Vegan diet challenge (and heavy kettlebell)

So my normal weight is slightly under 13 and half stone, lighter in summer, slightly heavier in the winter.
The last year I have been feeling off in terms of my fitness and diet, been perhaps to laxed or at least not on the top of my game, which in itself has been demoralising.
Before Christmas I was feeling sluggish, and gained the usual half a stone during Christmas. But for the six weeks after the holidays I gained almost another stone, mainly from eating too much fish a day (at least twice a day, not lean fish like tuna.)
Plus side to the extra weight is with sparring I can go more toe to toe with bigger guys and can dominant my ground more. I was surprised that I was fairly lightfooted but my fitness was atrocious for my standards and felt uncomfortable with my own body, I don’t normally have a noticeable belly and it reduced my self esteem.

So I decided to do a two challenges for lent, first focus my training on a 32 kg kettlebell, the next was to be a vegan for the forty days. Now normally I eat alot of meat, thinking I need my protein etc but I decided to see how I would cope with the effort. The last few years I have gone vegetarian but me being me I decided to up the challenge.

First few weeks I felt like my normal self, my digestive system was running much smoother, and I was training regular with both karate and the kettlebell. I actually gained weight and was feeling too full over compensating with excess sources of protein like beans, tofu, vegan protein powder etc. But throughout instead of eating as much bread. I would have wraps.Beans are really lean but in the first week I would have like two cans as part of one meal. I was nearly 15 stone and now 17.5% fat

Once I realised I couldn’t maintain such a high level of protein or could afford it at that rate I decided rather than focusing on the level of consumption a bodybuilder would intake, I focused on the daily recommended amount for an average adult male, if mine was slightly higher that was a bonus.
I followed the theory of rather than having all your protein at once, make sure you get enough between all of the meals.

The mid weeks the scales seemed to fluctuate alot between losing half a stone to being the same weight, it was really confusing to know if I had made any difference in losing the belly I had gained. I was feeling very sluggish even more so than before the diet, and I realised I couldn’t keep training with the kettlebell my energy was burnt out.
So I focused for one week on just my karate, then the other two weeks of doing at least one day of calisthenics.

The moment I let my self have even more rest the belly virtual dropped within days and I barely noticed. My weight flew down below 14stone. Back to my normal winter weight. I still felt incredibly sluggish but was pleased with the fact that I looked more like my normal self.

I would say a week after eating g a somewhat normal diet my energy returned to normal, I felt abuzz with it, something that I’ve been missing since way before Christmas.

I have learnt that I use to eat too much meat which would make me sluggish, but having no major protein sources also made me sluggish. That I need to control my eating habits slightly (not go over the top). My fitness hasn’t really changed as a result of the diet, maybe if I did more cardio during the vegan phase it would of.

At the moment I’m just about 13-9 and although not in super shape I can feel my abs under my belly again.

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Weight Training for Goju Ryu

It was really fun training with my mate Cameron from work; he is a bodybuilder and strongman and really knows how to train his body depending on his mood for that time. I decided to test out earlier that week and was surprised to see that despite focusing on bodyweight training for two years my weight lifting strength hasn’t changed that much (obviously weaker because I haven’t trained my nervous system like that in years).

Explosiveness and tempo for martial arts

As I told him I wanted to train for my martial arts, rather than two separate hobbies where my body tries to do two different things and get injured often as a result. He completely agreed recommended speed training for explosiveness and he also noticed that my temp was different to his almost double his speed. Cameron is focused on squeezing the muscles feeling a pump, where my natural mindset it to blast through that exercise which he said was great for the power that I need in martial arts. I wasn’t doing speed for the sake of it, largely my form was clean, I have to get lower on my dips etc.

Volume

I learnt why I never put on sheer mass, except for bodyweight exercises I had never done that many sets for one or two muscle groups, I was surprised to see myself keep going at these points, it shows how remarkable the body really is. Today I am surprised how loose my body is showing that lifting weights the correct way stretches your body.

Weaknesses

Cameron was surprised that for a naturally strong man some exercises I was really weak and he was looking at my muscles in shock, and he started to analyse why that was. On the bench my right side is far stronger which means it takes up more of the load on the bar thereby looking weaker. Cameron couldn’t understand at the time because sometimes my left would kick in. He worked on my form on some key exercises and told me to lower the weight to where the problems starts and build up slowly from there, he reckons three months they will go away.

I noticed on one exercise and he noticed on another that on my left side I turn my body into the exercise meaning I am using more of my body and joints into the exercise. This is probably how I use to injure myself in weight training, that my right side would take the load and that I damage my joints by not letting the muscles bear that weight.

This is the first time I really weight trained with someone and it is really eye opening on what I have been doing wrong.

Then I was tempted to do Single Arm Rows (SAR) my former speciality I really wanted to see if I could use a 50 kg dumbbell again, and so with Cameron watching I blasted through my right side and struggled with my left side. He noticed I didn’t go so deep on my left and that my body would twist to make it easier. I was ecstatic that I could lift that heavy a weight, and relieved that I knew where I was going wrong, I need to fix my left side for martial arts. He said I had a really strong chest, strong lats but need to work on my traps.

Next time we will work on squats and deadlifts which when I perform the correctly will be so beneficial to karate, especially if I keep that explosiveness mentality I’m not a bodybuilder I am a martial artist.

Comparing bench-press to Sanchin

Not an exercise that I really used as I use to train on my own, but the way to drive force and power in the bench (and probably for squat and deadlift) reminds me of Sanchin/Sanzhan) is to breath into your abdominal muscles (or dante/tanden) squeezing the lats and feel like you’re bending the bar. Doing it correctly felt very much like doing a hard version of Sanchin.

Keep Training, Never Give Up, OSU.

Journey through the Sans (Sanchin and Sanzhan)

So for the last 7 weeks I have stopped my normal strength training routine and just focused on Sanchin/Sanzhan to see how they will affect my training. The first point is that it has been nice not to be injured all the time, strength training is good but focusing on the Sans has enabled me to stop when I have needed to and if I have enough energy do some swimming.

The main idea was to see if it affected the way I sparred, but I was really surprised with how much it has increased my musculature, I have noticed a difference with my chest and shoulders, but I can really feel my lats and abs getting harder. Obviously the sans are a form of isometric training, a bodybuilding type tool, I just found it ironic that the one point I was just focused on improving my karate and nothing to do with strength or muscle building, that I have increased in size. From what I have read the idea behind this is so that you have a sheet of muscle ready to tense and absorb blows with easy affect.

I noticed within a few weeks that my short ranged power increased with the intensity of what I had back in china, which leads me to believe that like the gaining muscle issue, that it could be more of a muscle memory regrowth than anything else, also I noticed that my speed has increased in my hand strikes, again another sign of regaining some of the assets that I acquired in China. What is weird though is that although I am a bit more muscular my speed has actually increased. I am not as strong as usual and my endurance is shocking, especially if I have been swimming that week (my main form of cardio) or not, including with looking leaner, the Sans have really improved some definition, but only if I am swimming.

Now that bits is out of the way let me talk about how it has affected my sparring, actually I have noticed a difference with my grappling, I feel much more calm and heavier when grappling, and get into positions easier, otherwise I don’t seem to be much different except when I need to switch to primal mode or tenacious mode and I can explode into what I want to do, without the massive amount of effort that I use to put into it. The same with sparring, when I am waiting for the strikes, I’m pretty much same old same old, but when I decide press the attack, the speed and animal aggression is really impressive, I can feel when the Sans hand principles are working.

But the real key I believe is that it has enabled me to unleash the inner animal in a controlled way, which does lead me to being too hot-headed or  using any energy if that makes sense. My best mate when we practiced some sticky hand stuff and the sparring reckons I have become more go (hard) than I have for years, but I feel so much more relaxed, and just let the animal out on a controlled tap. Obviously I have a long way to go, it hasn’t changed me radically, but I think it is a step in the right direction.

I feel a sense of aggressive calmness which sounds like a contradiction in itself, but it does feel like qigong in the sense that I feel more relaxed and calmer in mind and spirit and needing to get my San fix makes me feel a lot better, but I think the key is that it isn’t hiding your inner animal, the beast within you that you need to survive it allows you to train in so that you have complete control of it, to call it at will, like you would have to in street situation.

It has improved my posture tremendously, my lower back doesn’t hurt, my knees feel great and my shoulders are square, more of a Sanzhan affect than a Sanchin affect, but still it has been a real blessing.

I am excited to go back to calisthenics, to see how focusing on the Sans will potentially increase my strength and endurance, it has been a nice break, I may end up continuing this avenue but I know that I need to do other forms of training to continue on my path towards my full Shodan. Osu!

Sanchin/Sanzhan training

I have put my strength and fitness regime on a down step, and have focused on swimming (mainly butterfly) walking, and Sanchin/Sanzhan training. I am listening to my body, some days i will train alot of San(zhan)chin, and others little or non. I mainly do them with pullups, not necessarily for reps but for one day full range explosive, and another day very slowly with tension. then I will finish off with Shisochin.

I am trying to develop the way I want to fight via these three kata, and when we start proper sparring again (too many injuries from the big grading) I want to see how it has affected the way I spar. The pullups is to help me to focus on my back muscles (and I missed doing them after 2-3 weeks), which Sifu Yen Da Shi (my White Crane teacher in China) said that doing white crane, specifically the Sanzhan form really develops you back muscles, especially your lats. I have noticed that when I practice Sanzhan regularly that my short range power increase alot, and when I came back from China my pullup max increased dramatically.

What I love is the more I discover about Sanchin from my Sensei, the more i realise that my white crane teacher was teaching me directly translates to it, I didn’t appreciate at the time but I really do now. I find for me to develop in my understanding in a mental and spiritual way that i need to do both, one for perfect alignment, subtly and get the body to work together as a rooted tree, and the other for explosion tension and sheer will power.

I need to start practicing more kicking and stretching more to get to where I want to get to, but I will build up my year journey towards my full Shodan slowly and with patience.

through San(zhan)chin I am trying to develop the body, my willpower and I have recently found a meditative calmness during it. I know it will take a lifetime to truly understand it, but the doubts that the other masters in kung fu school in china are long gone, it is a constant battle of the the three parts of human, it is designed to prepare to fight, it is the heart of our art.

Feel depressed, try and attempt a few handstands!

I have been feeling like a zombie recently, work drains your essence and it only allows you to have enough energy to focus on one or two hobbies outside of work. I know i shouldn’t get depressed, I am healthy and with my family but all the things I want to do and try, all the social stuff that always seems to be out of my grasp. I want to be a writer and write stories, but i don’t even have the mental energy to do that, lead alone read books and novels which helps to increase not only your imagination but also your vocabulary.

With my karate grading coming up I have stopped taking alcohol ( I only drink once or twice a week) which normally takes the edge off things, I didn’t even realise that I needed it, which means it is a good time to stop drinking for a while.

Injuries have made it harder to train, and i do love strength training and karate training, but i need to let my imagination be unleashed, people have always tried to insult me by saying that i am a dreamer, but to me that is a compliment. The greatest aspect of my personality is my dream or child like qualities or mindset. Even though that I am now 26, even 17 year olds think that I can act more childish then they are at times.

This may seem like a random detour, and it is the way i think, i just to one thing to another which have a small connection  but i could  never do handstands. Even when I tried out Capoeira for a while, I struggled with it, and when I started barstarzz like training, I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t try, I knew that even though i was getting stronger i couldn’t do it.

Then this week I was early for karate training, and I decided to have fun trying them with a big blue crash mat. It took the fear that I have with them (I have very heavy feet, so i tend to crash hard) and for 1/2 an hour I was just having child like fun practicing and failing them, I was surprised on how good a cardio workout it was, and how could my shoulders felt, but i was just having child like fun in pushing my boundaries, my limits.

I wanted to do it prior to yesterdays session, but Judo had booked the room and we ended up in the dance studio. I didn’t trust myself well enough in there to try it out. Today i felt even worse, once I get in a black mood, it is very hard for me to overcome it, its my day off and i can’t even write!

Then before during and afterwards, i decided to have fun and to play with handstands. I kept playing and the more i did it the better i got, some were up for a few seconds, I accidentally walked a few feet on my hands, I even did two mini partial handstand pressups before collapse  It made feel really really good. I wasn’t needing the big blue crash mat, the more i was practicing the better i got. I had to rest every so often because my shoulders got tired.

I never thought about doing handstands could be like some form of meditation to make me feel alive again. I was playing the tune deshi bassa (batman the dark knight rises, rise up), it get gave me such a lift, it was a great workout but i didn’t attend it to be one I just needed to have some child like fun and push my limits.

Sanchin workout

One of the best workouts i have was when I did Sanchin kata followed by pull ups after every set, but this time I slowed down and focus on tension and oh boy did my body feel amazing afterwards. It was also reassuring that I can do sanchin kata again with full tension without hurting my shoulder as long as I do a pulling exercise afterwards to balance it all out. I discovered this when I did sanzhan and then bent over rows immediately after each set.

Which I suppose what this year has been all about, because i haven’t been able to just train to my default settings, I am having to learn more control, flow with both karate and strength training. It has taken me 26 years to become sensible, well at least slightly sensible.

Karate- Recovery phase

Everytime I try to push myself to the next level in preparation for the grading at summer school the more I seem to get injured, pulling my back, and aggravating my ribs and shoulder. I should learn from the past, when I was training in China studying Kung fu for 3 months I was really progressing well after the first 2 weeks when the body goes into shock from doing super daily training, and I learnt that if I had a bad week it was from a lack of protein.

After the two month period I seemed to be getting weaker, I kept getting little niggles here and there, my speed was dropping, knees were aching and my recovery was really slowing down. Even though this period in my life laid the foundations on how I should approach both strength training and martial arts that I needed to train more with higher volume and supersets in order for me to progress. If you don’t let yourself recovery and rest it will do damage to you, I couldn’t make any new progress, which is probably why in my last week of Kung fu in china I switched to bajiquan to try out a new martial art, one that was my complete opposite that focuses on relaxed power, low stances and is extremely dynamic, the worst thing to be in this art is tense, and everyone there and here had always known me for being very tense in everything I did.

A lot of people lost weight and got a lot leaner, I wasn’t one of those, even though I didn’t look as big as I was prior to China (resulted from my depression period) my weight stayed the same.

Then when the Kung Fu period was over (it felt like I lost a huge part of myself) me and Ronny my Austrian friend I had made at the school, we went travelling to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai for three weeks. We trained maybe three times in that period, but all we focused on was living life to the full, lots and lots of site seeing, meeting up with Chinese girls, exotic foods, more sit seeing and more drinking. We walked for ages everywhere, stairs everywhere (there is a reason why most Asians are skinny!) everywhere in the big cities you had to walk ages to, and then with me and Ronny disagreeing that meant even more, with our obsession to see everything that we could.

It may seem like I have gone off in another direction but remember I said that I didn’t lose any weight and was always injured, well after my three weeks of site seeing and having mad adventures in the big cities I was at my leanest (up to that time, my leanest was for my last grading) that I had ever been in my adult life, I felt refreshed energised, and even though I had stopped running, my fitness said at a really high level for 6 + months. There was one down side, I had to rebuild the strength in my chest because of overtraining and lack of protein when I was kung fu training, but the point is the Kung Fu training did me a lot of good, but it was my three week layoff of just having fun and lots of walking that enabled me to train even harder.

I trained hard for the last summer school grading, and afterwards even though I needed to rest I ploughed on through, as I have been doing ever since. In December with my new job, with different shifts my energy levels have been drained, but I had increased my effort to get ready, which started a whole new supply of injuries.

I am my own worst enemy, I am doing myself an injustice by not being able to train 100% through all these injuries I keep getting, so from the advice of a few friends, karate ka and my dad I will have a 2 week break from strength training and karate, just let the body heal, doing gentle Sunsalutation, skipping (when it is fixed) and lots of walking. This will drive me mad, well madder than usual but I will still have 2 and a half months to train for my grading, and I need to take care of myself.