Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stronger Structure Training

I have been focusing my training on fundamental skills recently.
  • Range
  • Structure
  • Movement

I have come to realize that the most juice comes from structure (Ligaments lining up bones the right way) being driven by power, generated by movement (motion defeats strength).  Force (F) = mass x speed.

So I want my mass to be made of as much muscle as possible to explode with speed.

I also want my ligaments to be strong to make the structure (bone weld) of the technique as solid as possible.  Especially if I’m in motion and using that structure to impact a larger opponent who is also in motion.  The cow catcher on a train tearing through a large bull if you will.

So I started investigating ligament strengthening programs and came across this

I’m much more interested in functional strength than body building so I took out what I felt was relevant from that article:

Why The Importance Of Tendons & Ligaments
Tendons and ligaments are essential in terms of weight training. They are very similar in composition, serve different functions and significantly assist with the process of muscular extension and contraction. Both are designed to passively stabilize joints. A tendon connects the ends of a muscle belly to bone tissue and can be likened to a tough strap-like cord.
When properly developed, a tendon has good elasticity and is strong and capable of great power. Tendons essentially cause the bone to move as they transmit tensile load produced by the muscles. A tendon will strengthen concurrently with the muscle usually but if great increases in weight are desired they need to be targeted separately. Tendon injuries are relatively common in those who use anabolic steroids and increase muscle, but not tendon, strength at a phenomenal rate.

A look at the glenohumeral joint (Shoulder).

This illustrates the need to train them independent of muscle under these circumstances. On the other hand, tendons can become stronger than muscles and muscle ruptures can result. This is why it is important, when looking to increase weight lifted, to incorporate specific tendon training power assistance exercises) into an established muscle training routine rather than training exclusively with heavy weights or with power assistance exercises or weights that can be handled with ease.
With either approach tendon or muscle ruptures could occur and, besides, massive increases in weight will not be realized if these approaches are not used concurrently. Tendon ruptures are very serious, with a 50 week full recovery rate being about average.
Ligaments are tougher cord-like fibers with greater flexibility. They tie, or bind, bones together at joints and allow for movement in a specific direction.
Tendons & Ligaments Are Composed Of Two Fibre Types:
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
Collagen provides strength and stiffness while elastin allows the joint to extend. Given the vitalness of tendons and ligaments in terms of training with maximal weights, it is important to strengthen them in preparation for unprecedentedly heavy weight training sessions - the kind of sessions that take muscle-building to the next level.

I sent this article to Van and Clint to get their expert opinions.  Both are exceptionally strong guys, and both are experienced in the practical applications of using force (euphemism for bad mutha fukkas)

This is the advice they gave me:

Van -
The Ruskies found that the best way to develop this [ligament strength] was through isometric exercises. Tendon/Ligament development occurs most rapidly when the muscles flex but do not move. So, in my program, I use isometric tension at the various 'sticking' and power points of every lift. Simply enough, using a deadlift movement, try to lift your car or truck. Change lifting position for the range of the movement at least thrice. Abs and ass tight, entire body rigid and flexed hold each exertion for three seconds. Progress to five seconds within the month. Do this for military pressing, curls, and leg-pressing or squats. If you do this with your weight-lifting, it is best to do it afterward. For best results, three times a week or more.

One of my training clients is on the road for about three weeks out of every five. For the past year, we've been playing the 'three steps forward two backward' when he comes home and continues his strength training. Recently, before he last went on the road, I developed an isometric program for him, to be done at least three times a week and hopefully every day. It takes a total of 15 minutes with the few calisthenics I threw in, too. Today, he returned home after 24 days of absence. We did a combined push-pull workout. Bench Press, Corner Rows, and Barbell Curls. He had increased in each lift! Whereas before he would come back and be weaker, this time, he was actually stronger than when he left. His bench press had increased by 3 reps, the corner reps by 9, and the bar bell curls by 3. That's an incredible gain, no matter what methodology! As well, his posture was more crisp and he had actually lost some body fat. What that means, essentially, is that the isometric program initiated anabolic activity. You can bet your ass I'm starting a daily isometric program on Monday!

Clint -
I agree with Van and would also say that in Strongman training you also try and get the body ready for the kind of weight that explodes muscles and bone not just tears it. On of my favorite type of exercises is slow dynamic effort. Take a squat rack Load it with as much weight as you can lower slowly . , have a spotter or two help you lift it of and slowly lower your self to the pins . 1 or 2 reps per set.  Same as Deadlift set your waist high lift off then lower to the ground as slow as you can. Don’t be afraid to drop it if needed. , Overhead press same, bench same, slow lower to make the ligament and tendon as strong as possible
I have done squats like this with 1200 lbs and deads with 900 . Bench is kinda scary as you are lowering an extreme amount of weight onto your heart cavity, I highly recommend doing it in a safety rack with the pins set above your chest for safety, done this with 600 lbs

Like I said extremely strong guys -
So how does this apply to the practical application of martial arts? 
Especially when I drone on about fighting outside your weight class, and not being dependant on size and strength.

The point of the blog is to take training advice from experts and apply it to training methods that increase your performance in your specific art.

As I mentioned previously here

I like to incorporate skill specific training into strength training.
  • Uke Waza – Evasion techniques with running - road work
  • Nage Waza – Throws with pushing motions
  • Kansetsu Waza – Joint locks with pulling motions

So how can Van and Clint’s advice be applied to the skill specific training?
Kansetsu Waza – Joint locks with pulling motions.  Look at the video of Wim from the previous blog.  Instead of tying the belt to a heavy bag, tie it or something similar to something that doesn’t move like a tree.  Or if you are inside tie a knot in the end of a belt and shut it on the top of a door. 

Remember van suggested:

Tendon/Ligament development occurs most rapidly when the muscles flex but do not move.  You can apply that principle to this type of joint lock training.  Isometric tension at the various 'sticking' and power points.  For example if the joint lock consists of three motions (it should NOT consist of more than that) hold isometric tension as hard as you can for 3-5 seconds at each motion of the technique.  This strengthens tendons and ligaments, shows you / helps you correct any flaws in your structure, and increases your heart rate.  This is why I think Van’s client lost body fat.  It is extremely taxing to try to move something as hard as you can that simply won’t budge.  Don’t believe me?  Go out side and try to push your house off its foundation.  Don’t be a pussy, push like your life depended on it – as hard as you can.  How long did you last? 

Added benefits? - Trying as hard as you can also adds a mental toughness aspect to the training.  Also, you are not just generally strengthening your ligaments but you are specifically strengthening the ligaments you needed to ensure the correct structure of your techniques.  At the same time you are ingraining neurological pathways for correct form.  The better the neurological pathways (sometimes called muscle memory) the easier it is to perform under stress.
Meaning you become better at delivering force under pressure.

Clint suggested using slow dynamic effort.  You can apply that principle to doing throws against resistance.  As illustrated in other articles on this blog I like to practice throw against 6 of the strongest plyo bands available woven into two “arms”

Again I stress over in three motions.  Do the motions of the throw as slowly as you can do the motions perfectly (almost like Tai Chi) against as much resistance as you can possibly handle -  slow dynamic effort.

Like the isometric training this shows you / helps you correct any flaws in your structure, ingrains neurological pathways for correct form, and increases your heart rate.

But because the resistance bands stretch and move you are developing power specific to your techniques while you strengthen the ligaments.

With both of these training methods be sure to focus on your breathing.  Again ingraining good habits, and because if you don’t you will pass out, and or crap you pants.  Funny buy not necessarily beneficial to your training efforts.

Take these principles, apply them to your skill set, and incorporate them into your own training.

From my own experience this training yield results and it is a lot of fun.

Mas Oyama said the power of Karate doesn’t come from any mystical secret.  The power of Karate comes from training hard every day.  So find a way to incorporate skill specific training every day and watch your functional strength and power increase dramatically

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review - Campfire Tales from Hell

A while back I mentioned a book I helped with would be available soon.

Well, now it is available here:

This is the review I wrote for the book:

Real world violence, it is scary, and like many scary things it all too often becomes romanticized.

Because of this romantization, the field of dealing with violence becomes filled with "experts" that have never experienced it, but have developed strategies for dealing with what they fantasize violence is all about.

This book is fantastic because it cuts through all that nonsense and delivers quality information in an entertaining format

All of the authors have been faced with violence, lived through it, and came back to talk about it so others can learn the lessons they have paid dearly to learn.

The combined experience of the contributing authors is phenomenal!

This group ranges from survivors of mental / psych wards, and foreign prisons, to thugs and "reformed" criminals, to Corrections and Law Enforcement officers, to a PHD leading the field in PTSD research and treatment.

You won't find this kind of reliable first hand information anywhere else.

I am honored that I was allowed an opportunity to contribute one small part to this wealth of information.

Because of that I received an advanced copy. I have been reading and re-reading the other articles ever since.

I highly recommend you buy this book

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


A lot of things all happening at the same time inspired this blog.  I got a call from my Mom suggesting I should give some words of advice / encouragement to my Nephew.  My Nephew is the captain of his high school’s trap shooting team.  My Nephew is a fantastic shot.  He has been hunting and trap shooting with his dad, and tactical shooting with me since he was big enough to hold a gun.  My Mom wanted me to talk to him because apparently pressure is getting to him and he is not performing to his ability.

I received this call right before I left for SWAT week.  SWAT week is 40 hours of training provided for and by my SWAT team.  A great time!  During SWAT week I saw Operators exceed their previous level of ability, and I saw others shy away from the challenge.

So, my advice to my Nephew and my thoughts after SWAT week bounced around in my brain until this blog came out.

The reason we go to Camp Ripley for SWAT week is to get away from everything else and just focus on training.  That, and a military base has facilities we don’t have access to in the Metro.

Some of these things include:
  • State of the art simulated cities for scenario work
  • 360’ live fire shoot house
  • Confidence / Obstacle course
  • 900 yard popper range

Completing every obstacle in the confidence course was hard, but totally worth it.  Staring up at 60 yard cargo net vertical climb is scary.  You come to the realization that if you fuck up you could die or end your career.  Being scared is part of the confidence course.  Bravery isn’t not being scared.  Bravery is being scared shitless and still doing what needs to be done.  The rush of not dying and looking back at the scary obstacle while you give it the bird builds confidence.  Cheering for your teammates to do the same and celebrating their victories builds a team.

This obstacle sucks balls
I didn’t do it by military regs but I got my fat ass over this obstacle

The 900 yard popper range was awesome.  The best way for me to describe it is a massive field filled with green blob enemies.  They used to have red stars on them but after we became “friends” with the Russia the stars were removed.  So imagine a huge pasture full of zombies at different distances from 100 – 836 yards coming at you.  When you shoot them they drop – then pop back up, hence the name. 

The other Snipers enjoy riding me because they have shot at 1000 yards and I have not.  So I was happy for the opportunity to shot out to at least 836 yards.  That was awesome.  I also was hitting consistently at 500 + yards with my entry rifle and 200 yards with my hand gun.  

After all this I needed plastic surgery to get the smile off my face.  I grabbed my entry riffle and decided to play a game I dubbed “god of war”.  I was going to kill every zombie I could see unassisted.  Once I locked eyes on a target I would go from “sul” (muzzle pointed down) take the safety off as I brought the riffle up and squeeze the trigger as soon as the dot crossed the target.  I killed every thing I saw.  1 shot 1 kill, or I  played with the pop up so every time it popped back into my sight I dropped it again.

That builds confidence.

So - Big fucking deal, is this blog just me bragging?  Well a little bit, but I needed to brag for the next part to have credence.

Kihon Dosa (Basic Exercises)
What ever it is that you do, find the most basic fundamental skills that makes what ever it is that you do work.


Training the fundamentals everyday builds competence.
Competence is the foundation of confidence.

Competence proven under hard circumstances equals confidence.
Confidence reduces distractions, and negative emotions that deter performance.

When / if you feel anxious drill and drill the fundamentals.  The practice will make you better.  Doing everything you can to be better relieves stress which also helps you to perform better.

If you don’t have solidly ingrained neural pathways of correct fundamentals you will fail under pressure.
The fundamentals of marksmanship are the same regardless of the distance.  If you flinch / anticipate 3 yards, you won’t be able to hit shit at 25yards.

If you can’t hit at 25 yards you’ll never be able to amaze yourself at 200 yards.

We have all heard the phrase you are what you eat.  

More accurately you are what you regularly eat and you are what you regularly do.  Eating one piece of cake on your birthday won’t make you a fat ass any more that eating clean on the day after your New Year’s resolution will make you lean.  But if you eat clean on a regular basis you will become leaner.  If you do your fundamentals on a regular basis you will become proficient.  You will own those skills.

So hit those fundamentals, dry fire drills daily, remove your flinch.  Then hit consistently at 25 yards.  Then push your limits

After 200 yards coming back to 25 is cake. 

How do you push your limits?

Surround yourself with good people.  People that will push you.  People who will call you on your bullshit.  People who will not accept mediocrity.  People that will never allow you to rest on your laurels.  

Earn your place among them

These are guys I would gladly kill and/or die for (and the guy who took the picture).  

That is us on top of the 60 yard scary as hell climb of death.  Because we kicked the course's ass.  I don’t know if any of us would have made it if the others didn't push each other through.  I would have rather died than then been the only guy in that group that didn't make it through the confidence course.

Far better to try a pressure test and fail than to hide in fear of the test.

Try hard, fail boldly!  Find out what needs work and drill those fundamentals.  Try again and kick that challenge’s ass.  Pressure tests / stress tests may result in embarrassment, but that embarrassment can lead to growth.  Hiding from a challenge will protect you from embarrassment, but it will also lead to stagnation and atrophy.

  • Fundamentals
  • Surround yourself with good people
  • Push yourself / stress test
  • Competence builds confidence
  • Confidence defends against negatives that erode performance


I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here.  If you have taken the time to read this blog, I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you.  But on the off chance anyone who needs to read this is still reading here is some advice.

There will be those who are tempted to hide from the challenge.  Instead of surrounding themselves with good people and earning their respect – a place at the table if you will.  They will resent those good people and project their negativity onto them

Winners come together and find a way to win.  Losers gather in small groups and blame others for their failures.

They tell themselves there is nothing wrong with them.  The guy that is ridding them to push them further is just an asshole picking on them.

Again I doubt anyone reading this is like that, but I bet you have had to deal with people that were.

So to them I say this.  For every hour of training you receive some asshole that picks on you has put in at least one hour on the lesson plan.  Probably another hour or two on logistics.  Getting a training area.  Getting all the equipment and personnel to the training area.  Yet another hour with pre-training paper work.  I bet they got there first to set up for you and stayed there last to clean up after you so let’s add an hour for that.  And probably an hour with after training POST paper work.

For every hour you work to improve yourself, some asshole that picks on you has put in four hours to make you better

So when you feel like saying something to that asshole maybe start with, end with, and maybe only say... Thank you.

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe