Garage gym session! (Martial arts knuckle conditioning)

Knuckle conditioning for martial arts is a controversial topic. Criticism of the practice smacks of reason (pun intended), mainly claiming that it’s dangerous for the practitioner, it’s unnecessary, and it’s a waste of time.

Still, I do it. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to include it in this series.* Reiterating for the sake of anyone new here: strength-training is one of my New Year’s resolutions; I learned last year that documenting my resolution efforts has a positive effect. (“Strength-training” now broadened to “any and all manner of garage gym work-outs” as far as documentation goes.)

So knuckle conditioning is “dangerous for the practitioner, unnecessary, and a waste of time.” Why do I do it, then, assuming that the claims are true?

Because I enjoy it.

Because I like knowing that if I have to punch someone in a situation, damage to my hands would be minimized since they’ve been conditioned to sustain impact.

Because I have no aspirations to work as a hand model, anyway.

Here’s a slew of snipped pics from video footage of my latest knuckle conditioning garage gym session. There are probably many methods and apparatuses that people use… in this session, it’s just me and my trusty MMA dummy and a heavy, solid piece of particle board covered in wood veneer (which I’ll refer to as a “wood board” for ease).

Pardon the snipping-tool ghost that appears in most of these images! I’ll make sure to avoid that next time.

Bare-knuckle hard punching on the MMA dummy:

 

Positioning myself.

Positioning myself.

 

I don’t have a rock-solid heavy bag, but the MMA dummy is heavy enough to do the job. Here I’m showing clips of work I did on its ass end, but I work on all areas of the bag. There’s variation in its density from end to end.

Horizontal punches:

 

Right horizontal punch

Right horizontal punch

 

As you can see from the position of my non-punching hand, all of the strikes I threw in this session were chambered punches (i.e. Tae Kwan Do/Karate, as opposed to boxing).

 

Left horizontal punch

Left horizontal punch

 

Vertical punches:

 

Right vertical punch

Right vertical punch

 

I start the set with the dummy close to my body. Each punch pushes it back, but I stay in the same place. This allows for striking at various distances, from close-range to fully-extended punches. I also vary the height of the punches, aiming for low, middle, and high targets. If I wanted to punch at eye-level, I’d lean the bag up against the wall and kneel in front of it.

 

Left vertical punch

Left vertical punch

 

I usually do 5-8 sets of however many punches it takes to push the bag beyond my reach, alternating slow punches with speed punches from set to set.

Next, what I call “knuckle-walking” on the wood board. This is where I “strike” (but nowhere near full-power, of course) the board with my bare knuckles. I do this from a kneeling push-up position.

Horizontal punches:

 

Wood board right horizontal punch

Wood board right horizontal punch

 

This board is an extra shelf from one of our large IKEA bookcases, by the way. They’re not making that particular bookcase anymore.

 

Wood board left horizontal punch

Wood board left horizontal punch

 

I hit the board with each fist alternately, walking my punches from bottom to top and then back down again.

Vertical punches:

 

Wood board right vertical punch

Wood board right vertical punch

 

Wood board left vertical punch

Wood board left vertical punch

 

I’ll also do sets where I twist my wrist from horizontal to vertical as I go. There are many variations on this that keep it interesting, and variations are always beneficial.

One knuckle conditioning exercise I practice regularly is knuckle push-ups, which I do because push-ups flat on my palms are uncomfortable due to my wrist inflexibility.

When I do knuckle push-ups for knuckle conditioning purposes, though, I do them on the wood board. I like to do a slow push-up and hold the position for about 10 seconds at each level:

 

Wood board push-up, bottom

Wood board push-up, bottom

 

Wood board push-up, middle

Wood board push-up, middle

 

Wood board push-up, top

Wood board push-up, top

 

That was all I did in this session. You know I had to include that silly shot of me walking back at the end…

 

Done!

Done!

 

Weather report in the garage: it’s heating up! This session wasn’t unbearable, though. We haven’t deployed any fans yet. For now, I’m just keeping the door open.

*The usual disclaimer applies: I’m not a trainer of any kind, and I do not recommend doing anything in this post without the supervision of a qualified instructor.

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

Coming back around to the promised garage gym update! Since our initial setting-up in January last year, we’ve made a few additions to the garage to further its transition into a small but functional training space. We also cleared out the relics that came with the garage when we bought the house – old cans of paint and such.

Now we’ve got the basics: 63 square feet of mat flooring (we added a couple of rows of rubber tiles to enlarge the floor), a standing punching bag, an MMA dummy on the floor, a mirror (thanks to Craigslist), a few sets of dumbbells, and speakers (for blasting dub-step, rap, and metal during boxing and Muay Thai training, of course). It’s a great space for the two of us, but as many as four people could train in there at once. Maybe five. Maybe six, depending on what we do. It’s small, but it works.

The South Korean flag still hangs in the corner. When I go in to practice Tae Kwan Do, I’m entering a do-jang  (the Korean equivalent of the Japanese dojo). There’s no music during a Tae Kwan Do session. Because of the quiet and the concentration required, I find that it’s akin to a moving meditation practice. I feel at peace. Perhaps more than anything, the flag carries sentimental value, as my Tae Kwan Do master handed it down to me before he moved out of state years ago.

Another thing – unrelated, but useful – is that I upgraded my phone last week, so now I’m equipped with a camera that’s much better than my old one!

(I’ll be honest… I only upgraded my phone to get a new camera. I was content with the phone, itself, but I wanted to take better pictures, and I didn’t want to invest in an actual camera. I was eligible for a phone upgrade, anyway, so it worked out well.)

So, with this new phone camera, thinking of how I could show what the space can accommodate, I decided to record myself doing a Tae Kwan Do form (hyung in Korean; kata in Japanese – this is TKD, so it’s hyung). I recorded the video on Sunday afternoon and used “pause” and “the snippy tool” to get the slew of Tae Kwan Do technique selfies posted here.

But first, observe the quality difference between my old and new cameras!

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

I clipped this shot out of the video, so I’m blurry in movement, but notice the colors! The lighting in the garage was exactly the same in both images, and as per usual, there were no digital shenanigans involved to alter the pics. I’m in love with this camera. The phone part is pretty great, too, and yes, I’m totally raving about a Korean phone in a post about Korean karate. Coincidence.

Without further rambling about cameras and phones, here are a few of the Tae Kwan Do blocks and attacks I clipped from the recorded video:

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

(My striking fist did originate from further inside, but it looks awkward at this second of transition… )

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

Note that my feet are slightly too far apart in that finish.  I saw ALL of my mistakes while watching the video and pausing on the techniques, which makes the recording a valuable practice I should continue. You may see more training pics here in the future.  Just a head’s-up.

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

Anyway, our garage gym figures beautifully into my New Year’s resolution to get stronger. We’re going to add three or four sets of dumbbells to our little collection, so we’ll be able to get in some effective full-body workouts. Gotta love Play It Again Sports! We’re also going to add what we need to keep the space tolerable during the hot months.

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

3). Better Call Saul (T. V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!

Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens – with a hard right hand.

Body Combat class was cancelled at the gym last Saturday because of the holiday. Reluctant to miss a workout, I thought, what better time to find a heavy-bag somewhere? It had been so long!

I jumped online and honed in on a Saturday cardio kickboxing class at a boxing gym near our apartment. Going as a walk-in, I could avoid missing a workout and get in a heavy-bag bonus while I was at it. Their web site said to bring your own hand-wraps, so I knew I’d be punching something.

The rental fee for an hour with the heavy-bag walk-in cost for the class was only ten bucks. I was excited. It’d been about six years since I’d touched a heavy-bag, and just as long since I’d taken part in any kind of martial/fighting arts training (Capoeira and Kali were the last. Boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do and T’ai Chi – many people don’t realize it, but T’ai Chi is actually a deadly form of martial arts – seemed ages ago). The last time I’d climbed into the ring to spar was maybe 2008. My six years away from combat sports felt more like six cat years… that would be 40 human years, which is about how long it felt!

The class was fun, and I did get to work the heavy-bag. I had my old hand-wraps that I’d dug out of storage the previous week, and I borrowed some gloves from the gym. During the hour-long workout, we did cardio kickboxing drills (including punching with weights, which I’d never done before, so that was interesting, and throwing kicks), push-ups, bag-work, partner-work and abs.  It felt great. I felt great.

Until two days later, when I found myself gobbling four extra-strength Advil as we ran out the door to Monday evening Body Combat. Everything hurt. The boxing gym workout had settled into my muscles, and I literally felt it from my neck down. Trapezius muscles? RIGHT, those exist! And to quote Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “Oh. Johnny Anterior Delts, I apologize; I forgot you were there.” Pecs. LATS! Triceps. Abs. QUADS… I felt the intense soreness in my upper legs just walking.

It didn’t help that I’d forgotten to eat something beforehand, either. In addition to the post-workout soreness, my energy stores felt depleted in class that night. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love feeling that kind of pain again, and I still had a great workout!

When we started Body Combat on Saturday, March 29, Callaghan was looking for general fitness benefits, and I was looking to re-gain my skills and get back into shape after being ridiculously sedentary for over three years (NEVER AGAIN). Three and a half months later, I’m feeling immensely better, but I still have a long way to go. There’s the two Body Combat classes and a boot camp class each week, and sometimes I go an extra day to walk on the treadmill. I feel like I should be doing more.

On Wednesday, it happened again… we had tickets to see Def Leppard and Kiss, which meant ditching boot camp class. We made it up last night by doing a Body Attack class at a different gym location. I’d never heard of Body Attack (like Body Combat, it’s a Les Mills International class). It was a pretty good workout!

Here’s a picture of Callaghan and me at the concert on Wednesday night:

 

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here's this, for what it's worth...

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here’s this, for what it’s worth…

 

Happy Friday, All!

Inspired by Ronnie James

We often call him “Wrah-Wrah” or “The Wrah-Wrah” because that’s his favorite word. “Wrah-wrah-wrah-wrah-wrah,” he mutters as he walks around. He uses different pitches, tones and intonations to modify its meaning. It works as a shortened version of his name, too… Ronnie James – Wrah-Wrah.

Sometimes, it’s his fierce ki-ya, his warrior call. “Wrah-WRAH!”

Which makes me itch to get back into martial arts again, soon, because it’s been too long. Ronnie James goes around dragging his toy weapon, and my kali sticks are locked up in storage in France. I hope to return to some kind of training soon.

 

Ronnie James with his weapon on the left. Warrior with his weapon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James with his weapon on the left. Warrior with his weapon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

On that note, I’m off to get ready… we have a full weekend planned, starting with hanging out with a visiting friend this afternoon. We’re meeting for lunch and then going to the Museum of the Weird. WRAH!