Enjoying the British weather so far

2013-07-21 18.50.27When CARISMA started, back in 1999, we were very often training in the beautiful parks of Cambridge, mostly Jesus Green.  That kind of a tradition has been kept over the years and we sometimes use parks when, for random reasons, some of our venues becomes unavailable and the weather is nice.  We also book all Sunday lessons for the summer (usually the whole July and August) to be run outside in one of the parks and, just if the weather is not good, we book at the last minute an available room for the day.

This year we have been lucky: so far all of the (5) Sundays we managed to train outside, enjoying the lovely weather and the sun.  If you have not tried yet please make sure you join us at one of our next Sunday lessons before end of August.  Here are a few pictures of the lessons we run:

Kickboxing for stress and exams

OllieOsunkunleOlaoluwakitan ‘Ollie’ Osunkunle (pictured here with his belt representing the national title he won in May 2013) is a CARISMA member who is leaving us this month after training very hard and regularly for 6 years.  Ollie joined us when he first started studying at the University of Cambridge for his medical degree which he achieved last month.  In 6 years with us he won several fights against various university teams as well in open regional and national competitions and he was awarded a 1st Dan black belt just a couple of weeks before his medical degree.  In his latest fight, weeks before his final exams, he won a national title.

One thing I often pointed out as a remark to his dedication was the consistency of his training regardless of the time of the year; he was one of the few university students that kept training during exam terms so I asked him to write a short article where he describes in his own words the experience of studying hard for a very demanding degree and, at the same time, train hard to be ready to fight at national level.  Here is his article:

            7 am. I fling myself bolt upright in bed. Letting out a great yawn, I do some simple stretches as I try to clear my mind for the day ahead. One day left. This is it. After six years of medical school; dissecting dead bodies; chemistry practicals and endless exams. This is it. My final exam before I hopefully earn the right to call myself doctor.

I sit at my desk and read through my list of tasks for the day ahead, there is only one decision left to make. “6.30pm → Kickboxing – sparring training”, can I make it? Of course, now let me explain why.

I studied medicine in Cambridge University. During my exam periods I kept my exercise routine as near to normal as possible. During the couple of months prior to my exams, I took part in the Oxford vs. Cambridge varsity match, won a national kickboxing competition and achieved my black belt in kickboxing. These achievements are by no means out of the ordinary and I know many other students that have kept up far more extensive sports participation.

I believe that there are a few key reasons why people give up on their exercise routines in the run-up to a major exam. Firstly, the threat of the impending exam causes the body to enter into a state of stress. In this state, people stop working to achieve their goals and instead struggle desperately to relieve themselves of their stress. Spending hours sat in front of study books is one such technique to relieve stress. However, those hours spent are often in excess of what is productive. A change is as good as a rest.

Secondly, with a prepared study plan and objectives to achieve before the exam, one might believe that there is simply not enough time to study and exercise in the same day. The disease of “time excusitis”. However, for most people, this is simply not the case. Working more efficiently: smarter rather than harder allows ample time for exercise in one’s day. Application of key principles such as Pareto’s law, commonly known as the 80/20 rule allows one to reduce the amount of material to learn. After all, 80% of the key information to learn will be covered in 20% of the available materials. Combined with Parkinson’s law, known as the law of forced efficiency, reducing the amount of time you have available to study forces you to focus on only the most relevant and high-yield data. Taking time out to kickbox helps you study smarter.

Thirdly, there is the worry of the biological effects that kickboxing may have on your body. After all, you may worry: “won’t I be too tired to study if I spend all my energy exercising?” Fortunately, the reverse is usually true. Exercise acts as a great stress reliever. Whilst a small amount of stress improves performance, large amounts have been shown to be detrimental to performance (1). In addition, exercise has been shown to improve memory, a great benefit prior to exams! (2)

So the next time you’re contemplating spending an extra hour in front of the books or heading to class, pick up your gloves and remember that there’s really only one correct choice to make. Punch away.

1.    L P. Emotionality and the Yerkes-Dodson Law. J Exp Psychol. 1957;54(5):345–52.

2.    Stroth S, Hille K, Spitzer M, Reinhardt R. Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2009;19(2):223–43.

Training when injured

Alex training with a broken footThere is quite common saying, in traditional martial arts schools, when you hurt one of your hands or feet: “you have another hand and two feet, you can still fight!”

In today’s world of health & safety regulations and “better safe than sorry” attitude many people in position of responsibility, like doctors, instructors, teachers or lawyers tend to default toward a safe behaviour when unsure: stop training and rest until healed.

If I followed this rule I would have probably trained about a third of the total time I actually did.  When training martial arts (but also other contact sports) injuries do happen, however careful and safe you play.  Injuries sometimes occur even during simple drills or exercises, not necessarily during the toughest part of training such as sparring.

Pain exists to remind us that what we are doing is not right for our body and we should really listen to our body; training while ignoring pain could be dangerous and deteriorate the injured part with the risk of causing permanent damages.  At the same time there are safe ways of training when injured by using the body parts that don’t hurt so that you keep training them and avoid contact with the injured part.

An extreme case of this behaviour is Alex who recently broke a bone in hit foot by slipping while sparring; although with the foot in a hard cast he kept attending our classes doing stretching, press ups and abdominal exercises so to keep up with fitness and flexibility.  At some point as you can see in this video below he was even punching the bag while seated.

In over 30 years of training I was lucky enough to avoid any seriously broken bones (apart from a little toe a couple of years ago) but every time I bruised, mildly dislocated joints or strained muscles on one side of my body I kept training with the other side improving the total symmetry of my techniques.

Change of venue from November 16th 2010

From November 16th 2010 all Tuesday and Thursday training sessions will change location to the Fenners Gallery, Kelsey Kerridge.

Those who train on Sundays will be familiar with the Fenners Gallery as the winter-time and “bad weather” venue for Sunday training. For those not familiar with the Fenners Gallery, it can be found on the floor above the reception area.

The Fenners Gallery is considerably larger and better ventilated than the two rooms we presently use, and is equipped with full-length mirrors along one wall, which are useful for solo technique training.

Rain? No problem!

So far we have been lucky this summer: as usual all Sundays of July and August we (try to) train outdoor.  Historically we managed to get about 5-6 out of 8-9 Sundays in any given year.  Summer 2010 has been good and we managed to get all Sundays outdoor this year.

Yesterday lesson was no different if not that at about 6 o’clock it started raining.  It was obviously too late traying relocating the lesson and, at the same time, the 9 CARISMA members at the lesson seemed so focussed on their training that they carried on kicking each other; luckily within less that 10 few minutes it stopped.  See them in this clip as they are training while rain is pooring down:

Toward the end of the lesson the sun came out so the lesson completed with and nice and relaxing conditioning training 🙂 of which you can see a simple example from Heley and Aaron: