Interview with Martial Fitness® program creator, Sule K. Welch, president of The Welch Martial Art Experience – Fitness Concepts Empowering Life:
What is the connection between better health habits and martial arts?
Too often out of shape or overweight individuals feel martial art is an exclusive activity for people who are already ‘in shape’, do not prioritize team sports, or want to learn self-defense. They further exclude themselves from the practice because concerns about their physical appearance conflicts with the requirement of traditional martial art classes to wear white uniforms.
For decades many Americans have been fascinated with martial art. No one individual has impacted the popularity of martial art training, sport and film than the late Bruce Lee. The trailblazing film Enter the Dragon, released in 1973, allowed Bruce Lee to leverage his star power by exposing the world to his talent, philosophy and ideas about martial art training – specifically fitness.
Thirty-seven (37) years after his tragic, untimely passing, he remains not only iconic in the world of cinema, but possibly the most influential person in Kung Fu, having brought more people to the martial arts in modern times than anyone else. – Inside Kung Fu Magazine, June 2010
Individuals typically dismiss the thought of starting a martial art program for three primary reasons:
1) I’m too out of shape
2) I’m too old to start now
3) I don’t have time for a full-time hobby or to do what it takes to earn a Black Belt
Poor lifestyle choices, primarily with respect to health and fitness, are major causes of America’s growing obesity epidemic. Chronic illnesses – diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even some forms of cancer – can all be linked to poor health habits and a quick-fix mentality that seems to permeate the national mindset in addressing weight management and overall health concerns. This attitude encourages us to find an easy button for everything from weight loss to general health and wellness: We hope to affect the cure for whatever ails us with an easy mouse click and credit card swipe to take delivery of a magic pill or gadget that promises results from some sedentary non-activity. The key to long term results is overcoming short term obstacles. We do this by continually learning through new challenges and experiences. Martial art training, then, is a life endeavor that isn’t done when you obtain a Black Belt, break a board, win a trophy, or raise your hand in victory after knocking out an opponent. These experiences can be gratifying only for a moment in time. The ‘martial’ art we face daily is improving our quality of life overtime, which, by the way, happens to be the true pursuit and meaning of ‘kung fu’ (any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work). To be healthy, able and active into our later years, we need to find a regimen that is challenging, enjoyable and that simulates our mind, body, spirit and emotions in a variety of ways…forever.
Is Martial Fitness® a new style?
No, Martial Fitness® is a fitness program expressed as a concept that empowers your life. It is not a style. The Martial Fitness® program combines exercises from a variety of martial art systems to enable people to challenge their entire body through an endless variety of exercise combinations, and become healthier in the process.
How is Martial Fitness® different from a basic kickboxing or cardio-fitness class?
The Martial Fitness® program is divided into 6 core areas that target cardiovascular endurance, torso stability, joint mobility and flexibility, and that delivers a low impact, virtually equipment-free workout. The class format is structured to include individual exercises and partner exercises, which give you an opportunity to challenge yourself on many levels. Additionally, if personal or business travel keeps you on the go, or you are looking for an equipment-free way to stay healthy and release stress, Martial Fitness® provides a portable workout program that will keep your fitness goals on track, regardless of scheduling conflicts, inability to find a facility or a lack of training partners.
How much martial art skill is required for someone to benefit from participating in the Martial Fitness® program?
No experience is required to participate in a Martial Fitness® program. Many people want black belt attributes – discipline, focus, flexibility, balance and self-control – but do not want to fight, get injured, wear a uniform or dedicate 5-10 years to a full time hobby. Martial Fitness® is designed with these attributes in mind because we understand they are required to maintain your health. The workout is very simply ‘martial art with a focus on fitness’ vs. a traditional regimen of forms, rituals and combative elements. The variety of martial art systems provide a way to keep the training fresh, challenging and exciting. Setting daily, weekly, monthly and life goals provide motivation to reach new intervals and phases of progress, and finally self-control begins to influence choices about nutrition and daily activities.
How do women benefit from Martial Fitness® like the women from Atlanta’s Biggest Loser – Mom’s edition 2009?
The primary benefits the mom’s from Atlanta’s Biggest Loser gained were:
1) A portable fitness method free from the need for equipment or weight training
2) An average loss of 21 lbs. over a 12-week period (maximum weight losses were 25, 28, and 39 lbs. among 3 of the 6 women)
3) A new way to make fitness fun, exciting and help them stay motivated!
Many women are either not interested or afraid of martial art activities, therefore they don’t consider trying. Additionally, formal traditions and stereotypes turned women away from martial art. The women from Atlanta’s Biggest Loser experienced the benefits first hand that Martial Fitness® has to offer, including but not limited to, an endless variety of exercises incorporating low impact and cardiovascular and strength building movements without weights or machines. Ms. Rebecca Barnes has been able to maintain her dedication to the Martial Fitness® program and training method and lost 92 lbs. over an 18-month period and keep it off by also making better choices about nutrition, but without ever going on a diet!
So the Martial Fitness® program is something people follow to get in better shape mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally without belts, sparring or competition?
What equipment is required to participate in the Martial Fitness® program?
Basically, NONE. The movements and positions in the Martial Fitness® program require you to manage your own body weight while simultaneously strengthening and stretching muscles. Occasionally, basic portable fitness tools like a jump rope, broom stick/dowel rod, medicine ball, even hand punching targets for partner work and some heart pumping music can be incorporated to add fun and intensity to a training experience in a class environment, but are not required. The main equipment required is your brain and EVERY part of your body. Also no rhythm or dance skills are required! Participants will get a total body workout with an endless variety of moves, challenges and exercises that help them tone muscles, lose weight, gain flexibility and stay healthy.
How much of the Martial Fitness® program is focused on self-defense?
The focus of Martial Fitness® program is health-defense not self-defense. Actually, 90% of self defense is about mental awareness and self-confidence. Studies show predators are more likely to attack those who appear vulnerable or lack self-confidence. The Martial Fitness® program elements come from a variety or martial art methods, but are not done with a self-defense scenario, contact sparring or high impact nature while training. The Martial Fitness® program does help people feel confident, challenge their brain, improve coordination and discover muscles they have never used! Therefore, all the aforementioned tools are important to have in the unfortunate case you are attacked.
As a ‘Coach’ during the Atlanta’s Biggest Loser competition you were referred to as a nutritionist, counselor, coach, psychiatrist and friend. Does someone need you to experience the Martial Fitness® program?
Yes, I wore many hats during the competition, however, people may experience Martial Fitness® without me as their coach. Whether you are competing on a reality TV show, participating in a class or following one of our fitness videos, you will become your own coach overtime. The driving force behind the success of the women on Atlanta’s Biggest Loser who followed the Martial Fitness® program came down to 2 fundamentals:
1) Decide to ‘Become the Change You Seek’
2) Stay focused on their personal ‘Why’?
Anyone who keeps these concepts in mind during training has the ability to apply them to daily life. The goal of The Welch Martial Art Experience – Fitness Concepts Empowering Life is to provide tools like the Martial Fitness® program to help people discover how much FUN choosing to make fitness a part of your life can be. Making the choice to live a better quality of life or having it made for you through illness or limited quality of life is up to you…we all have the power to choose.