A New Year is upon us! Most folks will wake up starry-eyed, full of ironclad resolutions to improve “this” or “that” in the next 365 days, and are fired up, pumped and ready to kick ass and make 2020 their bitch…
Sadly, most will crash and burn by Valentine’s Day.
Now that’s not an indictment on anyone-God knows I’ve failed at more things than I can count. One thing I have had to work diligently at, and have encountered more than my share of setbacks towards-is my functional fitness level.
By “functional fitness” I mean carrying myself in a state of readiness to be able to apply my Wing Chun should I ever need it. I do not train for the beach; I train for the street. The worst – and I do mean WORST – position to be in is to be a martial artist who knows techniques but cannot apply them. That is worse than not knowing anything at all.
Wing Chun is based on functionality, practicality and simplicity. Wing Chun works in a real fight and is an excellent system of self-defense due to the above mentioned attributes-this we know, but what you may not be aware of is that the very same attributes that make Wing Chun so effective for both self-defense situations and combat sports participation, when applied to your own personal fitness and exercise program or routine for health & functional combat fitness, can greatly increase your strength, endurance and flexibility. Not all equipment is created equal, however. Choosing the best equipment for functional fitness, both in a self-defense and combat sports (boxing, kickboxing, MMA, etc.) sense requires the idea of fitness and exercise be approached differently.
As both a Wing Chun instructor and certified personal trainer, I have used several pieces of equipment over the years to keep my skills functional and effective while increasing my strength, power and overall health & wellness, and have listed the most useful and applicable pieces of exercise and fitness equipment proven to supplement your Wing Chun training by providing your body with the ability to execute on the ideas and principles of the Wing Chun system. Make use of them and make yourself healthier, stronger & faster.
Gymboss Interval Timer & Stopwatch
I have been a fan of the Gymboss since I first picked one up back in 2008. You can set from one up to 99 interval rounds of periods ranging from one second to 59 minutes-in other words as many ways as you can configure it. It aslo serves as a stopwatch-perfect for planks, timed drills or for any cardio activity you choose to engage in, from a brisk walk to high intensity intervals.
Travel friendly, extra durable (I bang the hell out of any electrical piece of equipment I own and this thing is a tank) and excellent for any fitness drills you choose to engage in, I can’t say enough good things about this little marvel. I use mine for self-defense scenario drills, heavy bag hitting, padwork, jump rope, cardio interval training, sparring drills, planking and pretty much any activity I want to keep time on.
Believe me, it sure beats fumbling and sweating on the phone while trying to work the stopwatch app. Pick one up and see for yourself.
I have had a Total Gym since I bought one of the original 100 series models back in 1997. My childhood hero Chuck Norris has used one since the 1970’s when it was only available to rehab clinics and those “in the know,” and after trying one out at a buddy’s house I was hooked.
What makes this piece of equipment so special (effective) is the fact that it uses your own bodyweight as the resistance and the fact that more than any other equipment I have used, it uses gravity to stretch as it strengthens and it also can serve to decompress your spine on certain motions.
I have always been drawn to calisthenics and bodyweight exercises, as weights tend to make me feel too bulky and clod-like. This is the only workout machine I have found that gives you a leaner, more gymnast-like build while still upping your strength and muscular endurance.
This is my current model, and I don’t ever see myself being without one. Ever.
I inherited one of these from a friend who bought the set, never even opened the damn box and a few years later moved and gave away almost all his stuff because he didn’t want to pay the cost of moving anything but non-essentials from Chicago to California (a smart move since having gone through 2 interstate moves across 5 states in the past 3 years, that process S-U-C-K-S).
I’m not the biggest fan of gyms today; most are glorified warehouses full of treadmills and ellipticals with no real strength equipment other than machines (there’s a reason for that and it rhymes with lawsuit) and when I did go to a “gym” I found myself usually using the aerobic studio to do my calisthenics.
I started taking these to playgrounds and hooking them up to monkey bars or other apparatus, or to tree limbs at local parks. The versatility of this piece of equipment is amazing.
You can use this thing literally just about anywhere-it even comes with a door hanger that is designed to anchor inside the hinge area of a closed door so as not to damage the frame or doorknob. Fantastic.
I got one of these contraptions from one of my Wing Chun & close-quarters self defense students who had been using one since he got out of the Army after Vietnam as a paratrooper with the “Screaming Eagles” 101st Airborne Division, one of the most highly decorated and battle-hardened units of the entire war. He was turned on to isometrics for their benefits of strength building with little to no equipment. This little gem is a tough workout-and I mean TOUGH- on the body but more so on the mind.
Isometrics are the best way to fuse the body and mind together and the best part is that the exercises you do with a Bullworker are made to be 5-7 SECONDS long-that’s it! Not only that, isometrics focus the breath and controlled tension to specific areas of the body so if time is your biggest adversary, you now have the tool to win this battle once and for all.
This thing may look a bit goofy but make no mistake it is an absolute ass-kicker. You will very quickly be convinced of the benefits of focused, intense isometric training and just how seamlessly they integrate into the simple, no-bullshit world of Wing Chun and close-quarter self-defense.
The ultimate in travel based fitness. I have stayed in enough hotels to know that most “fitness centers” on site are little more than a treadmill and an elliptical trainer…um, no thanks. No problem-I just toss these bad boys in my mini tote bag along with my Ab Wheel, Gymboss Timer and Yoga Mat and I’m ready to kick ass and take names.
This is literally a gym in a bag, and the removable handles mean you are limited only by your creativity in rigging these up for a truly effective workout anywhere (and I mean damn near anywhere) you have a few square feet of space.
Next time you travel, set aside 20 minutes to get it done with these and you will have earned those eggs, bacon and biscuits & gravy at the complementary breakfast buffet in the lobby. You will never be without a full-body workout again.
One of the most versatile pieces of equipment in any fitness toolbox, an all-purpose yoga mat is ideal for any floor-based activity.
What makes me like this one so much is the fact that while extra thick and plush, it is not slippery and creates enough friction so that you won’t slide all over the place (which comes in handy when you are banging out pushups for increased Wing Chun punching power, back bridging to strengthen your neck to take a shot or in a deep lunge like a Warrior or Triangle pose in yoga and sweating your ass off).
The added strap not only looks pretty badass but also keeps the mat stowed neatly in your car trunk, closet or spare room.
A solid mat is one of the most undervalued yet essential pieces of functional fitness training; pushups, for example, are second to none in developing punching power and structural solidity which is paramount for applying the Wing Chun system.
Keep it in your spare room, your closet, your car trunk-anywhere you can think of that you know will be there when you need it to train.
Ab Roller Wheel
As a martial artist and more importantly, someone who values efficiency and functionality in my own personal fitness regimen my workouts need to be short, sweet and to the point True fitness and total-body wellness is based on body unity and if the core of your body is unconditioned, good luck in building a foundation for true mind-body wellness and overall health.
Sometimes simple is ALWAYS better. No frills, no fanciness-nothing like that.
Behold the classic ab wheel: you’d be hard pressed to find a better functional workout for your abs, core, lower back, chest, arms and everything else. A few rolls per day and you’re on the fast track to kick-ass functionality and usable strength-just be prepared to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for a few days after you first start using this.
Reading the Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method series of books as a 12 year old I learned that Bruce was an avowed rope skipper. The fact is 10 minutes of skipping rope gives the same benefits of 30 minutes of jogging-which was good to hear because I think running sucks (and I once ran the Chicago marathon in October when it was 83 degrees and muggy as hell when it’s normally around 40- now that really sucked). Looking for the ultimate in functional cardio? Ditch the elliptical and pick up a jump rope.
Need to warm up before training? Pick one up. Give it a few minutes and you’ll be warmed up and ready to go. Can’t stand the thought of jogging, running or climbing endless steps that go nowhere? All you need is a 6 x 6 space, no light bulbs or fans hanging too low, a flat surface with a sturdy floor (in other words, not a second floor bedroom) and the desire to condense your suffering into a few minutes.
The spaghetti-like plastic rope ensures a sweet, quick and solid pass each time, and the handles are light and fit naturally in the hand. If you have an old leather or rope one lying around or hanging on that hook next to the garage door, toss it in the can- you know you ain’t gonna use it anyway- and pick this one up.
All I can say is after training with this I’d never put myself through the torture of a treadmill or elliptical again. I take it with me traveling too, along with the Ab Wheel. If all I do is the wheel & the rope, I’ve done plenty that day so my fitness routine never has to suffer even when I have to travel.
Give it a try and in no time you will start to develop endurance to spare and the mental strength to push through when things get rough.
Hear Me Now, Believe Me Later
Nothing I have listed above is something I’ve only read about or seen used. I have used each and every piece of equipment listed and can attest firsthand to their benefits as not only a certified personal trainer but as a student and instructor of the combative arts who prizes functionality, practicality and effectiveness as the benchmarks of any successful system of personal fitness, self defense or combat.
True fitness places functionality and efficiency as its’ end goals. As students of Wing Chun for self-defense and combat skill, we are only as effective as our bodies are efficient and able to respond to the discipline they have undergone. The right type of training is essential to that readiness, and that can only be achieved by using the right kinds of equipment.
Remember, your body is the vehicle; the mode of transport for the concepts, techniques and principles of Wing Chun to be expressed and applied, not only for your safety but for that opf your family and loved ones. You therefore owe it to not only yourself but to them to develop the vehicle by which you deliver your self-defense techniques and principles.
Get to it!
Train Smart, Stay Safe