GunslingerAndAndyAt Valkyrie, our semi-official motto is “We Make Monsters.”

“Monsters” means a few things to us. The obvious is that after almost a year of our unique physical training, we’ve made some impressive gains in athleticism and martial prowess. Shirts that were loose a year ago barely fit our shoulders now.

I remember getting into an argument with someone alone who insisted that bodyweight training was useless for martial arts, compared to weight training. He argued that bodyweight training didn’t scale, that it was nothing but diminishing returns. He also said it was impossible to achieve hypertrophy (gain in muscle size) with bodyweight training, and felt that real strength training only came with weights.

At the time, I argued for the superiority of bodyweight work based mostly on superior muscle activation over a broader range of motion. I felt that was all that was needed for the bodyweight training to be superior to weight training. After a year of adult gymnastics training, we’ve learned a two things. The first is that our arms and legs have gotten denser and bigger, enough that it’s tricky to buy new clothes. Hypertrophy has happened, it seems.

The second thing we have learned is that after a year of three training sessions a week, we have made only marginal improvements in ability in the basic gymnastics moves we train in. We are just starting to own the beginner moves. The advanced moves we started out trying to emulate are still years away from even the most capable of us. I suppose if we started out at the olympic level, scaling might be an issue. But for the average martial artist, that represents a level of ability that may not be attainable in a lifetime.  So, not so worried about scaling, it turns out.

But the most important thing of all is that we have really learned to be monsters. This kind of monster:

Our school really is the home of the Wild Things. The primary purpose for which we train in our martial art has now become fun. Play. We are earnest and sincere about our efforts, but you can’t deny the exuberant joy we take in our training and in our art. We work very hard, and the days after class are often days of pain, but class itself seems to just breeze by. It never lasts long enough.

Here’s a little of our fun. You can’t see the grins, but they are there.