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Functional Fitness 55+

MartialGym for Seniors

August 16, 2018
by mario
Comments Off on Effortless Power (beyond Functional Fitness)

Effortless Power (beyond Functional Fitness)

“Effortless Power”, a new class, is offered in Burnaby at Bonsor on Wednesdays 7-8 PM starting September 2018. Click here to register and the barcode is 489144.

Some of the frequent questions are:

Q: Who are the target participants?

A: The class is opened to anyone 40 and above.

  • Some participants that started with “Functional Fitness”, riding from improved posture, better fitness and confidence, want to learn more self defense techniques that are within their reach.
  • Some told me that their chronic pains started when they were in their 40s. They are still considered “strong” and “fit” and so want more than just exercises.
  • Some fascinated by the myths of Chinese internal arts but find that even after years of training, they still do not understand the “whys” of the form. This class will help them for sure.

Q: What is the difference between this new class “Effortless Power” in relationship to the original “Functional Fitness” class.

A: “Functional Fitness” works on solving two immediate challenges for seniors – fall preparation and management of chronic pains (shoulder, back, neck, hip, etc). Therefore, we aim to improve your general circulation, flexibility of muscles and joints, strengthen through more efficient body mechanics, improve coordination and stimulate various critical muscle groups. Furthermore, we aim to improve neural reaction time and be able to move faster. So you are trying to earn this “fitness currency” through guided training.

“Effortless Power” aims to take things to the next level by teaching you how to spend this “fitness currency” efficiently and effectively. You will be training on sensitivity and re-direction of forces, efficient and effective delivery of forces up, down, forward, backward and sideways. You will expand from the simple non-escalating skills that you were exposed to from the “functional fitness” class. For example like how to get out of people’s grab, what if someone push or pull you and much more. We emphasize on techniques that almost anyone can learn instantly and easy to remember. Then we repeat them until you own the moves.

Q: How is it different than traditional exercise classes or traditional Taichi classes?

A: In traditional exercise classes, you typically follow the instructor to work through different parts of your body. Depending on whether it is for strength or for cardio, you work specifically for that. For strength, it is very typical that you isolate a specific muscle to maximize the effect. For example, arm curls to work the biceps and squat with weights to work on the thighs and butt. For cardio, the instructor usually choreograph the movements to music and you simply follow.

In traditional Taichi, they usually put a heavy emphasis on learning the form, be it the simplified or long version. Some instructors even use soft music to accompany the moves to achieve a relaxed mental state. Very little time is spent on explaining the meaning and functional use of each move. Furthermore, partner interactions like push-hand is saved for the advance students only.

In “Effortless Power”, we flip the whole scenario around, we want you to understand and feel it. Therefore we emphasize on experimentation, for example, the understanding of alignment and shape relative to incoming force, how to generate movements that are both effective and efficient, re-program the neural responses through repeated interactions and then link it back to the traditional forms. Whether a move is correct or not is not explained away by saying that is how it was done a couple of thousand years ago – everything is backed up by experimentation so that EACH AND EVERY participant can feel the differences.

Q: Are you going to teach any forms?

A: I am going to teach short phrases that eventually can be assembled into a “form”. These short sequences are designed to facilitate memorization and learning. It and is intended to be open-ended and therefore allows for differences in left vs right, variation on steps, height and angles for different reasons, etc. Each such sequence represents a unique concept than a rigid “A-Z form”.

March 27, 2018
by mario
Comments Off on Fall preparation vs prevention

Fall preparation vs prevention

The following are summary of fall prevention recommendations from B.C. Health in cooperation with B.C. Injury Research and Prevention Unit:

  • (B)alance- Improve your mobility and balance
  • (A)ctivity – Increase your physical activity and muscle strength
  • (D)iet – Follow the Canadian guidelines for calcium vitamin D
  • (H)azards – Reduce trip and slip hazards in your home or outdoors
  • (M)edications – Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist
  • (V)ision – Have regular vision check-ups and correcting vision problems

I personally find it hard to remember more than 3 things at a time and so I came up with the memory word – BAD-HMV. BAD in the new generation actually meant awesome. 🙂 HMV was the record store from our era.

All the above are sound advises. However, I want to extend it further because I don’t believe in the word “prevention”. There are all kinds of different reasons for falling. I would like to add the need for “fall preparation”. Just like you cannot prevent an earthquake, you need to be “prepared” for an earthquake.

MartialGym for Functional Fitness classes is about putting “fall preparation” as its highest priority item. Along the way, because of the exercise set, we actually work on these 4 main categories:

  • Circulation – bad circulation (air and blood) causes half the health issues.
  • Stretching, mobility and increasing movement ranges –
  • Strengthening – you need strong muscles to re-balance. We get you stronger by improving 1) Big muscles 2) Little muscles 3) Mechanics 4) coordination. So we tend not to train each muscle in isolation like the “bicep curl”. However, we use exercise that requires coordination of multiple muscle groups as well as the correct neural stimulus so that the strength training is for a specific purpose – reduce injury from impact.
  • Neural response – knowing something is different then being able to respond with what you think is right. The classes put a lot of emphasis on stimulating and conditioning the neural system so that the response set becomes automatic.

Focusing on just “how to fall” seems like a good enough topic on its own. However, the classes offer much more than that. The following are just some of the changes past participants master via the classes:

  • Go up and down the stairs easily, confidently and safely
  • Change how you get up / sit down to avoid aggravating a knee problem
  • Push open the door of the mall on a windy day
  • Be able to get onto (and up from) the floor to play with grand kids
  • Find relief in shoulder, neck and back problems
  • How to re-balance even from a shovel
  • How to move off the “line of fire” efficiently
  • How to turn around efficiently
  • How to minimize damages from a most unlikely/unexpected fall
  • Raise awareness of body and surroundings

MartialGym for functional fitness classes are available at locations listed on the right menu bar.

March 3, 2017
by mario
Comments Off on Matching challenges with solutions

Matching challenges with solutions

Do any of these challenges sound familiar to you?

  • I cannot do it at home because I cannot remember all the complicated moves.
  • I broke my wrist (or did a face plant or hurt my lower back) in my last fall.
  • I have some chronic pain on my shoulder, neck, or lower back.
  • I never fully recovered from my last stroke or injury.
  • I don’t think I can follow the pace of the exercises anymore.
  • The pace is too slow, I don’t feel that I have exercised.
  • My reflexes are not how they used to be.
  • I cannot get back up after sitting onto a low sofa (or floor or stairs).
  • I have knee problems and most of the exercises irritate them even more – I know my legs are getting weaker and I am worried.
  • I am a little scared going down the stairs.
  • I feel helpless when someone grabbed me (e.g. with family member suffering from Alzheimer, Autism or under influence). I don’t want to escalate the situation with punches and kicks because they do not deserve that either.

The benefits of the class are not just about ‘protection from falling’ even though it is a very high priority item. As many participants told me, “I can now get down onto the floor easily to play with my grandchildren“, “I don’t see my chiropractor as often now, I used to have to go once every month“, “I find that it is easier to do the head/shoulder check while driving now“, “My posture is better and I am breathing easier“, “It is incredible how some subtleties makes the biggest differences“. The extra range, coordination, strength, neural stimulus and awareness you develop from class help you in all your daily activities.

The class does not replace any of the regular activities/exercises that you enjoy doing – it complements them. It aims to help you get to know your body better, to reduce muscle tension that often causes chronic pains, provide stimulus that helps your reaction time, and help you see and use the body as a whole and not one muscle at a time.

  • You learn warm-ups that take only a few minutes. They are so simple that you can even do them while you are waiting for your morning coffee.
  • You are not just imitating other people motions, you understand the reasoning behind each move and know how it should feel. Not only you can remember the exercises better, you can even adapt them to special situations like exercising / stretching while you are on a plane, while lying on bed, or sitting on a sofa watching TV.
  • Since you learn how to fall yet minimizing damages, you tend to be more relaxed yet careful. If you don’t panic, together with the right mechanics, you will be able to re-balance or absorb the impact better.
  • You learn non-escalating self-defense techniques so that you feel you have certain degree of control over your own destiny. Actually these techniques does not involve any punching / kicking, breaking people’s arm or throwing people onto the ground. It is effective and yet subtle by applying clever bio-mechanics that requires minimum strength and speed.
  • Did you ever feel that it is getting challenging to go up and down the stairs? The class teaches strengthening exercises as well as sound mechanics which lessen strength required for certain tasks. Most important of all, it teaches you coordination of different muscle groups so that certain tasks deemed challenging be accomplished with ease
  • We favor the use of your own body mass as a reference point for how strong you need to be. Ultimately, it is not a 3 to 10 pound dumbbell that you haul around everyday, it is your own body weight.

Quotes from participants:

  • The exercises work parts of my body that I never knew I have.
  • It looks simple but there is so much depth in it and everything makes perfect sense.
  • I feel that I exercised without exhausting myself.
  • I like that everything is scientifically sound – nothing is expressed using mythical terms.
  • Classes are fun. One of the best classes I ever had.

May 3, 2016
by mario
Comments Off on Physics behind how-to-fall

Physics behind how-to-fall

Falling is a very real hazard for seniors and can be life changing. #fallprevention

I don’t believe in “fall prevention” just like I don’t believe in “earthquake prevention”. It should be call “fall preparation”. There are all kinds of reasons why fall happens. From medical to awareness to being pushed by careless individuals. Yes, you certainly can reduce fall risks by strengthening program and by risk avoidance. However, learning how to fall can minimize the extent of the injury.

The following is one instance of how to reduce the impact of a force that de-stablizing you towards the front. This can be a pull, a push or simply your inability to do a sudden stop.

The technique follows the following principles:

  • Reduced center of gravity – we all know that dropping something from high up causes more damages. Therefore, when you fold your body and bend your knees, you are reducing your height and therefore the impact.
  • Reduced mass – by pushing your butt backwards pass the support (your feet), you are during the mass going forward and therefore lessen the force of the impact.
  • Reduced speed – by zigzagging your way down (pushing backward first and then forward if the force still overcomes your effort), you are taking a longer path down. We all know that taking a longer path takes more time which means it is much slower as compared to a direct down line of force.
  • Going with the force – if you stiffen to resist the push, you are actually making the push more effective because you are providing better leverage for the force against you. Absorbing / avoiding the direct force meant that there is less direct force acting on you. Reduction of the magnitude AND duration of the force is an important way to reduce the threat/impact of a fall.
  • Reduced panic – by practicing how to fall, you will feel less of a panic when you fall. Panic causes your body to stiffen. We all know the difference between dropping a plastic cup verus a crystal. Crystal is solid but shatters. Cushioning a fall requires some suppleness that cannot be accomplish if you panic.

Here is a good article about how to avoid some preventable falls by Mayo Clinic.

Again, martialgym for seniors classes are offered in different parts of the lower mainland in BC. There are links to the various centers on the right.

November 1, 2015
by mario
Comments Off on Hazards due to limited “Field-of-vision”

Hazards due to limited “Field-of-vision”

It is extremly difficult to protect yourself against something that you don’t see. #fallprevention

A lot of people walk around corners without thinking too much about it. Corners where your field-of-vision is limited are real hazards because you won’t know what is waiting for you behind the corner. Hazards can range from kids running to attachers waiting. Do stay a few feet away from any corners to give yourself a better view of what is around the corner (this also make yourself more visible too so that the other person can also respond). Of course, you can also stop and peek.

Lots of doors (e.g. classroom doors, car doors, etc) swing open and it can be a real hazaard to the person on the other side. Stay clear of the arc of the swing whether you are simply walking along a corridor or trying to pull the door open. I have seen lots of teenagers / kids rush through doors without checking if anyone is on the other side.

Always make yourself visible and outside of high traffic area. For example, how many times have you seen kids rushing into or out of elevators? Stay a little bit on the side from the door so that people can see you. Do wear bright clothes so that people notice you!

Sometimes the limit of the field-of-vision has nothing to do with visual barriers but everything to do with posture, habit, fear of falling and awareness. If you look down constantly, you are not going to be able to see far and therefore not able to anticipate on-coming hazards. Do stay alert, look level, left, right AND the ground – constantly scan for potential hazards as well as enjoy the people and things around you. Ultimately, there is nothing really inspiring about the floor, it looks almost the same anywhere! Anticipating allows you to pick the safest path.

August 29, 2015
by mario
Comments Off on Functional Fitness for seniors

Functional Fitness for seniors

Being fit is NOT enough

My mother used to walk 7 days a week, swam 3 times a week, played badminton at least once a week and did line dance as well. She was very active and fit for her age and I thought she was ready for anything. However, cardio fitness and good coordination is not the same as fall prevention. All her exercises and fitness did not prepare her for an eventual fall on the kitchen floor and was stuck in an really awkward position for more than two hours and she was lucky – it could have been 12-24 hours.

This experience opened my eyes to gaps between most fitness programs / self-defence classes to what is really needed by the seniors. Possessing a resource does not mean that it is assessible at the time when you need it. In some ways, it is similiar to owning a house and yet if you are cash short at a restaurant that takes only cash, you are still in trouble. I cannot help my mom now because she can no longer stand up on her own but I hope that the program can help protect someone else or at least prolong the quality of life.

Definition of practical

What is practical to 20 year olds/young kids is quite different from seniors. Seniors’ primary threat is falls and not bullies. In my many contacts with seniors, not one of them needed to punch / kick in the last 20-30 years, however, most fell or knew someone who fell in the last 12 months.

My approaches to protect against ‘falls’ are as follow:

  • Simplify – created a very simple routine (applying only 4 concepts) yet effective (5 minutes or less) warm-up that energizes and gets the muscles and joints ready. The goal is to have a routine so simple yet effective that the participants can realistically do it every day before they leave the house.
  • Reduce fall risk – improve strength, speed, awareness, alertness, knowledge and comfort level.
  • Get comfortable with imbalances and practice recoveries
  • Reduce damage – prevention is not bullet proof and assuming no falls is not realistic. We need to be prepared for falls and minimize damage when it happens.
  • How to get back up safely – breathe to manage pain, assess the situation and extent of injury, roll back up safely, and call for services available.

Fitness and improved mobility

Through strengthening exercises, better understanding of how to use your body effectively for different purposes, how to massage sore muscles, participants will get stronger. For some, we see visible changes in their postures, better range of motion, and simply walking and moving with more confidence.

Learning is Fun

While “fall prevention” is an important topic, it is not FUN if that is the only thing covered. To make classes FUN, we use light gymnastics apparatus while training for responsiveness, hand speed, or reaction time. Participants love these “purposeful” interactions and games!

Who can deny that learning can be fun? In our classes, we do not require you to memorize a form like taichi, our goal is for you to understand the biomechanics behind a move. Then you practice the move until it becomes second nature. Participants enjoy and appreciate this style of learning.

Where is it offered?

The program is called Functional Fitness (or Martial Gym for Seniors). It is currently offered in multiple locations in the lower mainland in BC. Check the sidebar on the right for location and time.