Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Lunch time offerings around the WAN CHAI area are starting to bore me.  A can of sardines in olive oil with one avocado and a dollop of pasta sauce does the trick.  It will cost the same as eating out but it’s healthy.  A poor man’s guacomole.  You are what you eat.

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On wheat bread.  I am a creature of habit and so long as I find it healthy I can eat it on a daily basis.  My gf thinks I’m insane.

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BJJ has taken the mix martial arts world by storm. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is gaining in popularity but it needs the Olympic governing body to sanction it for the sport to really gain recognition. Olympic status grants the sport one thing that makes BJJ out of reach for most, funding from the government making it extremely affordable. Olympic sports like Boxing, Tae Kwan Do and Judo are available to the masses whereas BJJ is only affordable with those with excess cash. It’s a different world in HK where rents drive the cost of everything through the roof.

In North America, I pay $150 USD per month for unlimited BJJ and Muay Thai. In HK, BJJ alone is over $1000 HKD per month and Muay Thai on a NA training regime would be $200 HKD per class. The economics of it don’t make sense. Another thing is the proximity to China where all the equipment is made. BJJ Gis are $150-$200 in NA but still cost roughly the same amount in HK. I would imagine the Gis should be significantly cheaper. Luckily there is Alibaba and $50 USD gets you a blank gi from Pakistan.

Blank BJJ gi

third time is the charm of Alibaba. My alibaba record is now 2:1.

I support gyms that put a big emphasis on learning.  It’s extremely tough to find instructors that have a passion to teach and pass down their knowledge.  It is not the HK way to pass out knowledge as they never want their minions to put them out of a job so you will notice they will always reserve things for their own.  I find Judo and BJJ complimentary.  The usual skill set is wrestling and BJJ which is the MMA norm.

The two main Judo stomping grounds in Hong Kong can be found in CWB and SSP’s sport centre.  If you plan to learn and train legitimate Judo in HK, seek out Judo guys that speak fluent Japanese else you may fall victim to the HK Judo racket.  These guys do not practice out of CWB and SSP but google will assist in your search.  Everyone will have a website.

Next we have BJJ, lots of legitimate schools in Hong Kong.  It’s similar to NA, first class is free so make a habit to visit and get a feel for each school.  Stay away from the schools that charge membership fees.  If you practice BJJ, you will be able to weed out the schools rather quickly.  Look for the schools with a laid-back friendly atmosphere and top instruction.  Most of the coveted instructors under report their achievements.  The HK goal is to embellish your achievements in the hopes it draws a large student population.  Black belts are good but few black belts make great instructors.  Find the gym which works for you.

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gold weave in my navy blue gi

bjj pants

rip stop bjj pants

BJJ top detailing

grey highlights

BJJ in HK needs instructors with a real emphasis on growing the sport by taking advantage of the mat space at the community centres.  On days when the judo/taekwando/karate guys don’t train, the same space can be used for rolling.  To secure a space to operate a gym is a labour a love, once you grow it to sufficient size the rent hike will force you out giving you the opportunity to start all over again.

I wrote previously about Muay Thai training in HK and for visitors to visit Hanuman in Hung Hom as they employ ex-champions.

The private gyms do a great job of attracting clients that pay a pretty penny for personalized service.  A one hr training session consists of a light warm up (skip rope or circuit), pad work and sparring.  Pad work is great when you have your own coach to fine tune your technique.  Sparring is perfect to put the technique to the test.  There are also a good number of Muay Thai gyms in Hong Kong that operate on the fringe.  As with my blog, my goal is to seek out these ventures.  I find the best instructors are generally of the variety where they no longer accept new students so I cannot pay to play and they have a loyal following among their students.  It’s very similar to food, if you charge a lot you better be good but there are also many gyms that don’t charge much with the tutelage world class.

Most gyms in HK want you to sign a contract right away.  30 days is the minimum and one year would be ideal.  To entice you, a one year membership is significantly discounted.  This doesn’t work for a host of reasons but the main point would be commitment issues.  It’s hard to burn fat and turn it into muscle.  In their mindset, too much exercise would make them too muscular.  You’re joking right?  The body doesn’t immediately eject fat stores and convert it to muscle, it’s a long arduous process that takes months if you have the right diet.

One thing you quickly come to realize while training in HK is the fact people here love to work on techniques that are quite flashy: spinning back fists, spinning back kick, the type of things you only see on TV.  Akin to the goalkeeper using the scorpion kick to save the ball and the footballer with the falling backwards over the head  kick to score the winning goal in extra time.  They love that stuff here.  I watched another amateur tournament in December and notice the refs stopping fights early.  Best decision ever for amateurs.  Live to fight another day.  No egos.  I am still waiting for the day the white-collar fights take place without shin-pads.

My favorite MT instructor, getting KO’ed (end of the 3 min mark) and resuscitated to continue the beating to eek out a win.  Gyms should really go out of their way to provide post career training for their fighters so they no longer have to ply their trade into their 40s.  If there is one thing to take away from the video is the effective use of body shots to which not a lot of people devote time to training.  Body shots sting and add up through the later rounds.  You can shake out the constant jabs to the head but body shots wear you down.  I love Hansuk.  I remember sparring with the guy to the point I can’t remember the class.  He was the only instructor willing to go bare knuckle for one round.  If I were ever to start a Muay Thai school, he would lead it.  As is typical of prize fighters, they love the glory and fight on.

I now train at Andy Muay Thai in Sai Wan’s Sun Yat Sen Sports Complex.  $400/month.  Class times for Mondays and Wednesdays from 8-10pm.  The guys that compete do so in real amateur bouts without shinpads.  Real competition.  Shin pads get in the way of real technique masking bad form while offering protection, akin to being the dummy for the police dog; it may hurt but not so much that you won’t do it again.  Andy is the head instructor at the gym.  His students love him.  He runs a nice set up and he has been doing it for over 20 years.  Class starts with a stationary warm up, 3 rounds of 3 min skip rope, 3-4 rounds of shadow boxing and technique then it’s a free for all.  It’s a great class if you know what you are doing and for the absolute beginner.  You will not receive the hand holding found at other gyms but you are also not paying $200/class.  You take away exactly what you put in.  Show up, listen and put in the time and effort.

I spent last sunday (October 12) working out in the sweltering heat.  I figure the sun shine would be a good way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.  I accomplished everything I had set out to do and gained a mild case of heat exhaustion.  I forgot to do one thing – drink water and find shelter.  HK is hot.  The current temperature in October lacks the crushing 100% humidity so it’s comfortable.  It is starting to cool down so temperature ranges in the high 20s, below the crushing 30s.  You must stay hydrated at all times.  Carry a water bottle with you and you will need to replenish fluids.  I ate a banana and grapefruit after the workout and it did not help my case, too little too late.

Cold teas are perfect for battling heat exhaustion, any liquid so long as it can quench thirst.  Beer would be better than soft drinks.

This is my workout to give yourself heat exhaustion in HK – do the workout topless to maximize vitamin D exposure.

  1. 5 sets of stair sprints – 7 flights of stairs (15 steps)
  2. single leg squats and pushups while walking down the stairs
  3. plank and flying squirrels at the end of the workout
  4. walk/run 4km to cool down (this is where I get heat exhaustion)

Zero hydration for 3 hours.  In the future, any time you are outside in HK you will need a bottle of water or tea to replenish the fluids lost through sweating.  Once you get heat exhaustion it’s too late, your body will feel cold even while it’s hot outside.  This is your body’s ability to regulate temperature being out of order.

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Free Foot Massage – eggpacks on the floor

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parallel bars. pull up bar in the background

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jungle gym. Be creative, be brave.

Hydration is key.  Tea is perfect replacement for water.

I love Hong Kong’s weather. The 100% humidity factor makes my outdoor workouts gut wrenching. HK has an abundance of parks with playground and workout attachments for a proper body weight workout. The park by my apartment has the foot massage attachment to induce proper circulation post workout and speed recovery.  It’s October and the weather is starting to cool.

My workout schedule involves Muay Thai on Mondays and Wednesdays, hiking on Saturdays and strength training on Fridays and Sundays.  For strength training I stick to playground exercises using solely body weight as resistance, circuits mimicking animal movements, skip rope, burpees, pistol squats and pullups.  To utilize the outdoors will involve more planning than going to the gym.  Morning workouts are great to jump start the metabolism and kick off the day.  Night workouts take advantage of the cooler air as mornings are hot.  The only negative of night workouts is the inability to sleep as the adrenaline takes time to wear off.  I find mornings the best and the 1 hr before sundown the most ideal.

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found a real muay thai gym where the athletes compete in tournaments without shin guards and head gear.

The act of walking around outside is a lesson in perspiration.  My shirt is constantly in a state of wet.  White dress shirts become see through and most people smell like musty funk – sweat mixed with wet clothes.  The weather conditions during the summer is not conducive to looking put together.  It’s impossible to acclimatize, if you are indoors the aircon will freeze you, if you step outside the weather will cause you to sweat.  Your body is in a constant state of flux.  HK is quite small and you will find most things in close proximity to each other.  You can walk to more destinations with relative ease.

HK has designated playgrounds and workout areas for one to take advantage of the fresh China air.  The bare minimum to allow your creativity in designing workouts to shine.  Stairs are everywhere.  It can be as simple as walking up the stairs rather than taking the elevator.  I had a membership at California Fitness and hated the place – they sold me on the fact they had a wide range of kettlebells and the heaviest weight was 5kg, steamrooms and saunas are a mess and gets too crowded.  I also did not like the air conditioned environment and lack of real gym equipment.  If you have never worked out at the gym in Asia, go on a tour through the locker rooms.  You’ll see things never thought possible.  Hair dryers replacing gold bond.  The machines are nice and great on the eyes but at the end of the day I only need an open area and a pull up bar to do everything.

Once you embrace the weather and enjoy the outdoors, you will love bodyweight exercises – returning your body to its ability to use the full range of motion, mobility and functional strength.  If I have a lazy sunday afternoon (you’re going to need 1.5 hrs of spare time), this workout always shocks my system:

  1. 3 rounds of 3 min skip rope as warm up.
  2. Burpees (set 1: 10 reps, 5, 2; set 2: 10, 5, 3; set 3: 10, 5, 4 and set 4: 10, 5, 5)
  3. inbetween each set of burpees alternate between pullups and chinups for set 1, animal circuits (spidermans, duckwalks, frog jumps, bear walks etc) for set 2, 3 and 4
  4. warm down with sun salutations (5 sets holding 30 sec each pose)

If your shirt is not drenched  by the end of the workout, I’ll take you out for beers.

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you should look like this after a workout, barely able to keep your eyes open and requiring a massage.

In my pre-HK life I spent many hours in the gym.  My desire to learn war arts started in 2003 with a healthy mix of russian sambo, jeet kune do and philippino arnis.  I loved training bladed arts but soon realize the devastating aspects of it also prevented me from using it unless I go out late at night to pick fights.  In 2008 I started to train bjj and kickboxing, it’s easier on the body and there’s always ample training partners.  Since moving to HK in 2013, I have been training exclusively at Hanuman Muay Thai in Hung Hom.  They hire ex-Thai champions to run the classes and if you attend the early classes between 3-5pm, it’s practically a private lesson.

Muay Thai/kickboxing seems to have blown up in recent years.  It’s a great way to stay in shape and beats the monotony of lifting weights and cardio at fitness centres.  The trick is to find gyms where you see a halo effect on the trainers.  Some of the trainers are great fighters but bad teachers, others are awesome teachers but terrible fighters, it’s hard to find trainers which are great fighters and great at passing their knowledge.  The guys at Hanuman in HK have done a great job in finding trainers which encompass both aspects.  If great fighters were automatically great trainers, the world would be awash in ex-pro athletes and their second careers training the next generation.

“A-Mo” in his past life was the Lumpinee champion, his fight name is Hansuk.  You can find his fight videos on youtube but people only seem to post the videos where he is the recipient of devastating knock-outs.  Brutal KO.  You can find A-Mo/Hansuk at Hanuman – http://www.hanuman.com.hk/

Hanuman has a large space in the industrial areas of Hung Hom.  They do a great job of finding the best trainers in Thailand to teach at their gym in Hong Kong.  They have yet to update their website with the newest crop of trainers but Hansuk is still there.  Saner was the fight choreographer for Tony Jaa movies and a monster if you decide to go hard during sparring.  Tam can now be found at Warrior Muay Thai in North Point and Tik is running the show at X-Battle in Quarry Bay.  The best part about training Muay Thai in HK is the instructors are still pro-fighters.  They enter local HK competitions as prize fighters and destroy the competition.

I don’t care how many fights you have in you.  It’s still nothing compared to a Thai fighter.  Hansuk is fighting Brandon who is half his age and he’s dancing around toying with him.  The HK gyms do a good job of organizing inter-club tournaments where their students get to step inside the ring with other students.  White collar boxing has been quite the rage the last few years with office workers doing intensive 3 months stints at boxing gyms with the end goal of going against another office monkey.  A rough determination is made by gyms to pair up their fighters and a fight card is released.  Participants should not step into the ring unless they have years of experience perfecting their craft.    At the last inter-club fight, I saw a fighter with 3-4 months of training (at most – zero technique, telegraph punches, no leg checks and zero defence) step inside the ring with a well versed amateur fighter.  The guy was able to survive the onslaught for round 1 and in round 2, he was knocked out in front of his pregnant wife.  A clean KO, never seen a fight lose consciousness and go straight to sleep, live nonetheless.  Not a lasting impression you want to leave behind.

HK is ideal as the gyms pre-screen the trainers.  You get to have ex-champions teaching you the ropes.  If you venture off to Thailand, it’s intimidating as most of the trainers and people training there are gearing up for amateur/pro fights.  You will be fodder and fed to sharks as sparring partners.  In HK, the exact opposite takes place.  The trainers are there to help you, if you plan to compete, they can prepare you for it.  The best part is watching the instructors perform the technique.  There’s no way I can do it with their quickness and power, not even with endless funding will I ever be able to attain their level of the art.  I’ve seen gym participants go at it without shin guards with everyone cheering them on.  I would much rather see one of the participants go without shin guards with any one of the instructors, that would make it admirable and worthwhile accomplishment.

I never understand the idea of beginners wanting to test themselves.  Leave the ego at the door.  It makes the learning process easier and more fun.  Everyone at the gym was a beginner at some point.  Don’t tell yourself to get in shape then join a gym.  You join the gym to get in shape.  Everyone is there for the same goal.

Most boxing gyms have a first class free as trial offer.  Best bet is to look for instructors which can tailor a plan that works for you.  A tall fighter will have a different game than a shorter fighter.  South paws vs. regulars.  Boxing is easier to learn but harder to master.  Footwork is key.  Muay Thai has so many variations, it puts all the students on a level playing field.  I have since left Hung Hom so now it’s time to find a gym that is equal to Hanuman but on the HK Island side.  I need big space, thai instructors and zero ego.