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Tag Archives: tai chi

  • Wax on Wax off

     

    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set
    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set with Natural Bee's Wax Finish

    This article is really about wax. Seriously, it is not about karate or iconic movies of the 1980s. We have had a ton of questions about wax and polyurethane lately.

    The subject is a real issue for the tai chi world. As it turns out, it is also a serious subject for the environmentally conscious individual. One subject where these two types of people converge is wax, which makes a lot of sense. You see, many of the tai chi ball trainees want to make sure they can feel the chi energy of the wood in the tai chi ball they are using. Well, man made, typically petroleum based, waxes block the chi energy from the wood, for those who are sensitive to it. Sure, it gradually wears off and apparently works better and better. Unfortunately, as the wax wears off, so does the reason for putting the wax on in the first place, preservation of the wood.

    Enter the crunchy, hippy anti-toxin, pro-environment people. While paste wax has been used for a very long time to preserve fine furniture, why not go with something that is anti-microbial, natural and renewable? Sounds good to me. After all, if the wax is wearing off, then where is it going? If it was on a Tai Chi Ball, odds are it came off on your hands...

    I will not send a real wood product out of Atomic Athletic without some kind of finish on it. When it gets covered in your hard earned sweat, the salts and acids in your sweat are going to start tearing down that wood. The wood simply needs protection.

    Here is the perfect solution: a 100% Natural Bees Wax Mineral Oil Combination from right here in Northwest Ohio. Our source is a Sustainable, Non-Conventional Farming CSA that is also chemical free.

    Best of all, it really, really works! It's great stuff. The wood sucks it right in. In fact, we put on a few coats and the process uses heat and hand polishing. There's nothing more natural.

  • Tai Chi Balls Getting Ready For Shipment

    Yes.  We do have two different types of finish on the Tai Chi Balls: Clear Coat and Wax.  This is a

    Tai Chi Balls Ready for Clear Coat
    Tai Chi Balls Ready for Clear Coat Polyurethane at Atomic Athletic.

    run that is going to be clear coated.  I love the clear coat finish.  It is very durable and makes the balls look great!

    Most of the clear coat polyurethaned Tai Chi Balls head off to classrooms.  They are very easy to clean... always a good thing.

  • Squishy?

    Sure, we sell a wide variety of Medicine Balls.  They are great, but they are not Tai Chi Balls.

    The hallmark of a Tai Chi Ball is that it is NOT squishy.  So a traditional Tai Chi Ball is made of wood or stone. Ours are handmade by expert woodworkers right here in America. Pennsylvania to be more precise.These have been difficult to find in the past, but Atomic Athletic has filled this niche with our usual flair. Unfortunately, stone is dense stuff that makes for a heavy ball. In fact, the stone is what we're world renown for.  Depending on the time spent training and the actual movements, the stone ones are just too heavy, but It is an option for some. The YMAA has recommended Atomic Athletic for these. You can see that here.

    Atomic Athletic now has THREE different sizes of Tai Chi Balls made of solid wood.  We have a Beginner, Intermediate and an Advanced size.

    tai-chi-ball-beginner

     

    This beginner ball weighs 3 pounds.

     

     

     

    tai-chi-ball-intermediate

     

     

    This is our intermediate Tai Chi Ball. You can see how beautiful this is. It has a durable wax finish.

     

     

    This advanced ball is one of our most popular. taichiball_brown_l_1

     

     

     

     

     

    We also have some expert books and DVDs to help in your training with the Tai Chi balls.

    Tai Chi ball bookThis book is one of the most popular and comprehensive books on Tai Chi Balls and Qigong.

     

     

     

    Tai Chi ball DVDThis DVD is a great companion to balls and book above.

  • Kettlebells: the Martial Artist’s Strength Tool of Choice by Steve Cotter

     Confusion often surrounds the topic of strength training for the martial arts. There are generally two schools of thought on the subject. One school states that weight training is detrimental to martial skill acquisition because the excessive tension held in the muscles will reduce the fluidity of movement, thus robbing one’s technique of speed and power. The other school says that strength training done correctly and as a compliment to the martial skill training will increase the contractile strength of the body without sacrificing flexibility, the end result being improved speed and power.

    Where do I weigh in on this long-standing debate? Some weight training practices will indeed create sluggishness and a loss of tensile strength but only if the martial artist uses a body-building or train-to-failure approach. Any weight training will also diminish martial skill if it becomes the primary focus rather than a supplement to the martial arts skill training. Strength training, when the appropriate method is selected, will compliment and contribute to enhanced martial art skill, in the form of greater speed, power, flexibility and endurance.

    So what is the right method of strength training for the martial artist? Why should a martial artist practice strength training, and how does one begin? While there are many training tools available, kettlebells are the tools that offer the most to the martial artist’s strength training curriculum.

    How To Strength Train With Kettlebells
    Kettlebell

     Of all the physical variables that the well-rounded martial artist must address when designing the right strength training program, there are 4 in particular that kettlebells address better than other training modes: strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency (economy of motion).

    In a martial arts or fighting context, strength/endurance, or “enduring strength”, is the ability to fight with intensity for extended engagements. This is even more crucial than maximal strength, or the ability to deliver one very powerful blow. Maximal or limit strength is very important as well, as in knockout power, or a quick submission, but the well-rounded fighter must be prepared to deliver multiple strikes in combinations. This requires tremendous strength/endurance. Kettlebell high repetition snatches, for example, develop a strong work capacity and anaerobic threshold. This means that you learn to continue to apply power even while aerobically taxed. For the martial artist this is a very important skill. Often times it is not how strong you are when you are fresh but how strong you remain once you become winded and have expended a lot of energy that determines the outcome. Because kettlebell lifts require full-body integration, it is a much better tool for the martial artist than doing high repetition isolation movements with a barbell or dumbbell.

    Mental toughness and body hardening are listed together because they cannot be separated in the application of martial arts. One who is “mentally tough” will fold under an effective thai kick to the lower leg, if his body is not sufficiently hardened for the impact. Likewise, the fighter with a ruggedly conditioned body will eventually waiver if he is kept in an uncompromising position, such as a lock, unless his focus is perfectly sharpened and mentally tough. Kettlebell training helps to develop the necessary psycho-physical balance that is crucial to effective martial arts. In exercises like the kettlebell clean and snatch, wherein the kettlebell flips around the hand, and rests on the forearm, there is body hardening occurring due to the impact of the bell on the arm. In the early stages, the bell tends to come crashing down on the forearm, even causing pain. The perseverance to proceed is an early test of one’s mental resolve. As the techniques become more refined, there is less impact on the forearm, as one learns to move the hand fluidly inside of the kettlebell handle. Even still, the bell rests on the forearm, exerting pressure and over time increasing the density and hardness of the area. Such training as the high-repetition snatch and jerk as seen in traditional Girevoy Sport of Russia is a real test of both one’s mental resolve to persevere and physical ability to accept pain. These attributes need to be embraced by the martial artist as well.

    In sports science, the term ‘specificity’ refers to the adaptations to the physiological systems that occur as a result of the training program design. For the martial artist, the strength that is developed through supplementary weight training must be able to transfer into improved striking, kicking, grappling, trapping, and throwing skills. If your fighting techniques increase in speed, power, and focus as a result of your strength training program, then your program has a high degree of specificity to your martial art skill. If you become more sluggish and start getting hit by people that couldn’t hit you before then the strength training regimen is ill-designed and non-specific.

    Like in martial art technique, in kettlebell lifting the grip, the hips (and core), and the stance are involved in every motion. The highly ballistic nature of such exercises as swings, cleans, snatches and jerks very closely mimic the type of explosive full-body integration involved in executing effective strikes, kicks, and throws.

    Specificity - How To Integrate Kettlebells Into A Martial Arts Program

    The concept of training specificity ties in very closely with the concept of training efficiency; you won’t have one without the other. With a strength training program that is specific to enhancing martial skills, we also develop efficiency. All martial art styles pursue an economy of motion. The prevailing quality in the movement of gifted martial artists is efficiency. This is irrespective of the style and is independent of the speed of execution. Efficient movement will remain efficient whether practiced at full speed or in slow motion. Efficiency relates to using only the energy necessary to achieve the result, nothing more. It also relates to spending only the time necessary to achieve the objective, no more. In a martial analogy, this means not using 1000 pounds of force, when 4 ounces will do. If you can unbalance the opponent with only slight movement, it is more efficient than using every last bit of energy to send him off balance. When cultivating martial skill, most of one’s time should be spent on mastering the particular techniques of one’s style, not on cross-training. The strength training protocol selected should be one that allows for specific strength gains without demanding too much time away from the martial skill practice. This means relatively short, intense workouts that allow the body to remain fresh for skill practice. The specific time guidelines are relative to the experience and physical attributes of the trainee, but as a rule of thumb, the strength training curriculum should not exceed 30% of the martial artist’s total training. In other words, to be efficient with his use of time, the martial artist should spend at least 70% of the total practice time on the martial art skill training and not on lifting weights.

    To develop an efficient strength training regime, kettlebells are the ideal choice because the types of movements are similar in nature to many of the basic martial art techniques. This contributes to the economy of motion—you are not being asked to learn radically different motor patterns. Take the 2 Kettlebell “rack position’, in which 2 kettlebells are resting on your arms and body. This position is attained by taking a kettlebell in each hand and cleaning them to the top position. The kettlebells stay in the top position for a period of time. This 2 kettlebell rack position is mechanically very similar to a basic guard position, as in boxing. In a fighting stance, there of course will not be kettlebells in your hands, and one or both hands may be extended slightly in front of the body, with one foot forward. The action of the body, however, is virtually identical: the lats are “full”, in a very strong compressed position, the shoulders are relaxed and sunken, the chest is hollow and the back is rounded, the knees have a gentle bend (springy), and the tailbone is tucked slightly under. Try this: take a fighting stance of your liking and bring the hands up in a guard position. Notice how it feels in the back/lat, abdominals and ribcage. It should feel very full, alive, and powerful, like a tiger ready to pounce. Now do the 2 kettlebell clean and hold them in the rack position. The same sensation of fullness in the torso should be present.

    The similarities in mechanics required for the martial technique and the kettlebell technique make the 2 kettlebell clean/rack a highly efficient choice of exercise, due to its specificity. Because you do not have to alter the body mechanics for the two movements, there is no wasted time in your strength practice. There are numerous other examples of kettlebell drills that have a high degree of specificity, and are mechanically efficient for martial artists.

    Some of the most significant characteristics of a well-rounded martial artist are strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency. These 4 attributes need to be addressed when supplementing martial arts practice with weight training. Kettlebells are the tool of choice for accomplishing these objectives, and when properly integrated will increase the speed, power, endurance and movement skill of the martial artist.

    Since this article was written several years ago, Atomic Athletic has greatly expanded its offerings of strength training equipment for martial artists. Check out the following products:

     

    Tai Chi Ball Tai Chi balls have quickly become an Atomic Athletic best seller for martial artists

    Tai Chi Balls - this has rocketed to the top of the Atomic Athletic top sellers list. These are handcrafted by master woodworkers and made in the USA.

    Stone Balls are perinial favorite among martial artists.

    The Tendon and Ligament DVD is our most popular instructional video.

     Iron boots are much like the Tetsu Geta

    Kettlebell Handles are a great way to get a work out in a small space because they are so versitile.

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