FAQ Version 2010

#1JonNosferatuPosted 1/18/2010 2:37:13 AMmessage detail
TABLE OF CONTENTS [MTOC]

1) Introduction [1INT]

Martial Arts
1) Basic Description [1MAB]
2) Board Philosophy [2MAP]
3) McDojo Explanation [3MCD]
4) Style Overview [4STY]

Exercise and Nutrition
1) Basic Overview [1BAO]
2) Exercise Basics [2EXB]
3) Physiology of Training [3POT]
4) Lifting - Beginners [4LFB]
5) Lifting - Intermediate [5LFI]
6) Lifting - Advanced [6LFA]
7) Conditioning/Cardio [7CCA]
8) Flexibility [8FLE]
9) Nutrition [9NUT]
10) Supplementation [10SU]
11) On Performance-Enhancing Substances [11DR]

Closing
1) Recommended Reading [1RER]
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#2JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:37:30 AMmessage detail
INTRODUCTION [1INT]

This FAQ is intended to provide a fairly comprehensive overview of the topics that usually come up on the Martial Arts board, and answer the majority of the basic questions that people keep asking about Martial Arts and Fitness. The previous FAQ (written by Ominous1) covered most of the questions asked when it was written, but that was four and a half years ago - the popular topics are now very different, and a huge update is in order.

For ease of navigation, we've included Codes in the Table of Contents. To reach a desired section, simply hit CTRL+F, type in the code, and press enter; this will take you to the section in question. If you've been forwarded here in response to a question, you may have to use some basic reasoning to figure out which section you're after. Hopefully, you can figure it out, because we've made the section titles as simple and descriptive as possible and can't be bothered to do any work beyond that.

As a basic note, if you're here asking about losing weight or fitness in general, you'll probably get the greatest benefit out of reading the entire Exercise and Nutrition section. That said, "lift weights, eat right, and run" sums things up fairly well. Specifics on these can be found in "Chapters" 4-6 (with 4 and 5 likely being of the greatest interest), 7, and 9.

In terms of basic information about me, my name is Jon and I’m a freshman BioEngineering student at UC Berkeley. I’ve got about three and a half years of martial arts experience (Tae Kwon Do at what initially was a fairly good studio) starting in my Freshman year of high school, have been lifting for a little more than two years at time of writing, and will probably be entering my first powerlifting meet this coming summer (2010). I’m regarded as pretty knowledgeable around here, which is why I’m writing this rather than someone else (not that there aren’t others who could).
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#3JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:38:23 AMmessage detail
MARTIAL ARTS

1) Basic Description [1MAB]

A martial art is essentially just a fighting style - Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, etc.. There's a bit of an upsurge in attention paid to training just recently because of the rising popularity of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), which evolved out of (and still includes) the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) from a few decades back.

This section is intended to provide an overview of the more popular styles, dispel as many myths as possible, address concerns about finding good studios and avoiding bad ones, and so forth.

As a quick note, if you want to learn to fight with weapons, you're probably in for a bit of a harder time than if you're after hitting things with your bare hands. There are a number of Eastern styles (Kali/Eskrima, etc.) that emphasize training with knives, sticks, etc., but these are usually harder to find than most other arts.

There are a few that deal with actual sword work (I should emphasize here than Kendo is more of a sport than a self-defense art, though it is significantly more practical for defense than Fencing ever could be). Legitimate, respectable Eastern sword training is covered by relatively few styles that, with the exception of Kendo (see beginning of paragraph), are all quite difficult to find.

Western weapon work is a bit easier because it's an integral part of the ARMA (Association for Renaissance Martial Arts), so it's pretty simple to find out whether or not you've got it within driving distance. There's been some controversy among historians as to the accuracy of some of their stuff, but if you want to learn to fight with a Broadsword, they're probably your best bet.
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#4JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:38:38 AMmessage detail
2) Our General Philosophy [2MAP]

Most traditional Martial Arts have some variety of spirituality associated with them, and while we don't frown on that, it's not something that comes up a lot in our discussion. The majority of the MA threads on this board are devoted to various forms of boxing and grappling - in other words, the same kinds of things seen in MMA. This isn't so much because we actually want to compete (I should note that a few of us do) as it is because these styles tend to have more reliable instruction, attract people who actually are there to improve their striking and/or grappling, and typically have much better pricing plans. Good - or at least half-decent - gyms are much easier to find for these styles than they are for Traditional Martial Arts ("Karate").

That said, there's nothing intrinsically WRONG with training in a Traditional Martial Art. The quality of teaching is far more important than the name of what you're doing, and if you're at a Kyokushin Karate dojo with extended full-contact sparring (with or without protective gear) and heavy pad work, you're infinitely better off than someone at an extremely bad boxing gym with a very distant instructor who has you doing nothing but combination drills.
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#5JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:39:33 AMmessage detail
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#6JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:39:47 AMmessage detail
4) Style Overviews (Not a Comprehensive or Definitive List) [4STY]:

Tae Kwon Do – A Korean striking art (Traditional) with a famous bias towards kicks. This is one of the most prevalent arts found in Western nations, partly due to the respect it garnered a few decades back (presumably linked to its advent at the Olympic Games). Unfortunately, this has led to it being arguably the most McDojo-susceptible other than generic “Karate” – a situation not helped by the fact that the two most major organizations are both notoriously poor in typical studio quality. The Teacher > Art principle applies here, though; most of my MA experience is with TKD, and the first two years were taught very well. Don’t give up hope, but do be wary.

Shotokan – Largely the same as Tae Kwon Do (some reasons historical, others a matter of instructors not bothering to name their studios properly). Differences include wider stances, a reduced emphasis on kicking. The technique for the kicks themselves also differs somewhat; while similar in principle to the kicks of TKD, Karate kicks prioritize power and stability over speed (e.g. launching the kick and then returning to a stable position, rather than launching more kicks before attempting to regain your balance).

Kyokushin – Arguably the most reliable TMA striking style. It was founded relatively recently by Mas Oyama (notable for having killed several bulls with his bare hands), and for the most part is respected as a very reliable style with regards to studio quality. Sparring is typically full-contact with no protective gear, which may be a concern depending on the degree to which you desire not to be punched (…hopefully this is not much of a problem). Note that “very reliable” and “completely reliable” are two very different things.

Boxing – Striking art focused on the fists. Not as diverse as, say, Tae Kwon Do, but the degree to which a good studio will focus on building up skill in the areas it actually addresses makes it a very useful one (particularly given that punching in an actual fight is likely to be significantly safer than kicking). A good studio is likely to focus heavily on sparring, pad work, bag work, and partner drills. Ease of access is pretty location-dependent, but the chances of a studio being EXTREMELY bad are relatively low.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu – A Japanese art chiefly focused on grappling; features joint locks, throws, and holds. In its present form, JJJ is typically more of a series of self-defense techniques involving manipulation of small joints and a lot of kata practice (due to the high risk of injury associated with such techniques) than any kind of sporting style (e.g. Judo).

Judo - A sport developed from JJJ; notable for being the first codified art to involve gi (...remember what Neo and Morpheus wear in their fight early on in The Matrix? That.), a formal ranking system, and an emphasis on sparring (at least, to our knowledge) and spirituality. More importantly for this description, the "founder" of Judo (here known as Kano) encouraged the integration of different techniques and tactics to maximize efficiency in sparring/combat. Gradual changes in the rules of the sport have resulted in Judo becoming very throw-oriented (particularly in comparison to BJJ - see next).
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#7JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:40:37 AMmessage detail
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – An evolution on Judo (which, at the time of BJJ's founding, was merely a school of JJJ) made famous by the Gracie family of Brazil. Has a much greater emphasis on ground work compared to its predecessors, largely because the rules of the associated sport have remained roughly the same since their inception (stark contrast with Judo). When selecting a studio, it is fairly important to make sure that the classes involve No-Gi sparring (i.e. sparring in street clothes); this isn't a complete deal-breaker, but No-Gi sparring is a major common trait of good BJJ schools (also of note - some degree of throwing practice).

Wrestling – Not to be confused with Professional Wrestling (e.g. WWE). This is the Wrestling often seen in high schools. Focused largely on throws, pins, etc. to get the opponent on the ground without causing serious damage; involves a decent strength component. Given that most western high schools and colleges will have this available in some form as an interscholastic team sport, this is a fairly reliable option for cheap (ideally) grappling/throwing.

Krav Maga – Literally, “Close Combat” (Hebrew). Martial art put together by the Israeli military in the interest of creating something very effective for use as a last resort by combat personnel. Unfortunately, the kind of quality and effectiveness that’s seen in, say, the Special Forces training, isn’t generally reflected in the Krav Maga taught to the public (“No, REALLY?”). Good schools do exist, however, and if you can find one, the training will generally be very focused on real-world application and simulation (i.e. if you’re looking for forms/kata, you’re not going to find a whole lot here).

Muay Thai – Thai kickboxing art that’s gained immense popularity in the U.S. recently because of its widespread adoption by the Mixed Martial Arts community. Unlike boxing, which relies almost exclusively on a variety of punches, MT spreads out to include various kicks (not to the flashy level of TKD – assuming a good studio, of course), knees, elbows, and a greater emphasis on fighting in the clinch. If you can find a good studio, this is a generally seen as a very practical style in which to train.

Aikido – Japanese art focused largely on stand-up grappling (ie takedowns, joint locks, holds, submissions, etc. – all from standing). Korean equivalent is called Hapkido, and the difference is probably about the same as that between Shotokan and TKD. Most of Aikido’s techniques involve working around and/or with an opponent’s motion rather than against it, thereby making it a very efficient style. “Efficient” and “Effective” are not synonymous. The rule of Teacher > Art applies quite strongly here.

Weapon Arts – As noted above (Kenjutsu etc.). If you can find a good studio, these are good; however, finding a studio at all can be quite difficult. I already touched on these above, though, so…well, yeah. Read above.

Kung Fu – Umbrella term for Chinese Martial Arts. There are several hundred styles, with a variety of principles; Wing Chun could in many ways be compared to a striking take on Aikido’s principles (using the opponent’s movements against them to minimize your own effort), for example. Teacher > Art comes up in strength here.
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#8JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:40:56 AMmessage detail
EXERCISE AND NUTRITIONAL SCIENCE

1) Basic Overview of Exercise and Nutrition [1BAO]

There's a decent chance that if you're new here, you're after advice on health and gaining or losing weight, and the basic idea of "Eat right and exercise" is a good starting point. If you're strictly interested in Athletics or Martial Arts, this is - as you may have guessed - still of concern because both are physical endeavors which will benefit from exercise and good nutrition. Unfortunately, most of the popular ideas on both topics are crap, generally propagated by people who can't be bothered to check their information for accuracy before passing it on.

People seeking to improve health specifically should probably take note that making long-term changes in physical health requires long-term adjustments, i.e. lifestyle changes. You're only guaranteed health for as long as you continue to "eat right and exercise" - which is a pretty good justification for doing both until you're so old and decrepit that you can't walk (something that will be much longer in coming if you - shock and awe - eat right and exercise).

The diet side of that is, however, dramatically overplayed. There are some dietary recommendations (e.g. "starvation diets are bad") that will make a solid difference in helping you reach your goals, but once you've got the basics down, there isn't too much reason to go further. You certainly can, and there are a lot of ideas on how to do so, but it's unnecessary and usually not very feasible. The relative simplicity of eating right is the main reason that it only gets one (arguably two) out of ten sections in this "chapter".

Exercise, on the other hand, is undervalued by the general population - probably because it requires some investment of time and physical effort. The time and effort do have a huge payoff, however - even if you make absolutely no dietary changes, you'll get significant and noticeable results from improving your strength and conditioning. These include but are by no means limited to increased energy, better sleep, improved focus ("you'll get smarter"), lower medical bills, and a dramatically reduced risk for all major causes of nonviolent death.
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#9JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:41:44 AMmessage detail
2) Exercise Basics [2EXB]

Physical fitness can be characterized by a lot of things (e.g. Crossfit's "10 Qualities"), but these can generally be summarized most easily with the following three items:
Strength
Endurance
Flexibility

These are very general terms and each one can thus be split up into its own little categories, but generally speaking, if you're strong and flexible with a lot of endurance, you're physically fit. "Strong" will usually take a lot longer than the other two, hence the disproportionate number of section devoted to it. Flexibility and Endurance have their own sections below, so the remainder of this one will be devoted to some basic notes relating to strength work.

Weights are not the only way to get strong - other options include Calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) and everything under the umbrella term "Strongman Work" (e.g. pushing a heavy sled/rock/car, throwing a heavy rock/sandbag/stick, swinging a heavy sledgehammer/medicine ball...etc.). The emphasis of this chapter's strength-related sections is on Weight Training because it's the easiest thing to recommend, discuss, and execute. It's definitely possible to get big and strong doing calisthenics (YouTube "calisthenics kingz" for an example), but it's generally going to be much harder. Strongman work pretty accurately describes what people did before they had barbells, but it's usually much less convenient (particularly for the kinds of people who are likely to be reading this) and tends to be harder to progress on.

Weight Training is the topic of choice because most people have access to barbells or can get it quite easily, are capable of learning how to use them safely, and can continue to use and progress with them pretty much forever (within sensible limits - you probably won't be stronger in 60 years than you will be in 5, but that would be true regardless).

For those who cannot access barbells, however, Calisthenics and Strongman Work both get a strong recommendation (usually as a placeholder, though either can be used long-term if you do your research and get the right equipment [usually not very expensive]).

Calisthenics:
Our most frequent recommendation is for the first two free workouts here:
http://trainforstrength.com/workouts.shtml
They technically fit more into the "Conditioning" section below, but if you don't have access to weights, they're our first suggestion for what to do until you do. For Workout 1, eliminate the Wide and Narrow pull-up grips and try to pyramid up to 4-5 on normal grip instead of just 2.
Typical Statement: "Do Workout 1 three times per week until you're using the lowest recommended rest periods. Then switch to Workout 2." If you ever actually get to Workout 2, consider keeping the Pull-Ups.

If you're actually hardcore about calisthenics specifically, the aforementioned Calisthenics Kingz youtube collection can be a good source for ideas. Then again, you could just stick with this:
http://www.beastskills.com/
The more acrobatically-inclined might be interested in tricking:
http://www.trickstutorials.com/index.php?page=content/tricks
It isn't exactly strength work, but it probably warrants a mention.
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#10JonNosferatu(Topic Creator)Posted 1/18/2010 2:41:58 AMmessage detail
Strongman Work:
The easiest way to go over this one is to just give you the links right out.
http://www.rosstraining.com/articles.html
There are a number of fairly good T-Nation articles on this subject; however, these have proven difficult to find, and those that I could locate were generally no better than the discussion available on Ross's forum. It is also worth noting that we using have at least one active user who has some experience with this type of training; thus, making a topic to ask the question is perfectly justified (you should, of course, make sure to be as clear as possible in the thread title - "Help" is hardly a useful indicator from the topic list).

Ross's stuff is centered on conditioning for boxers, but much of the equipment-based stuff can be used in a more strength-based setting. The other sites are more strength-oriented.
As a final, quick note, if you're planning on joining the Military or Emergency (Fire, Medical, Police) services, it's possible that you will derive more immediate benefit from Strongman and Calisthenics. You will probably still want to integrate weights if at all possible, but the demands of those lines of work might be better met with training a little bit more unorthodox.

At this point, I should probably mention Crossfit, since I’ve referenced it at least once thus far. It's basically a training regimen founded on a "Workout of the Day", which usually involves both strength and conditioning work but has no real connection to neighboring WoDs. Our opinion of it as a system is generally negative; it has its merits, but those are overshadowed by a number of downsides (potential for injury, bad prioritization of training methods, etc.). It's also got its own forums, so if you're on the system, you'll probably get better discussion there, both because it’s true (since the people there are actually going to be on the system) and because the bulk of our responses are likely to consist of explanations as to why you should switch to something else.

Quick note: Gains of any kind (strength, mass, endurance, etc.) are made during the recovery period. You don't get stronger, bigger, or faster during the training session; you get stronger, bigger, or faster in the days following the training session.
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