Month: November 2013

Becoming a supple Munki


I have recently been reading the book by Kelly Starrett : Becoming a Supple Leopard.  Besides having a cool name for his book Kelly is probably most famous for his “Mobility WOD” You Tube and Website.  There is a mass of content on his You Tube channel, which separately deals with lots of different physical issues and the techniques to put in place to prehab and rehab these.

I came across the Mobility WOD as a consequence of my shoulder issues and generally as I’m getting older I wanted to know how I could best deal with prehab and rehab issues at home.  Yes I have been totally convinced and now own a lacrosse ball and various rubber bands to help me stay in one piece.

When I found out he was releasing a book I thought this will be an awesome resource.  I have to admit that the book is a little expensive, but when you consider it more as a text book the price is not too bad. When you compare it to some of the strength and conditioning books I have bought brand new it is quite reasonable.  When I last checked a kindle version was not available, so you will have to go for the good old fashioned paper version for now.

After reading through the book I realised that some of what was being said, did go a little against the biomechanics that I was taught during my strength and conditioning training.  But he did have very convincing arguments on these few areas.  So I am trying them out at the moment and they do not seem to be detrimental in anyway and if they have the benefits he mentions in the book then it is worth maintaining them.

I have found some really useful little tweaks to things like external rotation of your shoulders during press ups and bench press, which do actually have a big impact on your stability during these exercises.  Considering I dislocated a rib once through poor form when doing press ups I’m sticking to these changes for sure.

One of the other big things for me was the posture corrections.  As a desk munki these little changes have been really positive for me.   To the extent now after a number of weeks putting them into practice, that my previous “relaxed” (ok slouched) position is actually not comfortable anymore.  I am also now very conscious of these changes when I am walking or just standing. I feel taller when walking. Also when just standing the suggested changes have erased the ache in my lower back that I previously would inevitably get.

Like I have already mentioned I have some strength and conditioning training, which did include elements of biomechanics and form, so not all of the stuff in the book was a revelation to me.  However the further explanations of why and the consequences if you don’t, did put a lot of things in a perspective I didn’t previously have.

In conclusion this is  a very good resource, especially for those postural things that we do wrong all the time, but over time have big effects.  Kelly gives very good explanations as to why these postural changes should be made and the potential impacts on your body if you do not make the improvements.

Now don’t get me wrong you are not going to change everything overnight, a lot of the things we do are habits we have formed over years.  This is the case for me with my shoulder position.  So I have had to make new positive habits.  The same will apply to you munkis too, both in your day to day habits and as part of the form during exercises that you do at the gym. But the knowing what changes to make and the “why” you should make those changes is very motivating.

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What’s the first thing that goes through your head when you get injured???

For me this week it was damn I can’t train.  Whilst doing some cooking I was using a manual slicing machine and managed to manually slice a nice piece of my thumb off.  After much profanity mixed with equal amounts of blood, all I could think was how I will not be able to train jiu jitsu!!!



Once I started to calm down, the bleeding had stopped and I was all bandaged up.  I started to try and think the situation through.  OK I am injured but realistically it only affected my grip.  So yeah I would not be able to roll, but I could still do some technical training as I could adjust my grip during this.

That is what I have done all week, no rolling just technique and drilling.  I am going to carry this on for another week as I really don’t want to risk bleeding on anyone.  But I have kept my training going and feel better for not missing out on moving forward.

I know I am not the only person who has been in this position.  Many of you will have suffered an injury that could affect an aspect of your training, leaving you with a hard choice to make.  Do I stop training altogether and recover or do I sensibly work around it and get some level of training in.

These are especially important decisions at my age, as recovery could potentially be a little longer than you young twenty some things. It always also depends on the injury and your personal view on the nastiness of the injury.  I have broken and dislocated toes in the past and have stopped training to let them heal.  But now I would look at working around something like that.

I think a big part of my change of view is the people I train with.  I do trust these guys and know that they would accommodate a partner suffering an injury.  So I would feel safe working with them.  This definitely helps with the decision making during injury time.  Knowing that you can trust your training partners like this will have a big impact on what you choose to do.

Another big decision factor is that if you are an old munki like me there is no reason to be a hero, but likewise breaks of a couple of weeks could take you six weeks of catching up to get you back to where you were before the injury.  There is evidence that shows after a two week lay off your cardio vascular capacity will have reduced.  Also your technical abilities could be affected too.  If you are like me and have only been doing jiu jitsu for a few years, then a layoff will have a bigger impact than if you were a black belt that has spent many years repeating techniques.

One important consideration as well is where you are at with your training.  If you have been training hard for months and your injury is a consequence of your fatigue, then maybe taking a break may be beneficial both mentally and physically.   You could potentially come back even better, with the eye of the tiger munki. Doing this could hit two issues at once.

I think the key when it comes to injuries is remembering that jiu jitsu is a long journey; sometimes you’ll walk slower, other times you made need to stop and look at the scenery and play a little catch up.  But whatever happens you need to enjoy it to make it worthwhile.

Over 40 and doing BJJ????

As you may have gathered due to the name of my blog, I am an Old Munki and I have come to jiu jitsu late in life.  I have found that one of the main reasons I have started training “seriously” is I wanted something that was both mentally and physically stimulating and that I could potentially carry on doing till I drop.  BJJ hit the mark on all counts.

However whilst training it has made me take a long hard look at reality, which I feel has been a positive action for me.  I was wondering if this same sort of situation applies to other older participants that come to BJJ later in life? So I thought I would go through a few of things that have arisen for me to see if any other older Munki’s can relate.

I have realised that despite me thinking I’m still in my early 20’s, my body is very aware I’m over 40.  This means recovery and physical maintenance have to be a serious consideration.  This is not too much of a problem, as the majority of this makes me feel better anyway.  It is just the balancing issue of remembering the additional stuff is to support my BJJ.  So hauling back in on the weights or other stuff, so I don’t get worn out and miss out on a BJJ class.

I also need to get to know my body again. (No rude comments here!!) I have changed a lot over the years.  Physical damage, muscle and joint issues are something that I am working on to improve and repair.  Having adapted to these physical limitations over the years, I now have to make as much of an improvement that I can.  Otherwise I could potentially risk further injury. I have come to understand this will take time.  Have had these issues for many years and I can’t rush the physical changes.  Pushing it will just cause me more damage.  My body doesn’t bounce back like when I was a youngster when I could do the splits and train 7 days a week. I have learnt to take my time and appreciate each little change and improvement that happens as a little win.

I have also realised that if I have a hard/long day at work not to beat myself up for not making class that night.  Sometimes the negative self talk I give myself is really bad.  I understand now that I may need the rest so I can make class the next day.  This is far better than wearing myself out, beating myself down and then missing a few days on the mats.  I know I’m never going to be as good as the Mendes brothers or Andre Galvao, but I will be as good as I can be and there is no immediate rush to get there.

I also have to really check my ego.  This is for both getting tapped and comparing myself to others in the class.  I always have to remind myself, that when I get tapped by a younger or stronger opponent, it’s because my technique isn’t good enough.  It’s not his fault that I gave him the space to tap me.  I have to stay focussed, figure out what I did wrong and seal up that gap. I won’t die or lose my house because I got tapped, but what I need to do is learn from it.  For me at the moment it’s all about acquiring knowledge and figuring out how I can apply it.

Then I have to stop comparing myself progress to others, especially the younger guys! When I look at some people and they are the same grade as me and pulling off some amazing stuff, I have to remind myself they are not me.  They may be shorter, lighter as well as younger but we are all different.  I am working on my potential and improving myself.  Not seeing if I am better than someone else at a technique.  Doing this take my focus away from my improvement and creates a potentially negative mindset.

When I spoke to Chris Hauter at his recent seminar, I asked him about getting into Jiu Jitsu as an older person and what he thought. He felt it was a great thing to start doing as an activity and I do agree with him on this. All the things I have mentioned have given me a positive direction to go in, physically and mentally, so that is definitely a good thing.

If anyone else wants to add to this feel free to leave me a comment.

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Big bad stress….


Stress is a very interesting term.  In my experience it seems to be one of those words that people either misunderstand or don’t like using. Whilst sat in a nice coffee shop, with Mrs Munki on a chilly  Saturday afternoon we were discussing our training.  Yeah that’s a surprise for two people that practise jiu jitsu.

One of the topics we discussed was training volume.  We are two out of a large number of bjj practitioners that love their training, but have so much more in their lives to deal with. Being able to train bjj as much as we want, along with support training is always going to be a problem.  We were discussing some of our differences and those around us.

As part of the discussion a point came up that I thought seemed applicable to everyone.  That is the way we look at our training.  We can call it strength and conditioning, technical training or cardio, but as far as our bodies and their neuro muscular recovery are concerned it is all stress.  But then what also falls under this same title is work, relationships and day to day living to mention a few.

My weekly training consists of approximately 8 hours of bjj and 1 hour of judo. Now for me as an Old Munki this seems reasonable amount of training.  I’m not trying to be a world champ, just enjoy myself.  But then when you throw in an 8 hour work day and the travelling, the occasional crappy night’s sleep and some poor food choices, to name a few, the total amount of stress that I am putting myself through can start to mount up.

The main problem is I do find my training enjoyable, so sometimes I do ignore the obvious physical impact it has on my body.  So I have to force myself to consider my recovery requirements from this.  I have written about the GAS Principle previously here, in a more technical context.  But it seems that people do take their eye off the ball when it comes to not only to their training volume, but also the trials of daily living as an overall impact.  Looking at Mrs Munki as an example she does not look at her weekly activities (work, training etc) as a total amount of stress that she puts herself through.  She tends to ignore the “real life” issues and focus on how much training she has done that week. This is how she judges if she has had a hard week.  So I see this misunderstanding occurring very close to home.

You could probably make tagging a conditioning or weights session onto the end of your bjj class work for a while.  As the perception could be that you will have ONLY trained for 3 hours that day.  But eventually it will catch up with you.  Likewise when you go to the gym before work and then go to your bjj class after work.  You may think you have had a rest between sessions.  But is that the way your body sees if? Especially after your boss throws a tight deadline in, or even worse you work is physical as well.  You are just jumping to different types of stress.  I have seen this situation arise with a number of my friends and training partners and it always follows the same path.

Professional athletes have nothing to worry about but their training.  After a heavy training session they will be told to do nothing and just relax, even have an afternoon nap, which gives their body the opportunity to recover.  A lot of people I know including Mrs Munki are lucky if they get a lunch break on some days, never mind a nap or a massage.

At this point I am not saying training is bad at all, but just every now and again changing perspectives and re-evaluating the overall stress you put on yourself can help plot your recovery and keep you coming back to the mats.  As an Old Munki this is something I always consider.  I actively plan my recovery and stress volume to keep me coming back to the mats.  I do some yoga and mobility work to help my muscular and joint recovery.  I also occasionally see an osteopath and if necessary a chiropractor. This is what works for me, it might not be the thing for you. You may be more of a massage person like Mrs Munki, but considering your recovery and overall physical maintenance is important.  I also understand that these are expensive options. However, buying a basic foam roller and using this to self massage would be a much cheaper option.

The ultimate point of all of this, is that we should all consider our overall stress and not look at issues in isolation.  Then use this to plan your recovery to keep you healthy. There is only one of you and you need to take care of yourself, to keep you on the mats for as long as possible.  I hope that this all makes sense, but if you have any questions please feel free to message me.

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