Archive for September, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere

Posted: September 30, 2011 in Exercise, Injury

This post isn’t so much about Krav Maga so much as how I survive classes without turning into a withered raisin. First, let me give you a little back story. Throughout my life I have been plagued with occasional migraines. These are the real deal — sensitivity to light, ripping headache that feels like my head’s going to explode, waves of nausea, dizzyness…. No fun.  Had them since I was a kid and they usually showed themselves after hard physical exertion in the heat. Since I hydrated well prior to working out I had to attribute these to something else. Was it the heat or some kind of migraine triggered by exertion? I tried to solve the mystery but never really came up with a solid reason.

When I started training back in June I continued my water saturation routines, making sure to hydrate obscenely prior, during, and after the class.  I would routinely drink 1.5 liters of water (or more) prior to working out, another .5 liter during the workout, then about 1 – 1.5 liters more afterwards. When I first started I was nervous that every class would end with me staggering out to the car in agony, drenched in sweat, blood gushing from my ears from the migraine pressure, and seeking a cool dark room to wait it out with an ice pack dripping from my forehead.

Nothing of the sort happened.

It dawned on me that perhaps, all these years — all my LIFE — I had been hydrating but just not enough!  Could it have been this simple all along? Was I that much of an idiot? Could I really have been that dense?!

Turns out, yes to all of the above.

I had been hydrating in the past, sure, but just not enough. When I started Krav Maga, I wanted to be sure that the intense workout wouldn’t turn me to dust so I went what I thought was overboard with the water, going way beyond what my body could reasonably want. I mean, really, does anyone need 3 liters of water? I guess now that I’ve had time to really work through this I would have to say that at least I need it.

I take it very seriously now. I never skimp and I never cram.  I always start hydrating a full 2 hours before class.  That way the water has enough time to get into my body. Otherwise I’d get stomach cramps and pee it away before I even started. I had one of those 750 ml Nalgene water bottles that I fill up and carry around with me.  My goal is to drink steadily, but again not too quickly, for those 2 hours and conquer 2 bottles — or even 3, if possible. I know I’m getting close when — pardon my crudeness — I am peeing every 15 – 20 mins. and I’m “running” completely colorless (or lemonade tint) vs. apple juice tint. If I were to work out with apple juice colored pee I can guarantee you I would not be having a great day afterwards. Following the workout I make sure to drink another 750 ml or more and add in juice and/or recovery drinks if I feel like it. I also try to drink as much as I can during the workout, though we don’t usually have too many opportunities.

Your mileage may vary, of course. I am heavyset and sweat easily so I can certainly see how my fluid intake needs are more severe than, say, a runway super-model. Physiologically I think my body is just more water needy than others. I also should drink more during the day anyhow — impending workout or not. You might need far less than me or not have to have a hydration ritual along the lines of what I described. If so, great, but I personally would still suggest that you think about keeping hydration on your mind and make an effort to up your intake if possible. Even if you aren’t feeling any ill effects your body could probably benefit nonetheless, whether you’re going to be working out or not.

Another action-packed week in class.  This was the first week where I ventured into a morning class — mostly due to a schedule conflict that prevented me from attended that night.  Why does this matter?  Well, unlike the evening classes I am accustomed to, the morning classes have students from White Belt up to and including Black Belts.  Quite an interesting mix.  I partnered with a Red/Black Belt fortunately and during our session together (largely consisting of punching drills with Muay Thai pads) I learned some great tips and was able to watch a far more experienced student from up close without feeling like I was staring.

One thing I learned in that class is that there’s always room for improvement.  Sure, that sounds trite but it really is true.  We lower belt students can sometimes put the more advanced students on a pedestal but training with them reminds you that they’re students just like us.  Sure, they are far more experienced and have a lot more skills under their belts (so to speak) but they can struggle just as much as anyone.  As I was off for a quick water break off the the side I’d see a Black Belt off to my right gasping and gulping water just like me.  As I dropped my arms to the side quickly to shake off a cramp, so too did my partner on occasion when it came to her turn.

It was somewhat surprising to me that many of the talks we get in our evening classes about the basics (i.e., moving the hips into a punch, staying aware of our footwork, breathing, etc.) are repeated to even the more advanced students.  It never hurts to drill these lessons mercilessly into people’s heads so they are second-nature and triggered by reflexes and habit more than thinking.

On another front, this was my first week of sparring as well.  It was enlightening for me in many ways.  Instead of our practicing into the mirror or facing off with a partner and pads I was actually squaring off with another student practicing various moves.  No, it wasn’t full-contact, animal sparring (in fact, I don’t have my gear in yet) but it was different enough to appreciate the difference.

One last lesson I picked up, also in the sparring, was the notion of elbows flaring out.  Sensei pointed out that many of us are likely familiar with the classic “boxing stance” with the elbows in tight and the gloves coming up to protect the face.  He demonstrated the difference in Muay Thai — elbows out and a larger gap between gloves.  The gap is there to invite the opponent to strike between them, making for easier deflection, and the elbows are flared because — unlike boxing — we have to keep in mind knees and kicks.  Elbows being flared are far better positioned to deal with these incoming blows.

Coming up on our next stripe test next week, which should be exciting. I am also now able to have access to Jui Jitsu and a brand-new, dedicated Muay Thai  class.  Like a kid in a candy store, me.  If I only had more time…

How to Ruin Someone’s Training Session

Posted: September 3, 2011 in Class, Older

We are told in class often that proper pad holding prevents injury, creates a more realistic target for your partner, and desensitizes the pad holder to blows. I am not going to lecture on proper pad holding. Firstly, I am still quite new to Krav Maga and have no illusions that I am the voice of authority on anything (probably won’t be for another few years). Second, there are other resources you can refer to that have “been there, done that”.

Having been on the receiving end of some poor pad holding I have come close to hyperextending my arm, and more recently, been the victim of The Cheater. We’ve all worked opposite The Cheater. This is someone who tries to cut corners because he feels that what the drill involves isn’t important to everyone’s (or at least his) goals.


In this particular instance we were performing a drill where a pad holder would hold a tombstone and their partner would get them in a clinch and drive them to the other side of the dojo with knees. The pad holder was instructed to resist as much as possible. If they were able to keep their partner from driving them backward — or better yet, could drive the attacker backwards! — they were encouraged to do so. In this case, my partner gave me a wink and said he’d move backwards easily. Too baffled to respond to this idiocy I lined up for the drill and we began. Sure enough, I was practically chasing my pad holding partner across the dojo as he scurried backwards with virtually no resistance.

I was not pleased. I called out repeatedly (but not loudly enough to get the guy in trouble) for more resistance but to no avail. I didn’t show any outward sign of frustration, though in retrospect maybe I should have. As minor as this incident sounds it really had an effect on me and I left class that night feeling cheated. There were a few other shortcuts my partner pulled out during class that I don’t really need to get into but in total I felt like it was almost a wasted training session. I vowed that I would not let that happen again and would also be more diligent about how I held pads and performed in general for my training partner.

We could, by all accounts, end this blog post right now but I have one other related anecdote I want to put out there and it relates to this same drill described above. We had a visiting instructor at our school one day. Big guy. No, HUGE guy. Muscle-bound, hulking frame — you get the idea. Very nice fella, as it turns out, but I wouldn’t want to get on this guy’s bad side. As we were being instructed on the drill I decided as the pad holder that I was going to do my best to not budge. I am a pretty big guy myself — 6′ 4″ and….well, I’m big. As the drill started I dug in. My partner clinched me and began driving the knees. Nothing. I didn’t move an inch. In fact, I began driving him back forcefully as the rest of the class marched their way to the other side of the dojo. Our visiting instructor saw this and came over, saying to my partner, “Alright. Take this guy over here. I got this guy”, jabbing a finger at me.

Oh crap.

As I was clinched harder than I knew was possible I was driven to the other side of the dojo by massive sledgehammer blows that had me practically seeing stars. The visiting instructor’s giant forearm was wedged viciously under my jaw and I was alternately slammed by the knees and rammed backwards with his iron arm in my throat. It was epic and I actually did better than I originally feared.


Interestingly, it turns out the guy I was partnered with was holding back, off to the side, quietly simmering since he got called aside. He was probably feeling frustrated and humiliated for getting put on the bench and I could tell in his face that he was determined to do better. As I partnered up with him again he was like a demon possessed and gave a performance that almost rivaled the visiting instructor’s, driving me back — again — with powerful, driving knees and a mad look of determination on his face. Yeah, I was having quite the night.

There are a bunch of lessons I think can be taken from this anecdote and I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. I myself was made aware of how a senior practitioner can belittle someone without even meaning to. I hope to avoid that in the future as I climb the ranks. I also found out that, if I can withstand that punishment from the massively powerful visiting instructor, I can probably handle anyone’s knees in the class as well. Finally, I saw how determination can make all the difference. Comparing my partner’s performance from the first attempt to the second was night and day. When he got his second chance he let go of all inhibitions and gave it his all. I’m here to tell you that it was like a completely different person and I was very impressed by the difference. I always want to train like he did that second go-around and so should you.