Saturday, 18 June 2011


a guest post by Douglas Hunter Sensei, 3rd Dan, JKS England

Being in good shape to train was once a by-product of karate training.  One got fit by training, however things are changing somewhat, especially for those who are interested in performing in competition but also those who are interested in getting the most out of their training.  If the body is physically healthy then more effort and vigour can be dedicated to the actual training.

Training randomly and in an ad hoc manner can be more counter productive.  Especially if one is needing to “peak” for a championships of grading then there needs to be some form of plan so as to avoid overtraining and injury and optimise performance.  The training needs to be periodised.

What is periodisation?
Although this is at times complicated and “new fangled” is not a new concept or idea.  Periodisation has been used in some form since the earliest athletes competed against each other, but it was systematically analysed and classified around the early to mid sixties.

A definition of periodisation can be planned variation in the training programme
These variations should include changes in: “Specificity, intensity and volume”
(Wathen, Baechle & Earle 2000).  A key point here is these changes are not random but planned in order to attain certain outcomes.

 The concept was proposed by Matveyev in the early 60’s.  He analysed the training of a number of athletes and arranged the above variables (intensity and volume) into cycles.  Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome lead to the refinement of the periodisation principle, this is illustrated below.

 Selye’s GAS was adapted to physical training by Garhammer (1979).  The GAS is broken down into the following sections

This is the initial phase.  It could last several days or even weeks depending upon the level of training of the individual and the intensity of the initial dose or shock.  When we train our clients we need to assess their experience and training status to make sure the initial dose is appropriate.  To begin with there is an initial drop in performance; the trainee is exposed to the training stimulus for the first time.

This is when the body adapts to the training.  There has been some time to get over the initial shock and the trainee makes some changes in performance levels.  There are some adaptations made.  Here is also known as super compensation.  Sometimes there is a learned response before a physiological, in other words the clients get better at doing the exercises before they get stronger.

If the stressors are kept for an extended period of time then an exhaustion phase occurs.  If this is allowed to continue the symptoms of the alarm phase reappear, however this is when we do not want them to appear.  Any form of excessive training can lead to monotony and overtraining.  The excessiveness can be both in terms of too much intensity and volume.  There can be problems both psychologically and physiologically.

So if we keep doing the same type of physical training without any planned variation we will run the risk of injury, boredom, or a general lack of effective results.  So having identified why we need a periodised training plan , let’s look at some of the components of one.


In general it is the smallest part of the periodised programme.  The origin of the word comes from Latin & Greek (“Mikros” = small “Cyclus” = a sequence).
One could call a microcycle a weekly training schedule or a weekly breakdown in the overall programme.  This is essentially a short term goal or plan.  Work on developing smoother knee lift for mawashi geri..

This is an approximate monthly training cycle or a group of microcycles that lead into a collective goal.  The microcycles must coherently flow into this mid term goal.  This is a specific phase of the training programme.  There could be a month spent working on cardiovascular fitness and being able to apply mawashi geri in a semi structured environment, i.e. conditioned kumite.

This is the entire training plan, the long term plan of where the client wants to be. This can be about one year or it can be up to four years for Olympians.  The overall training which finishes at the event.  At this point we should be scoring ippons (dare I say it sanbons!?) with our mawashi geri! 

There are various ways to alter or break down the training plan.  There are a minimum of three to four phases of a periodised programme and they do not have to be named in a specific way but they must have specific focuses.  The duration of each phase of the programme is NOT fixed.  One has to decide based upon the training status, techniques, fitness levels etc of each individual as this influences all aspects of the training programme.

High volume & low intensity work.  This is building a foundation for the more challenging work that is to follow.  One could say that the general fitness foundations are being laid for more specific training.  Some highER intensity work is included here but not a lot.  The goals are to stimulate positive changes in the body & ready the body for more challenging work.  In essence PREPARE.  If we are going to condition ourselves then generic fitness and conditioning can be used, squats, bench presses etc.

There is a shift towards lower volume exercise as the intensity is increased – remember that these two aspects are inversely proportional.  Where the transition phase was looking at generalised fitness, here the exercise selection becomes more specific to the overall needs of the programme. 

At this stage more specific exercises ought to be used, plyometric exercises (jumping/throwing etc), Olympic lifting and kettle bell lifting.  These types of exercises utilse the posterior chain (back of body) muscles, that are more useful for performance as opposed to anterior muscles (front of body), that are more useful for aesthetics!

Kettle bell training – excellent for posterior chain and “performance” not “posing” muscles!

There are more reductions in volume in this phase as there are increases in intensity.  The emphasis upon technique is maintained throughout this phase and it is made relevant to the sports performer and the health related exerciser.  Here additional conditioning work should be carefully controlled.  Conditioning is maintained through dojo training and if possible if there are any “build up” events, i.e., inter-club comps before regional, regional events before national, etc.

This could be also called active rest as both intensity and volume are decreased.  Other recreational activities could be introduced.  Perhaps this could be seen as a transition phase or regeneration phase before the cycles are repeated again.  Some rest time!  Nurse some injuries!  Find some serenity in steady kata sessions?

  • Baechle T.R. & Earle R.W. (eds.) (2008)”Essentials of Strength and Conditioning” (3rd ed.) Human Kinetics Chapter 5 Ratamess N.A.
  • Dick F.W. (2002) “Sports Training Principles” A & C Black
  • Chu D A (1998) “Jumping into Plyometrics” Human Kinetics
  • Garhammer, J. & Gregor R. (1992) “Propulsion Forces as a function of intensity for weightlifting and vertical jumping” Journal of Applied Sport Science Research Vol 3 No. 6

A big thank you to Douglas Sensei for taking the time out to write this blog!

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