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…





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.

Gym Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:




It took a few seconds.


“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:





Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.


“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:



How’s that for random?

A Modest Proposal for Police Academy Overhaul for the Purpose of Applying Crucial Changes to Training Needed to Refleckt Upon the Current State of Affairs Lest the Police Force Suffer Even Greater Mortifickations.

Special announcement to those joining the police force!


Police academy programs designed to train recruits and test them at their outer physical and mental limits are outdated and must be re-designed to reflect today’s realities. Undergoing the challenges of military-style “boot camp” police academy for aspiring officers of the law is no longer necessary.

No longer are recruits required to demonstrate:

–athlete-level physical fitness, meeting minimum requirements for endurance and strength

–an ability to fight, showing that they’re capable of defending themselves and others in physical altercations

–good judgment

Today’s police recruits no longer need to go through all this hassle, because in any given situation, officers need only to whip out a weapon and pull the trigger. It’s an ingenious approach; one wonders why they didn’t move to this strategic model of law enforcement in the first place, and what a great way to trim the budget! It’s senseless to waste the resources and energy on an elaborate training program designed to achieve superior physical fitness with superior physical combat and self-defense skills when all that needs to be trained is the trigger finger. The quickness and agility of the trigger finger is the most important feature a successful rookie can possess.

Here is a recent, real-life quote that provides a succinct example:

Asked why he felt the need to pull his gun, (insert name) told grand jurors he was concerned another punch to his face could “knock me out or worse.”

He was afraid of getting knocked out. Honestly, if you were to read this sentence completely out of context, would you guess that the person in question was a police officer?

Neither would I.

I’m not questioning a cop’s right to defend him or herself. I’m just noting that clearly, our current police academy training programs are a collective embarrassing failure if cops from coast to coast are afraid of getting punched. I read somewhere that it’s human nature to take the easy way out in the face of adversary, and this makes total sense. Why unscrew the light bulb to temporarily disable it when you can simply yank it out of its socket and smash it to the ground, let’s say, six times, so there’s no chance it will ever shine its light anywhere again? Light bulbs are expendable, after all!

The percentage of police academy training time dedicated to shooting practice is, apparently, a smashing success.

This particular successful officer was afraid of getting punched again, so he pulled his gun (not his can of mace or pepper spray or whatever fumes they’re using these days). He did not disable… he killed. He didn’t just double-tap… he sextuple-tapped. That’s how terribly in danger he felt, even though he was out of arms’ reach of the unarmed individual when the fatal shots were fired (I’m actually not even sure what happened, to tell you the truth. I earnestly tried to follow what the cop said in his testimony, but I got all confused because he said he was sitting in his car when he fired the first shot through the door, but that shot wasn’t fatal, and then suddenly he was outside of the vehicle and the other guy was somehow down the street coming toward him, which in my mind looks like an amateurish jump-cut in a video that I can’t reconcile, and that’s why, according to him, the cop had to fire however many more times was necessary in order to kill. He had to make sure that the guy was completely dead so he wouldn’t be able to throw another punch. Anyway. Details.)

Man, do I feel safe knowing that cops such as this one are out there to protect me. I heard he’s looking for another job now, though. I would consider hiring him for a part-time shopping mall security guard position, but I suspect the 70-year-old candidate in my applicant pool would be more of a qualified badass.

But I digress.

As I was saying, updating the police academy curriculum to dedicate most of the training to the firing range would make sense, and it would help the police force with their myriad of public relations problems, too. If police recruits aren’t expected to enter active duty knowing how to engage in hand-to-hand combat, self-defense and ethical situation containment, then the entire force wouldn’t have to suffer such intense mortification when one of their own gets up in front of the public and says he felt the need to pull his gun because he was concerned another punch to his face could “knock me out or worse.”

I spent a few moments browsing a police academy website to get an idea of the physical demands of academy training. Here’s an excerpt:

The rigors of the job can be both physically and emotionally challenging so new recruits are carefully screened to determine if they can cope with the police academy training lifestyle. The expectations of a new recruit will be one (sic) of strict discipline and order, similar to that of a military boot camp, and he or she will be pushed to the limits of their capabilities of which they will be expected to give one hundred and ten percent effort.

Physical Demands Preparation:

Be in good health, while abstaining from any drug use, smoking, or drinking

Attain top physical condition and be able to perform their best in extreme circumstances (as it may be of paramount importance in the field)

Be conditioned and able to run two to three miles with an average of at least eight minutes per mile

Sprint at least a hundred yards multiple times with little to no rest

Be able to bench press your own weight or more

Be able to do at least twenty push-ups and thirty sit-ups in under a minute


Mental Preparation Advice:

New recruits must be able to push themselves beyond exhaustion.

New recruits must be able to take orders and criticism from their commanding officers whose responsibilitie is is (sic) to prepare trainees for the harshest conditions

A policeman’s job is one of honor and integrity. Recruits must display these traits and enter the job with passion and fortitude. If they aim high to complete the police academy training & requirements they will excel in their profession.

Now, given the vast differential between these published standards and training goals and what’s actually happening out in the field today, I can only imagine that a task force has already been formed, and it’s hard at work re-vamping the police recruit requirements to match reality (or at least someone already picked up the cookies for their first meeting). There’s no need for physical strength or fighting skills or mental toughness or fortitude or honor or integrity anymore. Guy punches you and you get scared? Just pull out your weapon and shoot! And if the first shot doesn’t kill, then shoot again! And again! And again! And again! And again. Done. Easy.

It’s not just shooting with a firearm, either. I’m also talking about firing electrical weapons like tasers, as we know that cops can and do kill people by tasing them repeatedly, as in the case of this other guy – skinny, shirtless, unarmed and homeless – who was tased to death by five cops who apparently all felt that their lives were in danger, even though the guy – who hadn’t been aggressive, belligerent or disobedient at all – tapped out.

(Evidently the concept of tapping out only exists in the cage. There’s no surrendering or tapping out in the field. Many of today’s cops don’t seem to recognize these signals or understand the language. And when they can commit their random acts of brutality on camera and get away with it – as in the case of this recording of the unarmed homeless man getting tasered to death, which I had the misfortune to see – they have little incentive to stop, anyway. Even if all cops were mandated to wear surveillance cameras on their vests, one has to ponder the absurdity of getting Big Brother to monitor the activities and behaviors of these shoot-to-kill Robocops running amok with no human senses to guide them in their actions.)

Forget the whole “punishment fitting the crime” thing, too. This really is just a technology issue!

Not all cops struggle with these issues, of course. One of the nicest guys I ever knew was a cop, and he was a very good one. I knew him professionally, I witnessed him in action, and I was always impressed with his demeanor and skill with people. He’s retired now and I haven’t seen him in years, but I can only imagine what he must feel if he views any of the surfacing cell-phone camera clips of the brutality committed by his former fellow officers. We used to work out at the same gym. He was in outstanding physical condition and more than capable of taking down unarmed suspects without murdering them.

Once more thing: Since the art of self-defense is totally irrelevant in today’s trigger-happy police force, may I suggest that we convert the police academies into firing ranges… dedicated spaces for target practice.  Just target practice. That’s all. Obviously, they need it (incidentally, soldiers who waste six rounds of ammo trying to kill a single target would likely fail to qualify on the range… embarrassing), and surely it would cost less than the upkeep of running tracks, obstacle courses, weight rooms, other specified training spaces and classrooms and instructors for training modules for skills that won’t be utilized out in the field, etc., etc. If our officers’ field performance records don’t reflect the training they’ve had, then what the hell kind of police force do we have, anyway?

By these standards, those elderly mall cops are all we need… their trigger fingers work just fine, and they can probably use the jobs more than the younger people who are capable of doing other work that does require physical capabilities.

Elevator Tips for the Elevator-Phobic

As recently as eight months ago, my elevator phobia – a spin-off of my claustrophobia – kept me out of elevators at all costs. Now, because of my job, I take the elevator every day, numerous times a day. This marks a great personal victory for me, even though I still always choose the stairs whenever possible.

So, as a somewhat recovered elevator phobic, I thought I’d put together this handy Elevator Phobic’s Guide to Taking the Elevator, in case it can be of use to anyone.

1). When the elevator arrives and the doors open, look inside first to check for sewer roaches before getting in. You just never know, and the last thing you need is for your recently-somewhat-alleviated phobia (elevators) to be revived by a clash with your one remaining phobia (roaches).


Being weird in the elevator to show you my "I see a roach" face. Derp.

Being weird in the elevator to show you my “I see a roach” face. Derp.


2). Always have your cell phone with you before stepping into the elevator. Make sure it’s charged.

3). If there are other people in the elevator with you, quickly check them out to evaluate whether or not you could take them in a fight if you had to (which I do automatically all the time, anyway, no matter where I am… it’s a reflex). If you do find yourself in a situation that necessitates self-defense tactics, the elevator would be a convenient place to be if you’re like me and you fight best on the inside because you have short limbs.

4). If you’re unsure about the integrity of the elevator, bring a bottle of water in with you. It never hurts to keep a protein bar or nuts with you, either.

5). If the elevator arrives and neither the “up” nor the “down” signal lights are lit, err on the side of caution and don’t get on. Wait for the next one. An undecided elevator is an elevator that might decide to get stuck in the middle somewhere.

6). Mentally listen to Steven Tyler singing “Love in an Elevator” while you’re in the elevator. It will bring some levity to the situation.

7). Minimize your time in the elevator as much as possible. I almost always take the elevator partially, up from the second floor and down to the second floor, rather than ground floor to ground floor. Between the ground floor and the second floor, I use the public stairs.

8). Arm yourself with knowledge by studying the control panel in the elevator as soon as you step in (well, after you size up anyone who may be in there already. Priorities, you know). That way, in the event of a stoppage, you’ll be more likely to able to find the appropriate buttons even while you’re in a panic.

9). Valium, or something similar. Just… whatever it is, have it with you. Frankly, if I could, I’d harpoon myself with whale tranquilizer if I got stuck in an elevator alone. I would just want to be out.

10). If there are other people in the elevator, amuse yourself by trying to figure out which person would be the devil, à la M. Night Shyamalan’s delightful film Devil.



Happy Friday, Everyone! =)