Blog Archive

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Parental Fitness

Re-listened to Chip Conrad's "How to Create a Holistic Athlete" this morning. It's a fantastic lecture, and it got some stuff going in my brain.

In the lecture, Chip asks a bunch of questions about the why's of fitness. Why do it, what do you mean by it, etc. Perhaps because I was listening while cleaning up and playing with my nine-month old daughter, my brain immediately jumped to "being a good father for my children."

Then my brain started running with the question...what would a fitness program that would make me a better parent actually look like? And, what if I broadened the definition to also include being a better spouse, since I think those two things are intertwined.

What do I do as a father? Well, I pick up a lot of awkward loads. Children. Dogs. Bags of stuff. Sometimes one or more of those things in combination (though never the dog in combination with anything). On an absolute scale, these loads are generally pretty light (rarely over 100 pounds), but they are awkward as hell. My three year-old son weighs about as much as a 16k kettlebell, but carrying the kettlebell is significantly easier, as it stays in one place, never gets upset, and doesn't feel the need to twist suddenly and violently to check out passing trucks. Occasionally, I pick up heavier loads. Furniture, for example.

Almost any time I pick up a load, I have to move it somewhere. Sometimes for short distances, like when my daughter needs to be changed. Sometimes for long distances, like when my son wants to ride on my shoulders while we walk the dog.

Sometimes, I swing and twist these loads around. Because swinging small children is fun for everyone involved. It is also tiring for the adult doing the swinging.

I need to get up and down off the ground a lot. Sometimes with a load, sometimes not.

I put my children over my head, because it is fun. Sometimes, because I am helping my son on the monkey bars. (My crappy shoulder mobility sometimes makes this harder than it should be).

My son occasionally likes to play "catch", which sometimes looks more like dodgeball.

My son has taken to wanting to "run". I put run in quotes, because running with a three-year old requires doing this weird pseudo-jogging shuffle that doesn't really count as running, but is still more difficult than walking.

When scary things rear their head, real or imagined, I am the family's first line of defense. Though the dog is good at scaring away the dinosaurs that live underground, but come out at night.

My wife and I enjoy hiking in the woods, and will likely be doing more of it once we move (which we are doing soon).

Playing at the playground involves climbing, swinging, sliding, and generally clambering around. I actually used to love clambering over things in my youth, and kind of still do. I just got out of the habit. 

What does all of this translate into?

Awkward Loads
  • Odd object carries. Sandbags, kegs, and other such stuff. Kettlebells probably also work, but lack the stabilization component.
Swinging/Twisting with Loads
  • Odd objects. Kettlebells.
Getting Up and Down off the Ground
  • The Turkish get up seems obvious, but all kinds of groundwork variations might apply here. Sometimes I need to move on the ground as well.
 Putting Things Overhead.
  • Occasionally one handed, often two handed. Actually probably looks more like a barbell press, since I'm usually putting up a single unit.
  • Oh, and some level of mobility is important for this. And on the getting up and down piece--being able to squat to depth is sometimes really helpful.
  • Well, catching and throwing a ball.
  • What it says on the tin. Endurance usually matters more than speed.
  • Having a basic familiarity with self-defense practices. Doesn't require extreme expertise in a particular discipline, but being able to take care of business if push comes to shove.
  • Bonus: son likes to wrestle with me (and one friend). Grappling becomes a game and a bonding experience.
  • What it says on the tin. Sometimes with a load
Playground work
  • Climbing, swinging, etc. All bodyweight/gymnastic kind of things.
I'm a long way from building a full-fledged program here, but my gut is that a lot of kettlebell, odd object, and bodyweight work is the way to go on this. Some barbell stuff, but I don't know that a heavy back squat adds anything to that list (it might be FUN, but that's a different story).

I could probably add some meditation and mindfulness practices as well. 'Cause parenting is a blast, but also a stressor.

Stuff to ponder.

Friday, September 25, 2015

More Thoughts From a Post-Rory Experience.

Got to participate in a portion of the filming of one of Rory's upcoming DVDs, which pushed some things I've been kicking around in my head a bit further.

Running through some of the drills I did there, and at some other workshops recently, I was struck by the realization that, when given the opportunity, I wasn't really moving like a Nak Muay. Yes, some of what I was defaulting to was PDR/SPEAR stuff (which makes sense for self-defense drills), but I was also finding myself pulling out movements and things from systems I haven't practiced in decades. Head and neck manipulations that I learned in Aikido and some classical JMA. A couple of Uechi tricks. I've been mulling over why I'm returning to that stuff.

Possibilities include:

1. Drill bias: Rory's a Judo/Jujitsu guy at heart, and it's possible that his drills are biased to favor the strategies and tactics that he favors. That may even be intentional.

2. Social bias/pressure: for a lot of these drills, I was working with people whose background is in various "traditional" (damn, I hate that word) martial arts, and I may have been unconsciously playing along.

3. Lodged in my brain bias: the Structure and Void workshop, in particular, got me thinking about some of the concepts from the arts that I started in, and they may just be coming out because I'm thinking about them, and want to play with them.

4. Personal Bias: Fun fact...I'm a Muay Thai coach who likes grappling. Seriously. I mean, Muay Thai is great, but grappling is the thing that I've always loved but have never made the time to pursue (or did, and then lost the time). It's something that I've always wanted to get back to, and am slowly starting to. Maybe I just need to direct more energy that way (when I can). 

In some ways, this is just an extension of a thought I had after the Structure and Void workshop. Namely, that I need to start making clearer distinctions in my head (and in teaching/training) between what I need for myself as an athlete/martial artist/whatever, and what my students need from me as a coach. Both are areas to work on, but they may be moving in somewhat different directions.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ambushes and Thugs, Structure and Void (Post Rory Miller Weekend Brain Dump)

Rory was in town this weekend, and I got to host him for a couple of seminars. Saturday was a compressed version of Ambushes and Thugs, which I've done in one form or another, but Rory was compressing stuff here. The second was a beta test of a workshop called Structure and Void.

I like being part of experiments. I also like watching good teachers teach, even if it's stuff I already know. It makes me think a lot. The stuff I got from Structure and Void is going to take a while to process. This is basically a brain dump to get some ideas out on "paper".

1. This weekend really highlighted for me the fact that there are skills I need/want to work on that I don't (or can't) teach to my students, and that is okay. There's a very clear separation between what I need and what my students need. Sometimes there's overlap, but I think that's going to be shifting more and more. I need to be very conscious of that.

2. I really want to be able to apply the Structure and Void material to how I teach. Some of it is hard. Parts of the structuring that makes sense for bare knuckle fighting doesn't make sense with gloves on. That means I have to adapt it, change it, or ignore it for parts of Muay Thai. Other pieces fit fine there.

For the PDR/SPEAR, the concepts integrate better, but not perfectly. Or maybe they do. Trying to layer one set of concepts into a concept based system is going to be hell on my brain.

3. Rory has said this before, but it stuck in my brain harder this time. The people who really need these skills are the people who are least likely to seek them out. The ones who do seek them out (mostly young, athletic men) are the ones least likely to need them.

4. The post seminar conversation lead to some interesting insights in differences about how men and women seem to be taught to think about physical activity. One is the obvious stuff (men generally have more experience roughhousing than women do). Some of it is less obvious. I'm working off a small sample size here, but I get the impression that women tend to want to know how to do something right before they try to do it, whereas men are more likely to go "I have no idea how to do this, but I'll try it". That may or may not be right (and yes, I am totally generalizing here), but if I'm right, it might lead to some useful teaching ideas.

5. Something Rory said about teaching martial arts like racquetball got me wondering if it would be possible to create a gym/martial arts training center with a completely different philosophy and structure from the dominant model. One where there are no scheduled classes, no specific training times. You show up when you want to, you work on the things you want to work on. There's spaces for grappling, striking, self-defense, or whatever else you want. There are coaches available to help you out, if you need it. If you want specific instruction, you arrange for lessons. If you want a partner, you seek one out. Hell, maybe there's a bunch of strength and conditioning equipment in there, because, hey it's a total fantasy right now, so why not?

Could it work? I don't really know. There's some clear barriers to the concept. The only model I can think of that works remotely like this is the old school boxing gym, and those aren't exactly moneymakers.

6. Getting people to let their partners take turns on the one-step appears to be a challenge. I had a couple of partners who would keep moving if I stopped to think (as I tend to do, in the one-step).

More stuff as it comes up.