Tag Archives: relaxation


So I got a call last week from a concerned parent. Her concern? She was worried her 17 year old was not flexible enough to do the high kicks like they show in movies and hence she was putting off her training. Leaving aside the bunkum that popular media portrays about martial arts and kickboxing, it got me thinking about writing a few things about flexibility.

How training flexibility in the right way can help?

  • It frees you up physically and mentally where you don’t feel bogged down by aches and stiffness.
  • Improvement in posture
  • Better circulation and health of internal organs
  • Improvement of endocrine and nervous system function

Your fears are a part of the nervous system

Every muscle contracts on an impulse from the brain through the central nervous system(CNS). Chronically contracted and short muscles develop a stretch reflex that makes it reflexive for the muscle to resist any kind of lengthening. In our classes, we train flexibility by first developing the interaction between the CNS and peripheral nervous system(PNS). So you learn to relax and override the stretch reflex with breathing and sensitivity.

DO NOT force a stretch. DO NOT try to touch ‘head to knees’ or ‘head to toes’. BE PATIENT.

Factoring in the fascia

Fascia is a dense matter comprised of mainly collagen that wraps muscles, tendons, ligaments and internal organs throughout the body. Think of it as one muscle running from head to the toes that effectively transmits force through the body’s structure. Repetitive movements and short muscles cause the fascia to adapt accordingly and become dense and excessively tense. Pull a taut bedsheet in any position you see the effect on the whole sheet.

Without removing the dense buildup around shoulders, abdominals, hips etc trying to force a stretch is futile. Try deep tissue massage, rollers, rolling around on the floor.

Correct alignment, partner assisted loaded stretching

We start with a focus on the absolutely correct alignment. Firstly this trains the CNS to release its tight control over the muscles. Secondly the density of the fascia adapts to the changing muscles. PATIENCE. You can get a partner to assist with an increased load once you’ve settled down into a stretch and can’t progress further.

If you want to split like Van Damme just remember the extreme stretches and high kicks forced him to have a hip replacement surgery!


First 3 days into MMA training

It is said that “for a healthy and content life, you need a healthy mind, body and spirit”.
If your body becomes sick, you can recover by pumping in some medicines and resting for a few days.
When your mind becomes sick, you can take a break or a holiday and try to refresh yourself.
But what happens when your spirit becomes sick?

For me spirit is something that drives me throughout the day. It is something that gives me a feeling of excitement when I start my day, and to keep it healthy I need to feed it with something. 
That something could be an activity I like to do, a cup of coffee at my favorite cafe or as simple as reading a book I have been longing to read.
Unfortunately, my spirit was kind of going downhill, until I recently enrolled for a course in Mixed Martial Arts. Lucky for me, I found it very close to where I stay and an awesome instructor who is so meticulous in his ways of teaching.
So far I have just attended 3 sessions and I already feel Alive.
If I were asked to summarize my experience so far, I think the training has been rigorous yet satisfying.
To give a glimpse, the routine started with a few exercises to tune my breathing, which was highly essential in keeping my body stable and relaxed, and align my body for more natural movements with ease.
And what I loved about the exercises was that they were NOT your regular push-ups, pull-ups or crunches that we do in a gym.

The exercises were more like natural movements that we do on a daily basis, but not with so much focus and consciousness than what happens in the session.
The simplicity of exercises amazed me more because of the vital effect they had on my mind and body.
I became more aware of myself and realized how tensed I was almost all the time.

Once the exercises were done, which lasted almost an hour, we moved on to learning punches and kicks.
Again, I learnt how important breathing is while delivering punches. It is so easy to get carried away when you have got a punching pad in front of you. But the instructor kept monitoring my movements and kept correcting my technique whenever I went wrong.
I guess I am a slow learner, but I really appreciate the guy’s patience.
But anyhow, I really liked the way he explained the moves and their mechanics, and the level of detailed attention he gave to each person.

I feel really glad about joining the class.
My training session is something I look forward to everyday now. It keeps me excited, motivated and more agile throughout the day. But when I have to miss out due to work commitments, I can’t describe the turmoil that I feel inside.
I hope to be more regular from now on and keep feeding my spirit with the positive energy that I receive in the session.

Kudos Anomit Ghosh! You are a great instructor! Looking forward to learning a lot from you.

Ditch the “cardio” shindig

If you regularly attend a gym, you’re very familiar with this buzzword. You’re getting your lifts up in there and a well meaning mate advises you not to skip the cardio.

From my experience going to gyms and interacting with those who hang around there, cardio is a much abused term that can mean anything — running, spinning, cycling and what not. But most of the time it means a workout that’ll leave you gasping for breath, make your face go through a range of colors blue, yellow, red and you’re a mess by the time you’re done with it. You go home happy thinking ooh I burned some fat today. That last tire of fat around the waist always remains. So what’s going on?

You are working your heart anyway when you do any physical activity. How you approach it determines whether it recovers and becomes stronger. This is why we keep emphasizing on correct, relaxed breathing because it is the only thing that can

  • alleviate the stress on the heart
  • stop it from hitting the HRmax (maximum heart rate)
  • inhibit stress responses that dump harmful chemicals in the body
  • inhibit the hijacking of breath by the ANS (autonomic nervous system)

Don’t let your heart rate exceed 80% HRmax

This is something that is practiced intuitively. You don’t always need a heart rate monitor strapped to know when you cross the threshold and your physical skills start deteriorating. My teacher says you should be able to talk, sing and perceive everything else around you normally even as you are doing the toughest of exercises. Don’t zone out into a wonderland of rage next time you’re doing those deadlifts. There is a nice article by Scott Sonnon that talks about the performance zone of heart rate and this is where you should aim to recover to in case there is a spike.

optimum performance and training zone

Practice heart rate recovery as a skill

Learn to respond in real time to a heart that’s going out of control by using recovery breathing and tension release mechanisms. The more you train this skill, the less disoriented you will be and also have more control over your movements. I have covered some of these techniques over here. Time your workout sets and recovery periods in between. Progress incrementally.

Every training session at our MMA classes includes this as a fundamental skill that teaches you to battle stress and heart problems in real life, outside a gym. If you are in Pune call me on 8308252872 and start learning these valuable life skills right away. You can also sign up online for the classes and drop in at the center.

Hassle free sign up online
Hassle free sign up online

Power packed 30 minute MMA workout for beginners

Here is something that I put together today morning for those who have recently started training martial arts or want a taste of it at home.

  • Warm up the major joints by moving, rolling, spiralling, rotating (neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, spine, hips, knees, ankles) – 5 minutes. Look up Scott Sonnon’s free Intu-Flow videos for beginners to learn more about warming up your joints and making them healthier.
  • 5 rounds of Suryanamaskar10 minutes. I prefer to do it in a relaxed way that loosens up the entire body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hSdq-50PG0
  • Shadow box for 1 minute without breaks. This is where you let loose and have fun with jabs, cross, hook, front kicks, roundhouse kicks, elbows. Apply the breathing lessons from this post.
  • Do 10 counts of push ups, squats, sit ups, leg raises for the next 2 minutes. Go to our Basic MMA Skills page to have a look at how to do these exercises in a relaxed way without getting tired.
  • Repeat Shadow Boxing + 10 counts of above exercises for a total of 5 sets.

Once you are done, take the next couple of minutes to bring your breathing back to normal, shake off tension from stiff regions and relax.

This is a glimpse of how the training sessions at Forge MMA progress. Call 8308252872 to sign up for our yellow belt, orange belt or green belt courses in mixed martial arts.

Manage training intensity through breathing

So you finally walked the last mile to the martial arts gym, did some serious training, a few armlocks here, a few rolls there. Now you feel winded down and you barely have the motivation to start your car and drive back home. “Shouldn’t have got carried away with the sit ups”, you think. Then your mind goes into this rationalization phase “you know what, this just isn’t for me. There should be a balance, you know. I do a few push ups and crunches after waking up and that oughta be enough. Why do I need to go through this grind?” and then you quit.

Breath has become a much abused facet when it comes to workout and different forms of physical training with everyone trying to control, harness or do something equally flowery with the flow of breath. Let’s put aside everything you have learned about breathing till now. Come back to the basic fact of life, breath flows. You don’t breathe. Your body has learned over billions of years of evolution how to breathe in the most efficient of ways under the most pressing circumstances. This brings us to the first technique.

Stop holding on to the breath. Let go.

Yeah that’s all. You don’t have to look all calm and stoic like a zen master if you feel your heart is about to burst. It is okay to exhale through the mouth. At least in our classes. There’s no guru smirking at your inability to remain frigid. Be breathed. Observe how your face relaxes, the pressure around your chest drops when you do this simple little thing.

Listen to your heart. Catch up.

As new agey as it sounds, it’s very important. When you are gassed out, you can definitely feel your heart pounding. Use this awareness to your advantage. Feel your carotid pulse with the index, middle fingers and at the same time start taking short, shallow breaths in the same rhythm– in through the nose, out through the mouth as the air fills up just around the cheek and not inhaling any deeper. Continue till you feel your pulse calming down and your vision getting brighter. This makes you very skilled with your breath.

Connect the feeling of breath with a sense for muscular tension

The best way to let breath flow uninhibited through the body is to start becoming aware of all the stiff places. With every exhalation, feel these places becoming more fluid which simply allows the next inhalation. You can do this sitting down, standing up or lying down. Relaxed awareness is the key. With increasing skillfulness, start applying this even as you are walking, running, lifting a heavy weight, talking to an already tense person etc. Basically in every aspect of your life.

The Golgi Tendon Organ gives you a sense of muscular tension. The release in tension occurs when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated through the relaxed breath and the body’s relaxation response kicks in. Read up more on these two to know what’s going on inside you.