A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a regional judo tournament.
Hmm. I should rewind further. Before that, I was preparing to participate in a regional judo tournament.
Training in techniques is one thing. I’m not sure how many of you reading this have actually done martial arts– but sometimes I get into conversations with people who think that it’s all Steven Segal-esque stuff where if you learn this or secret technique, and you calm your mind, you will be able to effortlessly neautralise your opponent with very little effort.
Well, there might be some truth to that if you’re Steven Segal, and your opponent is a total amateur. But in most cases, especially where you are trained, and your opponent is trained, finesse breaks down. Things get messy, and the end product has about as much finesse as a Rocky movie.
While there is no doubt in my mind that martial artists train collections of techniques to efficiently work over an opponent (the “technical” aspect of fighting) there is also undeniably the physical and mental training that goes with it.
Because I had previously injured my left shoulder, I wasn’t planning to enter. But, because my shoulder actually got better before I expected, I figured, beh, what the hell. Lets get ready– and I decided very late (about a week before the competition) to enter into this competition.
Saturday, about a week before the Sunday tournament, i weighed myself– 76.5kg. Which was not great. My fighting category was u73, which means that to get in, you have to be under 73kg. That means that I had basically a week to lose 3.5 kilos of weight, and perhaps another 0.5 just to be on the safe side in case whatever weighing scale was being used at the tournament didn’t give the same reading. So lets say– 4kg in one week, or a bit less than a kilo per day for 6 days, and a some time at the end to readjust and make sure that I still had enough nutrition in me that I wouldn’t simply gas out at the tournament.
I have dropped weight to enter into tournaments in the past, but never this much in this short amount of time. My diet was reduced to a lot of water in the early days, clean protein with no fat, oil free vegetables and absolutely no carbs.
There probably should be some explanation as to how I pulled this off, and I by no means am recommendign this as a way of losing weight for people in normal circumstances– this method is only used for temporary weight loss in the specific context of making weight for fighting purposes, and also specifically for my body composition.
The truth is, I belong in the u73 division. But I am not a professional martial artist– I am a lawyer with, more or less, a desk job, who no longer bikes 20km a day like I did when i was in law school. On the contrary, I spend about 2 hours on public transport per day when I use to catch up on reading. I spend a lot of time on my ass, and while comfortable, it does mean that I’m not as fit as I was a couple of years ago.
But theoretically, I am still a u73 when fighting lean, like I was when I first started judo, because I still do the same amount of judo per week (on average, about 4 hours, and on good weeks, about 8 hours). My weight being at 73 is just because I get a lot less passive exercise, and I still eat and drink whatever I want when i want.
Dropping from 76 to 73 for me revolved around the following points:
- do a hella lot of fat burn, but avoiding the traditional isolatnig exercises that people use to do it (like running, cycling, etc… except in rotation).
- avoid exercising any particular muscle group to a point which will result in gaining muscle mass (which means, no excess cycling, running, etc, because they will only work certain muscle groups). This mainly means being time effective and not just pumping iron all day. A workout thus turns out to be a bit more like a modified cross-fit” routine.
- NOT dehydrating. People were telling me “run with a raincoat on” and “sit in a sauna” to lose weight, but in reality, that’s an idioctic way to lose weight– losing water under normal circumstances is not healthy. Losing 3-4kgs of it is downright deadly, not just due to dehydration itself, but the fact that you’ll get killed in a fight because of the secondary effects of dehydration (which include, overall, being actually stupider because your blood is so thick that your brain isn’t working well anymore).
- Drinking plenty of water (which isn’t obvious). It’s just generally a good thing to do to keep your metabolic rate up, and to keep your bloodstream clear of the waste from exercise.
- Not taking in any fat. That means food as lean as possible. Meat will invariably have a bit of fat, and that’s fine– but the point is, while meat coming into you has a particular nutritional function to maintain the ability to exercise (and burn more fat), taking in fat is simply couterproductive. I don’t know the exact math, but every gram of fat is probably another five minutes of training to lose.
- Not taking in any carbs. Carbs are great for energy, but especially when you are dieting and hungry for flavour, your body will tend to want to convert these carbs into fat so that it can be stored as emergency fuel– it’s a premptive countermeasure to starvation.
- Sleeping well. If you don’t sleep well, you can’t recover from training, and if you can’t recover, you can’t train more– and without the training, your metabolic rate slows, and the fat burn slows.
- Not taking in anything with flavour (with few exceptions). Most of the tasty things in life are indicative of sugar or salt. Sugar means fat. Salt isn’t as bad, but it does increase water retention, and that screws up your ability to get a good read on progress due to excess water weight, so it is also to be avoided.
discipline, willpower, and consistency. Which really are all just the same thing, perhaps.
One of the things I’ve discovered about losing weight (which I never noticed any of the previous times I was cutting weight, because it was always more gradual) is that it’s highly demoralising at times.
At some point, I was getting stuck at 74kg– and it felt like I just wasn’t dropping any more. So here and there, i felt weakness and ended up cheating here and there (which didn’t help) by having something highly processed and sugary to eat.
The thing about weight loss, especially when you’re doing it versus a scale, is that every thing that goes into your mouth counts. And when you don’t lose that weight? You know it’s directly because of something you did (eat) or didn’t (exercise) do. The terrible feeling that comes from weight loss is that it is one of the few situations in life where you have no ability to rationalise failure on external factors.
Take for example, job hunting; playing in a badminton competition; or barbecuing a steak. Maybe the other candidates were just better, or it just wasn’t a good fit; or maybe the ref was against you, or your partner wasn’t doing so good, or your opponents just were monstrous; or maybe the butcher didn’t cut those steaks evenly, or that particular cow wasn’t as juicy. The fact is, we don’t sweat the details too much and we gives ourselves breaks because there are a lot of unknowns that go into interactive situations. There are a lot of scapegoats that we can use to tell ourselves that underperformance is okay, especially when we’re not professionals, and especially when goals are aspirational rather than essential.
Weight loss? If you lose those 500 grams, its because you did it. If you don’t, it’s because you failed to. And there’s nobody to blame except yourself if you eat that donut. There’s nobody to blame except yourself if you’re tired and getting frustrated and don’t want to put those boxing gloves back on.
It’s all on you.
During the week of weight cutting, I was having these crazy cravings for flavour. I hadn’t realised how much of my normal diet is flavoured by salt and sugar until all that was gone.
I did actually get a gold at that tournament, but to be honest, I feel like sticking to the diet and shedding those kilos was the bigger achievement.