Post-Class Warm Down

Sometimes classes can be so demanding that you simply want to sit down in place after the session has ended, lay out on your back, and wonder how your survived.  Sometimes classes aren’t as taxing.  Either way, having a good post-class routine can be very valuable for the student.

If you’re not totally spent after class, a few good things to do are to crank out a three or four sets of push-ups and sit-ups.  Often there will be a group of students circled together to get these done because they are very important to your physical strength and your martial training.  Also, take this time to practice anything you’re working on – be it something you were recently taught or something that needs extra attention.  Ask one of your kung fu brothers or sisters to work with you, if needed, and don’t hesitate to ask the higher rank for assistance.  Last, but certainly not least, spend some time stretching your body if stretching wasn’t included at the end of class.  Hard training places a great demand on your muscles, particularly your leg muscles.  Keeping them loose and limber via stretching (after class) helps to prevent tightness that leads to aching joints and strained muscles.

If you’re totally spent after class, relax yourself with some gentle stretching.  No need to press too hard if you don’t feel it – listen to your body.  Let your heart rate stabilize and even feel free to close your eyes to soak in and reflect on the class.  The higher rank will really grasp this sentiment as they are typically pressed throughout the class.  Again, focus on some stretching and regaining energy before heading to get some water and move on with your day.  If you feel up for it, go ahead and try exercises and/or working on things you want to work on, but don’t press too hard.

Testing Reminder

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Testing

When you are told you may test, it is up to the student to determine for themselves if they are up for it – testing is not mandatory.  Keep in mind the following:

  • Testing is typically held on Saturdays.  Paperwork and payment must be submitted no later than the day before the test (Friday). 
  • Please arrive to the test at least 15 minutes before it is scheduled to begin… probably good to arrive 30 minutes before as a rule of thumb to get ready and warm up.
  • The “Second”  will provide instructions to the testing class prior to the test.  This is your opportunity to ask questions and inform the second about anything they need to know (i.e.  need to leave early, forgot sparring equipment, an injury, etc.)
  • Students taking the test are welcome to attend the class following the test.
  • Do not ask for results of the test.  Sifu will provide them do you in due time.

Showing Up

“80% Of Success Is Showing Up.” – Woody Allen

Whether you like or dislike Woody Allen and his body of work, his success as a comedian, actor, director, and playwright can not be denied.  His quote above should motivate you both in and outside of the school.  He went on to say, “People used to say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.  All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack.  They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.  So that was my biggest life lesson that has worked.  All others have failed me.”

If you want a high level of fighting ability, robust physical fitness, constant self-improvement, self-confidence, and more – then show up to class.  Using this principal of “showing up” will also serve you well in the other important areas of your life.

A Little Paranoia

Paranoia:  an unreasonable feeling that people are trying to harm you, do not like you, etc.

A little paranoia is a good thing to have.  A healthy amount will keep you aware of your surroundings, mindful of those who might mean to do you harm, and prepare you to act in the event something unwanted happens.  An unhealthy amount of paranoia will likely require medical attention as you can’t think or focus on anything else.  A little paranoia will keep you prepared for the unexpected.

As always, the lessons you learn in class are applicable to real life.  When classmates are swinging weapons around, you need to keep an eye on those weapons and not get too close if you can avoid it.  If a student comes in to train and seems off, be particularly focused and careful when you begin practicing San Shou, Chin Na, or Sparring with them.  If the class is full and everyone is tightly packed for Kicks or Forms, keep an eye on where everyone is so you don’t hit them and they don’t hit you.  Little lessons like those and the many more you learn in class can really benefit the student outside of the school.

Outside the school, if you’re in a place where the energy just doesn’t feel right or you hear something that seems off, take preemptive action and keep your distance or simply leave, especially if you’re with friends or family who are not trained.  If someone you don’t know interacts with you and you sense they don’t seem very balanced emotionally or mentally, be careful.  You don’t need to talk with them – feel free to walk away – while always keeping an eye on where they are.  Even if you’re out having lunch at a restaurant, try to find a place to sit where you’re back is covered and you have a clear view of the entire establishment.  These are just a few examples of a little paranoia.

Be aware of your surroundings and the people in it.  Although it may take a little time and energy, it has the potential to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Sleep After A Late Class

“I can’t seem to fall asleep after training in late classes.  My body just doesn’t want to shut down.”

This is not an uncommon thing to hear between classes and there are a number of reasons one might have that issue.  Unfortunately, the medical community has yet to come to any conclusions as to why it’s difficult for some to fall asleep after exercising at night.  It does agree, however, that to fall asleep, both mind and body must be in the right place – one of relaxation and comfort.

The issue is that kung fu training greatly stimulates both the mind and the body.  Learning new things and giving 100% focus on making them work correctly requires significant mental energy.  Sparring, san shou and chin na also require a great deal of concentration and increases the hormones’ cortisol and adrenaline in the body, which is our way of coping with higher levels of stress.  These hormones can keep the body in the “fight or flight” state long after class and prevent easily falling to sleep.

The strain of hard physical exercise found in training can also keep the body humming long after class is over.  This is typically an issue for those not in peak physical shape – their heart rates simply don’t return to normal rapidly enough.  In fact, beginners or those just getting back into training may find there heart rate still high long after class is over.  This rapid blood flow can impact getting the body in a place of “relaxation and comfort”.  However, this issue will gradually go away as you get in shape and the exercise will provide a better night’s sleep once you finally conk out.  If you’ve maintained a consistent training schedule and have gotten in good shape, training at night and falling to sleep afterward is typically not a physical issue – it’s probably more of a mental one.

Here are a few ideas to help you on your way to easy slumber after evening classes:

  1. Have a small meal before and after exercise.   Be sure each meal has a good balance of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates.  Obviously, don’t eat anything high in sugar or caffeine.
  2. Cool down after class with gentle stretching.
  3. Warm green tea is good to drink post-training as it can calm the body and possesses L-theanine, which induces relaxation.  It can also help sleep quality, but look for low-caffeine teas when looking at options.
  4. Meditation is also something to consider to help get your mind and body in the proper state.

At the end of the day, those people who work out (be it early in the morning or late at night) will have a deeper and more meaningful sleep than those that don’t.  Also, sleep is incredibly important for recovery for those who regularly train.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

“For the warrior, the path to enlightenment comes by openly and objectively studying all forms of martial arts, sticking to the true path of the warrior, allowing no dishonesty in your heart, sharpening and trusting your intuition, and diligently practicing and clinging to the truth.  In time, once the clouds of confusion have cleared, you will come to true enlightenment.  

Many think that they are on the true path of enlightenment some through religion, and some through education.  But true enlightenment can be seen by what a person has done, not by what he says.  Those who have missed the mark may chatter all day long about this and that, but they have never done anything.  Anyone can make a good argument, by few can show good results.”

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), founder of Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship.  The Book of Five Rings Trans. D.E. Tarver

Self Study: Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are somewhat synonymous of abdominal exercise development.  While the muscles surrounding your abdomen get an amazing workout from kung fu training (particularly kicks), there are many exercises that focus on developing strength and endurance in those muscles (rectus abdominis and obliques).  Many of these exercises are performed in class from time to time, but are always great to add to your post-class routine in conjunction with push-ups and some stretching.  They are also a great exercise to perform at home as a self-study.

Quarters

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Quarters

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Quarters

This exercise works the upper abdominal muscles.  Lay down on your back with a straight body (or with slightly bent knees) and cross your arms over your body and have your hands on the opposite shoulder.  The movement is quick and simple – just lift your head and look at your toes.   When you see them, let your head back down to the ground.  A very basic exercise for those just starting to work their abdominal muscles.   For those of you who have no problem doing these, try doing them as quickly as possible up to 100.  If that didn’t test your muscles, then try doing 200.  Then move on to the next exercise.

Bicycles

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Bicycles

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Bicycles

This works the sides of your rectus abdominis, as well as the obliques.  Lay on your back, put your hands behind your head, and lift your legs off the ground.  Twist your body to touch your right elbow to your left knee, then immediately release and touch the left elbow to the right knee.  If you do these quick enough, it looks like your riding a bike, hence the name, bicycles (or bicycle crunches).

Leg Raises

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Leg Raises

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Leg Raises

This works the lower abdomen.  Lay on your back with your arms at your sides pressing down and your head raised off the ground.  Bring your knees up to your chest and shoot your feet straight up above your head.  Reverse the motion to complete one repetition.  This exercise is also good for the spine.

These are only a few of the multitude of exercises that work the mid-section.  As mentioned, the muscles of your abdomen are used a lot during training (think of turn kicks) and it is for this reason that various types of sit-ups are helpful for building strength and endurance.  Try them when you wake up in the morning, during commercials, after class, etc. – you will notice the benefits within a week or two.