Strength and Conditioning training for Karate-do, Part 1

Posted: May 5, 2016 in Strength and Conditioning for Performance

Karate evolved from it’s ancient history of being a peasant’s secret weapon into an organized sport. In it’s development, it has sprouted into different styles or different “schools”. But now as a sport, these different styles compete under one set of rules and the world governing body is the WKF. But even with all these complexities, one thing has not changed from it’s earliest deadly form to its present form as a sport: That to be effective, a karate technique has to be delivered with speed, power, technique, and timing. Training in karate alone definitely improves strength, power, and speed to a certain extent. The best and most successful karate athletes have these qualities developed at exceptional levels. They trained hard in karate and they also are very athletic.  But now that the level of competition is very high and there are more and more competitive karatekas, only the best and strongest will reach the top. There has to be strength and conditioning training for karate-do athletes to enable them to train hard in karate, perform to their highest level, and reduce the chances of getting injured. In other words, strength and conditioning training for karate-do athletes highly increases their success rate. Strength and conditioning training for Karate-do is now very important if we want to rise to world class level.

Logo-World-Karate-Federation_175460002182

 

Fond memories

brandSome years ago, karate athletes can compete in both the kata and kumite events and still be successful. I was working with the Philippine Karate-do team for their preparation for the Busan 2002 Asian Games. For this competition, they had a lean team of 3 gentlemen and 2 ladies. One of the ladies would compete in both events. My task as their Strength and Conditioning coach was to make them as physically fit as possible for this competition. Their strength and conditioning training has been emphasized. I would augment as a Physical Therapist too since I am also one. We had a few months of strength training before this particular preparation in our training facility in Manila. Then around 4 months before their competition, we headed off to a training camp in our satellite training facility in Baguio City. The training facility has a running track and sleeping quarters for athletes and coaches and a mess hall. There is also a small weights room with a few pieces of equipment. At least there were a few sets of barbells and dumbbells. The greatest advantage that we were able to get from this training camp is that we were able to increase the team’s training volume and intensity well above what they can do in Manila. That was achieved because the climate in Baguio is cool. The environment is very conducive to training since we are in a barracks and there is no distraction. The altitude is around 1,500 meters above sea level. It is not that high to elicit big physiological advantage but we noticed there was still a positive effect. And the cool and tranquil environment enabled the athletes to tolerate conditioning work a lot better than when we did it in the hot environment in Manila.

Their strength and conditioning training started at 6 am. We would go out of the compound and run up around the hills for around 30 to 45 minutes and back to the running track. We then did reaction drills, and footworks. It was also a time for the one who was making weight to do extra running and calisthenics. By 7:30, the morning session was done and we head off to the mess hall. Breakfast was great, and we had a lot of fresh vegetables since Baguio and nearby places produce vegetables which are sold in the lowlands. After breakfast, everybody goes back to the barracks to wash up. I would be waiting for those who need physical therapy treatment in the physical therapist’s cottage. Or they would go to the masseur if they feel tight and stiff. Some would have a nap. This is all done by 10:30 am. By 11:30 am we would have strength training sessions at the mini gym beside the running track. The training plan is posted on the wall of the gym and as we progress I would update it. By 12:30 we would have finished stretching and cooling down and ready for a good lunch. Meal times serve as our debriefing sessions and meetings. The head coach and I would discuss a bit more later if needed. Afternoon is recovery time. They are instructed to nap. Well, at first they would say they wanted to go sightseeing around the city since Baguio is the summer capital of the Philippines and it is a tourist spot. Then as the training intensity increased, they need not be reminded since they would nap voluntarily. The head coach and I also needed it! The third session, which is skills training, starts 5:00 pm and ends at 6:30 pm.

teacherscamp03

photo credited to http://www.cityofpines.com

Periodizing their training

After 4 weeks, we shifted the training schedule. Skills training is now more emphasized since their conditioning level has improved a lot. They do 2 sessions of skills training now. The first is at midday before lunch and the second is late in the afternoon before dinner.  Strength and conditioning is still at 6 to 7:30 am. As our training camp progressed, so did their abilities. But mental stress is also there. The pressure on them to perform, the separation from their families, and the feeling  of fatigue is affecting them. To minimize this, we lowered intensity for a few sessions and went “sightseeing” one weekend. We went hiking, which is a lower level of conditioning. The athletes were smiling and said I just tricked them into training. Well, I was just making efficient use of our time. The head coach also allowed them to go home on the next weekend to have a break. I also got to go home. My home is in Baguio city but I stayed with them all the time in the camp. So I was so glad to visit home too!

Training side effects

By the end of the training camp, we were ready. I never noticed but one of the ladies came to me and said before we started the training camp, she was a regular girl. When we were about to break camp, she had a very trim waist, had great abs, and sharp triceps and deltoids to show! She proudly wore sleeveless shirts upon going back to the Manila where it is hot. Those were just side effects of strength and conditioning training but what we were after was to have the athletes attain their peak physical fitness for their sport in time for their competition. Mentally, they improved a lot as well since their confidence improved. Skills wise, they improved very well since they were able to practice harder, more, and with more focus.

The reward of hard work

The team left for the Asian games and I was left behind since I also train other teams and the budget is just for the athletes and the head coach. I was proud that I had done my job to the best that I can. They came back with two bronze medals, one in the women’s kata, and one in the women’s -60 kg kumite.

busan ag 2002

Source: Wikipedia

Karate-do continues to evolve as a sport and is trying its best to be in the Olympics. The level of competition has increased and so is the extent of preparation. Hopefully by 2020 Karate-do will finally be in the Olympics. Strength and conditioning training for karate-do is now even more important. I remember the words our late Shihan Arsenio Bawingan Jr. I was a young lad in the Baguio City YMCA then where he taught Karate. He told us that if we want to be good, we should train really hard. Not just in the dojo. He told us to run, do calisthenics, even lift rocks (Strength and conditioning was not known then). His words turned out to be prophetic.  Train Better! Play Better!

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