Bohemian modernist flat downtown

Zografou, Greece
Laid-back, colorful, modernist 60 sq.m. flat downtown. Feels as if you're staying at an absent friend's place. A variety of day- and night-life options accessible even on foot. Easy to commute, dir...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: Biomechanical Training - Russian Stick Twirling

After the few Cossack dancing patterns we presented in this previous post in the Dynamo blog, it's time to take a look at another method of training biomechanics, i.e. quality of movement, in Russian Martial Art and namely, stick or saber twirling

Once again I would like to point out here that it is practically impossible to practice biomechanics and tactical skills in the same training drills. What you need to do is cultivate good quality of movement and the ability to generate power in non-tactical drills and then develop tactical awareness in another, totally different series of drills.

And herein lies the ingeniousness of folk-style Russian Martial Art: the biomechanics were taken care off through a series of training methods with a high social and entertainment factor! By learning to dance, young men practiced powerful pelvic and hip rotation, both components of tremendous importance in power generation. Then, by practicing stick or saber twirling, core stability, coordination and relaxation of the arms was developed, resulting in pure ballistic movement. This means that, when the time came for youngsters to study actual fighting methods, their body would not presents constraints in the learning process.

Enough with the talking: this is a short video presenting only a few stick twirling patterns that you could try out. Now, I only used baseball bats in the video, because I had just moved back to Greece from Sweden and my stuff was in boxes in a storage facility, so I could not find where my sticks were! This means that you should first try the exercises with something lighter, say a pair of sticks made of oak. 

How do you practice these drills? Well, make sure to have fun and don't go all OCD, counting reps, sets and rest intervals. You should literally fool around with the patterns and make sure that you can execute them slow and relaxed before you add speed and power, or else the momentum of the stick might rip apart your wrists or shoulders. Take it easy, and enjoy the process. You should expect a dramatic imporvement in your fist fighting skills after a few months of this type of training. PM me if you have any questions.

Train smart, train safe, be your own instructor,


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: Biomechanical Training - A Few Cossack Dancing Patterns

One of the most common problems in martial arts training arises when one is trying to mix up biomechanics of power generation with tactical skills acquisition in the same drill. In my almost thirty years in martial arts training I have witnessed more than a few times instructors trying to embed good biomechanical habits in their students (with comments such as "swivel those hips!" or "exhale sharp!") while they are sparring under live conditions. Well, let me - once again - be the bearer of bad news: training biomechanics and tactics in the same drill is impossible! If one has not learned to extend the back hip when punching, it is not a good time to learn it when he is being punched back!

Now, what I love about Russian Martial Art, or to be more precise, the folkstyle aspect of RMA, is the availability of numerous non-tactical drills that the practitioner can use to develop solid biomechanics of power generation, separately from the drills with tactical or technical content. I have only seen similar biomechanical drills in Chinese 'internal martial arts', and especially BaGua, but the difference here is that RMA drills are also fun to practice: for those of you who do not understand what I mean, I suggest you try some Russian stick or sword twirling or maybe some Cossack dancing patterns and then 'walk the circle' BaGua-style and tell me which is more enjoyable to practice.

In the two videos I'm posting today you will find a few Cossack dancing drills. The point of those is to teach the practitioner to coordinate pelvic rotation with hip rotation, in order to improve foortwork, punching power and kicking power. For most people in martial arts the expressions 'turn from the hip' and 'rotate the pelvis' are considered to describe one and the same movement (god knows why). Well, these are two separate movements that, if coordinated, can tremendously enhance your ability to express power.

I certainly hope these videos will be of value to you, make sure you let me know if you have any questions. In our next blog post we'll present a few stick twirling drills.

Train smart, train safe, be your own instructor,


Thursday, 28 February 2013

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: How to Breathe for Performance, Practice Drills

In the previous Dynamo blog post, we explained the two roles our breath plays during an activity that requires power generation for a significant amount of time. A friend who read the post inquired about drills one can use in order to prime the 'body as bellows' type of breathing, and that is what the Dynamo Concepts training video I am posting today is all about. I learned a great number of these 'vibration drills' from A.I. Retuinskih, founder of the ROSS system, and I came up with a few of my own variations down the road, for more sport-specific applications. The ones you will find in the following video are the most basic and the most important ones. You can practice them as part of your warm-up before any type of training, to elevate your heart rate and lubricate your elbow and shoulder joints before more strenuous activities, but also as part of your cool-down routine, to relax both your muscles and your nervous system. Besides embedding the 'body as bellows' type of breathing to your body, the drills will also help you relax your arm muscles and develop 'heavy hands' for strikes.

One last thing: through the following drills I hope you get to see that the funny huffing and puffing that passes as 'burst breathing' in some Russian Martial Art circles is just a defective version of the body as bellows principle: your breathing has to be coordinated with your movement so as to ensure it corresponds to both the physiological and biomechanical needs of your activity - otherwise, it will just get you hyperventilating, tense and panicky in no time.

I hope the video is of help to you. Please let me know if there is anything I could explain further.

Train smart, train safe, be your own instructor,


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: How to Breathe for Performance

I don't know why, but way too many people in martial arts circles project mystical properties on breathing. And people who want to take advantage of other people make sure that confusion is perpetuated and as widely spread as possible - in a few words, ignorance sells seminars.
I hate to be a party pooper, but breathing is just a physiological process, that helps provide energy for the activities involved in... well, life. Now, if an activity demands lots of energy, breathing performs one more role, namely that of delaying the onset of muscular fatigue: you breathe faster, thus you exhale more often, so you remove the excess carbon dioxide from your blood, so you slow down the acidification of your muscles - no biggie there either. Let's take this one step further: if your activity involves generating significant amounts of power or absorbing significant amounts of force, then your breathing acquires one more role, this time a biomechanical one, that of stabilizing your core, in order for your limbs to have a stable platform to generate power from.  - simple as ABC!

In case you did not notice, in both cases above, physiology AND biomechanics, it is your exhalation playing all the important parts: removing excess carbon dioxide AND stabilizing your core. So, the basic idea behind the performance breathing method we use in the Dynamo Concepts system is to emphasize exhalation and the rest will take care of itself. I was first taught this method of breathing by A.I. Retuinskih, founder of the ROSS system. Down the road, through personal communication with Dr Vladimir Tikhonov, a sports scientist working with the Russian kettlebell sport national team, I found out that this the exact same way elite kettlebells athletes breathe during the later, most fatiguing stages of their sets.

In the following video I am explaining this method of breathing that, in the ROSS system, is known as 'using the body as bellows' and I am using the kettlebell snatch lift in order to demonstrate one type of application. Besides my work with kettlebells, I have applied this breathing technique with my students during bag and focus mitts work and have found out that it helps keep the heart rate significantly lower during intense effort exercise.

Go ahead and check the video, then, and If there's anything I could further explain, just send me a message. Please keep in mind that my breathing in the video is a bit more pronounced so that it can be audible - you definitely don't have to breathe so loud, but you sure need to coordinate your breathing with the rhythm of your movement.

Train smart, train safe, be your own instructor,


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Book Review: Understanding Physical Consitioning - A Movement Based Approach, by Luis Preto

This is the second book by Luis Preto I will be reviewing for the Dynamo blog and, let me tell you here that reading Luis' books is always a treat for me! I was quite impressed by his How to Sequence the Teaching of Technique and Tactics, a book about how to construct a sound curriculum for any martial art, and I am just as impressed (if not more) by his new book on physical conditioning for athletes, which is aptly titled Understanding Physical Conditioning - A Movement Based Approach.

Well, yes. I happen to own a great number of books on physical conditioning for sports and I have found most of them either too simplistic (little more than exercise prescriptions) or way too wordy, full of jargon and somewhat complex to actually apply in the gym. According to most of these books, an athlete needs to do resistance training in order to a) strengthen connective tissues, then b) increase muscle mass, then c) increase maximum strength, then d) increase explosive strength and finally e) convert to strength endurance, while simultaneously training to improve the body's ability to supply energy for repeating the activities her sport demands. Now add to these some range of motion training, plus some more training to prevent injuries and you are left with an algorithm of so many variables, that one inevitably has to wonder whether conditioning for athletes is actually way more complex that rocket science and quantum physics put together. Plus, if an athlete has to do so much conditioning work, is there any time in her life to practice technique and really participate in her chosen sport?

Oh, you bet! Preto starts the book by arguing that the common systematization of physical conditioning into the categories of strength, flexibility, speed and endurance is wrong, plus the all too common approach that has these physical abilities developed separately, in distinct training stages is short-sighted (yes, he actually uses this word). This way, the process of physical preparation for an athlete becomes necessarily complex and hard to manage. The argument is a very sound one, if you think about it: your skeletal muscles contract only in one way and depending upon the masses you have to move in your sport, you either want them to contract very fast and then relax or maintain the contraction for a little longer. So, the idea of training first for maximum strength, then explosive strength, then speed is actually absurd! 

Let's follow this train of thought to the next station: when one muscle (or muscle group) is contracting on order to cause movement around a joint, the antagonistic muscle(s) are being stretched. In this sense, strength training, if performed in full range of motion, can make specialized mobility training sessions redundant or, in the worst case scenario, can help the athlete save lots of time by reducing the number of mobility exercises needed.

Now, let's take this logic one step further: if endurance training is necessary for one's, why spend hours at the track, when the athlete can build all the endurance he needs practicing sport-specific skills at the same time? This view is also endorsed by very successful MMA conditioning coach Joel Jamieson, who claims that cardiac output training does not necessarily have to be slow, long-distance running, but it can also be shadow boxing, bag or pad-work, performed in the 130-150 bpm heart rate zone - you train technique and endurance at the same time, thus saving time!

In the end, the complex algorithm of an athlete's physical preparation, says Preto, boils down to a two-factor training system, which can easily be managed if one follows the guidelines explained in the fourth section of this book. Athletes don't want to spend hour after hour in the weight room or the track - they want to play. In my opinion Preto's approach, allows for this delicate balance between physical preparation and tactical/technical training that makes a successful athlete.

Here's the bad news: according to Luis Preto, people who claim to have one-size-fits-all and easy-to-follow training recipes either have not done their homework, don't know what they're talking about or are simply trying to sell something. The good news is that if you study Preto's book and follow the guidelines provided, you will be able to design training programs yourself.

Wow, where do I start? There's a number of training myths debunked in here, case studies of maverick athletes and coaches and there's also the point where Luis accuses some sport scientists of intellectual laziness or cowardice!What is there NOT to love about it? Oh, I almost forgot: at the end of each chapter Luis provides a series of questions, so that readers can test their understanding of what they read and flex their intellectual muscles.

The layout could be a bit better and I would appreciate more tables and diagrams to visualize the knowledge.

I would say this is one of the most important books I have ever read on physical conditioning and I have read many.  If you want to understand the way your body generates and fuels movement, the adaptations various training stimuli promote and how to organize those in training programs in order to improve athletic movement , you need to get a copy of this one! As usual, knowing the 'why' before the 'how' can make all the difference in the world.

You can purchase it from  the Create Space self-publishing platform and Amazon online bookstores.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: Long Power, Short Power, whatever...

Well,  I am embarrassed to admit that this is my first post for 2013. To my defense I have to say this has not been out of laziness, but because I have a number of training projects currently going on, so my brain is somehow always occupied...

Enough said - today's Dynamo Concepts Training video is a sequel to the previous one on punching power and, at the same time, an answer to a question a couple of friends of this blog posted some time ago: "If I am to recruit my joints consecutively, I need a lot of space in order to the distal part of my kinetic chain to develop maximal speed. What if I have to use 'short power'?" Honestly, I believe the term 'short power' does not exist (it could be something used for a nonsensical title of one of those useless Systema RMA instructional DVDs). Whether you have to generate long-range or short-range power, your body does not have two types of muscles, one for each type of power, and definitely doesn't generate power in 'different modes'. The only thing you can do is limit the degrees of freedom around a joint, by creating rigidness through muscular tension (once again, 'tension' is not necessarily a bad thing) - basically, you remove one or more links of the chain, so the movement ark becomes shorter - and the end result is, of course, less speed than if you could use all joints consecutively, but still, maximum speed and power under given circumstances.

Check out the following video to see a couple of examples. If there's anything I could further explain, just send me a message.

Train smart, train safe, be your own instructor,


P.S.: Once again, I apologise for the quality of sound :-)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Dynamo Concepts Training Videos: A Tip to Significantly Increase Your Punching Power

With this blog post being 'the one before Christmas', I just wanted to share a small gift with the readers of this blog, and, given that we're into martial arts, I suspect that a gift that will improve one's punching power will be appreciated by most :-)

Anyway, this video is all about maintaining rigidity at the wrist, so that the object I am striking an opponent with is the forearm-fist complex, which has significant mass. By making sure that, when striking with the fist, there is no movement at the wrist (limiting the degrees of freedom at the wrist, if you prefer), we limit the amount of kinetic energy that would otherwise be dissipated in our own soft tissues (and very delicate ones, since there are many things in one's wrist that can get very screwed up).

From a teaching perspective, it is quite often not enough to state that the wrist should be rigid, since a lot of students have never practiced this action, so their local muscles and nervous system are in no way primed to do this. The drill which is demonstrated in the video does exactly this: with the help of a partner the exact muscles needed to limit degrees of freedom at the wrist are activated. I suggest you go ahead and practice this drill a few times before you strike the focus mitts of the heavy bag. I guarantee you will be surprised by the results!

That's all for now, folks! I hope you find this video of help. Make sure you send me a message in case there is something I can explain in more depth.

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you, your families and loved ones!


P.S.: Once again I apologise for the sound quality of the video. When you're filming in the garden you cannot quite know when the alarm of a neighboring house will go off. Still, you have to admit that an image of summer in Greece can be quite heart-warming in the middle of the winter.