Let’s be honest, as combat sports athletes we define ourselves by the preparation and execution of our physical performance. We put our bodies and mind through hell to contest for supremacy in skill, determination, and heart. We are constantly in search of ways to improve our performance and recovery in order to obtain a competitive advantage.
Combat Sports and Qigong
There is no doubt that traditional martial arts, calisthenics, and strength and conditioning training are a need for any combat sports athlete. However, without good health, we cannot endure the strict demand of a fight camp. So without longevity, the passionate pursuit of our sport cannot be sustained. This is where the “subtle” art of Qigong can prove to be highly beneficial for injury prevention, recovery, mental prowess, and ultimately longevity. Rather than focusing on only strictly cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and conditioning, Qigong takes on a more comprehensive approach. It helps improve mental focus and strong immunity. Additionally, it improves joint mobility and strengthens tendons and ligaments all while activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Now, let’s break things down
Since Qigong offers a vast collection of health benefits in different areas, let’s concentrate on these 3 specific categories that combat sports athletes can relate with.
Injury Prevention and Recovery
Competitive or not, injury and illness can present as significant setbacks for any athlete or active person. Not only does it affect your training and/or competition schedule, but it can also take a significant toll on both the body and the mind. Integration of a Qigong helps greatly with injury prevention as the practice primes the body for better adaptation to physical and mental stressors. This largely reduces the athletes’ recovery time, allowing them to heal and return to optimal conditions for training.
Practice: Tiger Climbs the Mountaintop Qigong
This is an effective Qigong exercise that can help prevent and recover injuries in the shoulder complex. One of the most common sites of injury especially in striking and grappling arts.
This Qigong form primarily focuses on the upper body and involves large circular motions of the upper extremities. The rotation movement promotes mobility of the arms, glenohumeral joint, and shoulder complex. This is done by engaging key muscle groups such as scapular elevators, protectors and retractors; deltoids; rotator cuff muscles. Simultaneously, the body’s myofascial network is actively stretched, resulting in a progressive increase in the functional range of motion of the joints. This dynamic activation of the musculoskeletal and myofascial systems effectively aids the prevention of common over-use and overhead injuries. Like rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingements, and potential dislocations.
Longevity, Qigong, and Combat Sports
We can all agree that any form of physical activity is useful for health and longevity compared to being still, right? However, this does not signify that all physical activities have the same benefits and effects. Both professional and amateur combat sports athletes are aware of the risks that can shorten the sports we are in. Injuries, whether internal (organs) or external (joints) can affect the training. The force of stress during fight cramps and the endless battles within our immune systems can end our careers. Just as cars require maintenance, our bodies require tune-ups too. Qigong is an effective method to help manage, control, and even reverse some of these risks.
Practice: Bear Catches Fish Qigong
Focusing on stress and anxiety, this Qigong provides a well-needed “tune-up” to reduce and release these negative emotions. Making use of the deep lunges encourages balance -thus Body-mind coordination. The form Bear Catches Fish Qigong is good for boosting strength and building a strong body foundation. So when the body twists and squeezes the spleen (storage for worry) and liver (storage for anger) this churn the Qi (Energy) inside creating emotional balance.
It’s no secret that the key to success in any combat sport lies deep within our psyches – adamant mental readiness that leads to better performance in Combat Sports or any other activities.
Former UFC Middleweight Champion, Rich Franklin once said, “training for a fight is about 90% physical and 10% mental, yet when you enter the octagon it becomes about 90% mental and 10% physical because all of the physical preparation is done.” Undoubtedly, mental focus, clarity, and courage are skills that can be developed and improved through regular Qigong practice.
Practice: Qigong Breathing
By focusing on breath and stillness, athletes can reach a state of clarity and focus that mentally prepares them for any challenge whether in fight camp or in the ring. Here is a simple 3-part breathing series that can easily be integrated into any training regime.
Qigong Breathing Techniques used in Combat Sports
Cleansing Breath – Inhale (maximum) from the nose, exhale from the mouth. Make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. (2 -3mins)
Balloon Filling Breath – Inhale and exhale from the nose only. As you inhale fill the belly, then the mid-belly, and finally the chest. As you exhale, focus on your palms. Make your inhalation longer than your exhalation. (2 -3mins)
Fire Holding Breath – Continue the same breath pattern as Balloon Filling Breath. In addition, hold the inhalation until you feel a slight discomfort while simultaneously focusing on your lower Dan Tien (2 inches below the navel) and middle Dan Tein (Heart, middle of chest). Finally, as you exhale, focus on your palms. (2 -3mins)
Injury prevention, recovery, longevity, and mental prowess are all basic parts that can assist all combat sports athletes in achieving a competitive advantage. So, when presented with an opportunity to train harder, recover faster, and compete longer, why not add Qigong to your training regimen, especially in Combat Sports?
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