Breathless

by Jinryu

Wednesday, I had a judo grading exam.  It was just for an orange belt, which is the second belt you obtain after the initial white belt starting position.  Four of us out of a class of about 20 were being tested.  Two of them, I don’t think should have passed, but they did.  Rergardless, my training partner and I did really well. [Krav] and I worked our asses off and we got near perfect performances of our required techniques.  (note: in previous entires, I used to refer to Krav as [BJJT], because I thought he did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but it turns out he studied Krav Maga. Hence the renaming.)  The instructer called out a technique name in japanese, you would hear a couple of steps, and the sound of 60-67kgs of human flesh and bone slamming into the tatamis.

Today, the day afterwards, I’m surprised that it was just last night– somehow, it feels like so long ago. Time dilates I think, when I’m healing.  I don’t like feeling tired or injured.  Nothing serious, mind you.  I have bruises over my knees, and some over my ribs and bicep where grips went in on me hard.  My trachea was also a bit injured due to collar chokes, making it slightly painful for me to swallow.

There are some times when I come back from an event like this and  next day, I am simply exhausted.  [CM] doesn’t really believe in the idea of “ki,” and I myself have my doubts that it works in the way that Asian cultures describe it, but perhaps it’s the easiest way of describing something that I don’t really have words for.  Yes, I have injuries– but I consider those “external” in nature.  The part that I’m talking about is just feeling exhausted “internally.” 

I suppose it might just be a deep muscle fatigue, but I feel it at my very core– almost as if it’s my very cardiovascular ability that has been exhausted.  No, I don’t have fluid in my lungs or something–  my best bet is that my diaphragm and intercostal muscles are just overworked.

In part, I think it might be because of the particular nature of cardio that you need to do judo.  Like all martial arts, you don’t get to chose when your opponent attacks or leaves openings– breathing is what gives you energy, but the ability to mobilise your entire lung capacity to explode at a given moment is something that takes practice so that it can happen as a muscle memory reflex.  Breathing, a normally involuntary action that we take for granted, in a martial arts scenario is a violent process.  As an added dimension, it even becomes a privilege to be earned.  The type of cardio vascular endurance that you need, and the whole way that your maximum aerobic capcity (also known as VO2 max) is put to the test is completely different.  Unlike cardio activities where your environment is constant, contact sports, including judo, test not only your ability to maintain effective oxygen supply but your ability to protect that oxygen supply from external interruption.  Namely,  because someone is actively trying to crush your rib cage or choke you.  Perhaps then, it seems quite scientifically feasible that the very mechanics of the human body’s breathing apparatus gets tired, to the point that the next day, you just don’t feel 100%? Maybe that’s what all these old school martial arts are actually alluding to by a reference to ki, qi, chi, chakra, hei, etc.

It’s all just talking about a combination of aerobic and anerobic capacity, factoring in that fortification of the delivery system.

 

 

Some observations about the phenomenon, in general:

The same rules apply to badminton. Fast feet are essential to badminton to getting you around the court, but energy conservation is also important in maintaining your ability to stay fast and hit hard.  Oftentimes, one of the biggest mistakes I see between even people with a few years experience is that they don’t manage their energy well.  If someone clears a bird to them, they run like mad to get into position, wait, and then hit.  Why run like mad then wait, if you can just walk at a measured pace to get there?  You won’t be able to hit the bird until it comes into hitting range– why rush to get there too early when you can get there just early enough?  Similarly, efficiently managing energy has a mental aspect– you have to react sooner, but you don’t need to necessarily move quicker.  A lot of people spend so much training foot speed and agility, because the opponent hit’s the bird, they wait a moment to decide what to do, then they have to run twice as fast to get there just on time, but with so much momentum from their double-effort that they’ll often have to run past their target after hitting, or expend extra energy to apply brakes.  Ideally, perception and conscious thought, which are all facilitated by conscious muscle memory training, allow you to react sooner so that you have the extra split second to move at a measured pace and keep your energy burn at a constant rate.  Violent spikes in energy are the things that the core hates the most.

I participated in an in house judo tournament about a week ago, when I was still a yellow belt.  Two of my opponents, I beat, not because I was necessarily physically or technically more adept– I just had a better conscious management of my energy.  The first opponent, [Wiki] (so named because he has an almost encyclopeadic knowledge of judo theory) had a completely different fighting sytle to how he conducted normal sparring.  Suddenly, he was operating at 300% his normal intensity.  It is good to get serious when someone says “competition” but I don’t think it helps to deviate from your gameplan at the last minute.  In his case, it involved a sudden burst of fancy footwork and aggressiveness that was outside of his normal style.  My strategy against this was to play deffensively, because I didn’t think that his normal, more passive style of randori would support such a high energy rate of burn for very long.  I was right– in a bit under a minute, I had him on the ground in a rear naked choke, which he was too tired to fend off.

 

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