Strength

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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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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Judo Munki 2.0

As you already know Mrs Munki has taken up judo to help with her MMA training.  The instructor she has is Sophie Cox a GB Olympian for two games.  Mrs Munki is really pleased with her coaching (and Mrs Munki can be demanding, as she was a sports coach tutor) so with a high quality coach sourced and a good facility, I thought I would give it a try myself. Just once a week to support my BJJ. Also after reading that Helvecio Penna was a judo black belt before  he started jiu jitsu at 31, it seems they complement each other quite well.  One other benefit is that it is something we could do together, as Mrs Munki didn’t mind me attending one class a week at HER gym.

Having attended a number of classes now, Sophie is really good and patient as a coach which is something I value.  The physical nature of judo is good for building up my strength. Also I can see where the judo will fill and compliment the gaps I have with my jiu jitsu. A knowledge of grips and take downs is something I am lacking at the moment. Plus judo is played more assertively than I am used to practising my jits, so I figured that this is a good way to modify my mental state.  Something I have acknowledged I need to do something about in my last post.  Not going all psycho or anything but just playing a more assertive game.

I see the judo as very much a fun thing as it is a little easy to learn and much more instantly gratifying than jiu jitsu.  In my first lesson I learnt how to throw someone.  Making that nice loud slap with someone feels really cool straight away.  Its a bit like a reward after a week of very technical jib jitsu.

Also after speaking to one of the higher grades at my BJJ school who also does judo it has reasserted that the effort is worth it.  He also pointed out that he has also competed in a few Judo competitions and has done pretty well at them.  I do think that when I eventually dip my toe in the pool of competition being confident at takedowns will definitely not do me any harm.  Plus as most of my sparring starts on the ground, I do need to learn how to start the fight on my feet and take it down to my benefit.  This was particularly highlighted when my judo coach competed at her first no gi competition.  Her takedowns were really powerful and even winded one opponent so much that they tapped out.  I’m not expecting this kind of result, but having this extra skill in my pocket will be a slight advantage.

One other thing I like about the session is having a female coach.  It really eases the testosterone on the mats.  The guys are there to learn and not go all Alpha, as ego centric guys would not want to be coached by a female.  So this is really cool, I can get a lot out of that single hour a week.  If you get an opportunity yourself I would really recommend it.

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Down the rabbit hole we go…..

mst_brain I am currently really struggling with the mental side    of my game.  I am reasonably strong and I seem to a  problem using my strength when rolling.  I was really stuck because as we all know its about technique not strength but I didn’t seem to be able to match the other guys at my school.  It felt like I was just going down a rabbit hole without knowing where it was leading to.

I did a lot of google searching and this lead me down the path of pressure.  Do I need to improve the pressure I put on my training partners? OK so how do I develop that? I read a quote from another blog which said “Physically, pressure manifests through superior technique, superior pace/conditioning and strength, usually in the form of pressure being exerted on a person…..”. So further down the rabbit hole I went.

Still stuck I thought I would ask around.  I posed the question to a guy I have mentioned before Liam Wandi.  He is a purple belt but has the same sort of view on BJJ as me.  So I was hoping he could give me some sort of insight, from a similar starting point as me,  What he came back with was both surprising and eye opening.  It’s not strength but speed I need to develop.  This made complete sense.

As I don’t want to be aggressive and all snarly about my jiu jitsu as it is a bit of a douche thing to do.  But speed is definitely something I’m lacking.  I guess I am trying to do techniques that I have not drilled enough so I can’t react I have to think “what next” and that is what slowing me up.

I am somewhere going to have to make some time to drill some techniques more.  After some discussions previously and some tips ob drilling from others, I’ll be looking at breaking techniques into micro drills.  Plus I have found a load of movement drills on You Tube I can try to improve my general movement.  I have the techniques in my head, but they are not coming out under external pressure.  So I have to get to the stage of learning that is “unconscious competence”.  Obviously this is not going to be a quick thing but small wins lead to a greater victory.  I do take consolation in the fact that I have recognised these issues and I am looking at what I can do to resolve them.  I may not yet have all the techniques available to live up to my blue belt, but I feel I have the mental attitude and understanding. Anyone else gone through anything similar?

UPDATE

I originally wrote this a week ago and have gone through a series of considerations and in addition to drilling, I do think I am being a little too playful for the guys I roll with.  I am approaching it as an extension of a technical learning experience to improve my “skills”. However  I think some of the guys I spar with treat as a way to practise under pressure. So I think it is me that needed to change perspective. If I’m not applying the pressure no one is getting anything out of the session.  I have since gone harder when sparring and I do seem to be getting better results.  Just need to work on the drilling.

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Move your body….weight.

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Since my surgery I have been recuperating physically with a combination of hypertrophy weight training and yoga.  This is mainly to replace the muscle mass I lost during the first operation and also to create a muscular symmetry.  So I don’t look weird.  I have seen some great physical improvements with this, but now I have achieved this I have decided that I am going to  move more towards bodyweight and kettlebell training for a while.  I am hoping this will give me the level of body control I need for BJJ, without wearing me out.

I am not really that bothered about getting big and muscly, I’m more interested in staying healthy, injury free and in good shape as I age.  I am not giving up lifting weights, hence the continued use of kettlebells. But changing up your training is a good idea as part of a periodised programme or just generally to generate “shock” as part of the GAS principle (more on that here).  Plus I want to limit the potential impact on my joints, especially the knees.   With the BJJ technique, rolling, judo and working full time, I have to pick my battles.  Ultimately I want to progress my jits and the other stuff supports this and supports my overall health.  Also as an Old Munki I have to ensure adequate recovery, to benefit from my fun activities.

I have also noticed that I am in no shape at 6am to hit the gym and start lifting heavy weights.  Some yoga has been good to stretch my muscles or I have managed 30 minutes kettle bells and bodyweight stuff a few mornings a week. I think this in addition to my main training is more than enough to keep me physically in shape, without burning myself out.

I would not consider this strength and conditioning training in the conventional way, but it is what works for me and the point I’m at in my physiological age.  It support my targets and keeps my body active.  Speaking of which I am also trying to keep myself moving more at work.

I was conscious that despite all the effort I was putting in before and after work, I was spending hours at a time sat in front of a computer.  so I have been setting my self a target to get up and move around more.   I have now started to offer to go to others offices for meetings, walking to my managers office to speak to her instead of emailing her and getting the coffees in for the team.  This keeps me moving a lot more than I used to, it also has the side bonus of making me more popular in the office.

After thinking through all of this and putting it in place, I subsequently read this article by Mark Sisson on his website which basically supports my own findings.  I thought that was pretty cool overall.

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Self experimentation is not something rude

This was prompted by a talk I attended last night by a guy called Barefoot Ted. If anyone has read the book “Born to Run” he is one of the people featured in the book and a massive advocate of barefoot running, hence the nick name.

There was a part of the talk that really stuck home with me and where I am at right now. It was when he was talking about his first steps into barefoot running and it was about experimentation and find out what was right for him. But also as homo sapiens we are a species of experimenters and that is why we achieve and move forward. This experimenting attitude is undeniably true but I do believe this is something as we grow older we forget. I know I did, as this is just now something I am trying to rekindle. I don’t know whether as you grow older you become less of a risk taker and more conservative. Or whether you just start to believe what you are told by the media as to what is the “right way”. I’m not sure what it is. All I have realised now is that I am my own individual and need to find what works for me; my body, my psychology and my happiness.

So looking at experimentation, my very first experiment was a couple of years ago when I tried the Paleo Diet. I read about it seemed to have scientific merit, compared to the others I was looking at so I tried it. What did I really have to lose? It was the best choice I ever made. For the first time since I was a teenager I had a flat stomach. I lost about 20 pounds in weight without even trying. I was still eating when and how much I wanted, but this way of eating worked for me. I have stuck with it and see constant benefits. So that was a definite thumbs up for experimenting without me even realising what I was doing.

More recently I have been trying to make a conscious effort to experiment with my life.  A guy that has inspired by in this is Tim Ferris the author of “The Four Hour Body” and other books. In his books and his videos he challenges the scientific theories and the anecdotal theories to see which actually work. Then explaining how he practically applied them.  A lot of what he says makes sense.  His view is if something doesn’t work for you, think outside of the box and go against convention.

I have started to reflect this thought process onto my training, as I have physical “limitations” due to my osteoarthritis and surgeries; I just need to find what works for me. I have personal training, strength and conditioning and lots of other qualifications and experiences. So I know the scientific processes, which does have positives and negatives when experimenting. As I know what I should be doing, but is that going to benefit me? I really have to push myself to think outside of the norm. To just try something and see what happens I have been finding a little difficult in some areas.

My main current target is to reduce the impact of my physical issues and at the same time improve physically, which at my age as on old munki, in not supposed to be that easy. (Ah coconuts to that!) As you can see my last couple of posts have been about me experimenting with supplements to achieve this. Showing the ones that have been successful and the ones that bombed.  I am also currently looking at my physical training, as to what is the most specifically beneficial for me right now, in the long term and for my BJJ.

In addition to the supplements, I been working with high intensity interval training, yoga, endurance training, along with reviewing the actual exercises that I perform and how I do them. I do think that this application and evaluation process is effective and has been benefiting me. I will let you know how these processes go.

Does anyone else consider themselves and experimenter munki? Let me know I would be really interested to know what you have done.

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Mr T(estosterone) says……..

I have been back at the gym finally and after my prolonged break, I am concerned about actually building any muscle back.  Especially in my shoulders.  So being the type of old munki to do a bit of research to try and find a solution, I went on Google.  The main thing that concerned me, was that due to my long period of inactivity my testosterone levels would have dropped, to that of 10 year old girl.  Its bad enough being an old munki and the issues that brings to my T levels. (yes I got sick of typing out testosterone)

I managed to find a supplement that actually had some scientific evidence, to back up that it improves testosterone levels. The supplement I found was Bulbine Natalensis.  I managed to find this article which is quite an in depth scientific review of the product.  In summary it does say it works, but it does have an effect on your kidneys and liver so needs to be cycled.  As with anything that supports something your body naturally does, you do have to cycle otherwise your body has no need to keep up its natural processes.

Having read this I thought “fair enough, just be smart and see how it goes”.  I bought some and stuck to the suggested dosage. For the first week I did not really notice anything, but moving into week 2 I noticed my body was starting to thicken up, which I was pleased about.  Especially as I had lost so much weight post both the operations.  I have put on about 4 kg (9 lbs) in weight and with a 4 site calliper measurements I calculated I have approximately 20% body fat.  Admittedly I would like to half this, but that is the next stage and I am sure this will happen when I am able to hit the mats.  One thing that really highlighted that this thing was working, was my change in mood.  I did notice it affected my aggression.  I would fire up a little quicker than previously.

I have stopped taking this at the moment, as obviously you are supposed to cycle.  Besides the cycling the main reason I stopped is I am not a body builder and I was simply looking to give my body a boost.  I would do it again whilst I am recovering, but it something I would do for two or three cycles maximum.  By this time I will be back on the mat and into my strength power and not necessarily size (hypertrophy) building programme.

Following my own experiences with this supplement I found this post on another forum, about another guy who had similar experiences to me.  One thing I would say is I agree with the findings of the poster (Russianstar) to stick to 3 week cycles.  Some articles and suppliers suggest you can go to 4 -8 week cycles.  I think this is too long especially with the negatives that can go with it.

I would be interested to hear from anyone has tried it themselves and the effects it has had for them.  As always if you have any questions let me know.

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Love your sweat…hot yoga rocks

So yesterday I went to a hot yoga class.  As I am restricted in what I can do training wise, I was looking for something that I thought would be a challenge but also a benefit.  I know a lot of BJJ guys are into yoga for flexibility, balance and other benefits. I also felt like doing it in a really hot room as well, would definitely be the challenge I was looking for too.

Let me say the staff at the venue were really nice and helpful and the instructor was in my opinion, was good too. She did introduce herself by saying, “I’m an Ashtanga Yogi so I can be a little hardcore”. Yeah at that point I was wondering what have I let myself in for?  One hour in a room of about 50 people thats heated to 40 degrees Celsius is hard work in itself, without throwing in the yoga as well.  But then thinking would my Chimp let me bail appropriately in a room full of women.  Being an Old Munki I put my sensible head on and controlled my chimp.  So I had to bail on a few of the postures as my healing shoulder could not manage it, which I am glad about as I wanted to enjoy it and not hurt myself.  As I have to still keep my shoulder safe at the moment as it is still strengthening, being sensible was the best option. But I could feel the effects on my body, to be honest I can still feel how well it has worked my muscles today.  But it was great fun, enjoyable and whilst I can’t roll seems like a good option.

I can see why yoga is a good complementary exercise to BJJ.  Besides the flexibility benefits the postures work at a level aimed at total body control. This is reflection of what I am trying to achieve with my drilling.  So it looks like until I get back on the mats this could be a lower impact alternative to get me mat ready.

If you are considering going to a yoga class I would definitely recommend it, hot or not it seems to compliment BJJ well.

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Come on Get a Grip

Following on from my shoulder ops I have lost a lot of muscle mass and physical strength with a few months of absolutely no mat time or upper body training.  Other than my physiotherapy work.  Never was I so happy to see a medicine ball or a theraband.  But now after the 15 months these combined two operations have taken, I have to seriously start having to build myself back up.

Besides a standard hypertrophy routine to build up overall muscular and tendon strength. I am also going to work on my grip strength.  I have a couple of funky little items to help me with this.  My first is a pair of Scramble Grip Trainers and the other is a pair of Fat Gripz modelled by Squeeky. You can see what they look like below.

I have to say having used these guys already inbetween ops, I know they can hit the spot. The Fat Gripz go around a standard olympic bar and it makes you feel like you are lifting a bar as thick as a coke can.  You really have to reduce weight when you start with anything like deadlifts using these.  Obviously as you would expect Squeeky has trouble getting his hands around these and this is where the Scramble Grip Trainers come in.  These are more sport specific and allow you to create the sleeve and collar style grips you use when rolling in a gym specific situation, so you can build up tendon and ligament strength in a controlled way.

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In combination/rotation I feel they are great and really work well.  I do have to say though that I get some funny looks in my local Globo Gym when I start using this stuff.  But I don’t really care about that, I’m more bothered about the transferable benefits to the mat.

Also just because I like the video, I have included this You Tube clip of The Raspberry Ape doing a “destruction test” with the Scramble Grip Trainers. I think this shows these things will be lasting me a while if this is anything to go by. I have to admit I was nervous using them for kettlebell swings to start with, but these things can hold some serious weight and are really well made.  So as soon as I get the ok from my physio I’ll be back on these.  I can’t wait.