The Wannabe Polymath

Archive for July, 2015

Hand and Finger Training

by on Jul.28, 2015, under General

Every martial artist should be giving special attention to training their hands and fingers. A good part of the strength from a punch comes from grip strength. Remember, how you were taught to clench your fist immediately before impact? If you have weak hands you will have a weak punch.

I have always had an obsession with hand strength since I started working out. (One of my favorite moments was when a physical therapist handed me a device to measure my grip strength. I gave one squeeze and he jumped backed and shouted “Holy!” before immediately composing himself to read the number.) Something about a strong grip and being able to lift things with a single finger to me was the sign of true strength. Because of this fascination I have always lifted things throughout the day with only my fingers, done fingertip pushups and used hand grips.

If you are already strength training then your hands are getting a workout already. Gripping dumbbells and barbells give your hands a workout already (especially with heavy lifts like the deadlift). But as a martial artist, you need to go beyond this to get true grip strength.

Here are some hand and finger training methods in no real order:

The Hand Grip

This is the most easily accessible grip trainer. If you have been looking to increase your grip strength, then, chances are, you are already using a hand grip. The goal with the hand grip is to squeeze the handles together so that they touch. It’s a great training device. The downside is that it does not necessarily train all of the muscles in the hands and fingers. The other downside is that you will need to buy new ones as you get stronger. But it is a terrific hand workout, none the less.

Fingertip Pushups

The classic martial arts pushup. Fingertip pushups are going to hurt when you first do them. To assume the starting position: start on your knees with your fingers already spread apart and prepared to lift. Then you will kick out your legs to enter the pushup position and begin your pushups. Do as many you can in each set. If you cannot manage one, then look to other methods to train your fingers before tackling the fingertip pushups.
You can increase the difficulty of fingertip pushups by using fewer and fewer fingers until you are on just the thumbs or the index finger and thumb.

Hand Exercise Balls

Not only are they a great phallic symbol of power, but these balls are also a great way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome! They go under a variety of names, steel/stone eggs (depending on the material), health balls, hand exercise balls, Baoding balls (I have yet to hear a Chinese person call them that). You rotate them in your hand with the goal of being able to do so without them touching each other. While doing so you can also squeeze them to work your grip. You can increase difficulty by adding a third or fourth ball. Supposedly they also massage acupuncture points in the hands to help maintain health. I don’t know, but they are a good way to exercise finger strength and dexterity. You won’t really get any burn out of this exercise (it is yet another Chinese old man exercise, like Taiji, that make younger Chinese go “WTF?” when they see us young white people doing it.), but it is a simple exercise you can do while reading a book or sitting at the computer. Very easy to add your living habits.

That will do it for now. There are plenty more hand exercises out there. These are the more common ones and between the three of them will already put you on the path to strong hands.

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Sleeping on a Board

by on Jul.27, 2015, under General

Modern living is too soft.  For the martial artist, you need to often go back, go old school, in order to not only live healthy, but also for the body to be in optimal condition to perform the techniques that martial artists need to perform.  Eating organic, non-gmo foods (while a must) is not going to keep your joints and muscles in alignment and shape by itself.  Food is a fuel.  Your lifestyle is the other half of optimal living.  It doesn’t matter that you eat non-gmo if you sit all day and don’t exercise.  To take it further, eating non-gmo and exercising an hour a day is awesome, but their might be other parts of your lifestyle that is that negatively effecting your body and health.

Case in point: I have recently taken to sleeping on a Chinese wooden bed.  There is no real mattress, to be speak of.  The entire bed is wooden, with no springs or rails.  It is almost like a table.  On top of the wood we have placed something like a thin tatami mat.  The Chinese call it a grass mat. It is simply a another layer between you and the wooden board, it provides no sense of softness or comfort.  It is there just for sanitary and aesthetic reasons. Essentially, we are sleeping on a board.

I can only describe the benefits as being great.  From sleeping on a mattress my hips have sunken.  The support is too soft for my hyper extending joints.  As a result my hips sink back when I am sleeping.  When you sleep on a mattress, the heaviest part of your body is going to sink lower than the rest.  For a normal, healthy person (or some out of shape people) this would be the buttocks.  In my case, my old mattress had depressions on both sides from where I sleep that only exacerbated the problem.  As  a result I would have to continually rotate my legs out throughout the day to get support back. Even when sleeping on a new mattress, my hips would still sink into the mattress. It is just a soft surface that is unable to keep things on the same level.

This hurt my kicking alot.  After throwing a kick I would sometimes have to readjust myself to get my hips back into place.  To be clear, what was happening was that some tendon/muscle in my hip socket was not in place and would not stay there. This is an example of the high level of maintenance that my hyper extending body requires. Massage therapy and physical therapy worked a bit, but was not solving the cause.

What was needed was for a hard surface to lie on. After a single days rest on the wooden bed I was already better. My hip joints now stay in alignment and the rest of my body does as well. My kicks are now back and I do not have to perform any readjustments anymore. If you are having joint troubles, perhaps consider a hard wooden bed. You can easily test this out by spending a night on the floor and seeing how your body adjusts to it. Chances are, you will be better off for it.
Soft living hurts the body. Harden up your daily living and you will be stronger for it.

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