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The Art of Applied Laziness

This is a term I coined a while ago while teaching some over zealous students. It soon became a bit of a catchphrase and now that I’ve spent time with the phrase I have come to realise it embodies pretty much my whole outlook on life and the way I approach my martial and fitness training.

Many students (particularly the blokes) try so hard when learning new martial arts techniques that they hinder themselves. Too much effort, too much tension, improper use or strength all serve to slow down the learning process. Technique, especially the more subtle elements of an art need finesse, not brute force. So I encourage them to follow “the Arts of Applied Laziness” Or in other words, use only as much effort as is necessary to get the job done.

You can apply the art to almost any aspect of your life, but especially your training.How can you be lazy and train hard?Simple. There’s a rule in business that says that you’ll reap 80% of your profits from 20% of your clients. So the lazy approach is to concentrate on that 20%. Same goes for training. Concentrate most of your training time on the 20% that gets you the most bang for your buck.

In your martial arts, you want to be able to stop a guy in his tracks as quickly as possible. You don’t want a long drawn out confrontation, it’s not only dangerous, but damn hard work, and I’m just too lazy for that. So I spend 80% of my time on the big guns.

1-Body Mechanics, if I can use my body efficiently, then all my movements will be effective, be they strikes, locks, holds or takedowns. Correct body mechanics are used universally, in the Tai Chi circles they talk of aligning 9 points. These are: Ankle, Knee, Hip, Low Back, Mid Back, Scapular, Shoulder, Elbow and Wrist.If all the points line up, you are in an anatomically strong position, without unnecessary use of muscular tension.

2-Power generation, this comes from the leg drive and hip snap. Get this right and all your striking increases in power, naturally, and if you can create power in every movement, the fight is generally over much, much faster.

3- Flow, moving efficiently from position to position. The great eskrimador Sunny Umpad was quoted as saying, “One must be like a woman, you must change your mind at the last minute for absolutely no reason!” and he new a thing about moving, he had survived many knife and blade encounters in his native Philippines. Watching the UFC you commonly hear the commentators talking about transitions, being able to move from one plan of action to another is essential in turning a bad situation into an advantageous one.

4-Accuracy, hit the right spot and you’ll only need to hit it once. An old training partner used to illustrate this by throwing up a paper tissue and then stabbing his finger through it as it fell. He would say “I can’t punch through a brick, but how do you fancy that finger in the eye?”. Of course a finger in the eye is not the cure all that some claim it to be, but it does give you the opportunity to follow up with a more powerful strike delivered accurately to a priority target, ie knock him out.Improving accuracy will increase you chances of landing a solid technique and allow you to use the other three points to end the fight.

Notice I haven’t mentioned any particular techniques, I didn’t say anything about rear cross, arm bars, indexing strikes, clinching or takedowns. That’s because all the concepts can be applied to your preferred methods. I’m a striker, I like to hit, however from a career in Door work I’ve spent years using restraints, takedowns and joint locks, I’m not a grappler, but if I were the same 4 points would still apply.

Then there’s the physical training. Now here’s where you can really apply the Art of Applied Laziness, but only if you know how.

I’ve tried most kinds of training from highly aerobic to bodybuilding to strength training and everything in between. And after about 15 years I’m just getting the hang of it, maybe.

Here’s how I think a martial artist, or anybody with a busy schedule that needs energy for other endeavours (insert your own, just keep it to yourselves……….) needs to train. A full range of health and fitness includes strength, muscle endurance, stamina, flexibility, mobility and agility. Or to paraphrase the late great Georges Herbert, one needs to Run, Jump, Climb, Crawl, Lift, Throw and Fight. In order to best complement the martial arts training I found what Paul Cox calls “Short, Sharp, Shock” style circuits with relatively heavy weights, some very heavy low rep strength work and repetition bodyweight drills.

Focus must be kept squarely on the 80/20 rule here aswell. Forget your vanity lifts, there’s little need for isolation work, these just take time and energy away from your other endeavours. Instead stick with the bang for the buck lifts and their variations: Squat (Backsquat, front squat, bodyweight variations, single leg squats etc) Deadlift (Standard, Sumo, Snatch grip, Romanian, single leg, single arm……..) Overhead (vertical) Press (Military press, push press, 1 arm dumbbell/kettlebell press, jerks, clean and press/jerk, handstand pushup…) Horizontal press (Press ups and press up variations including 1 arm pressups, Bench and floor presses with bar, single and double dumbbells….) Vertical pull (there really is only one option, the good old pull up and it’s variations) Horizontal pull (Bent over row, dumbbell rows, inverted rows………) Full body and combination lifts – These are the best option if time is short, drills such as burpee variations, clean and press/jerk, snatch, thrusters (squat into a press) and many more.

Keep workouts short, if your still going after 45mins, you’re probably overdoing it. I’ve been at my fittest and most efficient when I followed a 6 or 7 week strength cycle combining the big lifts done for very reps (usually 3) with a 6 week cycle of heavy circuits that work the whole body (usually utilising 5-10 reps of big exercises, minimal rest for around 20 mins. It hurt!) and interval style running, again in the 20 minute mark. And then came the kettlebell. The kettlebell and it’s associated training methods are the embodiment of the Art of Applied Laziness. The kettlebell lends itself perfectly to full body lifts, circuits and complexes. It’s unique swing and snatch drills develop great hip snap, essential to martial arts, they develop superior levels of conditioning when done for time or massive explosive power when done heavy. Plus when combined with some efficient bodyweight drills or heavy barbell work, you can create extremely efficient workouts. Here’s a favourite of mine (can be done with a pair of dumbbells, just make sure they’re relatively heavy), Set the countdown timer to go off after 20 minutes and try to complete as many rounds of the following: Clean and press x 5 (use a pair), Pull ups x 5, Snatch x 10 each arm, Goblet squat x 20 (Goblet squats are like a front squat using a single DB/KB, hold it balanced in the upturned palms on the chest, there’s plenty of video’s on youtube). Take as little rest as you can and try to get more circuits in the time period as possible. 20 minutes work, 1 or 2 pieces of kit, that’s the Art right there.

If you want more efficient, effective workouts, give me a shout.

Let me know how you use the Art of Applied Laziness in your life.

Remember, it’s not lazy if it’s efficient.

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