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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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A new program combining physical fitness and martial arts promises a more vibrant body and mind

A new martial art training approach may spell physical and mental well-being for the practitioner. It may also add years to one's life. Based on a popular and well-documented program of aerobics, karateka Brian Adams, a pioneer student of Ed Parker, researched and produced the program, "martial art aerobics," which may deliver new physical/mental "highs" for the beginning or seasoned martial artist.


Basically, aerobics is a dynamic method of physical conditioning. It came to popularity with the publication of Aerobics, by Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D. (Bantam Books with M. Evans Eo., 1968). In this book, Cooper told thousands of individuals who participated in his experiments to make aerobics a scientifically sound health program.

Cooper's theory is based on the principle that the heart supplies oxygen to all vital organs of the body. Oxygen, of course, is the life of the body and its importance was not lost on the ancients. Breathing, for example, looms prominent in the martial arts' ki energy and is vital to the disciplines of yoga. The body obviously depends on oxygen and it is the responsibility of the heart to get it to dependents. But the heart, the muscle which pumps the oxygen throughout the body via the blood stream, can weaken as any other muscle through atrophy.

What most people do not understand is just how deep and complete their need for oxygen is and what can happen when this fact is ignored. Slowly, the oxygen-starved body degenerates. And the person who does not exercise may not even realize the body is deteriorating. In his book, Dr. Cooper explains it this way:

"The lungs become inefficient, the heart grows weaker, the blood vessels less pliable, the muscles lose tone and the body generally weakens throughout, leaving it vulnerable to a whole catalog of illness and disease. Your whole system for delivering oxygen almost literally shrivels up."

The effect of inactivity becomes more obvious. Each year, for example, with the first heavy snowfall of winter, the number of heart attack victims rises. People who have been in the best of health cannot cope with the extra stress of shoveling snow from their sidewalks.

The problem stems from the inability of the body to store oxygen, too. When the body calls for the extra oxygen, as in the case of shoveling snow, the heart overworks to produce it and collapses as a response. The physically conditioned heart (and by way of that, the physically conditioned body) responds with ease. This is where the aerobics program comes in.

Aerobics, basically, develops endurance. Exercise programs, performed for a basic amount of time at least three times a week, provide extra muscular (heart) development so that when the call for more oxygen comes, the body can respond without extra stress that causes heart attacks.

Through the use of scientific measurements, Dr. Cooper worked out an extensive program for developing the physical fitness (cardiovascular fitness) necessary to stand these extra stress periods. In addition, he found that people who practiced aerobic exercises, tended to feel, look and act better than ever before. Laboratory testing of their body functions pointed to the fact that they were indeed healthier than they had been before they participated in the program.

Results showed that the lungs became more efficient, enabling a person to do more exhausting work with less fatigue. The heart grew stronger. The blood vessels, which naturally deteriorate with age, increased in size and number. Muscle tone improved and weak, flabby tissue became strong and firm. Fat weight turned to lean weight, and while the body looked slimmer, it was actually a transference from fat to muscle that resulted in the slimmer appearance.

A byproduct of the experiments showed participants were able to relax better, develop a better self-image and become better able to cope with the stress of daily life. And with slight alteration in the intake of food, weight-loss resulted.

For a long time martial artists have maintained that practicing martial art can produce the results that Cooper discovered through years of experimentation. However, when Cooper detailed the most efficient methods of exercise to provide this cardiovascular fitness (which can be translated as over-all fitness), martial art never was mentioned. He stated that the best exercises are running, swimming, cycling, walking, stationary running, handball, basketball, squash and just about in that order.

Cooper cannot be blamed for excluding martial arts from his list. He chose the exercises which could be measured, the ones which already had some verifiable evidence or worth. But a look at the guidelines for exercising the aerobics way shows that martial art can be measured to produce evidence of worth therefore becoming a viable aerobics exercise program also.




Guidelines for exercising the aerobics way are specific. To begin with, individuals must get the approval of a physician before beginning. Second, they must determine at what level of activity their heart is working at its most proficient rate. Cooper's system for this determination is based on "points" accumulated by individual exercises. These points stem from his experiments and do not include the martial arts. Therefore, the martial artist must set up his own determinants.

In a pamphlet titled "Beyond Diet...Exercise Your Way to Fitness and Heart Health," compiled by Dr. Lenore R. Zohman, a method for determining the effectiveness of exercise for individuals becomes simplified:
"There is an amount of exercise which is enough to condition the muscles and cardiovascular system leading to physical fitness.... There is a target zone in which there is enough activity to achieve fitness, but not too much to exceed sage limits. The name of the game is finding your target zone."

Simply, the target zone is that area of exercise in which the heart is beating at an adequate level to provide aerobic conditioning for the entire body. It works like this: Normally, the heart beats a certain number of times per minute, according to the individual. (Normal heart rate depends on a number of factors including age, current fitness level, heredity, level of activity.) But the heart is capable of beating much faster and this is what you want it to do. There is a "best rate" to seek, one that is not too much and not too little. That rate, Dr. Zohman calls the target zone.

You do not want to work so much that your heart beats as fast as it can. What you seek is the target zone of about 60 to 80 percent of maximum. As stated, the best way to discover maximum level of heartbeat is through physical examination. However, there is a formula for obtaining a figure close to maximum.

Taking the number 220 (as the highest possible heartbeats per minute) and subtracting your age, should give you your own maximum heart rate. Roughly speaking then, a 35-year-old individual will have a maximum heart rate of about 185. Then to determine the target zone, take between 60 and 80 percent of that number. During heavy exercise, that same 35-year-old should make his heart beat between 125 and 150 times a minute to be exercising effectively. (220 minus 35 equals 185. 60 to 80 percent of 185 equals 125 and 150).

But knowing the target zone is just getting over the first hurdle. The individual must remain in that zone at least 20 minutes for any amount of endurance to result.

Brian Adams, a San Diego, California, martial art school owner, studied kenpo martial art first, branched into studying other martial arts (samurai sword, kung fu, kenpo, tai karate, escrima, boxing and aikido) and then into yoga and weight lifting. When he discovered that the University of California at San Diego was offering a course in physical fitness through aerobics, he decided to see if he could use any of their methods in his martial arts studio.

What he found pleased him.

At the University, Dr. Frank Vitale had duplicated some of Dr. Kenneth Cooper's experimentation and carried it a bit further to include more exercises. Adams discovered that Vitale's experiments showed a combined judo/martial art workout for the required amount of time in the target zone was a more efficient cardiovascular exercise (and calories expended) than tennis, gymnastics, football and jogging (at four miles per hour).

From there, Adams studied Vitale's work (published by the department of physical education, the book is titled Individualized Fitness Programs). He studied Cooper's book, then instituted his own martial art aerobics program.
"The first thing we do," Adams said, "is warm up slowly." In keeping with Dr. Cooper, Vitale and Zohman, Adams' classes spend the first 30 minutes warming up.

"We use yoga for a brief warm up," he said, "because it helps stretch and bend." Basic yoga exercises in this phase of the class include a salute to the sun, shoulder stand, pushing head to knees (or two-man stretching), the spinal twist and many more.

"Next," he continued, "we break into the heavier warm up, which includes two one-minute rounds of rope skipping." After each one-minute round, Adams uses a stop watch wile each student checks his pulse to determine if he is nearing or in the target zone.

Counting the pulse is an important part of aerobics. It ascertains that the heart is working at the proper result levels. It is the best way for the individual to determine how fast his heart is beating and how much more or less it should be beating. (Note: Check the pulse for a 10-second period only. Any longer and the heart pumps slower. Take the number of beats in that 10-second count and multiply by six. This gives you the exact number of beats per minute.)
The third step is where martial art comes in.

"There are four groups working out all at once, in four corners of the studio," Adams said. "In one section, two people work out with hand combinations on the bag; two people work out in another corner with kicking combinations; two people work together in a block/attack situation in the third corner, and in the fourth corner, two people work on sparring with a belt tied between them."
Once they complete their time limit in the corner, the individuals move until they have completed workouts in all corners.

"When they start on the second time around," Adams continued, "they have another round of martial art exercises. Back in corner one, they work on elbow combinations; in corner two they work on hand and foot combinations; in corner three they work on fighting from the ground; in corner four, it's flag grabbing (block/avoid). This continues for 10 two-minute rounds with a 30-second rest between each two-minute round."

After each set of exercises, there is the mandatory 10-second pulse check. Those working above the target zone must slow down. Those not quite reaching the target zone must pick up the pace.

Following the circuit training, as Adams called it, comes a warm-down period. Just as the individual must not embark on vigorous exercises without first warming up, he must not stop suddenly. Adams' warm-down program consists of half-speed sparring, wrestling, hand tying, sparring techniques and some martial art basics or self-defense routines. There are also finishing-off exercises which consist of sit-ups, leg raises, pushups or balance exercises. To finish off the workout he uses a yoga technique (final relaxation) to calm down, so that everyone will leave feeling refreshed.

As witnessed by participants in the program, the various exercises developed by Adams in his martial art aerobics program contribute to cardiovascular fitness which in turn improves the chances of longer life span. But the program also combines rudimentary martial arts lessons that contribute to knowledge of self-defense. As each person progresses in the class with martial art/kung fu lessons, his expertise grows. Either way, the person who works out with Brian Adams is definitely a physically fit martial artist.





First and foremost, practical, controlled exercise, be it running, swimming or martial arts, does provide endurance. More red blood cells are produced and more oxygen goes through the system. But the exercise also retards weight gain and helps redistribute fat muscle into toned muscle.

The reality behind weight-loss, however, is calorie intake and output. It takes 3,500 calories to make up a pound of body weight. Practical exercises in the target zone can reduce weight or maintain weight, depending on the individual's need.

Adams was quick to join other experts in the field and say that exercise alone will not account for weight-loss---only toning through redistribution. The only practical approach to weight-loss is proper exercise (aerobics) in combination with proper diet.

In his introduction lessons, Adams says those interested in losing weight must follow certain rule, including elimination of "food" that does not help the body. These include white flower products, sugar, salt and so on. (One important thing that Adams discovered, as did Cooper: as the individual progresses in the fitness program, the "need" for junk food decreases. For example, Cooper wrote, "A lot of food is no longer important once you get into a conditioning program and, what is important, you develop a taste for the right kinds of foods.")

Getting back to the 3,500 calories it takes to put on a pound, one must remember that a good aerobic exercise program (which would have to be expanded time-wise) works off only between 500 to 600 calories. That's why it is so much easier to put weight on than to get rid of it.

"For the purpose of weight-loss," Adams said, "it would be more advantageous to extend the duration of exercise rather than increase the intensity and combine that with a sensible program of eating."

In effect, the more time you spend exercising sensibly, the more likely you are to expend calories. Eventually, too, you lose the desire for fat-producing foods.



The Brian Adams martial art program is no quick path to self-defense skills. He admits that when involved in the aerobics program, martial arts student progress at a slower rate than the person who studies only for self-defense.

"The important thing," he said, "is that these people are learning a lot more than self-defense. But self-defense is not being neglected. Neither is martial art skill. Every thing is put into perspective with other life needs and wants."

There is more to martial art than self-defense, too. As claimed, it does help the body endure more. It does help standardize, even lose weight. It helps eliminate stress by providing an active outlet for aggression, control of high blood pressure, elimination of first stage ulcers (stomach). It also improves self-esteem (self-image) and so on. What was once hearsay passed on for years by sensei and sifu alike has been proved by Brian Adams, based on his aerobics research.

"It is generally agreed that the normal heart cannot be injured through exercise." Adams said, "that exercise strengthens the heart and that it is even prescribed following heart attacks. The skeletal muscles fatigue before a healthy heart. And a healthy heart paves the way of a completely healthy body. What I have done is show people how to achieve all this through martial art, through research and verification.

"And while I am doing this," he said with emphasis. "I am also teaching martial art and self-defense. The beginner can still learn to punch, kick, and block skillfully.





At the age of 18, Brian Adams, a psychology student at Pasadena City College, discovered kenpo martial art. He went through the belt system of kenpo under the instruction of BLACK BELT Hall of Famer Ed Parker.

As part of the final requirements for black belt, Parker insisted that each student write a paper on some aspect of martial art. Adams chose the subject of martial art blows and what they can and can't do to the human body. Later, he expanded his research and put it into a book, The Medical Implications of martial art Blows (A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranbury, New Jersey).

Then Adams embarked on further martial arts study. He learned tai martial art (jujitsu) from David German; traditional white tiger kung fu weapons from Wai Fong Doo; aikido from John Damen; rajneesh philosophy and hatha yoga from Swami Satya Pujari; samurai sword from Bob Hastey and corrective body building for body injuries; with emphasis on weight lifting, from Roger Knoblock. He also studied Bruce Lee's techniques and philosophies with Danny Inosanto at the original Chinatown school in Los Angeles. Presently he studies escrima with Richard Bastillo and Danny Inosanto.

Adams opened a martial arts studio in 1964 in San Diego. It was complete with showers, sauna, weight and workout equipment and 3,000 square feet of floor space. But because of the time involved in the management of a large operation, Adams was unable to use his talents in the creative pursuits of the many peacetime benefits of martial arts training. As a result, in 1975, he gave up that studio and moved to smaller, less demanding quarters.

His present school is spacious, well-lit and comfortable in appearance. The entire floor is a double thickness of padding under plush carpeting.
"It's a good solid base for all types of martial arts training," he said, "and it does well for yoga practice too." It is a basic studio without frills.

The main emphasis of a Brian Adams class is what he calls "peacetime martial arts." This involves fun while learning, relieving tension through exercise of the mind and body, weight-loss, physical fitness and self-defense. A favorite segment of a regular lesson is the half-speed exercises which stress the yin/yang principle.

"Here," Adams said, "there is no winner, no loser. You can be relaxed and creative and two people can experiment and help each other. It helps in acceptance, and acceptance is transcendence---a Rajneesh philosophy of life."

In Adams' studio, the goal is a healthy mind and a healthy body.

"Each individual," said the soft-spoken Adams, "comes in and has a tailor-made program, which includes aerobics, from each type of martial art." A great deal of emphasis is put on the peacetime usefulness of the "arts."

Besides running the studio with his partner Russell Maynard, he also teaches the restraining and handling of institutionalized patients to the staff of Vista Hill Mental Hospital, Chula Vista, California: stage combat at the International University, San Diego.

Together with all this he has packaged a dojo seminar program. Like his other training programs, it is tailor-made for the particular group. Seminar subjects range from developing creativity, aerobics for any martial art, advanced principles of the martial arts, hatha yoga, yin yang (flow), traditional weapons and instructor's workshop in helping children to develop honesty and a high standard of self-esteem.