptively obvious, I believe that they’re a very effective tool for individuals who are cross-training.  Cross-training exposes you to a lot of unnecessary techniques that you don’t really need.  To make the most of your cross-training, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Game plans are a good tool for that.  They help you stay focused on what’s important.

In a future article, I’ll explore how to take this game plan concept and apply it on a more granular level to individual kata (giving sample game plans for Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan, for Tekki Shodan, for Kanku Dai, and for Ji’in/Jion).

Advertisements

Te Osae Uke, Nukite – Bunkai

Last night we have been working on Te osae uke followed by nukite, as in our club we try to apply most of the techniques in three ways, as a strikes, throws and joint locks. Main focus was on te osae as trapping arm and nukite as an execution move.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Seipai Opening Section – Bunkai

This clip shows the opening part of the Seipai kata. On this clip I have unfortunately missed elbow in application. Soon I will post a full bunkai to Seipai.
To learn and practice this application please seek instruction under the supervision of a qualified Sensei.

Thanks for watching!

Kind regards,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Uchi uke, Soto Uke Application

​This video demonstrates our way of viewing use of the technique in this case Uchi Uke followed by Soto uke.

  1. Off balancing- Kuzushi or Nage
  2. Joint locks- Tuite or Kansetsu waza
  3. Strikes – Atemi

      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

      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

      Seiza

      Seiza “proper sitting”

      12307457_1660630414175174_7147529443813010774_o

      Throughout the early history of Japan various ways of sitting were regarded as ‘proper’, such as sitting cross-legged, sitting with one knee raised, or sitting to the side. People’s social circumstances, clothing styles, and the places where they sat naturally brought about their manners of sitting. The development in the Muromachi period of Japanese architecture in which the floors were completely covered with tatami (thick straw mats), combined with the strict formalities of the ruling warrior class for which this style of architecture was principally designed, heralded the adoption of the sitting posture known today as seiza as the respectful way to sit. However, it probably was not until circa the turn of the 18th century (the Genroku to Kyōhō eras in Japanese history) that the Japanese generally adopted this manner of sitting in their everyday lives. By the end of the 20th century the traditional tatami-floored rooms and the circumstances where one should sit ‘properly’ on a tatami had become uncommon in Japan. Consequently many modern day Japanese are unaccustomed to sitting seiza.[1]

      [1]Japanese online Encyclopedia of Japanese Culture

      Performing seiza is an integral and required part of several traditional Japanese arts, such as certain martial arts and the tea ceremony (a table-style version of the tea ceremony known as ryūrei was invented in the 19th century). Seiza is also the traditional way of sitting while doing arts such as shodo (calligraphy) and ikebana (flower arranging), though with the increasing use of western-style furniture it is not always necessary nowadays.

      Many theatres for traditional performing arts such as kabuki and sumo still have audience seating sections where the spectators sit in seiza.

      Use in the Karate Dojo

      Seiza sitting is a posture used in the dojo for zazen (seated meditation). The body weight is distributed over the knees and buttocks whilst the spine is in a neutral position. In Shin ai do Karate we keep our hands open on the thighs. Open hands symbolise non aggressiveness. Elbows are placed close to the body. The right instep is crossed over the left instep. The shoulders are held slightly back and relaxed. The chin is tucked in with the body elongated.

      Spine in Seiza

      The major points to note in sitting in this position are weight distribution and alignment of the body. The most stable position is created by three points of support in seiza. These points are our knees and buttocks resting on our feet. Once we have found a stable position we need to find the optimal alignment for the spine.

      Many Sensei teach that students should sit with the back straight, but this action causes tension and quick tiredness. It is nearly impossible to hold yourself like this for long periods of time.

      To maximise the benefits of performing seiza our spine should strive to be relaxed and elongated, avoiding compression. The spine will be naturally curved and the pelvis should be tilted slightly forward. These two actions help the vertebra align in a proper position (assuming the practitioner has no health issues). The stomach will not become compressed and we can breathe freely. The chin should be tucked in and pushed back imaging that we have a balloon attached to the head stretching us up. (Want to know more about healthy sitting? Read here.)

      Problems with Seiza

      Some beginners might have problems with this position as it demands good flexibility in the knees and hips. Some might experience tiredness in the back as they are not used to sitting straight (as a result of long periods of slouching). Many people hold tension in the neck and shoulders, they might find it difficult to relax in seiza. Others with weak back muscles might experience slumping in the hips and an arching back. Students with hip mobility restrictions may prefer one hip to the other, which can cause instability. Many students have mobility problems in the knees and ankles. (Want to know more? Please read here.)

      Overcoming Problems

      With all the techniques in Karate you need patience. It is the same with seiza. Give yourself time to master it. Be aware of the problems every time you sit and try to use the correct form. We are looking for a balanced posture. Our European bad habits of sitting may make the task of perfecting seiza take a bit longer, but with practice comes mastery.