The Secret to Crushing it in Your Karate Training:
Rest and Recovery
It’s easy to assume when watching Karate masters, or any elite athletes perform, that they aren’t experiencing any pain – or at the very least, that they are SO conditioned that they just don’t feel it anymore. And who knows? Maybe thats true sometimes. But certainly what IS true is that: good training often hurts. And when something hurts, especially consistently over time, we need to rest and recover. THAT is the secret to crushing it in your karate training.
Let me explain…
When learning the basic movements of any martial art, things progressively get easier the more you practice. However, the idea that “the bones in your body will heal themselves and become stronger the more you condition them” is not entirely accurate – at least, not if you are not adequately resting and recovering.
The “grind and unwind“ lifestyle is very common today – you might say it’s the model that the majority of people in our society subscribe too. Have you ever met someone who works (or trains) constantly without sleeping or resting, drinks away their stress at the end of the day, and then brags about it to you like it’s a point of pride?
I certainly have.
(I thought these photos of Pink Panther were quite hilarious. They also illustrate what proper rest and recovery do NOT look like. 😉 )
Rest and recovery are just not that valued in our culture – they are often even considered as a sign of weakness. People seem to believe, especially young men, that they can (and should) just keep training and working hard until the late hours for the rest of their lives, and won’t have to pay a price. But the price always comes due –
You pay for bad habits today with your health later.
The negative effects of over training and under recovering don’t show up until years later – often many years later. Concussions and brain damage, for example, only manifest as Alzheimer’s or dementia long after the original damage was done in later life – and the same is true of our general well being.
Health and longevity are a long game. You have to have plan ahead. It’s unfortunate that many martial artists fall into the pits of constant pain, surgeries, knee problems, back problems, heart issues, depression, and long term brain damage, simply because they never learned to properly recover when they were young… it’s so unnecessary! But unfortunately very common.
– Organic berries are Nutrient Dense and great for inflammation
But there is a light! The breakdown of the body with age is not inevitable! It is just a choice. We have the technology and information available to choose to make better decisions that will help us to live longer, stronger, and healthier lives.
People assume that degeneration with age is normal. But it doesn’t have to be. If you practice and do the right things at the right times, you too can do Karate into your seventies with ease!
And I don’t mean just lifting your leg as high as your knee…
So I’m guessing you’re probably thinking by now…
“Ok. This all sounds pretty good. But how exactly are we supposed to recover more effectively? What do we actually need to do?”
I’m glad you asked. 🙂
There are some basic principles for faster recovery between training sessions that are basically considered universal today in the health and exercise sciences, and they are the following:
High net gain (nutrient dense) nutrition from whole foods; better quality sleep (going to bed at a reasonable time, and actually achieving deep REM sleep); pre/post exercise supplementation (glutamine, BCAA’s, Natural Androgen boosters, Glucose); adequate hydration (keeping close track of how much water your drinking, and making sure you get enough electrolytes); and lots of sunlight (natural vitamin D trumps synthetic always).
“Ok cool. But what else can we do? I already do some of ‘that’ stuff.”
Great! Well that’s the base. But there’s a lot more you can do as well…
Understand this: reducing inflammation is the key component of exercise recovery – everything else follows from there. For example, I began using herbal compresses for the bone bruises I got from Kobudo training, which helped immensely for me to continue training without pain. The herbs also helped to strengthen the bones themselves, which is obviously better for long term health of my arm (Muay Thai Linament oil is a great product to try. I use it daily). But what we really want to focus on for even faster recovery is permanently changing our bodies internal chemistry – our baseline homeostatic state.
Two Practices for Longterm Health and Longevity that trump all the Rest!
#1 – Cold therapy/immersion. That is… ice baths, cryotherapy, ice river diving, or just really cold showers
Cold immersion has been around a long time, and has been shown to improve/lower our resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and dramatically reduce pain and inflammation in many studies (reference Wim Hof website at the end of article for more information). But also, it is amazing for helping us to develop more self control and more willpower –
It actually gives you a tangible edge in your Karate training too (no joke)!
Something about the focus required to withstand extreme cold seems to translate into increased self confidence. The philosophical explanation is that: most people are most terrified of the cold, and thus by confronting the aversion and fear by going into the cold directly, feels incredibly empowering!
It makes you feel superhuman. Simple.
Physiologically speaking, the explanation is more complex, but we do know that cold therapy produces a flood of chemicals in your brain which have been shown to improve mood, while also decreasing stress hormones and inflammation (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety) – who doesn’t want that?!
With all of these benefits, many athletes and martial artists feel that Cold immersion therapy should be considered an essential rest, recovery, and longevity practice. If your looking to perform at your highest level, take a dive into the ice water!
– The Wim Hof Method. Cold Therapy and Breathwork done together!
The most helpful practice for truly fast recovery from extreme exercise, in my experience, has been a combination of cold therapy, AS WELL AS…
#2 – Breathwork, or Deep Breathing
Breathwork is basically a form of controlled hyperventilation – although there are many different kinds and ways of doing it. Basically, the premise is to to increase our bodies baseline oxygen levels, while decreasing the amount of C02. Pre and post exercise, it’s not difficult to see why this would be helpful: by increasing oxygen levels and reducing Co2, you reduce cortisol levels; by reducing cortisol levels, you reduce inflammation and stress; and with less inflammation and stress, you recover more quickly! Easy right?
In addition though, breathwork has also been shown to be great for: depression, anxiety, increasing creativity, recovering from illness, diabetes, trauma, end of life fear… the list goes on. The above photo graphic from “The Ice Man Wim Hof” discusses how cold therapy and breathwork work synergistically together with the Wim Hof Method (his baby), as well what a primer on what is known so far about the effects this has on our biology.
Holotropic Breathwork is another breathwork method that has been around for many years (created by Stanislavs Grof – http://www.holotropic.com/about.shtml). It has been highly acclaimed, and is well known for its ability to reliably bring about powerful healing in peoples lives, both physically and emotionally – and even after just one session! So I highly recommend looking into that too. 🙂
***If you are interested in Breathwork and cold immersion therapy, my personal recommendation would be to start with the Wim Hof Method. Wim Hof is an amazing guy, and his method is very, very simple (I’ve been doing it everyday for about 6 monthes now with superb results). He is also a great example of the amazing feats we human beings are capable of when they simply learn to breathe deeper and more consciously on a daily basis! You can find him at: https://www.wimhofmethod.com , to learn more about his course, breathing method, cold immersion tactics, and all the world records he has broken.***
If we are choosing to put our bodies through immense physical or mental stress, it only makes sense that we go above and beyond the in terms of rest and recovery; the human body just isn’t made to run at 100% efficiency for 80 plus years – at least, not without some very intelligent help on our part.
The overarching theme of our life and martial training should be filled with an abundance of energy, vitality, and joy! Iff this is not the case, I think it’s safe to say that something is probably amiss somewhere in our lifestyle.
Remember: longevity and health is a long game. What you do or do not notice today in terms of results, doesn’t necessarily correlate with where you will be when you are seventy years old. It’s a complex process, and not always one that is easy to navigate, predict, or feel. So we have to trust. KNOW that the benefits are there if you are doing the right things. Eat better, sleep better, breath deeply until you wanna faint, and take cold showers, and it WILL pay you back eventually.
(certainly more guaranteed than the Pink Panther method) 🙂