Tag Archives: fitness

Mettlecraft Month 2020 is Here!

Mettlecraft Month 2020 (a tougher challenge than we initially thought) is all done — see full and final recap below!

Well, it’s that time of year again — Mettlecraft Month!  Everyone — students past and present, old friends, new friends — please play along and share videos and/or photos of yourself facing the challenge.  Watch this space for updates!

So what’s the challenge?

12 Minutes of Very Bad Karma plus as many kicks as you can in 8 minutes

Like video? See below.   If you prefer written instructions:

  1. Set timer for two intervals — 12 and 8 minutes with no break. [Tip: if you only have a repeating countdown timer, just set it for 4-minute repeats and listen for 3 cylcles and then 2 cycles].
  2. “Very Bad Karma” from my e-book The Calisthenics Codex. Select a rep count for the four exercises — Sprints (12′ out and back = 1), Split Jump Squats (jump, switch, jump = 1), Get-ups and Knuckle Push-ups.  I started with 5.
  3. Complete as many circuits as you can at your selected rep count in 12:00 minutes.
  4. Immediately start doing kicks.  Do as many kicks as you can with good form in 8:00 minutes.
  5.  Add rep counts together for your total score.
  6. Example: You pick a rep count of 5 — 20 reps per circuit.  You complete 8 full circuits plus 4 Sprints before the timer beeps.  That’s 164 reps.  Then you do 180 kicks.  Your total score is 344.

December 1 and final results

Beautiful full moon of 12/1

Thanksgiving always throws a wrench in Mettlecraft month and thwarts last minute attempts to beat scores.  But this year, on top of that, Morgan hurt her wrist.  She had to take time off, get a brace, etc.  So we extended the month to 12/1 and took another run at it.  Jack had to work late and couldn’t make it, so it was Daddy Daughter Night.

Special kudos to Morgan for adding almost a hundred points to her previous score — and for beating my calisthenics count! — all while wearing a wrist brace.  She put up a very impressive score of 484!

I knew there was no way I was going to catch James, but I wanted to beat everyone’s kick number and break 400.  But alas, it was not to be.  I only got 365 and came in a measly 3 points behind Jack — beaten by a nose!

Great job everyone, and thanks a million for taking this ridiculous journey with me.  Everyone who took the trip goes in the Calisthenics Codex Hall of Fame!

Here’s the final tally:

James Williams — 228 + 398 = 626
Jack Bloor — 278 + 266 = 544 
Mitch Mitchell — 176 + 365 = 541
Morgan Mitchell — 189 + 295 = 484

November 30 Results

James Williams — 228 + 398 = 626.  Apparently James was bitten by a radioactive spider, because he wrecked the challenge with a mindboggling score.  James takes the cake — and the plate, the silverware, the tablecloth…

November 24 Results

Mitch Mitchell — 176 + 303 = 479

November 23 Results

James Williams — 203 + 331 = 534

November 19 Results

I tried to get 50 of each exercise in order to break 200 total reps during the Very Bad Karma phase.  Didn’t make it.  Here’s the video.

November 17 Results

Mitch Mitchell — 150+ 250 = 400
Morgan Mitchell — 150+ 240 = 390
Jack Bloor — 278 + 266 = 544 

November 16 Results

James Williams —  203 + 264 = 467

November 12 results

Mitch Mitchell — 176+ 263= 439

November 10 results

Everybody’s numbers came up this week!

Mitch Mitchell — 175+ 218 = 393
Morgan Mitchell — 162 + 236= 398
Jack Bloor — 240 + 259 = 499

November 3 Results

Mitch Mitchell — 136 + 242 = 378
Morgan Mitchell — 160 + 200 = 360
Jack Bloor — 205 + 280 = 485  Way to go Jack!

Now get moving!

Airdyne from Hell WODs

My wife wants to get some exercise. I got her a Schwinn Airdyne because these things involve both upper and lower body, burn serious calories, and are low impact compared to most other equipment (my wife has bad knees and ankles).  Also I know I’ll use it too — especially in the winter when it’s too cold to ride my actual bike.

I’ve been using these things since the 90s.  Whenever I’m travelling for work, I hop on the dusty Airdyne found in the corner of every dingy hotel fitness room in North America.  It’s always available because most folks look down their noses at old, familiar things.

Like to work out HARD? Then you’d love my calisthenics book. Click here to purchase on Amazon.

But people who know their stuff will tell you that Airdynes are no joke.  

Check out these Airdyne workouts I stole from this really cool article.  They are the brainchild of the Michael Blevins of the famous/infamous Gym Jones in Salt Lake City.  This is the gym that made the stars of 300 look like Spartans and Henry Cavill look like a Son of Krypton.

1. The Finisher

Add this to the end of your normal weight-lifting session for increased fat burn and peak power. Aim to finish in the same amount of time each round—don’t slow down as you progress.

Time: Approximately 20 minutes.  Plan: Pedal and pump your arms as hard as you can until you burn 20 calories. (Shoot for under a minute.) Rest for 2 minutes. That’s 1 round. Do 7 rounds.

2. Airdyne to Hell

After a light lifting or body-weight workout, use this interval scheme to burn serious calories and bolster your cardio.

Time: 12 minutes (less is better).  Plan: Ride until you burn 50 calories (do this as quickly as possible, aiming for 1 calorie per second). Rest for the length of time it took to do so. Repeat, this time burning 40 calories. Continue, burning 30, then 20, then 10, resting as long as the previous period of effort.

Mallet, Chain and Medicine Ball Fitness


When I made this mallet to use for fitness training I laughed until I cried real tears. Just holding it in my hands made me feel like Mario smashing barrels in the original Donkey Kong game!

The handle is a solid 34″ maple stick (couldn’t  find a good piece of hickory) and the head is a 6 lb hunk of cedar log.

The stick is about 1.25″ diameter at the bottom and 1.75″ at the top. I drilled the log hole 1.5″ and slipped it over the handle. A few head-down raps on the patio and it’s held there by friction alone. It ain’t going nowhere.

For Mettlecraft month at the martial arts club (in Cabal Fang martial arts, Mettlecraft is the discipline of building fitness, determination and guts) we’ve been bracketing every session between a full pyramid of calisthenics at the beginning and 10 or 15 mins of conditioning at the end.  A pyramid is 1 of each exercise, 2 of each, 3 of each, 4, 5, 6, etc. up to the peak  (usually 8 to 12 depending on the exercises) and then back down again.  Total reps equals the square of the peak.  In other words, a full pyramid to 10 is 100 reps.  For the closing we’ve been doing HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).

Here’s a video of the HIIT we did on Saturday, featuring the new 6 lb circus mallet, a 20 lb chain and a 12 lb medicine ball. We ran 18 rounds (6 circuits) of 30 secs with 10 sec transition breaks between.  As I say in the video, this is how you burn off Christmas cookies.


10-Minute Grappling Conditioner

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Regular auto tires are great for building core strength for grappling and wrestling, and for general fitness.  Click the pic to download the booklet at PTDICE.com

Grappling.  To avoid confusion,  when I say “grappling” I am referring to stand-up wrestling or clinch fighting, not wrestling.  The following conditioning drill is meant to improve fitness and hone valuable grappling skills.

10-Minute Grappling Conditioner

  • Set your timer for 10 minutes.
  • Grab the medicine ball with palm-to-palm grip and squeeze against your upper chest as hard as you can while completing a deep Rear Lunge.  Switch grip and lunge back with other leg.  Do 10 Lunge/Squeezes.  Note:  Left palm should be down and “sword bone” of left forearm should be punishing the ball when you step back with right leg.  When you switch, right palm should be down, right forearm bone against ball, left leg lunges back.
  • Put the ball down, face the heavy bag, and immediately Splay 10 times as fast as you can with good form.  Forearms against the bag; legs, from thighs all the way down to shoelaces, flat to the floor with toes back.
  • 10 Diamond Push-ups on the medicine ball.
  • Repeat until timer beeps, taking as few 12-second breaks as you must to finish.   Try to make 6+ sets in 10 minutes, but don’t feel bad if you can only do 5.

Coming soon: The Calisthenics Codex

Calis Codex cover final for webGet ready — pre-orders will be opening soon.  More to come!

More about the eBook:

Centuries old and still going strong, calisthenics remain the most effective and efficient way to get in shape and stay that way. Whether you are a beginner just starting out, a dedicated weekday or weekend warrior craving variety, or a hardcore athlete looking for a fresh perspective or a new challenge, “The Calisthenics Codex” has something for you.

People who know the truth about functional fitness — from elite military forces to boxers, MMA fighters, models and actors — rely on calisthenics to realize their goals. Are you sick of not being in the kind of shape you want to be in? All you need to remedy the situation is a copy of “The Calisthenics Codex”, fifty square feet of available floor space in your basement, garage, den, or backyard, and a little bit of attitude and determination. What are you waiting for?

Over 2,000,000 possible workouts! “The Calisthenics Codex” features 50 calisthenics, each fully explained, illustrated with photos, and arranged into lists that target your interests and fitness level. Choose one of 12 different workout types and then select exercises from 26 groupings like “Gym Class Flashback”, “Steampunk Nightmare”, and “Self Destruct Sequence” to create workouts that suit your goals, interests, and fitness level. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Beginners get started right, with easy calisthenics such as Front Planks, Dirty Dogs and Lunges, and learn how to warm up, cool down, and stretch. Advanced players are presented with brutal exercises like Barrel Roll Push-ups, Hindu Squats, and Bodybuilders, and face tough challenges like “Gut Check” and “Death March.”

And as an added bonus, you’ll find out how to complete any workout and get your name in the Calisthenics Codex Hall of Fame!

No equipment. No gym memberships. No excuses.

Fitness circa 1941


The FM 21-20 U.S. Army Basic Field Manual for Physical Training, circa 1941 (click photo to view .pdf file)

Check this out — it’s the 1941 edition of the FM 21-20, otherwise known as the U.S. Army Basic Field Manual for Physical Training.

I went searching the web for log exercises for us to use at the martial arts club, and I found this thing.  Spent the best part of an hour skimming it.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it fascinating how much has changed and yet how much has remained the same, when it comes to working out.  Example: they may call them “Squat Thrusts” but whether you call ’em (I refer to them as Burpees or Down-Ups) they’re still great for fitness.  And as popular now as they were then.

As for those log exercises, I think if we’re going to do the ones they have in the manual we’re going to need a smaller log!

Fitness for Knife Fighters

This is one of our dull practice knives.  We cut them out of wood and wrap the handles in orange duct tape.  Orange makes it clear to observers that we aren't trying to actually kill each other.  And it keeps them from getting lost easily.

We cut our practice knives out of wood and wrap handles in orange tape. Orange identifies them as dull to casual observers and keeps them from getting lost easily.

This month at my martial arts club we’re practicing knives (specifically, knife targeting and precision).  We try to tailor our Constitutionals (the fitness part of our workouts) to mesh with whatever we’re working on technique-wise.

Now, the two fundamentals of using any weapon are (a) retention and (b) command and mastery.  In other words, you have to be comfortable holding and using the weapon, and you must retain it all times (dropping it is a serious no-no).

With that in mind, here is what we came up with. Note that this could be easily adapted for use with other weapons as well.

Constitutional Fitness Drill for Knife Fighters

All exercises must be completed while holding your dull practice weapon.  Each time you drop your weapon you must complete 50 Push-ups (on palms with the unarmed hand, on knuckles with the live hand).

  1. Russian Squats (25 reps each way, knife hand forward)
  2. Get-ups (25 reps, switching knife between hands each rep)
  3. Sit-ups w/ Slash (50 reps, lock feet around/under object, slash an “X” at the top of each rep)
  4. Help-ups (25 reps each side)
  5. Push-ups (25 reps on left palm and right knuckles, 25 reps on right palm and left knuckles)
  6. Sprints (25 reps out and back.  Mark off about 20′ and slash an “X” at each turn.  Switch knife hands half way through)
  7. Twisters (25 reps.  Instead of touching the floor on each side at the top of the crunch, slash an “X” on the floor on each side)

This should take about 15 minutes.  And it should help you with retention, command, and mastery.

How to Make Cloth Bags for Sand and Chain

For years I have been using sandbags for fitness.  For larger bags (25 – 60 lbs) I cut the straps off of old backpacks.  Here’s how to make a smaller bag, for weights 25 lbs. and under — great for doing Sandbag Burpees, adding a little weight to your Jump Squats, grip strength training, and so on.

If you’re going to use sand, don’t put it straight into the bag!  Using contractor-grade trash bags and some zip-ties, and the same technique for making birdseed sachets for a wedding, make some small sandbags to put inside.  Cut out squares of plastic, add a scoop of sand, gather up, and zip shut (use pliers to pull shut very tightly).  Trim off excess plastic, flatten, and add duct tape to prevent leaks.  Pro tip: lots of small sandbags are better than fewer large bags.

Or you can use chain.  It’s more expensive, but there’s no muss, no fuss, and you can do other stuff with it — like draping the chain around your shoulders to add more weight during Squats and Pull-ups.

Anyway, here’s the slideshow.  Enjoy.

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PTDICE Artwork Samples and More

dicesampleCheck out this post over at the PTDICE website, and sign up to be notified when products are in stock.  These things are really cool.

The Basic Set will include nine dice — two dice to determine the workout type and seven dice that contain forty-two different calisthenics.  If you want to train to expect the unexpected, or if you just want to experience holding over a million random workouts in the palm of your hand, you’re going to want a set of these.

Workout Dice – Part 2


Workout Dice

I wrote a previous post about using dice to introduce randomness into workout regimens.  In that post, I talked about how I often use dice to decide what type of workout I’m going to do on a given day.

Then, the other day while shopping with my wife, I saw these foam blocks at the store and I got to thinking.  You see, physical training is very important in the martial art that I practice.  Each month we create a workout made up of seven calisthenics which we call a “Constitutional.”  So I decided to make some dice so that, with a single toss of seven cubes, we could have one ready to go instead of taking fifteen minutes to discuss and decide.


Here are the foam blocks I found at the Dollar Store.

I used a fine point Sharpie to write the exercises on the dice, grouping them by color.  Red for upper body, orange for core, blue for lower body, green for whole body.  I also grouped easier exercises on some dice and harder ones on others, so that there would be some balance.

If you are into fitness and cool enough to not feel like a dork for rolling dice prior to a workout, you might find these helpful.

And don’t forget that, if you’re a martial artist, it’s a good idea to introduce fitness and unpredictability into your workouts whenever you can (so that you won’t be another Sensei Rex).