Xen-Do London Sensei Stefano Ispani (Left) displays the Spanish Tournament Trophy

I’ve often wondered what the type of training is involved when you get ready for a competition. Do you work flat out for the full 6 weeks? Is 6 weeks really sufficient time to get from a very “ok” standard to competition fit? What type of training would be involved and would the real life 37 year “Kung foo Panda” carrying a few too many love handles really be able to withstand a few rounds in the ring? All these questions and many more swirled around my head and for the next 6 weeks this is all I thought about every moment of my day and every nightmare when I slept.

The first thing to say is how remarkable the human body & mind is when we really focus our minds on achieving a goal. The first couple of weeks of training with the team was very intense and was mainly focused on pure cardio with bouts of heavy sparring thrown in too. After the first week I didn’t think my body was able to take the intensity of work I was subjecting it to; beautiful deep purple bruises began to appear with increasing alacrity on my body. I would start the training sessions feeling sore and already tired but somehow after a brief warm up and stretch it seemed to accept the punishment that was about to follow and the aches would then disappear.

After the end of the second week of training I seriously had doubts in my own ability to continue as how tired I was beginning to feel. I had also dramatically altered my diet cutting out all sugars, carbs in the evening and any fried food. All I seemed to consume for breakfast was porridge and then grilled protein with salad or vegetables for lunch & dinner. The weight began dropping immediately but it’s the nearest to “cold turkey” that I had ever experienced.

Whenever I went to whinge to Sensei Raf either about my aches and pains of my lack of ability to compete successfully he would respond with two simple sentences, for a bout of doubt it was “Just turn up” or for a whinge a simple “I don’t care”. Such was the frequency of my complaints that after a short while he would simply hold up three fingers on each hand representing either sentence. Often we would have a virtual conversation with me complaining and him simply alternating a three finger response with either hand. From a distance I’m sure it looked like we were practising sign.

I often wondered if during weeks 4 & 5 when we really focused on the technical aspects of sparring if we were to shown some real special moves that had been kept in a secret cupboard but in truth we simply focused on our basics and perfecting them. “Get the basics right and the rest will follow” was Sensei Raf’s mantra and sure enough it was the simple beauty of fine tuning these basic moves that lead I believe to the confidence of all us competing really picking up.

It began very slowly to show through in the quality of all our sparring that by perfecting our basic techniques how much better we got. The pain, aches, sores, doubts of frustration were still there but somehow they began to subdue as when sparring I noticed that I was that fraction better, slightly faster and able to complete 7 rounds without immediately gagging for an oxygen mask at the end of the sparring. These almost imperceptible improvements gave my confidence levels an enormous boost.

By the time we got to week 6 the intensity our training subdued as we had all reached a fantastic state of physical fitness and our sparring techniques were as sharp as ever. Looking back, I had often thought of Sensei Raf as our equivalent of Sgt Emil Foley in the film “An Officer and a Gentleman” (“You ain’t good enough to be a Kick boxer” – “Yes, I am!”). There were times when he goaded us to try harder, practice a technique for the umpteenth occasion when we were all tired and adopt a seemingly completely uncompromising attitude in getting a particular technique completely right – all of this seemed too severe but reflecting back, breaking through this pain barrier was in the end was more a mental than physical challenge. It was this philosophy of uncompromising perfection of the fundamentals that gave us the “warrior” mentality we (especially me) all needed.

Follow Stefano in Chapter three as he takes part in the tournament and ‘finally gets the tapas‘!

Watch Dai Master Raf’s inspirational new video ‘fit for life‘ and feel the spirit of the dojo.

If you are thinking of taking up Kickboxing or Martial Arts then why not attend a free trial experience at one of Xen-Do’s four London Clubs? Choosing a Martial Arts Club is one of the most important decisions you will make so if like John you are unsure then Xen-Do’s World Class Senseis will take the time to explain our curriculum and answer your questions.

This article is based on opinion:
– the author is not a qualified doctor or anyone who can dispense medical advice.
– any opinions stated are just that and people should consult a doctor before making any dietary changes or changes of any nature prompted by the articles published by or on behalf of Xen-Do.
– under 16’s please obtain parental permission before posting anything online.
– any opinions stated are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of Xen-Do.

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