Sunday, 29 November 2009

Seminar no 2 - Z-Health

So, onto Sunday and a 6 hour Z-Health workshop.

What is Z-Health? According to the accompanying literature, it is "neural re-education". Basically Z-Health takes the premise that the nervous system is the governor of the human body, and that as such it can re-educated to improve physical performance. To illustrate the benefits this particular workshop applied the Z-Health concepts to 3 key kettlebell drills - the front squat, the two handed swing and the Turkish getup.

My impressions? I'm not sure that I completely buy into the Z-Health concepts. However, a number of elements do stack up, particularly if you're familiar with Pilates.

Z-Health theorises that the human body is designed for survival and not performance. It further
suggests that pain and tightness in the body are a 'threat response' which arise when the body views a particular position or movement as a 'threat'. So in some ways Z-Health is about threat modulation.

Z-Health is also about neural plasticity. Wolff's Law and Davis' Law were both mentioned - both refer to adaptation of tissue. Effectively the way we use our bodies determines what our bodies can actually do. Since muscular strength increases the stress on our bones, the stronger we are, the stronger our bones need to be. Therefore if we don't train our muscles appropriately, then the body can decide that we no longer need such strong bones. This can lead to essential minerals being leached away from the bones, causing osteoporosis in later life. This is prevalent in women who have not done enough resistance training.

The trainer then moved on to talk about the importance of proprioception. Proprioception is about our 'state'. It is a map of where we are and how we are. In terms of Z-Health, the two key parts of proprioception are:

Mechanoreceptors - respond to movement, clustered around joints
Nocireceptors - respond to noxious stimuli such as pain

Z-Health postulates that although nocireceptors are quite sensitive and 'noisy', they can be drowned out by movement. Essentially the body wants to move. That said, the trainer did not advocate working through pain, rather she suggested that the Z-Health system can be used as a diagnostic to locate the source of pain.

We were shown a number of drills which are designed to free up areas of tension in the body, eg the feet. The feet contain 24% of the body's synovial joints which is apparently why it is so important for these to move freely. There were similar exercises for the shoulders and for the wrists and hands.

I did notice that people's range of motion in key tests such as forward flexion from the waist and shoulder rotations definitely increased!

Then we moved on to applying the Z-Health principles to 3 key kettlebell drills. I really liked the stuff that worked on the front squat and the swing, but the Turkish getup is just not my thing. I am fine as long as I do it without the kettlebell, but as soon as I start adding the kettlebell, I start freaking out. This is clearly my threat response! I know what's it's about - it's all tied in with the
shoulder injury I got a couple of years back. I know I can hold that bell up and more, but I really tense up in the getup position. Clearly something I need to work on.

So overall an interesting and worthwhile seminar, even if I don't completely buy the concept.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The weekend of the seminars

My weekend started early. I've taken Friday and Monday as annual leave, just so I can get some 'down time' and some time to do the exciting stuff like housework, grocery shopping etc.

Anyway, my busy weekend started Friday night with MMA class. My friend has a fight coming up in February so we spent the first hour and a bit working on our conditioning. We warmed up on the heavy bags, then moved on to sets of kettlebell exercises (two handed swing, single arm swing, single arm press, squats, single arm row and snatch) interspersed with active recovery. then we moved onto some medicine ball situps, the plank and leg raises. Then it was into the general class melee to work some kicks and for my friend, to work on her ground game.

A fun class.

Today was the krav maga self-defence seminar. This was a 3 hour session (brilliant value for £20!!), which started off with a light warmup. And it was a light warmup which was a pleasant surprise. I remember the last seminar starting with a much tougher warmup. Mind you, that was maybe a mental thing - I was prepared for a tough time, so maybe I was in the right zone for dealing with it.

We had a far lower turnout today than previously, with the ladies by far the more numerous. Lots of familiar faces from our usual weekly classes, plus some newbies brought along by the posters etc. The session started with the usual pad work, drilling footwork and palm heel strike jab / cross combinations. Then we started adding in some hammer fists, elbows and knees before moving on to work front kicks and 'stomp' kicks.

Having acquired some 'combatives' or striking tools, we then moved onto 'situationals', looking at defences against grabs to clothing, wrists and hair, bear hugs and chokes. A fun and useful day with a goodly number of new bruises thanks to the assorted mistimings and general clonks dished out by all. Was v glad when we finished though - I was tired and hungry.

Z Health seminar tomorrow. Have heard some mixed reviews of this, so it will be interesting to see what it's like.

Combat Conditioning on Tuesday night. That will just be hard work!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Kuk sool no more?

I went to kuk sool class last night, and if I'm completely honest, I didn't enjoy it at all.

I have this feeling that I am not suited to this particular martial art.

I like a challenge and I want to do a traditional martial arts, but I genuinely feel that this isn't the one for me. Everything is done at top speed, which I guess is fine if your brain / body work that way. Mine doesn't, at least not yet in this class. I do know that I have an issue with being a 'slow learner' (thank you middle age and hypothyroidism!) and I've worked through this before. However, I am really struggling here. They have a grading coming up soon and we all got put on the spot in grade groups to demonstrate forms. I confess that I got completely lost by the whole thing. Being fairly new, I don't know the form terribly well, consequently I'm a lot slower than the others and I kept getting lost. Given that there was an audience of higher grades, I ended up feeling pretty bad about the whole thing.

Now, I've been in and around martial arts for several years now. I've performed forms in public at gradings and at tournaments - in fact, I've won medals at tournaments for my forms - so I'm not that worried about public performance. I've also found ways of coping with my slow learning issues. This makes me think that maybe I'm not right for kuk sool. I'm certainly finding it to be quite 'flowery' and 'fiddly'. I'm certainly used to intricate and flowing movements, having done silat in the past, so I don't think it's necessarily that.

Other niggles: I've pretty much been getting by on the Korean I learned 20 something years ago in tae kwon do class. I'm realising that a lot of the time I've no idea what's going on or what's expected! I'm just following what other people are doing. I guess you're expect to learn a lot by osmosis but the last 2 classes I've been corrected publicly by an instructor for dojang etiquette faux pas that I simply knew nothing about. I've no issues about rules or about being corrected, but it would be nice if someone told you first!

I guess I'm just used to a different style of class. I definitely miss being able to ask questions of instructors, as I find this so useful in consolidating my learning. So it may be a case of finding something more suited to me.

Despite all of the above, I don't think that it's a bad system, or a badly taught class or that the instructors are poor. I just don't feel that it's a good fit for me.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Seminar weekend pt 2

Ok, so I just booked for the seminar on Saturday. I managed to book annual leave for Friday and Monday, so at least I get to all the necessary household-y tasks as well, plus get some recovery time.

Keeps my krav instructor happy as well, which is always good, esp after I laughed when he fell last night. To be fair, if I had fallen over he would have laughed at me.

Seminar weekend

It's likely to be a very busy weekend coming up. I'm already booked up for a 6 hour seminar on Sunday on something called Z Health. I don't know much about it, but it's based around holistic movement. It may be good, it may be cheesy. The guy who's hosting it is my kettlebell instructor, so I figured it was worth a shot.

There's also a 3 hour krav seminar on Saturday which I'm really tempted by. It's only £20 for the 3 hours. It's liable to get in the way on the rugby though, as Scotland kick off v Argentina at 1430. Decisions, decisions.

Krav this

Excellent krav class last night.

The ladies Monday night fitness / self-defence class has been abandoned for now, which means that us regulars (all 3 of us) have joined the general krav maga class. We still do the fitness work though, and although there's less of it, it's possibly more challenging since it's geared for men. Lots of push ups and burpees etc.

After the fitness we moved onto our standard combatives, and then to kicking. Yay for kicking. Hello krav 'stomp' kicking - basically a front pushing kick, then a side stomp then round kick. As a right footed kicker, I really need to work on the power for my left round kick. Then it was on to defending hook punches and clothing grabs.

Krav advocates something called the '360 defence' for attacks to the head and body. It's basically a block using the 'blade' part of your forearm and very familiar to traditional martial artists. It makes perfect sense to me, up to a point. 360 defence is basically an inside block so for hook attacks, I'm happy with this plus an appropriate counter. For straight attacks however, I'm still channelling my most recent 'eclectic' martial arts training, which has silat / Indonesian fundamentals and teaches outside parrying and counters. I drilled that so often, I do it without even really thinking about it (which I suppose proves the effectiveness of drilling!) I like the parrying the way we were taught it - it locks up the opponent's body structure and off balances them for your counter. It also sets them up nicely for sweeps and takedowns. I suspect krav may have similar things later in the syllabus.

The defence against clothing grabs was also interesting. It's basically a modified nikyo wrist lock. Rather than 'goose-necking' the arm, they keep the arm straight. Again with my previous training which also used this defence I found I tended to flow into the full nikyo lock. Either is effective though.

Basically krav has surrended the 'art' for the practical side. No kata or forms here, just smash and run.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Missed my kuk sool class last night. Set out in plenty of time but got gridlocked at the west end. Managed a u-turn eventually but got caught up in loads of traffic that had had the same idea. Could have gone the long way round, but by the time I cleared the city centre, it just didn't leave me enough time for that route.

Disappointed. But at least it gave me some downtime.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Principles vs 'techniques"

Some martial arts systems seem to consist of thousands of "techniques" which their students rush to learn. That is rote learning without understanding or mastery. I used to train in an eclectic system that valued principles and concepts above technique. So I tend to think that if you understand the principles of body mechanics, then it shouldn't really matter what technique you use to attack or defend.

We also have to consider Hick's Law, which basically says that the more options you have, the slower your response will be, because your brain has to sort through them all to decide what to use. That process may take milliseconds, but that delay could very well be the difference between winning and losing, living or dying.

I am also a fan of the need to drill, drill, drill. By drilling, we make sure that our responses become part of our muscle memory. We need that muscle memory, so that when we are under stress the body is able to revert to that muscle memory. Sadly it seems that students in the west are way too anxious to get onto what they perceive as the 'cool' stuff, to spend their time on the 'boring'.

To a certain extent, I blame MMA for some of this attitude. I train MMA, and help teach it and I love it, but the students can be some of the worst for lack of patience and not wanting to drill. I also train in traditional martial arts, and see a very different attitude from the students. Doing both gives me a balance to my training that I find very valuable.

Sometimes I fear that MMA is becoming a place for those who only want to scrap and roll around the mats with their mates but don't have the patience or the willingness to train in traditional systems. When they fight competitively in the ring or the cage, they are often the ones who freeze or 'gas' out.

Train, train, train

Currenly I train in 3 aspects of the martial arts: kuk sool won ('traditional' martial art), mixed martial arts and krav maga.

Although I enjoy aspects of all 3, I find the MMA and krav to be relentlessly practical. Possibly they're more effective as well, but I'm fairly new to kuk sool so will not judge it based on a beginner's knowledge.

For me, it is good to train on 'both sides of the coin', as it were. I think that if you want to be a well-rounded martial artist you need both the traditional and modern styles. It is also very good for the general humility to put on a white belt again!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Indomitable Spirit

Isn't it funny how the best examples of that good old martial arts principle of Indomitable Spirit are so rarely demonstrated by humans?