More Burpees and Bulgarian Bag stuff…


Though I am a firm believer that regular skill practice is important; I’m still a proponent of fitness/conditioning as a cornerstone to good martial arts/self defense practice.  The upside to breaking out of the ‘gym rat’ workout mind is that I can work out anytime, anywhere as long as I have enough space to swing a jump rope or a bulgarian bag.

  • 50 Burpees
  • 5 Open spin/Burpees (left and right) x 5 sets
  • 6 Power Snatch/Arm Throw x 6 sets

Inner Tube + Duct Tape + Flat Rope + Play Sand = DIY Bulgarian Bag Fun


This is my DIY (Do It Yourself) “Bulgarian Bag

After tripping over this exercise tool and watching some videos of how it is used, I thought it was a pretty nice way of getting a challenging workout… but the ‘real’ ones that Ivan Ivanov created are a bit pricey to test drive.

But, thanks to youtube, I found some DIY tutorials to cut the price from $211 – $155 (Leather costs more than canvas) down to about $30.00.

It is ugly, but like my camera equipment, its a tool for getting ‘pretty’ results not to look pretty.

Cut the inner tube, fill with sand, roll the ends toward the inside of the arc (better handles), and zip tie them closed.  Then duct tape the ends tight for grips.  I added the flat rope loops for some of the spinning exercises and to vary the hand positions for triceps/bicep exercises.  Mine came out to be around 39 pounds at first, but was too heavy to start with so I reduced the heft to about 30 pounds (between the 26 pound “medium” and the 37 pound “large” bags Mr. Ivanov sells) which is probably still a touch heavy, but my pride won’t let me go any lighter.

The variations on bulgarian bag exercises are endless, but this is a series of simple (but definitely not easy) exercises that I started with:

5 Rounds of:

10 “open spins” (full circle rotations to the left for 10, then right for 10)

10 push ups (which I varied with ‘frog’ push ups and ‘climber’ push ups)

5 Rounds of:

“Snatch Jumps” (execute a classic ‘snatch/clean’ motion’ with the bag landing – GENTLY – on your shoulders then jump/throw it back to the start position)

10 Repetitions of the TacArnis Concept Footwork patterns.

I shot the video on on my deck for better light and more room (because my wife likes nice things in her house to stay nice) – please don’t think I’m all hardcore/Rocky IV about this stuff.  It was 30 degrees and the deck was a little slick.  I have enough room for this routine in my basement and the floor is much safer there.

There is a learning curve to using the Bulgarian Bag, but I know that applying the “Form, Power, Focus, Speed” training concept from the Kenpo/FMA blend that is the foundation of TacArnis, this will be a fun/challenging addition to my fitness program but also develop kinesthetic awareness that translates to TacArnis training as well as overall health/fitness.

I strongly suggest ensuring you have enough room and a safe space to exercise in with something like Bulgarian bags or any exercise routine for that matter.

Burpees, Body Weight, and Bands


In a previous post I mentioned “Instructional Alignment” is a fancy way of saying that TacArnis uses the same concepts to instruct that students will apply as tactics.  This goes for our conditioning/fitness component as well. The conceptual lesson of “FLOW” is challenged when we combining conditioning exercises with TacArnis strikes/drills – creating ‘gut check’ experience.  As a drill “FLOW” is a basic drill in FMA to teach the more important idea of “FLOW” as a state of mind – KEEP GOING!  Even when you are tired, stressed, scared or injured.  KEEP GOING!  Taking concepts out of the physical drills and recognizing them as Concepts/Ideas means remember that they can be applied in other ways – and that is the bigger lesson.

I know I’ll catch flak from FMA/Martial arts purists out there, but the goal of TacArnis is not to teach “FMA” as “FMA.” It is to USE “FMA” and other martial skills (and ‘non martial art skills’) in order to “Train Smart” for self defense success.  The concept of “FLOW” as a state of mind is as important (if not more so) than mastering a drill that is meant as a primer for basic physical skills.

  • Burpees (0:08 to 0:29):  I have to confess that I have a love/hate relationship with the Burpee exercise, but it’s like one of the best whole body exercises you can do, so I do it.  For this workout we did the following:
    • 1o burpees w/4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Tom punching
    • 1o burpees w/4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Paul punching
    • 10 burpees w/single and double siniwali
    • 1o burpees w/bob and weave defense and 4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Tom punching
    • 1o burpees w/bob and weave defense and 4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Paul punching
    • Total 50 burpees per person.
    • NOTE:  You can give the ‘focus mitt guy/gal’ a longer rest by having them not burpee if needed BUT it will add time to the overall goal of 50 burpees (or whatever total number you are shooting for).
  • Body weight (0:30 to 0:36):
    • 10 body weight/partner squat lifts combined with bob and weave defensive movement Tom lifts
    • 10 body weight/partner squat lifts combined with bob and weave defensive movement Paul lifts
  • Bands (0:37 to 0:39): SOLO
    • 2 x :60 intervals continuous motion w/the band wrapped around your chest or waist to ‘punch it out’ – Tom
    • 2 x :60 interval continuous motion w/band wrapped around your chest or waist to ‘punch it out’ – Paul
  • Bands (0:40 to 0:52)
    • 2 x :30 intervals continuous motion with partner hold (use the stick to save your hands) stick and empty hand – Tom
    • 2 x :30 intervals continuous motion with partner hold (use the stick to save your hands) stick and empty hand – Paul

Agility and Footwork


TacArnis streamlines training by using ‘Instructional Alignment’ built on a concept training approach… which is fancy teacher talk that simply means:  We use the same basic ideas/theories (Concepts) to teach different skills and abilities.  The major advantage is the speed for the learner.

  1. New material can be learned more quickly because the format of instruction is familiar from prior lessons.
  2. Movements/patterns are built ‘into the bones’ of students quickly for application under stress.
  3. Concepts/tactics grow beyond ‘techniques’ because students apply the same movements under a different stressors/situations.
  4. Students will be ‘faster’ because they can adapt the same patterns of movement to fit situations instead of the ‘if the attacker is doing this, you respond with that…’ approach (which slows down the OODA loop process considerably).
As a student and a teacher I stress ambidexterity in training as well, so notice that I move the patterns with both left and right leads as well as using both my left and right hand w/ the stick.
This vid was shot after about 70 burpee combos with stick strikes, focus mitt drills, and pistol draws, so ‘when’ you include this type of training into a class can add a challenge factor as well.  This was like trying to rub my stomach and pat my head while tap dancing – but it still beats a day on the treadmill as far as I’m concerned.

T.A.W.G. Workout Rewind 8/19/11 – Driving Nails


“To increase speed and power, one must hit the bag hard. Regular practice is required to develop efficiency of movement when punching.” Ross Emamalt
Just like boxers, kick boxers, or MMA’ers, TacArnis students train to hit and/or be hit.  We have to condition our joints, our muscles, and our nervous systems in order to give and take a hit. Unlike boxers, kick boxers, or MMA’ers though, TacArnis students practice with weapons as well as empty hand.

Whether it’s hitting an opponents weapon as a block or striking vital areas in order to stop a ‘bad guy’ (or guys or guys and gals…) swinging sticks in patterns in the air is totally different from the impact, drag, and reverberation of really hitting something.  Even the ‘middle ground’ of using light contact striking with a live partner won’t condition the body for throwing a committed strike with a stick anymore than slap boxing prepares boxers for contact.

We make a point to do some kind of striking in every work out we can,

but today was all about “Driving Nails.”

I like the tire for this because:

  • It creates interaction between training partners
  • Trains the holder to watch/read the ‘telegraphs’ of the striker from the correct perspective
  • Lets the holder feel the force of a stick trick through the impact on  the tire
  • Allows the striker to see the ‘silhouette’ of a human target while striking the tire
  • Gives the striker the feel of hitting a firm ‘resistant’ surface
  • Forces the striker to apply adjustments between swinging air strikes and really hitting something.
There’s also a bit of ‘nostalgia’ in training with a tire for this.  It’s a cheap, readily available and improvised training aid… just like most of the early training tools are.  If it ain’t broke why spend way too much money on something that will only be ‘as good’ (or possibly not as good since it wears out faster).

It’s never been glorious…


HeroCraft

Image via Wikipedia

Life, let alone combat, from earlier times tends to be romanticized when people begin talking about ‘the good old days.’

I cringe when I hear comments from martial artists like “I wish life was like it was back in xyz…”

Here are some reality check videos from a few of my favorite “geek channel” shows to remind us that we have it pretty good on a daily basis – let alone when it comes to fighting/combat/self defense.

The trade off seems to be that modern society is obsessed with ‘working out’ and ‘conditioning’ because we have it so good that we are our own worst health risks…

The Blacksmith/boxer probably didn’t have to do too much ‘conditioning’ in order to be ‘fit to fight’ by the old standards.

The Farmer/Foot Soldier probably didn’t need to take PT tests too often and probably was very familiar with death/killing/slaughter given the daily life of herding/selling/butchering livestock.

The Herder/Fighter was VERY familiar with long stretches of boredom and having to be vigilant in all weather conditions – as well as fighting off the occasional rustler, coyote, wolf or other predatory threat to his herd.

And the idea of ‘women’s self defense…’ in a time when women lifted, carried, pulled, cleaned, killed, washed, built (and yes fought when they had to) probably would make them chuckle – women were tough as nails (maybe even tougher than some of the men) because of the work they did.

T.A.W.G. Workout Rewind 5/20/11 – Power and Focus training


Form, Power, Focus, Speed… This is the technical progression from the Kenpo influence on TacArnis training.

Tonight’s workout targeted POWER and FOCUS by using a ‘functional training’ approach.  It’s challenging, fun, and good strength/conditioning to boot.

GOALS/OUTCOMES:

  • Using objects as visual and ‘touch’ references to develop awareness of where energy is going and how much energy is being creating
  • “POWER” training using the 10 pound medicine ball to ‘trick’ the nervous system into recruiting more muscle/energy than just empty hand alone
    • – it’s also a lot of fun to bounce that ball around the room.
  • “FOCUS” training with a focus mitt (no pun intended) held in both hands.  This helps students ‘see’ where their energy starts and where they send it because they know where they are starting/sending the focus mitt when the throw it.

Many times – especially as beginning students – we only ‘throw’ our energy TO the bad guy  instead of THROUGH the bad guy.  By using this type of drill/training, students learn faster, get stronger and better conditioned – as well as ‘smarter’ about their movements.  Students ‘own’ their learning since they observe what they are doing, adjust/orient themselves, decide  what to fix or repeat, and act by trying again.. and again.. and again.  This is the OODA Loop in action.

For Self Defense focused martial arts, this is a BIG win win since they are learning to operate independently –  to succeed –  by using the OODA Loop.  I won’t be there to tell them what to fix in a crisis or in daily life.  Don’t get me wrong, I still coach and guide things, but this approach builds self confidence vs. the ‘is this right?’ (constantly seeking the teacher’s opinion about what’s right or wrong).