Present and past perspectives on my training


Don’t get me started on all the critiques I could make of my karate in this picture. 

The other day while reviewing some light personal training I’d just done, I found myself wondering what a younger version of me would have made of both my current ability and direction, and my current approaches to training. I tried to see if I could look back at his methods and intent at a crux point in his training where moving away from his first training group to University made him have to make harder choices about how he spent his time.

I suspect the younger me would be surprised and perhaps disappointed at how little time I spend training.

That version of me would be up at 0600 to knock out a light two-mile run, some stretching and some kata before breakfast. He would be asleep by 11 at night to get as much rest as possible. He did weights three times a week, and he would make seventeen hours of karate classes a week in addition to personal training.


Last day at school.

That version of me was enjoying his last full year of good health before anaemia, organ failure, dialysis, transplantation, medication side effects and multiple surgeries took a toll.


Hospital time is never fun but at least these days (in the UK) you can often get small rooms, a personal TV, internet access and even ensuite facilities. I’ve been lucky and even in the days when we didn’t have such luxuries I still had great care from military and NHS staff.

These days I get up to ninety minutes of light personal solo training a day. That has not changed since I started karate and is something I consider incredibly important for my health. That time includes any weightlifting or supplementary aerobic training I do and it may be spread throughout the day. I don’t run for training purposes any more. I’ll use a rowing machine or battle ropes if I want to take my heart rate up. Instead of training as a student in seventeen hours of classes a week, I teach six hours of classes over four days of the week (unless I’m teaching seminars or private classes).

I’m very aware of the weekly physical training deficit created over the last twenty-four years, especially because I recognise the difference between training and teaching. I don’t teach line work, so I’m not at the front of the class unless I’m leading students through a form; rather I’m spending the lesson moving from group to group, correcting and demonstrating. That has its advantages in terms of refining and ingraining good movement, but it’s not the same as training. With that said I think I make more of my solo training time now than I did then: I train more efficiently and choose my exercises with greater care. I also now get to spend at least two hours a day reading or observing subject matter related to karate, the martial arts and personal safety.

I’m certain that the younger version of me would say I’ve got soft and need to train more. I’m experienced enough now to appreciate the value of quality training time and cumulative training rather than just quantity, but I would agree with him that the majority of my excuses are simply excuses. If I need more rest, then I could go to bed earlier. I could get up earlier to get in some important training first thing in the morning. I could easily get another thirty minutes to an hour a day that would make a positive impact on my karate technique, my physical health and my state of mind. Alternatively I could lift more, stretch more, or add in more high intensity interval training to my slow practice.


I have access to free weights, a bench, a rowing machine, battle rope, mats, kick bag and the Great British countryside. Not to use them would be inexcusable. 

Two weeks have passed since I wrote the paragraphs above and I decided to take up the imaginary gauntlet laid down by the memory of my younger self.

It’s been interesting.

So far I have managed to get up earlier, engage in more regular stretching, and squeeze in a little more physical training every day. I’ve not yet fully mastered the knack of going to sleep earlier. The results? Well, the most noticeable thing was that for the initial two weeks I definitely ached a lot more in the morning (until training for that day began), but after that fortnight my body adapted and I don’t ache any more than I did before I upped my training.

That’s a clear sign that in gentle increments I can increase what I am doing further, a signal that the real barriers to greater improvement were more mental than physical. Just because I am over twice the age of that young man, doesn’t mean that I can’t do what he did.

I’m smart enough to realise that the fact that I have had two transplants and have to take a lot of daily medication does place some restrictions on what I can do, and how far I should stretch my comfort zone each session, but that doesn’t stop me training and it won’t stop me improving.

All the best



Have you had to rebuild yourself or get back into your training after a serious illness or operation? Is it something you’re doing right now? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and experience.


  1. Joseph Robinson · · Reply

    My younger self did not know jack-diddle compared to what I know now, and I know that, so I just tell that memory echo of what I used to do to STFU and all is well.

  2. Nice thoughts, thought provoking too.
    I have always trained in one sport or another since the age of 4 (now 43) in swimming, track and field athletics, cycling and now nearly 20 years of Karate.
    Over the years I’ve had episodes where the level of training has lapsed but it has never stopped… except for when I had cancer.
    I was diagnosed in December 2014 and went through chemotherapy from April to July 2015. This drained me off vital energy to a far lower level than I had ever experienced with any illness. I was determined not to stop training, but fully appreciated that it would be at a much lower level.
    Some of the time I would simply turn up at the dojo and sit on a chair. What was the training I did? I absorbed what was being taught and visualised my way through it later. At some points there was no way I could have done any physical training as it was all I could do to sit up straight in a chair. Just walking to the kitchen exhausted me.
    I was very pleased with the way that the mental strength that MA had built within me, helped me get through the worst times and whenever I felt I could do something I would.
    As time went on and the effects lessened I would continue to push myself and would very often find that in the dojo I would be on the verge of passing out with very little activity. I would push each time to get that same feeling so I knew I was doing all that I could.
    It was around 10 months after chemo that this finally faded.
    Sometimes these days I feel that my body is older than its years due to the level of performance and I think that this is shown to the beating it took from the chemo. The mind however is still pushing as hard as it ever did.
    What would I say to my younger self?
    “Pay attention to the lessons on mental strength. You never know when you’re going to need them!”

    1. Thank you for sharing those inspiring memories Danny.

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