Self Defence

Exercise without moving as muscle? Yes, of course. A tried and tested system – perhaps not to turn yourself into a man or woman of steel, but nevertheless an accepted and documented way of reviving much of your younger days’ tuning.

There are many and varied training methods. When I worked in the London hospitals (so many years ago!) I was actively involved in Exercise Study. A passionate student of BRIME – Brief Repetitive Isometric Exercise, that was the ‘In Thing’!

Isometric means ‘staying the same length when contracted’. The joint which the aimed-at muscle moves – does not move. In the case of the quadriceps, which control the knee, nothing moves. The joint stays straight and firm.

Of particular value for aiding quadriceps recovery, the schedule ran thus:

In the case of ‘re-tuning’ the quadriceps, that big set of four muscles of the thigh, the front of the upper leg, start by lying down on your back. Put a largish weight – say several bags of sugar? – on your instep, where your shoe laces tie up.

You want to find that weight which you can JUST straight-leg lift up three or four inches for exactly ten seconds before you simply HAVE to drop the leg down again. “ – 8 – 9 – 10 little seconds” – collapse! To assess your maximum, start with quite a high weight, so you can reach the maximum poundage quickly. Don’t move up in small increments – you will tire your quadriceps too soon and get a false result.

Lets say (for ease of my mathematics) that you could JUST manage 9 lbs. Fine. You are going to work with two-thirds of that total – 6 lbs.

The isometric routine: Put a 6 lb weight on your instep. Lock your knee straight and – without any bending or sagging – raise your leg some three inches. Hold it tightly there while you count “ten little seconds” and then lower it down and rest relaxed for “ten little seconds”.

Repeat this for seven times. So that you have raised and lowered seven times. Finish. That is one exercise session. For that particular muscle group.

The higher you keep your leg lifted, the easier the exercise is. For maximum effect, only raise it up a few inches. Don’t let the knee joint move!

Studies have shown that seven repetitions are sufficient to achieve the desired result, over time, of developing, of strengthening a muscle, or set of muscles. I have to say though that I myself prefer to do ten repetitions. To play safe, I suppose, but there we are …

Now that I am older and perhaps less focussed, I still have a happy-memoried love for isometrics. Not lying down and (re-)building my thighs. As a student of sutekki-shin-jutsu – walking stick personal protection (= self defence!) – my physical need is to tone-up my arm and chest muscles, so as to be able to deliver a powerful WHACK! should the need arise …

So I use the karatetsu P.E.S.T. each day. The Pocket Exercise Stimulator and Trainer, it stays in my breast or shirt pocket all the time, where I can easily draw it out and go through an isometric routine for my arms and pectorals. I actually carry my house key attached, for convenience. The PEST is shirt-pocket size, and cannot easily be lost, and is excellent for non-moving push – pull full-strength ten second isometric actions. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is fun; but for my own personality as a martial artist with the need to be able to use a walking stick maximally, I am aware of the importance to keep my power ability ‘topped up’, as it were. [You never know when …]

The PEST is actually the lightweight template from which one can make the actual kara-tetsu close quarter metal hand weapon. This of course is a prohibited item, and you would carry this in public at fullest risk of being arrested for being in possession of a dangerous weapon. So if you get a PEST and decide to make a metal karatetsu, keep it in your house or grounds.

Incidentally kara tetsu means “Empty Iron”. Back in the 80’s when I was younger and more vigorous (if you follow me …) Doreen my wife walked past me in the passage carrying a cup of coffee. As a ‘big tough Black Belt’ I decided to ‘attack’ her. As I grabbed her she smartly hit me on the knuckle with the saucer – Smack! It sharply hurt and in the instant dampened my ardour! ‘Nursing my wounds’ I retreated to the comfort of the sofa and thought – ‘How could one defend against a house intruder when armed only with a cup (and saucer) of coffee? A row of saucers on the wall? Shuriken throwing stars? Shaken stabbing rods?’ Thinking, thinking, thinking …

A year later the Karatetsu was born! A metal hand held weapon specifically designed to powerfully defend oneself if attacked inside the home. Small, able to fit in a shirt pocket, in effect invisible till drawn in the instant. Able to drop an intruder in his tracks without warning him of your intention. So shaped as not to be grasped. With sharp corners able to cause severe depilating pain or, if necessary remove an eye … (His, of course!). All in all, a formidable house protection weapon ideally suitable for a woman in her kitchen as the door bursts open and in he comes …

Is there such a need? Well, we ourselves have been burgled several times, and I have actually chased a robber out of the house. I went into the passage, and there he was. My karatetsu was in my hand in the instant. In my hand? Yes, it is ALWAYS in my pocket.

I registered the product, and was on the point of presenting it to the world when the then home secretary brought in legislation prohibiting the carrying of martial arts weapons. And the karatetsu was too near to a knuckleduster for safety. So that was that. But of course it is perfectly legal to have it in your possession in your home.

But the plastic PEST template is very interesting in that it has many other perfectly valid uses. As I’ve said above, it facilitates my isometric exercises. It is an excellent acupressure instrument to relieve many non-serious medical conditions – such as headaches or indigestion. Press the corner into the acupressure point for thirty seconds every ten minutes while walking in the fresh air.

One of my Staffordshire Bull Terriers accidentally bit my finger, severely, such that I had to have medical treatment, recorded in my case notes. I still have problems years later and have difficulty carrying shopping bags. The PEST makes an excellent shopping bag handle to ease my damaged grip And Doreen uses hers most of the time when carrying those plastic bags. A useful facility, if the bag becomes too heavy, it can be released from the PEST in the INSTANT to relieve the pressure. This could be useful if threatened or indeed actually attacked when crossing a supermarket car park. I know the PEST is only a light piece of plastic, but it’s better than a 50 pence piece in your pocket. Though I suppose Doreen could always fiercely push it up his nose …

While talking about the various uses of the karatetsu, the PEST itself, as my key holder, is an excellent dog’s toy! Yes, when I’m walking Tyson I often exercise his mind (mind? What Mind!!!) by deliberately dropping it and commanding “Find Key!” And he does, with much tail wagging and joy! Fun, I suppose it takes all kinds …

There, I’ve come a long way round from isometric exercise. I hope you found the story interesting. I warn you, if you get me talking about dogs or martial arts, you’ll be in for a long haul!