I’ve had a strange history with weight training. On the one hand, it has often been the most readily available form of exercise for me. Since high school, I’ve had at least a pair of dumbbells with me every where, from home, to college, to grad school, and now here. In Japan, I joined a gym because my friend Julian was into it and we were both moving towards shodan (1st degree black belt) in our respective arts and I thought it would help with the wear and tear I was feeling because of it (it did). Now, I work at a university that charges a very small annual athletic fee for faculty and staff, so I go to that gym now. During this period of toddlers, going to the gym to lift weights and do cardio at lunch time is more achievable than going to the dojo for O-keiko three or four times a week. My workouts have changed over the years, and have become more challenging. I’m stronger and probably faster now than I was in high school or college (when I did judo and karate), but I cannot escape one major fact. I really don’t like lifting weights.
Unlike martial arts practice, I find weight training to be repetitive and boring (ironic since O-keiko is often highly repetitive). I hate waiting for equipment and I find the experience stressful. One can easily imagine that I sit there when my Outlook reminder pops up flashing “Workout” that I try to think of excuses. And I do. I have a lot of them. Still, one thing is abundantly clear–weight training is effective and necessary as you progress in the martial arts.
After nidan, I had a talk with my sempai about something strange happening in my practice. Things were getting easier. Not in the sense that technical parts were easy–I still needed a lot of work on those–but rather the physical effort was getting easier and rapidly so. Even physically strenuous techniques, like koshi-nage (hip throws) were getting easier. He said this was natural. As we get better, we need less to do more. I knew this, but the speed at which this was happening was showing–mostly in my waist line. I needed to go longer to get the same workout in. I knew I had to do something when Dad said it looked like I had gained weight–something he almost never did. Thus, weight training. That was seven years ago. Within a few months, I was back down to my college weight (145) and eventually settled at a redistributed weight nearer to my high (I’m 160 now and my high was 170), but carry it better. So as much as I hate doing it, I do it. And I also advise people to do it too, even friends with whom I do t’ai chi ch’uan.