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  • Writer's pictureMike Sotos

Getting Back Into The Fight

Some thoughts on getting back into Martial Arts after a break.

In a past blog post, I revealed my history of training in the martial arts and how combatives could be a beneficial component of a well-rounded fitness training program. You can find that blog post here. Until last July, I had been on a 12 year hiatus from formal training. During those years, I only dabbled in training from time to time, with a brief return to Aikido, and an introduction to MMA training.

Unfortunately, my overzealous return to martial arts was marred by a back injury (too many breakfalls in my first class back) and an achilles injury that plagued me from my long distance running days. My grand return to training was short lived, but everything changed last summer. That’s when a new training client mentioned that they were training in Jeet Kune Do (JKD). This peaked my interest and I had to investigate.

JKD can be translated as “the way of the intercepting fist”. JKD is often thought of as a martial art, but ultimately it is a philosophy. Bruce Lee created JKD in the 1960′s and it is actually a culmination of many martial arts. Even though his base of training was in Jun Fan Gung Fu, he incorporated elements from other arts such as Filipino Kali, Western Boxing, Muay Thai, Silat, and many more. You may have heard some version of this quote before, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own,” said Bruce Lee. Interestingly enough, no one’s JKD will be quite the same. Here is a video interview with a great explanation of JKD from Guro Dan Inosanto, one of Bruce Lee’s most famous students.

Since last July, I have been training at NexGen JKD where I have become a phase 1 instructor. We incorporate many different arts into our training which include Wing Chun Kung Fu, Filipino Martial Arts, Western Boxing, and many more. In the past, I have talked about the many benefits of training in combatives, but I have learned even more from my recent training in JKD. Principles that not only apply to training in the dojo, but also to our everyday lives.

Everybody’s JKD will be different, and essentially their own. The majority of my martial arts training experience comes from Aikido. Aikido could be considered my base in JKD, while others I train with have a base in other arts. My JKD is not going to be the same as theirs. This can ring true in other areas of life. Due to past experiences, previous injuries, and my own unique goals, my workout program will probably be different then yours. My nutrition plan will probably also be different than yours according to my goals, principles, and past experiences, and that’s okay. This leads us into my next point…

Experiment with different techniques to find what works, and scrap what doesn’t. In JKD class, we spend a lot of time drilling, but we also have time to spar and explore the techniques we practice. We get to find out what works for us, and what doesn’t. We also figure out our weak points and determine what we need to work on. This can also be true in fitness, nutrition, and beyond. I believe in experimenting with different types of workouts to see what you enjoy, and what gives you results. Also, by challenging yourself in athletic endeavors, it gives you an opportunity to see just how fit you are, and what you may need to work on. The same goes for nutrition. I used to believe that there was one ultimate nutrition plan for optimal health that everyone should follow, but my thoughts on that have changed. Sure, I still believe there are things we should ultimately avoid eating on a regular basis if we want to be healthy, such as processed foods and sugary treats, but probably everyone’s ideal nutrition plan is going to be different, and that’s okay. I think the most powerful thing you can do to find your ideal nutrition plan is to experiment with foods and keep a food journal.  Keep track of your weight, body fat percentage, and how you feel, and compare it with what you are eating. Even better, get blood work done and look at key markers such as cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and c-reactive protein. You also have to take into account your values, and if eating meat doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Be your own detective. If your health isn’t where you want it to be, then adjust your workout regimen and nutrition plan. This leads us into my final point….

Be adaptable. My JKD instructor would always say, “Don’t get married to a technique”. He means don’t repeat the same technique over and over or you become predictable. Be able to change stances or techniques as needed. In exercise, don’t be married to one system of working out, or always do the same program. You will be more balanced if you explore all areas of fitness, from natural movement to powerlifting, and everything in between. Experiment with different training implements and workout environments. When we do the same kind of workouts over and over, we set ourselves up for overuse injuries and gaps in our fitness. The same thing goes for food, if we eat the same foods over and over, we may be missing out on key nutrients. Don’t get married to one type of meal or food plan.

These are just some of the concepts that I have learned from training in JKD and I am sure there will be many more to assimilate over time. I incorporate many of the JKD training drills into my client’s fitness training programs. We’re not doing any full contact sparring, but it does equate to some roughhousing, which can be beneficial for all people. It helps take people out of their comfort zone. I’m hoping to inspire people to come to the dojo and train. I also plan to start a class that combines fitness and JKD drills, without full contact sparring. It will be a safe introduction to combatives. As students build confidence and skill, they can join the regular JKD class, or they can stay in this lighter version as long as they want. I am excited to continue to grow as a martial artist and continue to teach, it’s good to be back in the fight!

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