Martial Arts, like most other sports, offers several physical and mental benefits. But to maintain these benefits, it’s crucial to practice regularly. Irregular practices can not only lead to the reversal of these benefits but also lead to unintended consequences. This article will discuss the advantages of continuous martial arts training and also, the disadvantages of discontinuous martial arts training.
Advantages of Continuous Martial Arts Training
Improved Strength and Power
Improved strength and power are some of the obvious benefits of continuous martial arts practices. Regular training can exert the body, which is essential for muscle growth. Muscles consist of two types of muscle fibres; Slow twitch muscle fibres (Type I) and fast-twitch muscle fibres (Type IIx). Fast-twitch muscle fibres can produce massive amounts of ‘explosive' force in a very short period, but lack endurance: therefore isn’t suitable for martial arts. Whereas slow-twitch muscle fibres can only produce a considerably small amount of force but over an extended time. With regular training, the type IIx muscle fibres are converted to the more useful, longer-lasting Type IIa muscle fibres. Type IIa muscle fibres can produce ‘explosive’ force over a considerable time and are therefore perfect for martial arts. But, during a period of inactivity, they are converted back to type IIx.Therefore, regular practices are essential to maintain Type IIa muscle fibres
Developing Muscle Memory
Continuous training is also essential in developing muscle memory. Muscle Memory consists of 2 types; Neural muscle Memory and Cellular Muscle Memory.
Neural muscle memory is the memory of certain muscle movement which is controlled via neurons. Neural muscle memory is developed when a certain action is learned and repeated over time. This allows certain movements to be executed with less ‘hesitation'. This allows complex motor skills, faster reactions and movement of the body in 3D space with speed and accuracy. Once the brain forms a specific neural pathway and encodes all the associated memories, they persist for a long time even if the action is not executed for a long time. Unfortunately, over time the capabilities will become a bit ‘rusty' as the neural pathways become weakened from disuse.
Cellular muscle memory is the ‘memory’ of muscle fibres of its previous mass/size; this helps in quickly regaining lost muscle mass within a short time period. Muscle hypertrophy (growth and increase of the size of muscle cells) can be ‘remembered' by muscle fibres. Therefore, muscle fibres that have been large at a certain time, and then lost mass can regain mass much faster than naive muscle fibres. When subjected to a hypertrophic growth stimulant, recruit myonuclei from activated satellite cells (muscle stem cells). And, when subsequently subjected to atrophy (muscle regeneration), a great number of myonuclei is retained. Muscle fibres that have retained a greater number of myonuclei grow faster when subjected to exercise overload. The retained myonuclei essentially act as a 'memory' of the previous levels of strength and mass. Since myonuclei are stable for at least 15 years or even become permanent, cellular muscle memory can last for a very long time.
Top-notch flexibility is essential in executing certain martial arts moves or techniques flawlessly. And, regular practices are essential in maintaining adequate flexibility. Neglecting flexibility improving exercises can lead to loss of flexibility; this consequently, leads to the inability to execute certain moves, such as the sidekick, properly and can also lead to muscle/tendon damage.
Disadvantages of Discontinuous Martial Arts Training
Taking long breaks or irregular practices/training can lead to the detraining effect. The detraining effect is the partial or complete reversal of all the benefits you have acquired through training and practices. The magnitude of reversal is dependant on the individual and prior training history. For most people, noticeable changes in fitness levels occur within 4 weeks.
During breaks shorter than 4 weeks, a drop in endurance can be observed. A greater drop in endurance levels can be seen if the amount of training prior to taking the short break is greater. Also, the muscles appear smaller due to a drop in muscle glycogen, which in turn leads to less water retention. This can lead to increased fatigue once training starts. A decrease in flexibility can also be noticed; especially in the hip, spine, and trunk. However, the effects will reverse with sufficient training.
Taking breaks longer than 4 weeks can lead to endurance being reversed to a pre-trained state. And, the muscles start losing mass. Top-notch flexibility is essential in executing certain martial arts moves or techniques flawlessly. And, regular practices are essential in maintaining adequate flexibility. Neglecting flexibility improving exercises can lead to loss of flexibility; this consequently, leads to the inability to execute certain moves, such as the sidekick, properly and can also lead to muscle/tendon damage.
Your technique also tends to be ‘rusty’ after longer breaks and, reflexes tend to be slower. The lack of practices can have a considerable effect on stability and coordination, which again can lead to am increased reaction time. And most importantly, without regular practices, you loose the ‘fighter’s mindset’; without the proper mindset, you tend to exchange blows rather than use tactics. All this tends to make you predictable.
All the effects of improper, discontinuous practices can leave a huge dent in self-confidence. This can lead to poor training/practice ethics and eventually lead to, more often than not, give up martial arts.