Home > Drop in the Bucket > Kicking the Cabinets

Kicking the Cabinets

Hours scheduled: 9

Hours trained: 13 or more

I’ve been thinking about training and writing about training and I’ve come to a conclusion: It’s far easier to write about martial arts than actually do them. It’s far easier to say, “I should practice every day” than to actually get down and dirty with your kata in the lunch room. Or, that’s how it seems sometimes.

Today is a perfect example of this. Earlier today I went down to the coffee shop and walked by a park. It’s great park; even ground, two big trees for shade, the grass freshly cut and smelling sweet like peas. On the way home I made plans to pull on my black gi pants and go train in that park but when I got home I decided against it. Instead, I read my news feed and drank a glass of water. Doesn’t really sound like training, does it?

But maybe it is. After all, when I got the water from the fridge, I used a kung fu kick to close the door. I also used a foot technique to pull my chair out from the computer desk. So, am I training or not?

A friend of mine, Zach, is a semi-pro cyclist here in town. We talk a lot about training because he spends the majority of his time preparing for the next race and in winter, a huge amount of his training time is devoted to keeping his body and mind in shape and not burning out. This is a delicate balance to try to maintain.

One of the secrets of Zach’s success has been his heart rate monitor. When I asked him what the point of the extraordinarily fancy little machine was (after all, when you work out your heart rate goes up and you don’t need to spend two hundred bucks to find that out), he said that, among other things, he can tell when he’s going to burn out by tracking his heart rate. Something else he said that struck me was this: The best way to train to avoid burn out and to keep body and mind focused, is to train a little bit every single day.

For Zach, this doesn’t always mean pulling on the spandex and doing a few circuits before the morning coffee. This means little things like riding his bike to work, taking a long walk or a short run, cycling out to the lake for a barbecue and a swim, walking home with the groceries, etc. It doesn’t sound like training, but it is.

I recently read a study on hours spent training among black belts of several Japanese dojos (and if I can find the study, I’ll link to it here). The researchers found the their subjects significantly underreported the amount of time they trained. Subjects would state they studied two hours every two days but the researchers who followed them around recorded sometimes twice or three times what they subjects did. Why?

My guess is because the ‘training’ doesn’t mean the same thing to both researchers and subjects. I think the black belts in the study didn’t realize how much their martial arts training had integrated into daily life. They might pick up the bo and swing it around a little while on the phone. They might close a cabinet door with a down block, the fridge with a side kick. Like my friend, they had made training a part of their daily lives, but unlike Zach, they hadn’t realized it. They only recognized hard classes that began and ended formally as training and didn’t realize that they were, by kicking the cabinets and palm-heeling the fridge, constantly training.

The thing about martial arts is how natural it all becomes. Unlike cycling, training karate requires (essentially) no equipment. It can sneak into the day-to-day without the practitioner ever really being aware of it. Martial artists also tend not to have coaches (there are, of course, exceptions).

A sensei is not a coach.  Senseis don’t demand the read outs from the heart rate monitor.  They don’t ask for a food diary to be handed in at Friday class. They don’t train us to peak in performance on a given date.  Where a coach might suggest integrating cycling into the daily routine and give the cyclist some tips, senseis expect the movements to become natural and for the student to stop thinking about them. So, naturally enough, we eventually forget we’re training.

Zach calls this sort of incidental training ‘rest training’, which sounds oxymoronic but really does make sense. It is a sort of training, and I think it’s a very important kind of training because it becomes unconscious and as natural as breathing which is, you know, what we’re all trying to achieve.  It’s not the same as a formal class, but it is training all the same.

So, did you train today?

Categories: Drop in the Bucket
  1. Mitch Holloway
    May 16, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    I lose more cupboard doors that way…

  2. tamarasheehan
    May 17, 2008 at 5:41 am

    I know. And fridge doors. And bathroom doors. Soooo good for the kicks, cabinets.

  3. Mitch Holloway
    May 17, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Good class last nite…those doors are working for you…

  4. tamarasheehan
    May 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks dude. I’m wrecked today. No training till tomorrow pm for me.

  5. Avery.Myall
    July 22, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I tried to train on my door at night because I could NOT go to sleep…….. I woke up my mom……….And broke my door… Sooooooo no more door kicking for me or i’ll be grounded for 2 weeks……

  6. tamarasheehan
    July 23, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Ack! 0_o
    I didn’t mean train on your door (unless you have a pile of doors kicking around and need firewood). I meant that by using your feet as much as your hands (to, for example, close a door in a controlled way) you’ll be training even if you’re not in the dojo. erm… sorry for the confusion. Hope the door is OK.

  1. May 16, 2008 at 7:33 am

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