The Warrior Parent - Part 2: Are you as fit as a third-grader?
By Uli Gebhard, Suarez International Staff Instructor Los Angeles
For some people on this forum, this article may be preaching to the choir, others will probably find it embarrassing.
It should be obvious: the better the shape you're in, the better your chances to prevail in a fight. This does not start when things devolve into a physical altercation. Criminals are not out for challenge. Which one of the following two do you think a mugger would pick as a target: a person that looks like the can hold his ground easily in his weight class, or a guy that is 60lbs overweight and out of breath when he walks 45 feet from the ATM to his vehicle?
Physical fitness is key factor in winning a fight
I looked through a lot of accounts of self-defense on various online forums. Most of them had in common that people either attributed their success to a better-than-average fitness level or they commented that while they prevailed, a higher level of fitness would have given them more of an advantage. Anyone who has done martial arts will be able to tell you that two minutes of sparring take a lot of energy. Factor into this the strain that comes with an adrenalin-induced accelerated heart rate of an dangerous encounter. Any form of endurance training will work in your favor:
These kids sparr for the last 10 minutes of their class - could you do the same?
Ten years ago I was very active in Martial Arts. I was in my early thirties and routinely sparred with people who were quite a bit younger and faster than I was and who managed to get through my blocks – as long we sparred in round one or two of our six – to eight round sparring sequence of the class. If I got to spar with them in one of the later rounds, they were too worn out to stay effective in the fight. This happened routinely with all of them. In addition to martial arts, I spent a lot of time doing cardio such as running and roadbike-rides. They did not. When we got to the later sparring rounds of the day, they had a hard time keeping their hand up and maintaining their focus.
Again, this happened ten years ago – before an accident shut most of my training down for several years and way before my wife and I had kids.
After two surgeries and physical therapy, I gradually started training again. During the AK Force-on-Force course in Prescott, we worked with Kettlebells and I got hooked on this training tool. Pair Kettlebell swings or snatches with burpees and you have a workout that will leave you gasping for air in short order.
One of the best all-around pieces of exercise equipment - the Kettlebell
30 Minutes exercise per day will make a huge difference
20-30 Minutes a day will help burning excess calories and it will strengthen your overall system. Figure 5 minutes stretching, 20 minutes of actual exercises and 5-10 minutes to cool down are a good workout sequence. For many parents that I talked with half an hour seems to be the threshold that they can set aside between work, the day-to-day itinerary at home, errands and helping their kids with their homework.
You don't need to look like a linebacker, but you want to be able sprint 400 meters and have enough stamina to dish out a couple of decisive blows afterwards. Why is this so important? One of the first things that happen under stress is that your heart rate goes up. If you are not capable to handle some strenuous activities, you will have severe problems in a fight.
That brings me back to an evening a couple of weeks ago, when my son's martial arts class was getting ready for belt testing. On a normal training day, the instructor runs the kids through warmup exercises, before they start practicing their punches and kicks. Since he had a lot of students coming up for testing they had to warm up on their own. None of the parents, save for one, got their rear ends out of the chairs to work with their kids. My son and I did jumping jacks, burpees and the usual stretching before he headed into the gymn... the other parents did -at most- tell their kids which exercises to run.
Granted – and that's where the title originates- some of them would not be able to complete 10 burpees without taking another look at the last BicMac they shoved down on the way to the Dojo... The sad part is that the class their kids are taking is focused on self-defense. What kind of a message are these parents sending to their kids? Looking like a donut is OK as long as you know the techniques? Sorry, that does not compute.
A fun ride for the daughter and an opportunity for the dad to cram in some jogging into a busy day...
So, here is my challenge to all parents on this forum. Check yourself against the capabilities of your son or daughter. Can you keep up with your kids? If you can't - it's time to start working out!!! Make your kids part of the program and you'll find that a lot of motivation can come from them. This motivation may come subtle – like watching your son or daughter hammering out 17 burpees in 30 seconds. Sometimes the motivation may come with a bit of a sting when your kid sees you gasping for air and proclaims - “This is easy, you just need to exercise more”.
Additionally, I recommend the kind of motivation that my fellow SI instructors Richard and Corinna Coplin introduced me to and that I have since found numerous times on Warriortalk and other forums: find your trigger... think of what you hold the most dear in life and figure that you are up against someone who wants to destroy this – violently and viciously – and the only thing separating this predator from his prey is you. Find that trigger and you will find that you can push yourself farther and harder than you thought. I also found that this trigger helps me to get off my rear end when I don't feel like working out. And just as a sidenote - I'm quite a bit above my ideal weight, but I'm consistently working on it. Sometimes family visits and the like will set you back. The key is to stay on it as far as your schedule permits.
“Charlie don't care” was one of the phrases used during the Vietnam war to remind GI's that their condition or opinion did not mean anything to the enemy. Today “Scumbag/Jihadi don't care.” would be more appropriate. I believe you get the picture...
For most of us who have kids, time comes at a premium. You may not have the luxury of two hours of free time in one piece to get to the gymn, run through your exercises, shower and go home... a lot of work can be done with a couple of Kettlebells and a chinup bar in the doorframe. The equipment will cost you about the same as two months of membership in some fitness clubs – and you can use it every day without a lengthy drive to the studio. Instead of veggying out in front of the TV, grab your exercise gear and make better use of your time.
Work out with your kids
Work out with your kids: you will reap multiple benefits from this: Pick exercises that your kids enjoy and you will get some fun family time out of it - doing it in the evening it may help your son or daughter find their way into bed a little sooner. Those among us who have active kids know what I'm talking about. On a more serious note consider that 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, paired with the right diet will help significantly preventing type 2 diabetes (source Harvard School of Public Health). This goes for you and for your kids, especially if both of you log a couple additional pounds around.
Some people are not sure how to start exercising. Many healthcare providers offer tips on their websites. Suarez International has a great DVD with very basic fitness training that is geared for use in fighting skills. If you're still not sure, use the free "check us out"-type offers of a local fitness club to get things off the ground.
It does not take a lot of gear to get started.... what are you waiting for?
For the parents among you – start a healthy competition with your kids.
For all others – find your trigger and get going!
Uli Gebhard is Suarez Interantional Staff Instructor in the Los Angeles Area. He lives with his family in Orange County, California.
Please follow this link to find out more about his classes