Maybe I should use topic tags. Last time I looked, they were incompatible with the way I'd styled this page, but I could look again... At any rate, consider this post tagged: martial arts, physical training, general rambling.

Westerners performing dand/bethak training - aka Hindu push-ups and Hindu squats - are probably doing it because the controversial Matt Furey (re)popularised the notion. I've been training in martial arts since 1972, and lifting weights since '75, so I've a reasonable idea of how people trained in general, back in those YouTube-less days. (Although you can use YouTube to check out the legendary Kimura training judoka in the '60s: hundreds of dands every day. Likewise Japanese wrestlers and shoot-fighters.)

When I had a Links page on the main website, I used to link to an apparently respectable "fitness guru", until I realised how fake his credentials were, and how much he overcharged for the small amount of good information he provided. I removed that link, so I understand the notion of choosing your recommendations on grounds other than pure content. But from my entire bookcase and Kindle collection of training books, only Furey's Combat Conditioning changed my actual daily practice. Bear in mind, I already ran and lifted weights: anything new I learned could only be a tweak, and the books were more for motivation than knowledge. In those days also, Furey wrote that combining weight lifting and calisthenics was fine - he later changed his tune - and it probably helped that I bought his book in a bookshop, not as a result of his viral marketing (in magazines I never read). I judged the book purely on content, and the effect of actually engaging in that training for five to seven days a week, for years.

Since keyboard warriorship is clearly oxymoronic and unworthy of further discussion, I guess what I really wanted to say was that I'd never write approvingly about an exercise or piece of equipment if I'd not used it seriously for at least two years, and probably an awful lot longer. Bear in mind this comes from an old guy with a too-thick waist. My energy levels are high, but so is my coffee consumption, plus I've never quite grown up: bouncing around is what I do, and there's no guarantee it comes from hundreds of daily freehand squats.

While travelling, I take Bodylastics exercise bands with me, as a substitute for lifting weights. They have a door anchor and use carabiner clips, so you can attach multiple bands to the same handle or pair of handles. I like them a lot, and I've used them a lot over the last three years (up to 2 months at a time in a hotel, though I usually get home at the weekends, to my heavy bag and dumbbells).

I've owned a pair of Vibram minimalist training shoes for about nine months (they were a present), ran a few miles in them the day after I got them (not recommended by the manufacturers, but martial artists are used to training in bare feet), but only used them in the last few weeks seriously, while doing calisthenics and "hill sprints" up hotel staircases. So no verdict yet. Mostly, I'm no fan of buying new gear for the sake of it, or swapping exercise routines, or even training in the usual kind of gym, where everyone's nicely dressed, talkative, and enamoured of their phones or interactive screens mounted on or above the treadmills and exercise bikes. That's partly the getting-old thing, I suppose, but my personal workout music - I've mentioned this before - is rap and hip-hop, with Rocky themes just for a touch of nostalgia. I'd like to think I'm not entirely superannuated.

To my mind, not critiquing something until you've tried it seriously for a serious period of time - I'd been performing dands, bethaks and neck bridges for a lot longer than two years before I ever mentioned them - links to the common courtesy of never insulting another martial art. I say "another", because it's the adherents of one art who are most likely to put other arts down. I first came across this phenomenon in an aikido dojo that I visited for a single session in the 1970s: the instructor was physically proficient and tough... and rude about other styles. I never went back. By contrast, Juliet McKenna's aikido dojo, when I visited a few years back, was an excellent place to train.

(As an aside, from my limited experience among British aikidoka, and extensive experience among British karateka... How come it's only the aikido guys who can pronounce Japanese terms correctly? Is it because we karate blokes is, like, working-class thugs? Been hit in the skull too often? Just wondering.)

Likewise, BJJ. In a sports centre near where I used to live, I wandered over to listen to a BJJ coach (not the regular instructor) boast about how he'd wiped out some non-jiu jitsu fighters at a BJJ tournament - he used exceedingly derogatory language - with no mention of the fact that they were the ones who'd dared to enter a competition whose rules were entirely alien. He also proceeded to teach some gymnastic, spectacular techniques that I would classify as low-probability, sport-only movements. I never trained there at all.

On the other hand, when I turned up at a Gracie Barra gym - where the guys had one hell of a lot more impressive competition credentials than the rude bloke - the techniques were practical, and everyone was very nice to me. Even the huge bloke who sat on my chest for the duration of our encounter when we were rolling... He apologised afterwards, on the basis that he hadn't realised it was my first-ever Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session. Toughness and politeness in one package.

Seems to me, that's how things should be.


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