Bounce A Little Higher: Moving Past The Squat

Bob Charron teaches some epic weekend workshops. It was at one of his workshops I was first introduced to the “Farmer Burns” workout. I loved it. It opened my eyes up to the value of old-fashioned calisthenics, and also got me into Catch Wrestling, which became a real love. The Farmer Burns workouts became a staple warmup for the classes I taught, and I shared them at workshops. When Devon and I start putting together the workouts for Academie Duello, there was never any question of the good old Burns being the staple.

The squat is the key of the workout, and it’s a good exercise. If you’re a Western Martial Arts student, you’ve probably tasted the pain of a series of squats. I’m guessing most AD students can probably still do a minute worth of squats without any real effort.

One of the problems of a squat, for students of swordplay, is that it only works the muscles in one line of motion: up and down. It’s also limited in the amount of force you can apply. It’s just your bodyweight against gravity. Lastly, it doesn’t mimic any of the actions of swordplay. It’s a great foundation exercise, but as students improve, they can benefit from adding in some new exercises. Here’s three ones I rely on:

The Drive. This one is my favourite. It’s a simple exercise. Crouch down into a three point posture, like a football player. Squat as low as you comfortably can, and rest a hand on the ground. From this starting position, you are going to explode forward, taking three steps as fast as you can. Maximum acceleration is the key here. Start low, and finish upright. You can think of it as a running squat if you want. A few repetitions should leave your legs shaking.

Deck Squats are fun. Start out by lying on your back. Kick your legs up and roll into a ball, and then roll back down forcefully enough that you roll right onto your feet, and into the bottom position of a squat. Complete the squat, and then squat back down and roll back into the starting position. Repeat. You can make it harder by doing a jump squat, or by doing a single leg squat. Lots of variations are possible.

Depth and Box jumps. Jump up on a box. Jump down from a box. You can increase the height to make it harder, or do a full squat on landing. A series of depth jumps with a lunge at the end is killer for rapier fighters. Just make sure you have good knees and serious tendon strength before you try it!

Add these into your workouts and you should start to see some improvements in your footwork. Leg strength goes a long way towards boosting your speed and confidence in swordwork.

Sunday Morning Reflections

Sunday mornings are lovely. Saturdays are usually a good workout day for me, so Sunday I get that extra restful feeling that comes from being a successful animal. I ate, I ran, I fought. A good Sunday is a time for being a more civilized animal. Reading for a few quiet hours. Watching the small creatures move around outside. Getting together with a friend and some swords, and doing some slow technical work together.

Sunday morning can also be a bit of a bugger for me. I wake up, and have only a limited amount of free time before I start working an extended shift. Today it’s motivating me to focus more on my goal of quitting that job by September and moving back into being a full-time Palaestrics coach. I can’t control whether people come and give me money for my services, but I can control my own actions. I can polish my professionalism. Work on making learning materials, advertising materials, rehearse my business flow. Plan out some activities to help my goal. Getting feedback from people is important. I’m extremely lucky to count some formidably talented friends in my circle. They’ve given me lots of advice so far, and I’ll be reaching out even more.

My plan for this blog is to slowly get into the habit of posting. I want the posts to be of value to people. I’ve been sitting on a lot of information for years, and maybe it’s time to share it. Nurturing your ideas is critical to their growth, but eventually they have to go out into the world, or die when you do. I’ll be talking about training methods, fitness, nutrition, the psychology of training as well as announcing new classes. I’ll also be posting up prices and descriptions for private training options.

I’m committed to doing everything I can to making this my full-time profession. Which means this is the perfect time to for you to give me some feedback. What kind of classes are you interested in? What kind of hours and commitment? What do you expect from private classes? What do you think reasonable prices are? What sort of things make you hesitate? What things are you curious about? Comment away!


Wednesday WTF

Brought to you today by Yahoo!


New Batman movie coming out. And with it, a new Catwoman! Excellent. Tight black leather costume. Everyone will adore that, and rave about how good the actress, Anne Hathaway in this case, looks. We always do. And since it seems a lot of people hold themselves up to the physical ideals of what we see in a movie, what does it take to pull off the Catwoman look? Five hundred calories a day. WTF. “It dominated my year.”

Want what you think is the ideal body? Live in the gym and eat nothing for a year. What does that get you? Accolades if you are an actor…that’s some serious dedication to craft! But for the rest of us? What it gets you is a year of living in the gym and eating nothing. Sounds like a lifetime goal right there. I can’t imagine anyone wanting anything more…

Work your abs while standing up

I love these types of articles. They look so authoritative and cutting edge. I grew an extra “pack” just reading it. Now I’m a seven-pack! Always the same thing…they will tell you, bluntly, in one article the real way to get a six pack is diet, and then ignore that and show you a million ab exercises. Why? Nutrition is hard. Exercises are like magic pills. Everyone will spend the money and never care that they never, ever see a result. If it didn’t work, they just bought the wrong pill. The next one will be better.

So this magic pill is about doing new exercises instead of crunches, because crunches “hurt your neck” and “work the hip flexors…” How evil. I’ve done a thousand crunches in one session. I did five hundred a session regularly for a while. I’ve forced students to do five hundred over the course of a one hour class. I guess I know why they all have strong necks now. And honestly I’m glad to work my hip flexors as hard as I can. Sure, you can’t see them on the beach, but they help me do some amazing things, like kick people in the head. Honestly? Hugh Jackman is gonna look better than me on the beach. But I can kick the crap out of him, so I have that consolation.


Damn you, women. Damn you all. You get all the fun. On the other hand, my workouts hit the right muscles more than anyone else’s, so… Wait. Maybe that’s why I have so many female students…

Gym bans skinny people

Really? Because skinny people have never faced failure? Therefore being skinny is, in and of itself, success? I am so proud of myself for not using the F word right now. What Anne Hathaway did above is a success as an actor, but a failure as a human being. She gave up living a real life in order to nail a role in a way she thought was right. Other people doing the same thing are only succeeding at giving up being human. Sadly, I see this all over the place.

I’d like to see a gym that works more on building people’s strengths instead of constantly helping them with failure. I know failure means more profit, but what happened to the morality of delivery on what people think you are promising, instead of delivering only on your weasel words?


Introductory Class

Six Week Intro Class: June 30-Aug 04 Saturdays 10AM Locations TBA, $100/$150

Our first series of introductory classes will start June 30th. Classes will be an hour long. In these classes we will work on building a basic fitness platform for the next series of classes. Each class will consist of progressive workouts to build core strength, basic movement skills, and instruction in the 5X5 and 2×2 martial drill methods. The last class will be a fitness exam that students will need to pass in order to take further classes. Classes will be outdoor, rain or shine. A variety of Vancouver parks will be used, all will be chosen for ease of access by transit.

Cost is $100 for six sessions. If you sign up before June 25th, for an extra $50 you will also receive a basic nutrition coaching package consisting of a basic diet and body composition analysis and personalized nutrition recommendations. I usually charge $150 for this service, but honestly I think good nutrition is part of martial arts training, so I want to encourage it.

Show up in one of our t-shirt designs and get a free hug!

Sign up now!

No credit card?  No PayPal?  Just send us an e-mail at to let us know you’re coming and bring cash or a cheque on the first day.

Intro Class

Testing, testing…

Playing with facebook’s annoying feed restrictions. Sigh.

If you can read this, can you do me a favour and click on the “like” button, so I can map out just how accurate their numbers are, and see how many people each post reaches. I’ve included a picture of me demonstrating good pushup form to help out. I’ll do one of those pushups for each like. …it might take a day or two…

Thank you!

Proper pushup form. Advanced students may try the clapping version.

Dinner With Friends

Excellent dinner last night. Got to meet the new woman in my friend’s life.

Food…I love food. Food means company and talk and wonderful smells and sounds. My happy childhood memories all seem to center around Sunday dinners at my grandparents. Which really meant hanging out in the kitchen with my aunts, listening to them cook, chatter and laugh, while the menfolk gathered in the basement to roar at sports. It was fun to head down there to the land of the old-school home bar and pool table, and play with the seltzer bottles. But the kitchen was always the best part.

The best part of being an adult is the freedom to recreate such moments at a whim. When I want to feel that happy buzz and roar again, all I need to do is turn on the oven, open a bottle of wine, and try to tease some company over for a few hours.

As a nutrition coach, it’s also a chance to make sure my nutritionally deprived friends eat enough veggies. Eating veggies is something no one does enough of. Veggies are hard to find, expensive…and we have no idea what to do with them. Don’t you just love that feeling of incompetent horror you get when you head into the vegetable section of the supermarket?

Honestly what the hell is half…no, three quarters of that stuff? Are you really supposed to eat it, or is it actually intended to sit on the counter until it decoratively molds? And why is that thing in the fridge called a crisper when it should be called the “black liquider?” Yech.

Anyway, moving on. My friend asked me to bring a salad last night, and I was happy to oblige. My fiancée had ordered a large variety of heritage and exotic seeds for our garden over the winter. She’d carefully nurtured those seeds into seedlings via totalitarian occupation of bookshelves, and then herded the wee little green beasties outside into the dirt to play and grow big…so we could eat them. Last night it was the turn of the varied lettii (What? “Lettuces?” Sounds less science-y. I’m sticking with lettii. Neeners.) to fill our bellies.

On top of that we added mint, rosemary, and thyme from the garden. Would have added strawberries but the ripe ones got raided by a ravaging horde of biclops. Next layer was crunched up cashews, black sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. And then some dried blueberries, and a big whomp of crumbled goat cheese. Topped off with olive oil and balsamic. It was good. Could have used a little more citrus to balance things out…we should have sliced up some strawberries and dumped them in. Next time.

A salad is a nice gateway to eating veggies. When I work graveyard shifts, I toss the leftover meat from dinner, chopped up, in with the salad for a tasty and healthy lunch. When you make a salad for yourself, I recommend starting out with something simple and easy. Buy a plastic bin of pre-chopped greens. The darker the greens the better. Avoid buying anything pale or light green. Forget salad dressing. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar…or olive oil and flaked salt if you don’t like balsamic. Next add some protein to the greens. Nuts are great and add more quality fats. They also get you used to eating things with a little more variety. You have to train your tastebuds slowly and easily.

Greens, nuts, oil and balsamic…now treat yourself and add in a little something sweet. Just a smidge. Raisins are great, or other dried berries. A little sugar kick, some good proteins, green nutrients, healthy fats. That’s a good meal. You can use this base to experiment with new veggies and flavours. Dice up orange peppers and add them in. Blend in some walnut oil. Avocado oil? Why not. Peanuts? Almonds? Tiny BBQ’d meatballs with maple syrup glaze? Hell yes! Diced up habanero peppers? Balance them with some more aggressive greens like julienned green peppers and maybe a hint of smoked paprika…toss some grilled chicken in.

Our dinner last night was hefty good garlic bread, two kinds of pasta with a killer home made pesto, strawberries and baked goods for dessert, accompanied with a huge Argentinian wine, and a delightfully floral French pinot noir. Chased it all down with some exotic and exquisite New Zealand liqueurs. Eating well is such a chore…