Martial Arts Illustrated Column 'Learning Curves' -Part 6


By Lakhvinder S. Madahar


Last month I covered how the sport of ‘Body Building’ influenced me and the weight training routines complimented my martial arts training. All this was over thirty years ago and now as I read this month’s Muscle & Fitness magazine I found out that Joe Weider the founder/editor of Muscle & Fitness magazine had sadly passed away at the age of ninety – eight. It is true for this man, the word ‘Legend’ doesn’t do him Justice. Almost all over the world the fitness culture is more popular than ever; locally it’s not uncommon to find several fully equipped gyms and martial arts academies/schools in an area of less than a square mile. I know this because it’s happened in Coventry and there is every reason to think that the other towns and cities are enjoying the same success.


The reasons for people to attend the gyms and the leisure centres are many, but three main attributes people work on are strength, stamina and flexibility.

When I was in my teens I developed and maintained these attributes daily. I had prepared a weekly training routine; that included: jogging/running daily, stretching daily and weight training three to four times per week, this supplemented my Kung Fu and Karate training. At the time the rest days were included in the weight training, two days on and one day off or one day on and one off. I didn’t include a rest day for cardiovascular or stretching, so it was done seven days per week. Running while suffering from flu virus probably did more harm than good, but at times I still did it, because I didn’t know any better!


Likewise the reasons for attending the martial arts academies are as various as the individuals attending, but the main areas the students work on are self-defence and competition.


“We should be so good at what we do, so powerful and potent, that we can walk away from trouble” – Don Dreager


While developing the skills for self – protection and/or training a fighter for a fight, the development of the following attributes will greatly improve your chances for successes;

  • Awareness
  • Sensitivity
  • Proper Mental Attitude
  • Body Mechanics
  • Strength
  • Footwork
  • Stamina
  • Flexibility
  • Speed
  • Timing
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Spatial Relationships
  • Agility
  • Conditioning
  • Rhythm
  • Precision
  • Explosiveness
  • Flow

I got this list of attributes from an article by Paul Vunak and have treasured it since it was published about twenty-five years ago, the information has helped me to develop my attributes and I have also used them to develop my fighters to the present day.  


When I began my martial arts training with a couple of my friends, we favoured complex patterns or Kata. Probably because we were young kids and believed in everything the Kung Fu movies showed – the 1970’s was a great decade!


After watching a few Kung Fu movies we realized these guys were calm, collected and were never in short supply of complex moves, so we gathered the answer laid in the complicated movements and we wanted to look super cool while we demolished our opponents just like what we saw in the moves!


Most of the fights I had been involved in were straight forward, you either beat the other guy or you got beaten and it didn’t matter how. Nothing complicated no tactics, no strategies and definitely no techniques, just instinctively hard fighting.  

I was involved in a situation a very long time ago in India, when a guy wanted to settle a score with a close friend brother as we were leaving the temple after the Sunday evening worship, as I was showing a family guest around who had come to stay with us for a few days. After the usual posturing and the verbal shouting, the guy randomly threw a half a brick at us as he ran off into the darkness of the night. As sods law would have it; the brick hit our family guest square on the knee and his knee became immobilised almost instantly and I wasn’t too popular when we got home!        


There was another fight in our neighbourhood where two men chose violence to sort out their differences. The fight involved a Talwar (curved sword) and a Lathi (six foot staff). Thinking back on it, the interesting thing was the different ranges the two men had to apply, as the staffs has about twice the range advantage over the sword. From what I was told the man with the staff beat the man with the sword fairly easily and felt he (the sword man) had enough and stopped, considered the fight to be over. As he turned to leave, the floored sword man still had enough fight left in him to take another swing at the legs of the victorious staff man who had failed to ‘Watch his Back’, Sadly the staff man lost a leg in the fight. He was a caring grandfather figure to me who went about his business on a wooden leg with a support of his staff – that’s how I remember him!


Nutritional knowledge was also very limited in those days, it was almost monkey see monkey do; the scene from the ‘Rocky’ movie of drinking a glass full of raw eggs probably influenced a whole generation, then there were stories of Bruce Lee drinking a pint of fresh beef blood as part of daily energy source. Gama the world wrestling champion would drink large quantities of milk and almonds; he also performed his daily five thousands ‘Bethaks’ (squats) and three thousand ‘Dand’ (scoops). Impressive stuff!


Bruce Lee was an avid follower of Gama’s training routine. He had read articles on him and employed his exercises to build his legendary strength. The late Larry Hartsell mentioned this in a magazine article and on a seminar I did confirm it with him if he was talking about the same Gama and he was.    


The Indian idea of a healthy strongman was of an overweight man with a big belly, so the advice from my elders was to eat as much as possible and drink a couple of pints of gold top milk per day. At about the age of fourteen; my father thought it was a good idea for me to drink a pint of Guinness every day, so we started to go to the pub every day and was then expected to go home and continue with my homework. This continued for several weeks, until one day the barman asked us my age and that probably saved me an early death from alcoholism you become the company you keep or in this case it was the company I was brought into, and I almost did!


            Guinness is supposed to have a high Iron content; my nutritionist told me Guinness is no better or worse than any other beer, if you want to drink it – go ahead but don’t drink it because you think it’s any better for you than other beers, just because long ago it was offered to the patients in the hospitals.


            My nutritionist friend had done a four year degree; any advice from her was greatly welcomed, even she had said there are these personal trainers who do a weekend course and claim to be nutritional advisers, so there are Mac-nutritionists - just as there Mac-dojos. Ha Ha!          


In my earlier years protein powders were not available in the UK but I was aware of them through the American muscle magazines. At times I tried sorting something out myself and KP peanuts were back in the picture. As it states on the packets of the peanuts, they contain more protein then roast beef, so the peanuts were the main motivating ingredients in the following drink: 

  • A large packet of KP peanuts,
  • Half a dozen (six) eggs,
  • Four bananas
  • A pint of milk - in a blender.

 It wasn’t the best thing I had ever tasted but I did drink it and somehow stopped myself from bringing it all back up. I felt so full I didn’t feel like eating anything for the next twenty four hours.  Warning – please don’t try this!


I had been to Coventry’s pre-war and only health shop. Since I was a young kid into his fitness, I had gone with a hope of purchasing the muscle building tablets and powders that were advertised in the muscle magazines from the US. To my disappointment, all I got was the advice from the shop’s owner telling me that I was getting all I needed just from my daily meals and there was no need for me to take supplements. I persisted and told about him how the fittest man in the world (Bruce Lee) used to take supplements with his food to improve his ability and Arnold Schwarzenegger takes them and he is the best body builder in the world. The shop owner was a picture of health himself, very tall, silvery white haired old gentleman, who looked a little as if he was working way past his retirement age. He advised me on how healthy certain Indian foods are but I was a little adamant on getting some sort of supplements, so I think he sold me a month’s supply of multi-vitamin and a bottle of the vitamin C just to get rid of me. I did honestly believed I was on my way to becoming a miniature Arnold at the time and the extra dose of vitamin’s was going to do it. A colleague at work with a cigarette in his hand had seen me take the vitamins at work and told me with absolute authority that I wouldn’t be around to see my thirtieth birthday if I didn’t lay off them. Thinking back on it there was a time for some people when vitamin tablets were considered more of a danger than a cigarette.

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