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Shingitai Jujitsu Association

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Vacation Training Tips by John Saylor

During my competitive years, 1967 through 1980, I rarely took vacations, and then only when I could
locate a gym nearby to weight train. When I was still in high school my Mom would say,
“John, we’re going up to Lakeside next week. Why don’t you come with us.”
“No,” I’d respond, “I can’t miss practice.”
“Can’t you do any of that up there?” she’d implore.
“No way. I’ve got tournaments starting up again this Fall.”

Looking back on it, the result of my stubborn, unwavering attitude and training program was that I
often competed with a cold or some kind of nagging injury.
Today I still don’t believe in vacations, if by “vacation” you mean a total break from training.
In the words of my good friend and world-renowned powerlifting guru, Louie Simmons,
“Vacations are for schoolgirls.”
But in recent years I’ve found ways to keep the family happy by going on vacation,
and not only to maintain my fitness, but actually improve it. And you can do the same.


During the week of July 4th, 2004 my family and I spent 5 days at our favorite vacation spot,
Lakeside, Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie.
Each day I started off with some of the following bodyweight exercises for about 30 to 45 minutes,
followed by 15 to 20 minutes of flexibility work:
Neck Bridges, Hindu Squats, 1-Leg Squats, Duck Walks, Various Jumping Exercises,
a number of Push Up variations, lots of Ab Work, and several kinds of Pull Ups .
The Pull Ups I did as a separate 15 minute workout in the nearby playground
(at night, when a hundred kids weren’t around.)

Once or twice a week I walked down to the shore to listen to the waves crashing and to gaze at
Kelley’s Island 5 miles or so across the water.
While I was at it I often did various lifts with rocks deposited there by glaciers eons ago.
Lifting awkward objects like this works stabilizer muscles you don’t usually get with standard weight training.

I also packed several different strength bands with which to do shoulder work,
solo uchikomis (fit ins of throws) against a pole,
and various pulling and twisting exercises to strengthen certain parts of my throws.
This sounds like a lot, but took no more than 1 to 1½ hours per day, which left plenty of time to do
stuff with my kids. This brings me to the most important part of this article: water training.



Water Training

Most afternoons we drove a few miles over to East Harbor, a state park with a nice sand beach.
While my kids romped around, swam, or body surfed, I waded out until the water was at about chest level
and while listening to seagulls squawk and smelling the the fresh seaweed, did 5 to 10 sets of 10 to 20
reps of Uchimata (Inner Thigh Throw) which involves a high reaping action of the leg.

This exercise also improves Osoto Gari (Major Outside Reaping Throw).
Even though the water slowed the movement down, I did these as explosively as possible.
Following Uchimata I worked on Ouchi Gari (Major Inside Reaping Throw),
Kouchi Gari (Minor Inside Reaping Throw), and Foot Sweeps.
I also worked Jab, Cross, Hook, and Upper Cuts in combination, and low Roundhouse Kicks to the thigh.
In between sets I recovered with easy swimming for 50 yards or so.

When I completed this, my next challenge was to catch and dunk my 16-year-old son, Danny,
who had been splashing me in the face and calling me a “wimp” throughout my workout.
We followed this up with some body surfing and a little sun on the beach.

I first learned about water training around 1970 while at Camp Olympus, a summer judo training
camp nestled in a valley surrounded by the mountains of West Virginia.
Camp Olympus was run by 1964 and ’65 Olympic and World middleweight medallist, Jim Bregman.
Bregman brought in many other great instructors, one of whom was Anton Geesink.
Geesink had won the gold medal in the Open Weight



Category in both the ’64 Olympics and ’65 World Judo Championship. Most days we looked forward to
learning techniques and training methods from an Olympic gold-medalist. But not all.
One miserable hot and humid day when we were all dog-tired and dreading the afternoon practice,
Geesink surprised us as he led us down to the small lake and ordered us into the water
(not that we needed to be ordered).

Gis still on, we raced into the water, splashing and dunking one another like
little kids. When Geesink got us under control again, he led us in various drills, both solo and with a
partner, followed by randori (live free-practice).
We had a good time and stayed cool, but we also got a grerat workout.

The water, you see, provided constant resistance we just couldn’t get any other way.
And along with this we had the added resistance of our water-logged gis.
It provided a different stimulus to our muscles and central nervous systems, and it accommodated itself perfectly to our speed, strength, and technique.

And as far as we were concerned, Geesink had just won another gold medal—for coming up with
just the right training method on that hot, sultry day.
Many years later while I was the judo coach of The U.S. National Judo Training Squad at the
Olympic Training Center, I came across something that brought water training back to mind.
One day while browsing through Poor Richards, a great used book store in Colorado Springs,
I came across the biography of Vasily Alexeev, the Russian World and Olympic Champion weightlifter who in 1970 was the first man to Clean and Jerk 500 lbs.


The book contained a picture of Alexeev’s head and huge traps emerging out of a river.
You see, he had taken a fairly light barbell into the river with him where he would pull it up as fast as possible.
The water provided a different training effect from standard workouts.
This unorthodox training method was something Alexeev invented himself, and it was way outside the established training protocols of the Soviet coaches.

But they had to cut him some slack because he was breaking world records
like a kid smashing sand castles on the beach.
In the past I’d also read about baseball players swinging bats and about karate guys doing kicks in the water,
so this was nothing new.

But surprisingly it hasn’t been used much by top fighters, and this is a mistake.
Water training offers some benefits that can’t be duplicated by other training methods .
From my experience with water training here are a few observations and recommendations:


1.) Water Training, at least for judo and SOMBO, works best with sweeping and reaping motions of
the legs. But it can also be used to improve your back step, and with punches and kicks.
Experiment to see what works best.

2.) Duplicate the movement pattern of your technique, or a component part of your technique, as
closely as possible.

3.) Perform all movements as explosively as you can. Unless you’re just learning a technique or are
doing rehab of some sort, slow training is a waste of time. The faster you execute your
movements, the more resistance you will get from the water. And the more resistance you get,
the stronger and faster you’ll get in that portion of your technique.

4.) Vary your rest periods to match your objectives. To work on speed-endurance, for example, take
shorter rest periods between sets, usually no more than 30 to 45 seconds. Your reps should also
be slightly higher, around 20 reps.
When working on pure speed, reduce the reps down to 10 or even fewer, and increase
the rest to about 1 minute. For maximum speed you want to be fully recovered before doing
another set.

5.) Vary the conditions under which you do water training. If you’re in a lake the conditions will
invariably change for you. The waves, for example, can be pretty high which can really work your
balance, or the lake can be still. On still days you can vary your training by doing your reaping
actions at a depth where your sweep starts in the water, then clears it and continues higher up in
the air at high speed. This is sort of the same principle as using “weight releasers” in powerlifting.
Also, try doing your techniques with your eyes closed. If you lose your balance and fall in the
water, it’s no big deal. Don’t be afraid to inject variety in your program.

6.) Water training enhances recovery from other training loads while at the same time improving
speed and strength in your technique. I’ve found that water training also helps to heal the little
dings and dents you get in normal training. There’s something healing in water, for both your
body and mind.

7.) Following a week or two of water training, resume drilling on the mat with your training partner.
This way the increased speed and strength you’ve developed will be transformed directly into
your technique in a more realistic setting.
So this summer while you’re at the lake or pool, give water training a try. You’ll improve your speed,
specific strength, and technique while still spending time with your friends or family. And you’ll have
fun doing it.
Oh, one last thing:
water training should only be used by those who know how to swim.
The benefits will be greatly reduced if you drown!


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