Kung Fu’s Traditional HIIT Training

The title of this post is not misspelled. I wasn’t referring to “hit” (as in striking) training, but rather HIIT. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has become the rage, and for a good reason. Ever since the famous study on HIIT by Izumi Tabata, the so-called Tabata Method, athletes have discovered the benefits of such intense workouts done often in record short periods of time–but incredibly high intensity. Tabata’s method, for example, took only 4 minutes…but it’s grueling. If you perform it correctly–and you really have to be in peak shape in order to do this, you feel sick afterwards. This is not for lazy people who want to get in shape fast with little effort. There are some excellent workouts following this and similar methods. One book I recommend is The Tabata Workout Handbook. But there are many others. Some of those found for free on the internet are excellent. I still like the good old standard sprinting at maximum capacity for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of complete rest, repeated 7 more times (for 4 minutes)….absolutely grueling!

In this post, however, I’m not referring to Tabata’s specific method, but rather HIIT in general–that is, high intensity interval training. This is the rage. Well, Kung Fu (and many other forms of traditional martial arts) have such HIIT training traditionally in their curriculum. I’m referring specifically to forms training.

At least in bei pai, the northern styles of kung fu like those I’m familiar with (e.g., traditional forms of Tong Long [praying mantis] or in long fist kung fu), the forms are grueling, with long low stances, combinations of strikes, sweeps, high kicks, changing stances throughout, etc. I typically spend an hour a day 5 days a week just working on my kung fu forms (empty hand and weapons). Performing the forms at a rapid rate (sometimes there are short pauses in the forms, so respecting the rhythm of the forms) with short breaks in between (easiest when performing weapons, because you need a few seconds to grab the next weapon) naturally functions as a form of HIIT.

So those of you who practice forms like this, are doing a form of HIIT. That’s why you are so winded after long bouts of forms training. It’s excellent cardio. Keep it up! You’re heart will thank you for it.

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Kung Fu’s Traditional HIIT Training

Interested in the History of Aikido? Check out this blog!

I have been reading up on Aikido (a martial art I have studied in the past) and on its history for some time. I have yet to find a blog as informative, careful, well-written, perceptive, and accurate on the history of Aikido–albeit perhaps somewhat controversial–as the Aikido Sangenkai Blog. If you are interested in the history of Aikido, in Daito-ryu Aikijujuts, in aiki, internal power, Morihei Ueshiba, etc., then you MUST become a regular reader of this blog! I would even recommend contributing financially to their fine work, as I mentioned on my Facebook community page. I will be posting on some of this material more in the future. Although I have studied Aikido, and have taught some what might be called Aikijujutsu (since Aikido is a trademarked style), I have some knowledge of these things…but I am learning a lot more. I have recently met some people who have developed more aiki power than I have ever experienced outside of the Chinese internal martial arts (where they wouldn’t call it aiki), and it is causing me to rethink some things. I’ll post more on that later. I would also recommend reading a book I came across, but it prohibitively expensive from sellers, called Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei’s Power. If you can find a copy of this, I highly recommend reading it, controversial as it is…but then, I was never one to avoid controversy.

Interested in the History of Aikido? Check out this blog!

Real Knife Self-Defense

Since Knife self-defense is such a popular topic these days–and for good reason–I plan on doing more posts on this. Most training in knife self-defense is very poor and actually quite dangerous. Most of the videos you’ll find online are a joke, and will very likely get you killed if you attempted any of that nonsense in a real self-defense situation. I’ve been trained in knife self-defense (both unarmed against a knife, knife against a knife, knife against other weapons and against multiple assailants, stick versus knife, etc.) from masters in northern and southern Kung Fu styles (including Wing Chun), from masters in Aikido and Aikijujutsu, from Filipino stylists, as well as from my synthetic American karate instructor who has taught knife self-defense (and knife techniques) to members of elite and special forces across the world (Germany, France, Israel, UK, U.S., etc.).

There are two very good videos, however, I’d like to share with you that I think will helpfully bring some realism to your training, or at least to your expectations. The first is a clip of the famous Filipino (and other) stylist Jeff Imada, showing Aikido stylists the real dangers of a knife. No one gets hurt, but you see how a well-trained knife fighter is a force to be reckoned with: Check out the clip here.

The second clip is of self-defense expert Dean Lawler teaching knife self-defense. You can see that clip here. Watch carefully. Contrast 0.20 to 0.42 with the segment from 0.50 to 1.20. What you’ll notice is that 0.20 to 0.42 is very much like what we find in training, and is very unrealistic. 0.50 to 1.20 is far more realistic, and terrifying. No one gets injured, but this shows you what a real serious knife attack can look like. This is for real, even though it’s not real.

For safe realistic knife self-defense training I highly recommend purchasing the eva foam training knives, like the one pictured at the top of this post. They are a little more expensive than your run of the mill rubber knives, but will do less damage to your body. Anyone going full contact with rubber or plastic knives knows the bruising your body can get. These are excellent training knives and much safer to use.

Real Knife Self-Defense

W.E. Fairbairn and Self Defense

William E. Fairbairn (1885-1960) was a self-defense expert whose popular works in self-defense remain important classics in the field. He wrote  his popular Get Tough, which remains a classic. He also wrote a manual on knife fighting. These are great works, true classics. There’s an excellent blogpost on Fairbairn’s life, in the context of the history of self defense, here. He studied Judo and Jujutsu, among other styles (including Chinese styles), and had boatloads of actual self-defense experience on the street, working as a police officer in Shanghai’s mean streets before the Communist take over of China. He also helped create a popular fighting knife, the Fairbairn-Sykes Knife, which is still available for sale. The more effective, in my opinion, Applegate-Fairbairn Knife is modeled on that earlier version. My favorite version of this is Boker’s black model, which I think is one of the best combat knives available on the market. He has a number of other books, including Shooting to Live with the One Hand Gun, and Scientific Self Defense. His works are seriously neglected nowadays, but you would do well to review them. They may not be much help for someone with no background in martial arts or self-defense, but they include easy to learn moves, that are extremely effective. Students of Jujutsu and Judo will recognize many of these moves. No nonsense, street smart moves. Very effective. Also check out some of my own works on self-defense, including my popular Palm Stick Self-Defense Guide, my Essential Self-Defense Tips, and my brand new A Cup of Coffee and Other Improvised Weapons of Self Defense.

W.E. Fairbairn and Self Defense