General

Yoga Munki

I have been training in Ashtanga Yoga now for about six months.  There are a number of recommendations on the internet, about how well yoga and bjj go together.  There are a number of famous yogis that are high level BJJ practioners, Rickson Gracie, Nic Gregoriades and Danny Prokopos just to name a few.

When I was recovering from my second surgery yoga was my go to exercise that helped functionally strengthen me back up.  I have now progressed on from the original Hatha Yoga style class I was originally attending to a specific Ashtanga Yoga class. I did try hot yoga for a while, but Mrs Munki was not a fan and I then struggled to find a class that would fit my schedule.

Just so you know Hatha yoga tends to be a mix of the different types of yoga,  it is reasonably slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation. It is also recognized as a stress-reducing practice.

Of the two my personal preference is the Ashtanga style of yoga.  It is split into the Primary Series and subsequent intermediate or second series and the advanced series. The  Primary Series is seen as a way to prepare and repair your body, in readiness for the more strenuous Second Series.  This suits me great as this Old Munki body needs a lot of repairing and to be honest the healing side of it is working.

I would point out that Ashtanga Yoga is not the easiest style to practise and it is a kind of strength yoga, but this additional effort does bring benefits.  As the type of strength I am building is transferable to BJJ, but also benefits me physically in day to day life.

I have found that my spinal and shoulder flexibility is improving, both of which help with my jiu jitsu and my overall Munki wellness.  But I also feel that after a week of training and rolling, yoga feels like it pulls me back into place. This may seem a strange thing to say, but you will all know how much you get banged around when rolling.  Spending an hour and a half pulling and stretching myself, feels really good…afterwards!  It does also help that my yoga teacher helps me into some positions and adjusts me, just enough each time to make the posture challenging.

As far as achieving the postures this is very much a work in progress, my Downward Dog looks more like a Wobbly Table, but as with BJJ it is all about getting the techniques right and achieving as much as I can and not about comparing myself to the very bendy other people in the class.  It’s my body and my journey just like BJJ.

If you live around Manchester UK, I would definitely recommend Ashtanga Yoga Manchester for both men and women.  The teacher is very helpful and they even run beginner courses and separate classes, if you are totally new to yoga.  This does help you feel a little less intimidated and help you understand what Ashtanga Yoga is.

There are a number of different types of yoga not just Hatha and Ashtanga that I have mentioned already. Explanations of the main types of yoga you are likely to come across can be found here. My advice is if yoga is something you want to try, would be to research and find a style which will suit you.  They do what you did when starting jiu jitsu, find a class you can make locally and see if the teacher works for you.

Be prepared some teachers and their classes may have more of a spiritual content than others.  So don’t be put off if you want more or less chanting etc.  Just try another teacher first before considering another style.

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The start of my journey in hand balancing…..

Over the last few weeks I have been reading how people are now setting goals for themselves.  One blog I read Skirt on a Mat, made a good point goals are not resolutions.  As we all know resolutions are normally broken by now.   So now I am a few weeks into it I thought I would tell you about one of my goals.

I have written previously about how I also do yoga to help me physically and with my jiu jitsu.  A number of the postures I am practising at the moment require me to do some hand balancing, like the one below.

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I found this surprisingly hard to begin with but as with everything it has gotten easier with practise.  So this made me think, (Mrs Munki never likes it when I do that) when I am rolling with Adam one of my coaches, he seems to almost balance when he changes from one side of the body to the other.  This is a little confusing when he does it and it is something I would like to be able to do.

This was definitely going to be a challenge for this Old Munki as I couldn’t straighten my arms out directly above my head, due to shoulder mobility.  I also have a bit of a “fear” issue as I do tent to be a little overly protective of my shoulders and I had to admit to myself this was an additional reason.

I have been working on my above the head movement since my operation and I have been using a double handled medicine ball to help extend my shoulder flexibility in this area.  I am pleased with the progress and I felt good about going the next step.

My cartwheels are particularly bad due to lack of confidence in a lot of areas, I was aware this was going to impact me on this.  But that’s never stopped me.  I thought I would be better starting the process gaining some confidence.  For this I decided to start with a handstand against a wall obviously.  I did a lot of research on line about how to do a handstand and I eventually found this video.

What I like about this method is I can do this safely and adjust a little bit at a time and it will strengthen my shoulders at the same time.  I decided to do my practise as part of my mobility work in the mornings.  I only intended to spend a minute or two doing this, so it seemed like the appropriate time.

I have now been doing it for a few weeks and from a very nervous start, I am now starting to feel more confident and I am working my hands closer to the wall.  I don’t think I will ever achieve a straight handstand, as the surgery I have had on my shoulders is preventing me from getting my arms straight above my head.  However I am taking any improvement as a little win.  Every day I practise this I class it as a win as it makes me a little more confident in this position, as honestly I would not even have attempted this 12 months ago.

I do have the next step in mind for when I feel comfortable in this position.  I happened to come across it whilst doing my research.  This exercise will have more relevance to the jiu jitsu aspect that kicked all of this off, than a straight hand stand.  This is called a pyramid and can be seen in the below video at about 58 seconds in.

It does not look like a hard exercise, but when I tried this initially I couldn’t do it at all. I was either shuffling across the floor or just jumping.  It was a good job Mrs Munki did not catch me doing it otherwise it would be on You Tube.

I know these little things I keep trying aren’t amazing feats of achievement.  But for me they are a challenge and it is good to have a challenge no matter how big or small it is.  It takes you outside of your comfort zone and stops you becoming comfortable and the improvement affects all areas of your life not just specifically BJJ.  BJJ may be a motivating factor, but the mental and physical improvements achieving these little challenges ripple out across my life.  Plus for us Old Munki’s it is a must or we just seize up.

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JT Torres in Manchester

I had the good fortune on Sunday to be able to attend a seminar by ATOS black belt JT Torres and Factory BJJ.  Additionally Mrs Munki was also able to attend, which makes life a lot easier.

The numbers at the seminar were limited by the host Factory BJJ to ensure safety for everyone participating.  I feel this also made for a better learning environment for those attending.  I have to say I really appreciated the smaller numbers.  It was really easy to get a good view of all techniques that were being shown and also to get JT’s attention to help you out when we were drilling.

JT was working on guard passing.  This was a great subject from someone is so good at their passing game.  He did say what he was going to show us was quite simple, but that’s because in a fight the simple stuff works the best.  I had to agree with that.

He mainly taught techniques from a couple of positions, but built on each one to give you a number of alternatives.  This really works for me as an Old Munki to take techniques on board, so I was pleased with this.  There was a lot of content, but not too much  for this Old Munki to take on board.  The good thing was that the techniques did fit in well with with some of the stuff I have been learning in class and the bonus was a way to deal with the lasso/spider guard, which is something I have had difficulty with when sparring.

Mrs Munki also appreciated the way he could break the techniques down so that as a new white belt she could understand them.  Plus he was really helpful in walking us through the techniques, whilst we drilling when we got stuck.  Mrs Munki really appreciated this and shows the quality of JT’s coaching.

We also had an opportunity for Q&A with JT and everyone asked some really good questions, about techniques, competing and mindset.  The answers JT gave were really interesting, if not painful for Adam Adshead when JT showed a little tweak to the body triangle, to make it even more “fun”.  I did like JT’s answer regarding competition mindset and how he deals with waiting between fights.

At the end of teaching JT took time with a number of people to roll. Mrs Munki was keen to do this and she did manage to get to roll with him.  For JT you could tell this was more of a flow roll, but Mrs Munki really enjoyed the experience, his control and the compliment about her strong fundamentals.

I have to say it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and I have to say thank you to Adam at Factory BJJ for organising it and to JT for such an enjoyable seminar.

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Stealth BJJ

My club Stealth BJJ recently had a film crew down doing some filming for some short documentaries about some of the Progress Jiu Jitsu sponsored fighters and the coach Steve Campbell.

They are great quality and I hope you find them interesting.

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Kettlebells are not used for tunefully boiling water…..

One of the presents I received from Mrs Munki at Christmas time was a 24kg kettlebell.  Not very romantic but it is something I have been wanting for a while.  I have worked out with kettlebells before and being a certified kettlebell trainer, I am confident using this equipment and its benefits.

I have smaller kettlebells, but one of my targets after getting back into BJJ was to improve my overall strength.  I have let this side of my training slip over the past few months, to give my body time to adjust to the jiu jitsu training.  It seems to have adjusted ok so it is time to get back on to it.

Now I know that kettlebells will not improve my strength as well as some of Olympic lifting techniques.  But I only have a small window of time to dedicate to my strength training and kettlebells are convenient and easier to use at home.

I also wanted to reduce the potential overtraining and recovery impacts of this additional training on my aging body. I know that kettlebell training will have less of a neuro-muscular fatiguing impact on me, unlike Olympic lifting. Therefore I will be able to maintain my jiu jitsu training as the main focus.

I have looked at my time constraints and I have come up with a 20-30 minute session that should function as a full body workout.  The details are below:

Monday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – 1 Hand Swing x10 Each Arm – Over Head Squat Press x10 – Squat Pull x 10) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

Tuesday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – Bent Over Row x10 Each Arm – Single Arm Overhead Press Ladder 1-4 Each Arm – Single Arm Floor Press Ladder 1-4 Each Arm) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

Friday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – Cleans x10 Each Arm – Half Turkish Get Up Ladder 1-3 Each Arm – Goblet Squat x10) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

I am planning on starting with my 16kg kettlebell and progressing through to a 20kg one and then onto my new pressie, the 24kg.  This seems like a steady progression that I should be able to achieve within a few months, especially as my body starts to adapt to the additional activity.

Being a clever Munki I have purposefully picked and adjusted some of the exercises to work within the constraints of the range of motion of my shoulders and their current strength, the half turkish get up.  The plan is that the shoulder specfic exercises will improve my shoulder mobility and strength.  If there are any issues I can always use a lighter kettlebell for the shoulder heavy exercises.

As you can see I will be starting slowly and only doing this a few days a week at the moment, as I am intending to add a couple of extra hours a week to the jiu jitsu training schedule.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am increasing the stress I put on my body slowly to give it time to adjust, accommodate and adapt.   This may also require me to keep an eye on my diet too, to adjust that to help with overall recovery and adaptation.

My intention is to do some follow up posts on this to see how I’m progressing not only with the exercise plan but with the physical changes to this old Munki’s body.  I promise that stuff won’t be too graphic!

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Everyday is a learning day….

Over the Christmas period I managed to start with a sore throat and progress it into a cold.  So this kind of screwed up all of my training plans for the holiday period.  I physically could have trained, but I didn’t want to pass on my germs (not cool) plus a number of people I train with are getting ready for the European Championship in January and the last thing they need to be around is a croaky snot Munki.

As I have gotten used to being side lined over the past couple of years, I decided to make use of my time with watching some videos.  I started watching the Ryan Hall Inverted Guard DVDs.  I have to say I do like the way Ryan explains techniques.  The explanations were very simple, which for an old Munki is very good.  I also found that some of Ryan’s terms, which despite not being politically correct, were not offensive but funny and I think added to the feel of the instruction.

The thing I mainly like about them is the way Ryan explains concepts.  The “expand and contract” concept for me was a bit of a revelation.  It was like another piece of the jigsaw was put in place, one of the edge pieces, that help get you started on your way.

Also he mentions a number of little movements that help a lot.  Not complex little things, but actually quite sensible and easy biomechanical actions that just make the techniques easier for me.  To the extent that I started seeing the applicability to other techniques and actions that I currently do, or more realistically trying to do.

I should point out that the DVD’s are not all about the inverted guard.  The first two are almost more of a set up to how to use it.  This is not a bad thing at all from where I am sat, as besides the other content being quality stuff it gives you an application or a way in and out.

I am aware that there are two big for and against camps about learning techniques off instructional videos.  I can totally understand both viewpoints on instructionals, but the content of these DVD’s really fits in with where I am going with my learning right now and actually what I am learning in class.  So it is really a very fortunate fit.

That is probably one of the other reasons why I am so positive about them.  They look like something I will be watching for a while to come; just so I can get them into this coconut I call a head and as I do see them as having a value in my current game.

Would I recommend them? Definitely, especially if you are working on inverting or spider guard as part of your game.  If you fancy buying them they are available on groundfighter website and at the moment I think there is a 40% off holidays deal.

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The last post of 2013.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the new year starts I guess I have spent a little time reflecting back on this last year,I
As an Old Munki I become a little reflective at this time of year, as my non Christmassy post last week shows.
Yes I have set myself some targets for the start of the New Year. As always targets are good no matter the time of year, to keep you motivated and to give you something to measure against.
Looking back at the last year which saw me restart BJJ after quiet a long hiatus, I can say I am pretty please with what I have achieved. I’m not sure if I am where I wanted to be, but I am taking the win. I am back on the mats, training regularly and maintaining my enthusiasm.
I think what I am most pleased about is not letting my physical limitations impinge too much on my training. There have been times when I have been worried, but I have been fortunate that my issues are not really that big and I have been able to realise this.
I am also fortunate that I have made new friends this year, as we all know BJJ brings people together and the people I have trained with and been coached by have made my return easy, hassle free and so much fun. So thank you so much to these people for what they have given me.
I don’t want this to turn into a long list of thank yous or it to sound like I’m giving myself a pat on the back. So I’m going to end this bit now.
I appreciate that a lot of people don’t have training as a priority and just like dipping in and out and that’s great. We all train at our own pace and in our own way. Once again having reflected on my own training (wow you could call me Old Munki Mirror at this rate) I realised that previously I have not focussed on anything for a long time. Taekwondo, Iaido, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do I have done them all got to a good grade and moved on. It is a bit late in life to realise this, but its never too late to start and I think that’s why BJJ is important to me.
I am able to integrate my training in a healthy way into my lifestyle. It also helps Mrs Munki enjoys BJJ as well. So I really want this to be the opportunity that I can get good at something, not bothering what grade I am, just enjoying the training and the journey. That is my long term ambition. Besides we all need something more than work to do, just so we can stay sane.

Over this year I have accepted that improving the flexibility in my shoulders is going to be a slow process, but it is improving with my yoga and mobility work.  I just need to keep on this and remember flexibility work needs to be done everyday.

Most importantly I am going to work on my post training recovery to enable me to keep up my daily training.  Getting a routine and relevant nutrition to help with this and this is something I will write about at a later date, once I have worked out what works for me.

I hope that the new year brings you all some focus and the ability to do what’s important and fun.

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Soft kitty, sleepy kitty, little ball of fur…….

So apart from the Big Bang Theory reference what am I talking about?  Well it’s all about sleep.  I have been sleeping really poorly for the last week or so and it has had a big impact on me. I think that the importance of quality sleep is vastly underestimated.

For me it either takes the form of an initial sleep deprived insanity, which Mrs Munki hates as she usually suffers the brunt of it.  Or slipping in to a splitting headache the more tired I become throughout the day.  The main other issue is the impact it has on my training and recovery.

If I don’t get good quality of sleep for a while my motivation goes through the floor.  In the past I have struggled through this feeling and gone to the gym. I then end up getting injured, as I wasn’t staying focussed.  This then doesn’t help my sleep as my injury causes me to become uncomfortable at night.

So if I get in this position I don’t go training that night and go home and get an early night and try to catch up on missed sleep.  As this is the only thing I am capable of doing at this point.

It has been proven that lack of sleep does accumulate a sleep debt that does eventually have to be paid back.  This sleep debt thing seems to hit me really hard.  It seems I have to payback my debt really quickly otherwise I feel terrible.  But I suspect this has something to do with my recovery requirements at my age.

I have tried a number of the suggested remedies for improving sleep.  One of the ones that I have found works for me is keeping the bedroom temperature low.  I also have a shower before bed and turn it to cold at the end.  This could be considered a little extreme but it definitely helps me get to sleep.  This page explains more about this if you are interested. http://www.sleepdex.org/thermoregulation.htm

Also I stick to a regular schedule.  So I try to get to sleep by 11pm so I can get 8 hours in before getting up for work.  The schedule thing is also another recommendation for improving sleep.  It does seem to actually work as I do start to feel sleepy around this time.

I have also tried a couple of the sleep monitoring apps for my iPhone.  Just to see if I thought I had slept pretty good, but in fact I hadn’t had actually gone into a deep sleep.  One of them had a pretty good display, with different graphs and percentage information.  But I could pretty much tell on my own if I had slept rubbish and it also meant I couldn’t use my nice sun rise alarm clock Mrs Munki had got me.

I also try and make sure I don’t eat any carbs about 2 before I go to bed.  I find that if I don’t stick to this I start to get really uncomfortably hot in bed and this causes me to wake up a lot during the night.  I radiate that much heat even Mrs Munki complains.

One weird one I have also tried, much to Mrs Munki’s amusement is wearing sunglasses an hour before bedtime.  Why?  Well apparently your eyes react to blue light and this dictates the amount of melatonin your brain releases.  This is the sleep hormone that you need to get to sleep.  So bright TV’s and computer screens affect melatonin release and can stop you feeling sleepy.  So you can buy blue light filtering glasses or go for the cheaper option and use the sunglasses I already had.  I have to admit I have only done this in extreme situations.  But having said that it does definitely work as after 30 minutes of so with them on I do start yawning.

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I have also installed software on my laptop called f.lux (you can find it here).  It works on Windows and Apple devices.  This dims the brightness of you screen in line with what time of day it is.  So in the morning it’s nice and bright and by evening time the brightness reduces to help with getting to sleep.  I think it’s a pretty nifty little thing and for free is even better.

Yes I do put a lot of effort into getting a good night’s sleep, but I can always tell the difference when I don’t and I hate suffering like that.  Especially when I know there were things I could have done to help myself.  These impacts have given my first had experience that I would be dumb to ignore.  Plus better sleep more mat time, makes a happier Munki!

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