Monday, June 20, 2011

06/20/11: You won't break and learning to properly breath


Made it through three nights out of the four this week.
And, boy, am I feeling it after Thursday night's workout and drills (thanks to Kyle!). One of our drills was to work through our punch combatives and defenses with a follow up double strikes to the stomach, about a third force. Probably doesn't sound like that's much power, but when you take several punches over and over again for minutes at a time...well, they begin to hurt like hell. And the next day? Painful, as hell.
But it's important for every Krav Maga student to understand they won't break if they take a hit. In fact, if they get into a real world brawl, they're probably going to take more than one hit. They need to know that; it's an imperative part of part of the mental training.
Most street fights last no more than 30 seconds. But there's a huge difference in what a Krav Maga trained fighter can do in that 30 seconds as opposed to an untrained individual might can do. Guaranteed, a trained Krav Maga self defense student can disarm and disable an attacker in less than 3 seconds, as long as he/she takes the training seriously and understands the importance of intensity and aggressiveness during every training session.
3 seconds between living and dying.

Thursday night, I worked out for the first time with a thirty-one year old male student, who had only been to Krav a few times before. It was amazing to watch someone still new to the training and all the small things that I had already worked through: things like proper breathing, the proper stance, the proper twist to the hip when throwing a punch, etc., etc . Even with my handicap, I was able to help improve his breathing exercises and his punches within the first workout with him.
And, boy, there is no way to get around the fact that I’m handicapped for life.
My right leg is screwed.
There’s no more running.
There’s no jumping.
I am earthbound for the rest of my life.
That's my leg after the third surgery, the one in which the new surgeon discovered how extensive the damage was because of an 8 month long chronic infection that ate away most of my tendon, some heel bone and a good portion of the flesh around the open wounds.  It was all necrotic and had to be replaced with what they refer to as a "skin flap"/"skin graft" procedure.
But my previous training in Krav Maga had already instilled in me the never-say-die factor in my life. My training before the injury, and subsequent botched surgery, is the thing that has kept me grounded.
Months of surgeries and recoveries, months of pushing myself back into Krav drills, over and over again, and I am still trying to keep myself in shape.

When I see a new student struggling through the drills, I am astounded at what I’ve been able to overcome, but more so, what I see new students diving into Krav Maga for the first time. The pain; the sweat; the doubt and despair. Seeing it in the faces of new students gives me hope that the training means something.
That pain does means something. It’s important. To work through the pain and doubt is something which Krav Maga thrives upon. Krav Maga is painful and something that makes you doubt yourself, but when you can walk away from a workout and not having given up, then you have something of which to be proud.
So if you’ve been able to make through a Krav Maga workout, then count yourself resilient. There’s nothing easy about a Krav Maga workout. Especially when you first begin.
I guess one of the things I'm trying to get across (in a very graphic way, my apologies to those of you with weak stomachs for these sorts of things) is that even if you break, you CANNOT break where it counts.  Inside.  Because that is truly where all your power comes from, even if you don't always realize it.

But I was speaking about proper breathing before, and how I was teaching a new student how to use the technique I learned years ago to help him control himself during the drills.
One of the first breathing exercises I ever learned when I first got into martial arts self defense and combative tactics training was a simple, but effective one, and it’s a technique I’ve tried to pass along to as many people who I meet in my training, especially if I feel it can really benefit the person and get them moving along an easier route with their training.
Breathing is key to control before, during and after a confrontation, even if it doesn’t come to blows. There’s a lot chemical reactions which take place inside the human body as we become afraid or feel threatened, suddenly thrust into a potentially dangerous, even a life threatening, situation. Adrenaline is supposed to be our friend, but when it hits the central nervous system it can cause uncontrollable shakes, make you feel lightheaded and unable to catch your breath. It’s all part of that ancient genetic known as “the flight or fight” reaction. Proper breathing can help your ‘friend’ help you. This is a technique I use sometimes I know I’m about to have a hell of a workout, so I can over-oxidize my blood, so I can feel the “high” and give myself a better shot at being to hold onto more and more of that precious oxygen in my bloodstream where it will help me before, during and after a confrontation.

Here’s the technique:
1. Take in 3 short sharp breathes, holding them in your expanded lungs for 3 seconds- no more, no less. It may take some work in the beginning, but it’s imperative you learn this part well…the short, sharp breaths and the holding them in part.

2. After the 3 seconds have passed, let those held breathes out in a slow 3 seconds exhale. Again, no more, no less. As if you haven’t yet guessed, this technique is all about biofeedback and control of your functions on levels you may or may not have been aware of before.

3. Once you feel your lungs have emptied, start from step 1 again and repeat and repeat. It is very important that during the technique you concentrate on what you are feeling—the slowly lowering of your heart rate, the thump of your heart, the in and out flow of the blood through your veins, feeding you that much needed oxygen. Feel a quietness take over your mind. That will take some practice, but I promise, that sensation will also come with time and patience. It is a quietness within which will allow you finish the fight before you even begin. But more about that later…I don’t want to get too all new-agey on you, here.

4. In the beginning, do this routine for two minutes, while holding one finger to your exposed opposite wrist, where you can best feel your heartbeat, your blood flow. It is your body speaking to itself. As you work through the two minute breathing control technique, you will, guaranteed, feel a significant difference in your heart rate. It will lower and become more controlled. As you master the technique, begin lowering the time in which do it, bringing it down my 30 second increments over a period of weeks or months. Go from two minutes, to one and a half minute, to one minute and finally to 30 seconds. By then, you should be able to gain complete control of your body’s reaction to adrenaline dump, those endorphin hits we all get when we get physical, and, of course, your breathing. You will be able to do it within 30 seconds. But just like anything you have to master, you must also practice at it to keep the skill. After months of being unable to workout properly, I’m pretty much having to start over again from the two minute mark; but I also know that if I was able to get to that 30 second mark before, I can and will make it back again.

Below is a video example what we refer to as "fatigue drills", drills of intense punching, kicking, blocking, etc., which are meant to wear you down both physically and mentally.  Proper breathing will get you through them a lot easier.

Tomorrow is Monday and I’ll be back in there again, fighting for my life and sanity in ways that I can’t even put into words anymore.
Wish me luck...

--Nickolas Cook


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