10 Tips for Losing Weight in Karate

Peak of my fitness to date and what I plan to exceedPeak of my fitness to date and what I plan to exceed

Now that the new year of karate training, or whatever martial arts style you are into, many of your will be struggling with getting back in shape after the Christmas/New Year binge. This most definitely includes myself, and it sucks big time. You may have worked extremely hard, also like myself, getting in tip top condition for your end of year grading. Or in my case, the biggest grading I had after two years being my Nidan Grading.

So now that we have established that we are all hurting, you can’t get out as many pushups as before, you can feel your new gut getting in your way during your sit ups and you are generally more tired and lethargic, sleeping more, drinking more and eating more. We need to find a way to put the brakes on and get this karate journey back on track.

Hopefully, my list below will help you with this. Now I am no dietitian, personal trainer, doctor or astronaut. What I am is someone that has previously seen results through the following list of tips:

Weight Lose Tip 1. Know Your Daily Recommended Calorie Intake

Naturally, there are more calorie/kilojoule calculators on the internet than there are fast weight lose schemes. With a little bit of research (I wouldn’t go past your countries health department/government website such as The Department of Health and Ageing for Australia) you should be able to come up with a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is how much energy your body needs to survive if you become a couch potato and a Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) that suits your age, height and current weight. The DRI adjusts based on your activity level and will give you a calorie intake to maintain your current weight.

Weight Lose Tip 2. Set SMART Goals

Once we know this we can set a daily/weekly calorie deficiency target that is SMART. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (or words to that effect).

A good SMART objective for weight loss for a myself as a young, fit martial artist would be something like this

“Lose 5 kilograms in 3 months by reducing my calorie intake by ~400 calories per day on average”

Obviously it is specific as we have figures in there, it is achievable as it is within the range of a healthy calorie deficit for someone my age and fitness level. It is achievable as I can lose the weight and still have a healthy BMI. Realistic as I have done it before and timely because we are doing it in 3 months.

Weight Lose Tip 3. Make it Your Decision

It is all good to have a plan, set smart objectives and tick all the right boxes. What we ultimately need is the personal drive and discipline to go through with it. This won’t work if you are not doing it for the right reasons. You may need to reevaluate why you are doing this before you start. If it is to achieve your goal of passing your next grading then that will be a good motivator and one that your instructor will support. If it is because someone else is telling you to do it you may end up applying a negative association to  the journey you are about to embark on. This in my opinion happens a lot with personal trainers. You pay someone to push you but when they are not around you have no desire to push yourself. You cannot outsource will to a personal training. As martial arts instructors we aim to change your discipline and behaviour by giving you the will to do things outside the dojo and not just in the training arena.

Find strength in yourself and you increase your changes of success.

Weight Lose Tip 4. Find Support With Your Friends and Family

Next step is to get someone else on board that you can be accountable to. Your friends and families, or even work colleagues, people that you see on a daily basis or in regular intervals will help you with this. I would recommend someone that does not have too close of a relationship as they may be soft on you and allow you to take shortcuts. Also it is good to talk about goals we have set ourselves with other people as it goes from being an idea to a choice.

Weight Lose Tip 5. Change Your Diet

Now we come to the bits that will actually help you to get the weight off, and hopefully to keep it off.

Most karate students or martial artists are already getting a good amount of exercise in their weekly routine of training. What is lacking is the discipline within our diet.

First thing first, research the foods that you currently eat and find out their serving size, calories per serve and compare that to your target daily calorie goal. You will be surprised how many calories are a serve of honey, or in two slices of white bread or a latte. This gives you a very good point of reference especially once you get a grasp on how many calories you burn running or riding a bike or training in karate for 90 minutes. It starts to become very apparent that it is easier to not consume the energy than it is to burn it off.

My personal strategy is to increase my protein intake (tins of tune, chicken breast, kangaroo, protein powder supplements, egg whites, soy milk) along with fibre (psyllium husk, whole grains), minimise my carbohydrate intake by cutting out simple carbohydrates and foods high in sugar. Do some research on the glycemix index (GI) of food as this measures the rate at which the your body absorbs energy and impacts blood sugar levels, insulin and has a huge impact on apetite, hunger pains and the underlying desire to eat.

Find some super foods such as freeze dried acai for antioxidants, white tea to boost your metabolism and and get stuck into your vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, spinach and drink the recommended daily amount of water. A lot of emphasis on water and magnesium to help the body to absorb the water and use it for greater functionality.

Weight Lose Tip 6. Lift the Weights

To substitute the new diet we are going to take on, we will opt to lift some weight so that we grow those muscles (which will feed off the high protein and carbohydrates) and ultimately increase our overall basal metabolic rate as our body requires more energy to be a couch potato with those new muscle fibres to feed.

For someone that is new to weights, the easiest way to begin is by working the large muscle groups by doing bench press, squats, dead lifts and chin ups. Anything that will get those large muscles pumping. Also some of the smaller muscle groups such as the abdominals, calves, triceps will be worked during your martial arts class and you may not have the appropriate recovery time for those muscles to repair themselves between weight training days.

If you are unable to gain the equipment to work these muscle groups I recommend a martial artist to research kettlebells as they require minimum space, can be done in short training sessions and give a complete workout for the body.

Weight Lose Tip 7. Implement a Cardio Routine

Skip, run, cycle or swim either before class, after class, in the morning, when you get home from work. Anytime you get a spare 30 minutes to an hour, you can do this at a low pace just to get your heart pumping into the fat burning zone. This may add up to an additional 300 calories burned per session and will be another stake in the coffin of the Christmas gut.

Try not to overdo cardio for weight lose and follow the general rule of 80% of weight lose coming from diet and 20% from exercise. The greater the energy put into cardio exercise the more you start to use energy derived from within the muscles and this needs to be replenished usually by eating carbohydrates after exercise. So you can run a marathon a day but you need to up your carb intake to align with your activity level which negates the calorie deficit objective. Stick to long walks on the beach.

Weight Lose Tip 8. Measure Your Progress

If you don’t have a set of scales you will need to go out and buy some, find some, borrow some, beg for them. As part of our SMART objectives we had measurable and the scales will be the key factor in success or failure. If you do not measure you do not know whether what you are doing is working.

Measure your body weight whenever you want but keep it to a routine that has little variables that can effect it. Also only measure yourself once per day as there are too many factors that can change. This is why most people measure themselves after they wake up and after relieving themselves. Keep it consistent, do it daily where possible and track it on a graph or write it down, get an app on your smart phone or tell someone who can.

Weight Lose Tip 9. Give it Your Top Effort

Once you have the fitness you need to work harder to take advantage. Don’t leave anything in the tank.

If you find that the results don’t come straight off the bat, give it some time. This is not a fad weight lose diet, this is about changing behaviour so that when you have reached your goal you do not go back to the old ways and be back at square one.

Part of the journey of karate is learning about perseverance, determination and will. Think of it as part of your overall karate journey.

Weight Lose Tip 10. Results Equal Reward

After achieving the goal, you need to be rewarded. The weight lose itself will be reward enough, but you need something special that isn’t a binge fest. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, enjoy the moment and show off the results to your friends and those that have supported you along the way. Be vocal and bask in the sunshine of success. This will also make you remember down the track if you ever find yourself off course what it feels like to give it your best shot and give you the motivation to get back on the fitness band wagon.

If you are still here reading this than thank you for your time. As always, you get inspired to write these based on events during the day. In this case it was speaking to one of our students who is attempting their 2nd kyu later in the year and looking themselves for inspiration to lose 10-15 kilos. I will go back through and re-link to more sources as I go to help you out.

But if you do have any further advice to add or want to talk about it feel free to comment below. I am more than happy to help and share some of the things that I have learnt after crawling the internet for information, applying it and getting great results.

Nidan Grading Part 2

Waking up early Saturday morning on the 11th of November, 2011, James Duggan Shihan took myself and Andrew (along with other students attempting gradings) to the seminar hall for some early morning Sanchin and Tencho training. In hindsight this was probably one of my most productive sessions not only to improve on some marginal changes that I required but also to prepare mentally for the grading that was to occur that afternoon.

The biggest change I had to deal with in my Sanchin kata was standing off centre in my sanchin stance. What I mean by this is that I was leaning back into my rear leg throughout the stance which was putting my weight distribution back too far. I had previously corrected this in my top half of my body by straightening my back but inevitably, when one problem is corrected you have to be cautious of other problems occurring. In this case it was sitting back into my stance, similar to slouching in your chair whilst driving a car or sitting in an office chair. But as always, just having Jamie Shihan there to take a look and give some feedback allowed me to at least give this a go at correcting in time for the grading. We also focused a lot on Tencho and finalising a few points in the breathing.

Later in the day, aft completing some of the standard sessions through the seminar, Glenn Stephenson Shihan (our head instructor for Goju Ryu Karate do Seiwakai Australia) took us through Seiunchin kata. This was intense as Glenn Shihan had very high expectations for us throughout this session. At one stage I recall the quote of the day being “This is Goju Ryu not kan ga roo”, referring to someone who was executing a yori ashi dachi by hopping onto the front foot instead of pushing from the rear and creating drive in the technique. All in all, it was another great session to prepare for the grading.

Let’s skip ahead now to the grading as I have delayed this way too long already (first post being back in November).

Kumite

So after all this, I found out that evening that both Andrew and I passed our Nidan grading which made me extremely happy. I was also very happy that the grading was brought forward to Saturday afternoon (it was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon) so I was able to have a few celebratory drinks and enjoy the Sunday a bit more without freaking out about the grading.

Nidan Grading Part 1

Before I start this post, I want to introduce my partner in crime through this karate journey, Andrew Kerridge Skinner, who started karate with me back in 2005 after moving to Brisbane from Hervey Bay, Queensland. Anyone that is close to me inevitably knows who Skinner is. We have been training together since that faithful night (for another post) when we met James Duggan Shihan and Kain Johnson Sensei and was taught more then a thing or two about physical and mental toughness.

So fast forward. What a month it has been! That is about all I can muster to sum up all that extra training, mental preparation and just overall karate ‘ness’ that is required when making that final climb towards your grading.

On Friday, 10th November Andrew and I along with James Duggan Shihan, Kain Johnson Sensei and most of the other senior students of Brisbane Goju Karate started the usual scurry to get everybody over to Jamie Shihan’s house and get over to the airport.

No time for coffee’s. Let’s just get in there, get to Sydney, take a train down to the ‘Gong’ and get started on this epic weekend. Late that afternoon we arrived in Wollongong for the first session of the Goju Ryu Karate do Seiwakai Annual Wollongong Camp for 2011. It was great catching up with all the students from around Australia and getting down to our karate business.

On the first night we got straight into kata with Glenn Stephenson Shihan taking us through both Sanchin kata and Tencho Kata, the pillars of Goju Ryu.  Jamie Shihan then took the group through kumite drills focussing on owning space and projecting energy. All the while I was thinking about the posts on this blog and the mental tips I had given myself leading up to this weekend. Trying to reflect on my own advice and putting it into action. In the end, a great high energy night with well over 100 students involved.

If there was one thing I could take out of the night, throughout the kumite drills, was the importance of Soto Uke blocking as the lead to any of the standard Jodan, Chudan or Gedan blocking. So this is a little reminder to myself to do a post on this down the track as it was quite evident that this basic technique required some explanation.

Part 2 will focus on the rest of the seminar at Wollongong which includes final preparation for the grading with Seiunchin kata training with Glenn Stephenson Shihan and the nidan grading itself which was completed late Saturday evening.

Occupying Space

You’ve really gotta enjoy those nights at training where you get to partner up and start putting into practice all those combinations that Shihan James Duggan drills into us up and down the class during Kihon Ido (basics with movements).

In today’s post we are going to explore the thought process required to correctly transition from practicing basic techniques into thin air and executing them on an opponent. The biggest challenge we face in this transition is not speed, accuracy or the strength to endure the pain of repeatedly being used as a crash test dummy.

It is the ability to occupy your own space and control your opponents. There is a reason our instructors constantly refer to the battle that is fought during kumite. This battle occurs because our intent is not just to land the perfect yoko hijiate or execute a mae geri with precision.

Our intent is to maximise our level of control.

As a beginner, this can be as simple as controlling our movements so that we do not harm our opponent more than what is required to practice the techniques correctly. As a black belt our control refers to our ability to maximise the space that we occupy. There are a couple of elements to this level of control; the first is what we actually can control and this is based on our ability, the second is what our opponent perceives us to control. Mr Miyagi is a great example of this (seriously how great is that movie!).

Do not underestimate the old.

Portrayal of Chojun Miyagi in the original "The Karate Kid"

So how do we do this Jay Sempai?

I have three pieces of advice for today that once again have been instilled in me by James Duggan Shihan. The first one is get your basics right, and minimise unnecessary movement. Remember Less is More. When an opponent is trying to attack you and you are completely still yet ready to strike it can be pretty intimidating. I have experienced this in sport karate tournaments where my opponent is jumping around losing all interface with the ground and I’m as still as a fly, perceived as an easy target but confident that my reactions and muscle memory will maintain my defence and counter attack.

The second. Ensure your projection of energy and the end point of your attacks is through your opponent. When you attack someone or someone attacks you it is not a fight for the space that overlaps between us. You want to take the space that is right beneath their feet, unearth them and ensure that they do not feel comfortable when they squaring off against you. James Duggan Shihan dismisses the term ‘bridge the gap’ in favour of ‘take the space’.

And finally, have intent when striking an opponent or defending ourselves. Our intent when practicing on our opponent is not to perfect the movement; it is to keep what is ours and take what is theirs. The movements, techniques and strikes are just tools to accomplish this.

There is only one constant in life, and that is self. The battle is won when your opponent no longer has control of their space and therefore has lost themselves. At that point control is claimed by you and you have the power to decide the final result.

All pretty hefty when we are facing a fellow Karateka in the dojo but remember the dojo is our safe place and how we train is reflected in what we do. That is why the more proficient you become the less people actually try to start trouble with you. They perceive an essence, a danger, and they are less willing to challenge that.

Renshu Owarimasu

Less is More

“Less is More” is a popular saying in the Brisbane Goju Karate dojo, one that is repeated by both James Duggan Shihan and Kain Johnson Sensei as often as Ichi, Ni, San. Usually in the context of movement, but with an unspoken relevance to intent and purpose. This post aims to explore this “less is more” concept and gain a better understanding of how it can improve our performance as a karateka.

I will start by exploring two other quotes that I have come across more recently when trying to understand “Less is More”.

The first quote

“I just carve away anything that doesn’t look like a lion, and I’m left with a lion” – Michelangelo

When we headed down the road to becoming a black belt in karate every action was to learn a new technique, increase our fitness or find a new height of mental strength. This is the journey to black belt, learning these basic techniques in order to give ourselves the best platform to mastery. If we are honest with ourselves, have trained hard with skill and an open mind then our instructors may reward our efforts with the black belt, the symbol that we have achieved the basics. In order to achieve mastery we now begin the journey of extraction.

Now for the second quote

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This sounds simple, right? Or is it possibly the most difficult task and a journey that a black belt karateka and any martial artist alike spend their entire lives trying to achieve. Removing inefficient movement requires the highest level of understanding of body mechanics, energy flow and process of thought. This decision can be simple but difficult to achieve or it can be difficult to even conceive and once identified by our instructors very simple to remove.

So what is the reward? “Less is More”.

In simple terms, by removing inefficiency of movement we can complete techniques faster or reduce the time spent on redundant movement. This translates into more time and less energy expenditure. Giving us increased performance.

And to finish up, a quote from me…

“Everything in life that we wish to attain is already within us. We just need to remove what we do not need and find happiness in what is left.”

For the karateka’s feel free to comment on a part of your karate that you have been working on improving and what you aim to get out of it.

For everyone else… what in your life have you removed and have ultimately been given more. You can’t pick bad stuff either like drinking or smoking, it has too be something that you have been doing because you thought it was good.