I have recently read the awesome Timing in the Fighting Arts by Loren Christensen. There is plenty of exercises for various aspects of speed. It recommends three things you can do now to increase your effective speed significantly: use deception (smart!), be relaxed, use “independent arm movement” (the arm starting first, hitting as your foot lands). The thing that surprised me most was the author’s belief that at least 50% of his speed improvement came not from physical exercises but from mental work - namely positive autosuggestion in deep relaxation (“I am fast. And I am getting faster. My hands are like lightning …”) and constantly thinking about speed. I firmly believe in the inseparability of the physical and mental so I believe him.
There are multiple effects of this book. The main one is that I have decided to practice relaxation diligently until the year’s end - using various meditation techniques, thinking about it frequently, practicing keeping my awareness on relaxation and learning to relax constantly. (Which is perfectly aligned with the Zen Body-Being practice.) Inspired by my study of the Alexander Technique, I am also trying to include my back and neck in my constant awareness. (I am falling short quite a lot.)
I have also added some basic, speed-related conditioning exercises to my practice (strengthening abdominal muscles, practicing hip rotation speed).
Another inspiring book of Loren’s I am reading is Mental Rehearsal For Warriors. It introduces the power of “sweat-less practice,” i.e. practicing in one’s mind, visualizing techniques etc. using all five senses. An important part of that is inducing a state of deep relaxation so that the mind is receptive to the mental rehearsal. Therefore it also teaches quite a few various meditation techniques (that take from 1 to 20 minutes). I now practice these and mental rehearsal daily. The more you do it, the more effective it becomes. My training time is limited so why not enhance it with mental rehearsal?
My current training routine
My current routine, which I get to do few times a week when lucky, takes about 50 minutes:
- Speed hip turns (from Speed Training)
- Alternating Jump Lunge, 60 reps
- Russian Twist with a 10kg weight - 3-4 sets of 12
- Curls with a 10kg wight - same as above
- Pushups, three sets (1st on fists or fingers, 2nd with one leg up, 3rd with palms far apart)
- Rolling Thunder Hands with 1-2 kg dumbbells, circling left, right, and straight punches, both legs - i.e. 6 sets of 60-80; then a few ones with a diagonal step forward or back (deflect + punch). Trying to push the speed while keeping a good technique.
- If extra time, practicing single techniques in front of the mirror
- Wim Demeere’s heavy bag routine or a free-form punching
- Roundhouse kicks to the bag
- 5 min of a basic I Liq Chuan pushing exercise
Ram Dass: Witness consciousness and karma yoga
Another book that has given me great inspiration is Ram Dass’ Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart. The main two things I want to make part of my daily living are witness consciousness and karma yoga.
Witness consciousness is a neutral, non-judging awareness of one’s feelings and thoughts. It is a new level of presence and awareness - not just being 100% in what I am feeling, thinking, and doing, but being at the same time aware of it, without judging it. This opens up for eventually being able to be less controlled by my emotions and mind and for more compassion toward myself and others, and for being able to reflect on myself, to free myself from attachment.
We shift from being the protagonist of our personal narrative, captivated by the tumult of our thoughts and experiences, to seeing those thoughts and experiences as phenomena reflected in the calm mirror of our inner being. From being the star of our own show, we become an affectionate observer of the play.
Karma yoga, in this context, means offering everything I do as a service to God / global consciousness / … . This is the first time I have read an explanation I can relate to.
To use your daily life and work as a conscious spiritual path means relinquishing your attachment to the fruits of the actions, to how they come out. Instead of doing it for a reward or a result, you do your work as an offering, out of love for God. Through love for God, your work becomes an expression of devotion, of bhakti. Like Hanuman, you serve others as a way of honoring God. It’s an attitude you develop, an attitude of offering. Every action you perform, you offer as selfless service, Offering your work and all your actions to God takes daily life out of the realm of ego and into the higher Self.
Admittedly, I am at the very beginning and struggling with both. Let’s see in a year… .
Muay Thai: Few months later
I have recently published Muay Thai: 8 months later, which still captures the core of my development and focus areas.
I have got some Alexander Technique teacher training, practicing “hands on” with my teacher and fellow apprentices. It is a real challenge to focus on my instructions (releasing my head, shoulders, …) and non-doing mindset while actually doing something and trying to be aware of the student. So it is a valuable thing to try. I am told my hands are good (when I remember not to stress up :-)) but it might take months or years before I will be able to perceive through them what is happening in the student’s body (and mind). I have practiced basic activities, such as helping the student into and from a chair, which is more difficult then one would expect. I absolutely need more practice!
Regarding my own self-discovery, I believe I can feel my back and neck more, as well as my troubled, misplaced shoulder. I still get frustrated by feeling tension yet not being able to get rid of it. But it has reportedly improved a lot since we started.