(English) Mike Wall – Martial arts in the times of the coronavirus
“The energy and sense of community and companionship that you get when training at your club is hard to replicate when training on your own. I miss my friends and my coach, among other things. I’m sure we will be able to open up soon, doing some sort of modified training sessions, as soon as it is permitted. When BJJ is allowed again, I’m definitely ready to roll!”Mike Wall
The coronavirus has delivered a hard blow to martial arts training in Sweden. In martial arts, we’re used to training hard, and training close together. Our daily lives revolve around our club, around training and competing. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re facing a new situation where we’re forced to keep our distance, thus pushing us to find new ways of thinking and training. Many clubs have had to temporarily cancel their activities, and many competitions have been postponed indefinitely. How do we stay motivated? And what kind of training can be done without contact.
In a series of interviews, we’re going to catch up with different martial arts profiles, finding out how they deal with the mental and physical aspects of practicing martial arts in times like these.
First up is no other than Mike Wall, who runs the martial arts club Fenix Kampsport in Helsingborg, located in the south of Sweden. Mike has been around for along time on the Swedish marital arts scene, since 1977. He was named Leader of the Year at the Swedish Martial Arts Award in 2007, and given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in Beijing 2008. He has 7th dan in jujutsu and 1st dan in BJJ.
You have been publishing a lot of training videos on social media recently. What tips can you give to those whose clubs and activities have been shut down due to the coronavirus?
– The hardest, and most important, thing is to keep your spirits up, and to stay motivated. Due to the difference in how we fight and train, some martial art styles are hit harder than others by these new restrictions. In my club, for example, many of us train mainly BJJ, and we can’t train at all the way we are used to.
– One piece of advice is to build a collection of basic exercises that are suitable when training alone. Make sure to include lots of movement, balance and strength. Take the opportunity to be inspired by other sports and learn new things.
How has your own training changed?
– I’ve spent time with my family, allowed myself some time off and enjoyed not being bound by a schedule each and every day. On the other hand, I miss my training sessions, and have had to change what I normally do. Right now, I focus a lot on physical conditioning and cardiovascular exercises, since I have a hip injury that prevents me from running.
How do you talk about changes in training with your students and fighters? What advice do you give to them?
– Everybody has different needs and circumstances. I advice them to do what I do. Some write a training diary to keep track of their training. Some focus on rehabilitating old injuries. The important thing is to let yourself be inspired by others and be willing to try new things.
You have 7th dan in jujutsu. Are there any techniques or movements that are easy to train when training alone or when avoiding close contact?
– Jujutsu is a complex and comprehensive style of martial arts. A lot of the striking techniques that are performed standing can easily be used when training alone – different kinds of kicks and punches. You can also include various boxing exercises, with a punching bag etcetera.
– Another thing to do is to train with implements and weapons, for example using sticks and staffs of varying length. If you want to focus on self defense, you can use 60 centimeter escrimas when training, but longer staffs like jo (120 cm) or bo (180 cm) can also be used. Those of us who like kobudo can hone their skills with weapons – swords, sais, tonfas, nunchakus and kamas.
– Training that focuses on self defense techniques practiced with a partner are off limits right now. As are wrestling and take downs etcetera.
You have 1st dan in BJJ and have a European Championship gold medal in the brown belt division. Are there any BJJ techniques that are possible to work on when you can’t roll with an opponent?
– Unfortunately, the close contact element is integral to BJJ, submission wrestling and similar styles. That’s precisely what we love about it! But for now, we have to adapt to the current situation. If you have access to a grappling dummy, you can simulate a lot of positions with that. You can also do positional training using a regular punching bag or sparring mitt.
– Watching a ton of matches and instruction videos for inspiration and education is another great tip. When training by yourself, you can work on improving your over all strength, movement, falling technique, coordination and flexibility as well.
What do you miss most about the dojo being closed right now? What is the first thing you’re going to do when it opens up again?
– The energy and sense of community and companionship that you get when training at your club is hard to replicate when training on your own. I miss my friends and my coach, among other things. I’m sure we’ll be able to open up soon, doing some sort of modified training sessions, as soon as it is permitted. When BJJ is allowed again, I’m definitely ready to roll!
People around the world spend a lot of time watching Youtube and Netflix right now. Do you have any favorite martial arts themed movies or old matches that you want to recommend?
– I play a lot of chess on the internet, to keep my mind sharp. When it comes to movies, I like most genres, and I watch classics like Gladiator, or The Hunt for Red October. Martial arts style movies with stars like Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee or Steven Segal are not really my cup of tea right now.
(translated by Cecilia Johansson)