SOLO TRAINING DURING LOCKDOWN

SOLO TRAINING DURING LOCKDOWN

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. As the months go by, the days of round the clock social activities, events and gatherings are becoming more of a wistful memory, and for many of us, the idea of daily life returning to relative normality anytime soon seems far-fetched. I have not done any form of sparring in eight to nine months, and the truth is that I miss it. I regret the few times that I had the chance to do solid full contact training just prior to the global outbreak, but copped out by finding “more important things to do”.

This year has been one of lockdowns, curfews and civil restrictions, and all of these measures have made even the occasional casual light sparring session almost impossible for me. Once regulations were put in place to stop the practice of all contact sports, even quietly meeting with a partner to train became a challenge. For most of the practitioners that I know, following protocol and avoiding the risk of infection took priority over martial arts play.

Strangely enough, there was a boxing gym in my area that managed to remain open throughout the summer. I have no idea how they pulled it off, but my best guess is that at the time they operated under heavy restrictions. Whatever the case was, all I remember is that upon leaving work on afternoons, I would observe a number of young athletes equipped with their hand wraps and mouth guards, running a mile. It was my intention to make inquiries, and if possible eventually sign up, but that idea had to be put to rest once multiple cases of the virus were identified in the area, and as a result measures were tightened. Since then, all boxing activities seemed to have ceased.

Despite the existing restrictions, I have by no means stopped training. Anyone who has integrated martial arts training into their daily routine for a long time knows that stopping is never an option. To quote the father of modern Karate, Gitchin Funakoshi (1868 – 1957) “Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.” This principle can be applied to any discipline, and so in an attempt to keep the water boiling I have embraced the fact that the road ahead may be a long stretch of solo training for quite some time to come.

Practicing martial arts on my own is nothing new, and I am sure that it is nothing new to most if not all dedicated practitioners. It has always been my belief that some of the best practice sessions take place while in solitude, where one can take time to reflect, analyze, and absorb what one has been taught. Repeating exercises at one’s own pace in order to fully understand them, and gradually making them a part of oneself has always seemed to be one of the most satisfying aspects of the journey of learning.

That being said, it is important to understand that one can only attain a certain level of skill with solo training, and for a martial artist who places emphasis on practicality, solo drills for almost a year can leave a feeling of incompleteness. I don’t know whether this feeling is groundless or not, but I do know is that sometimes it is important to persevere regardless of any limiting circumstances.

I will not pretend that I have attained the pinnacle of physical fitness or any sort of “martial arts related nirvana” in these past few months. The truth is that there have been days when I probably spent too many hours sitting on my phone, days when I marathoned classic Italian horror films while eating an immoderate amount of Cheetos, and other days when I just bordered between the realms of “leave me alone” and “I don’t care”.

Aside from these odd days of listlessness, there have been productive days during which I have attempted to physically and mentally push myself through training. Doing so in solitude and with nothing but time has opened my mind, and has helped me to better understand a few important aspects of solo practice which I will now happily share.

THE MIND REALLY IS THE MASTER

“A fight is 10{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} physical and 90{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} mental.”

– Professional Mixed Martial Artist Georges St-Pierre

“People will tell you that boxing is 80{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} mental. …or maybe 90{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} mental. …. or 95{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} mental… The bottom line is, nobody would question that boxers have to be mentally tough …. “

– Sport Psychologist, Dr. Pete Olusoga

“Baseball is 90{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} mental the other half is physical”

– Professional Baseball Catcher Yogi Berra

“Essence, energy, and spirit are the substance of the body. Body is mind applied”

– Influential Taijiquan Teacher Yang Banhou

“You’ve got to win in your mind before you win in your life”

– Composer John Addison

The power of the mind over the body has been explored for centuries by people of different cultures in all corners of the world. Today it remains an important topic of interest in medical and scientific communities as well as with the public. Practitioners of martial arts, sport athletes, and other professionals in various fields  who hone a their craft  usually advocate harnessing the power of the mind in order to accomplish challenging feats and to excel at what they do. Despite this seemingly universal principle, it can be easy to allow matter to weigh on the mind, and as a result fall victim to overthinking, empty fears and self-doubt.

When I started learning Wushu, the physical fitness and conditioning exercises were by far the hardest training that I had done at that point. Stretching, calisthenics, rhythmic movements, tumbling and practicing solo forms all took place from 5pm to 8pm in the evening. Apart from a five-minute water break which was allowed during these long sessions, taking a rest because of exhaustion was hardly ever an option. From inception my coach reiterated that “when pushing yourself further than you are used to being pushed, your mind will begin to doubt whether your body can take the strain and at times it may even scream that you stop, but as long as you are not ill or injured the body CAN bear the strain of intense exercise and all that you need to do is stop thinking too much, stop doubting yourself and keep moving.”

It would be nice to say that since then I have grown older and have made this principle work for me in everyday life by pushing through challenges without being moved by anxiety, fear, and apprehension which are common emotions triggered by external stressors, but the truth is that for most of us, the stress of adulthood can create fertile ground for a mental breakdown, and sometimes keeping it together on a daily basis can seem to require every last ounce of strength.

My point in raising the above topic is to highlight that during these several months of practicing in solitude I have gotten re acquainted with the fact that martial arts training is essentially the training of the mind. At a certain point of pushing oneself there comes a realization that the only thing ultimately holding you back is your state of mind and that the mind can be more merciless than the toughest opponent. The ultimate objective becomes taming the mind, not by fighting it but by learning to ride the waves of your thoughts while at the same time being unperturbed by them.

It does not matter what style or system of martial arts you practice, your training methods, or even your reasons for training, your state of mind will always determine how you evolve as a martial artist and more importantly as a person. Most people view martial arts as effective for building discipline, and while this can be true, it is also true that there is no such thing as a miracle pill. Most forms of physical activity will stimulate the chemical process necessary for good mental health, and in so doing they may assist in clearing mental cobwebs, but there comes a point where one must consciously face oneself in order to truly understand oneself and fully progress as a human being. The external movements are only the medium, sooner or later mindfulness must become an integral part of training.

I am aware that to some people, all of this may come across as “out-there”, as there are those who choose to see nothing beyond the pugilistic aspect of martial arts. Despite the development of combat skills being an important aspect of training, I think it is also important to understand that a martial artist can only participate in so many competitions in his/her lifetime and that there is also a chance he/she may never have to get into a confrontation where it becomes necessary to use his/her combat skills, however it is guaranteed that a person will live every day of his/her life having to maintain mental and emotional well-being while at the same time dealing with the almost ever-present pressures of the external world. If martial arts are an integral part of a person’s life then it is important that the discipline is used as a tool to manage emotional and phycological well-being  which may potentially be the most important aspect of a person’s life.

FACING YOURSELF AND ACHEIVING STILLNESS

For a martial artist who trains alone, if sharpening the mind becomes the ultimate objective, then achieving stillness through the practice of meditation naturally becomes a fundamental part of training. Despite the importance of this practice, there are those who hear the word meditation and to them it inspires skepticism, unease, and even fear and loathing. This is especially common with people who hold firm to religious beliefs which view the practice as dangerous and a detriment to one’s spiritual well-being. Others may simply be skeptical of the practice despite not having their opinion colored by any particular belief or dogma.

Regardless of the existing doubt and negative opinions of meditation, it is my view that techniques for quieting the mind have become more essential  than ever due to the fact that we are currently in unprecedented times where feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty of the future, anxiety, depression, isolation, loneliness and hopelessness have overwhelmed millions. Practices which assist in calming the breath, lowering the heart rate, restraining the fight or flight responses and promoting a feeling of relaxation by lowering the brain frequency are an ideal form of self care for those who are now suffering from any sort of existential anxiety due to the Covid19 Pandemic.

In my humble opinion it does not matter whether stillness is achieved through practices such as Yoga asanas and meditation, Reiki healing and meditation, Dhyāna, the recitation of mantras, or by practices more appended to traditional western belief systems such as quietly turning inward to pray, and/or calmly reciting Psalms or the Rosary. While meditation and prayer are usually considered to be two distinctly different practices, I think that if engaging in either (or both) helps the practitioner to feel calmer and more grounded then the practice is indeed worthwhile and rewarding.

FACING THE SUN EVERY MORNING

Another practice that I have come to appreciate is morning meditation while facing the rising sun. Reaping the benefits of the morning sun is far from the modern day “hipster” tradition that many people might believe it to be. Throughout history various ancient civilizations revered the sun and understood its importance in everyday life. In some societies the sun or sun god took the place of chief deity and its worshipers believed that it was both the giver and sustainer of all life.

One does not necessarily need to engage in sun worship in order to understand how vital it is to life on the planet, and the overall quality of human life. The ultraviolet rays of the sun boosts vitamin D levels which is an essential ingredient for health and well-being. Vitamin D deficiency is known to cause anything from a loss of bone density to increasing the risk of certain types of cancer. Another common side effect of lack of Vitamin D is depression and a general feeling of lethargy, a feeling that many people may already be prone to due to current global circumstances.

According to a journal article written by Rathish Nair and Arun Maseeh and archived in the  National Center of Biotechnology Information, “Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50{2b21b0f515c112d6f584a466c84cd618361faeea5f6847d2efd24d5abdf96c7e} of the population worldwide. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency (VDD).” The article goes on to state that ” This pandemic of hypovitaminosis D can mainly be attributed to lifestyle (for example, reduced outdoor activities) and environmental (for example, air pollution) factors that reduce exposure to sunlight, which is required for ultraviolet-B (UVB)-induced vitamin D production in the skin.”

Taking all of this information into consideration it is evident that many of us deprive ourselves of a substance which is essential to life and provided in abundance by the largest and most powerful celestial body in our solar system, simply by being indoors for more hours than we should be. This unhealthy practice is usually brought to the attention of many by physicians who seem to take pleasure in administering Vitamin D injections to the gluteus maximus while prescribing a course of supplements all at a price. A double painful reminder that one should take advantage of something which is free and present in the ether.

Morning meditation while facing the rising sun will boost one’s energy levels as well as elevate one’s mood. The practice will promote a healthy absorption of Vitamin D as long one is careful enough to avoid over exposure to UV radiation. Simply timing oneself and ensuring one engages in this exercise between the hours of 4am to 8am in the morning can help prevent harmful effects caused by too much exposure to the Sun.

It should be noted that engaging in any of the various methods of meditation is not the only way that a person can harness the energy from the morning sun. Meditation may be my preferred practice, however I am well aware that different things work (or do not work ) for different people and that not everyone may be willing to go outside and attempt to go into a deep state of consciousness at 4am in the morning. Practices such as tending the garden on a morning as well as brisk morning walks around the yard for a few minutes are all known to offer significant therapeutic benefits, and provide a way to absorb the necessary dose of sunlight in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.

I am also aware that geography may be an issue for those who live in countries where the morning sun is a rear sight during certain times of year. For those who live in such environments, the ability to produce vitamin D can be reduced, nevertheless ultraviolet B radiation which is necessary for the production of vitamin D in the body is emitted by the sun even when yellow sunbeams are not visible, and therefore the benefits of  outdoor activity should not be altogether dismissed even under such circumstances.

CONCLUSION

I realize that my article on solo martial arts training said little of my actual training methods and focused more on intrinsic matters. To those who clicked on the article and read this far hoping to find some advice on physical training while at home because of tightened restrictions or lockdown I apologize. In my introduction to martial arts I was taught progress comes with constant repetition of the basics, and to date this is the advice that I have to give when it comes to progressing one’s skills as a martial artist under any circumstance

Footwork, body conditioning exercises, shadow boxing, the practice of incorporating the whole body into movement, and mental exercises are all essential components of solo training regardless of style, the challenge for most is sticking to a routine and keeping the intensity up during that routine despite having no trainer or coach to push them through the exercises. It then becomes a form of mental training where you are required to push yourself to the limit. A martial artist is on the right track as long as they can rise to and overcome such a challenge when practicing by themselves.

Despite missing live sparring and other partner exercises, I have learned to make do. Jump rope, shadow boxing and calisthenics have been a staple in my training routine. I also utilize the small pieces of equipment that I own such as resistance bands and an old pair of 10lb weights which I indefinitely borrowed from a friend since high school. In my younger years I learned a number of forms, and with time I have reduced the number that I make part of my daily routine to one or two. In recent times it has been fun attempting to remember some of the forms which have not been part of my regimen for sometime. YouTube has been a big help.

Recently I  have felt the need to do better than to abuse my towel and pillow when practicing ground holds, locks and chokes, as a result I have sought to acquire a more standard conditioning tool. Below are links to some reasonably priced grappling dummies which I have come across so far. Perhaps they can be of help to other persons like myself who have not done any sort of grappling or ground fighting in months and would prefer to not allow too much rust to accumulate. Thanks for taking the time to read. I would appreciate any suggestions on improvising during solo training workouts. Stay safe!

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFORMATION


  • Black Grappling Dummy
  • View Larger
  • Description:Ideal for practicing throws, takedowns, submissions, and grappling techniques, this dummy has reinforced, laced stitching at the seams and stress points. Featuring posable arms for self-defense drills and submission maneuvers, its thick-cut vinyl provides
  • Price: $249.99
  • Manufacturer:Century
  • Part Number:101620
  • Black Grappling Dummy
  • View Larger
  • Description:Ideal for practicing throws, takedowns, submissions, and grappling techniques, this dummy has reinforced, laced stitching at the seams and stress points. Featuring posable arms for self-defense drills and submission maneuvers, its thick-cut vinyl provides
  • Price: $209.99
  • Manufacturer:Century
  • Part Number:101670
  • Grappling Dummy
  • View Larger
  • Description:Ideal for practicing throws, takedowns, submissions, and grappling techniques, this dummy has reinforced, laced stitching at the seams and stress points. Featuring posable arms for self-defense drills and submission maneuvers, its thick-cut vinyl provides
  • Price: $229.99
  • Manufacturer:Century
  • Part Number:101690

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. TheMarketingLord

    I am training at home during this pandemic. I must admit That I don’t like it very much. It’s hard when you train by yourself, well at least it is for me. I like being surrounded by some people that are also working out , it is a better  atmosphere. but we will get through this as always.

    1. J.G.Page

      I feel you. Being accustomed to training with company and then all of a sudden having to adjust to solo workouts can be discouraging. For me, interval workouts help kill the monotony. Just like in boxing, jump rope 3 minutes,  1 minute rest, 3 minutes  shadow boxing, 1 minute rest, Jump rope 5 minutes, 1 minute rest…..  you can mix it up as much as you want  until you burn out.  

      Sincerely hope that you eventually find a routine that you at least moderately enjoy.   

  2. lioness98

    In this crazy pandemic time, this article is very helpful for me. I like training alone, at home, that helps me surviving this lockdown and having back my energy. 

    Kind regards!                                                                                                                       

    1. J.G.Page

      Glad to be of some help. Enjoy training! 

  3. Riaz Shah

    Interesting to know that most fights require mental fortitude more than physical, especially Mixed Martial Arts and baseball, wow! But come to think of it, you do have to have quick thinking to react to and predict where the opponent is throwing punches or where the ball will be coming from. 

    Just like you, I too am affected by the lockdown but seeing you practice solo makes me feel like getting up and get some sweat out again. Let’s not get our boiling water cool!

    1. J.G.Page

      Thanks for reading. To quote a certain well known YouTube vlogger  “Get out there and train!”

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