The first step in training for competition is putting yourself on a regular training schedule. Training should be done no less than 3 times a week and preferably 4-5 times a week. Dependant on the training, the body does need time to heal and this is why I do not suggest the same physical regiment on a daily basis. Rotation of exercise that works different muscles should be done to prevent excessive muscle strain or injury. Training everyday is advisable only if careful attention is placed on rotation of exercise. Practicing kumite everyday is a sure way to shorten your karate career due to injuries you will receive that will never have a chance to heal properly. Training 6 days one week and only once the following week is not the same as training 3 times a week. Consistency is important to maintain both physical condition as well as timing.
Here is an example of a rotating schedule:
Monday: kihon (basics) training, kumite practice with a partner, work on techniques, intense training
Tuesday: kihon training, kata practice
Wednesday: running and weight training
Thursday: kihon training, work on waza (techniques), kumite practice with a partner - light sparring
Friday: kihon training, kata practice
Saturday: running and weight training
Sunday: rest and relaxation
The above is just an example of a workout schedule and is one of an infinite number of variations. In this case the karateka is training karate 4 days a week and doing basic exercise 2 days a week. Focus of your workout varies based on what your emphasis on competition is. If you primarily focus on kumite you may want to increase your waza training to 3 times a week and reduce kata to 1 time. Likewise if your emphasis is on kata, kata practice 3-5 times a week may be more advisable. Since kata puts less of a strain on the body, frequency of training is possible. To be a well-rounded karateka and to get the most benefit from the training, there should be a balance between the two.
Running and Karate
Running is probably the best cardiovascular workout there is. Nothing develops stamina like running on a regular basis. As a marathon runner I can tell you that when I train karate, I no longer tire. When I compete in a 2-3 minute match the intensity of my focus and physical techniques do not diminish from the start of the match through the finish. It was not always so. There was a time when I started competing that I found myself out of breath by the end of the match or at the end of executing a kata. If you run out of breath, your muscles also do not receive the oxygen they require and the body as well as the mind tires. When I started to take up running I found I no longer was breathing hard when practicing karate. My recovery time when doing strenuous karate exercise also improved drastically. Full mental focus was able to be put on the match without undue regard to conserving energy. The distraction of exhaustion also was eliminated.
The key to running is building up your distance GRADUALLY. Start with a jogging pace not much faster than walking and go 1 mile. If you are winded, slow your pace down. The rule of thumb is to initially not run so fast you are out of breath and can't hold a conversation with a person you are running with. Every 2 weeks add another mile to your regiment until after 10 weeks time your are up to 6 miles. If you can run the 6 miles 2-3 times a week you will see a marked improvement in your stamina. Like your karate training, running everyday is not advisable especially if you are training karate at the same time. A pace of 9-11 minute mile is adequate and if you wish you may try to increase your pace and reduce your time. Like the distance, increase in pace should be done gradually over a period of time. A true cardio vascular workout does not occur until one has run at least 30 minutes or 3 miles. This is the reasoning behind extending this workout beyond this distance.
The other type of running is interval training. Interval training involves running a moderate sprint for a distance of 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile and then walking or slow jogging for the same or slightly less distance. This type of training builds strength and also tends to be similar to the workout one receives when karate training. It assists in developing the strength and speed necessary to deliver explosive techniques in karate. Like the distance training, start with 3-5 intervals and gradually increase the number to where your are able to run 8-12 of these intervals. An increase of 2 intervals added every 2 weeks will get you up to your target of 8-12 intervals in a very short period of a couple of months. As time progresses you may also try to increase your speed and see if you reduce the time of your sprinting. Between sprint intervals, work on controlling your breathing and taking slow deep breaths in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. You will find that by focusing on your breathing you will be able to reduce your recovery time.
Your heart rate should also be monitored as well to make sure your are in your target zone. The target zone is 60-80 percent of your maximum heart rate when distance running. When doing interval training, your heart will be much closer to the maximum rate. To calculate your maximum heart rate, take the number 220 and subtract your age from 220. Multiply this number by .8 to find 80 percent of your target zone. After you have been running for a couple of miles, take your pulse on your neck area. Count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will give you your heart rate per minute. This rate should be in the 60-80 percent of your target zone. If it is too low, increase your pace. If too high, slow your pace down.
Weight Training and Karate
Weight training in the martial arts is a controversial topic at times. Some martial artists feel that weight training reduces flexibility and speed and therefore should be refrained from. Others feel that it is vital in improving strength. In my opinion, both are true. Working with very heavy weights will build large muscle mass and strength but will reduce flexibility and speed in exchange for pure strength. By the laws of basic physics, speed and mass combine to produce energy. A large strong limb traveling at a slow speed will deliver the same amount of energy as a small limb traveling at a much faster speed. Therefore, if lifting weights increases your mass to where you are much slower than you were before, you may actually have a reduction in the amount of power your are able to generate. On the other hand, if weight training gives you the power to propel a slightly heavier, stronger limb at a faster speed, you will actually increase power.
It is therefore my opinion that for the martial artist it is more beneficial to work on greater repetitions with lighter weight. This will build muscle tone and strength without the substantial increase in bulk. The end result should be a slightly larger more toned limb that will be able to propel the body at a faster speed. End result - more power. Vital to this process is to stretch the muscles that you worked out both before and after the workout. Vital to maintaining flexibility is additional stretching the day after the workout as well. This will help to maintain flexibility and range of motion