There are two pathways to Iron body development. Mind-directed dynamic tension and impact. I became enchanted with this not for the fighting facet but for what I perceive as the health and strength-intoold-age aspects. Because our health and well-being stems from the marrow of our bones. And although we cannot de-age our bodies – we can have new muscle. One can be 70 years old and have newly formed muscle one year old. And one can have new fresh built bone. With training. Stress builds. You don’t build bone with calcium – not one bit. So you will perceive no benefit from consuming calcium – unless your body is deficient in calcium and your bones weakened and brittle. You don’t build muscle with protein – you build muscle by working it. Work the bones harder you need a bit more calcium. Work the muscle harder you need more protein (it could get more advanced, but that’s the gist of this context). In any event, I noticed the elderly tend to have weak brittle bones on soft, diminished musculature – and I determined I’d begin while young to form a habit that may not end up my living longer, but stronger and healthier into old age. On that path, I discovered much. A lot came from when I transitioned into GojuRyu karate. There is a tremendous difference between the post World War II Japanese karate, which became a sport and traditional karate which was learned from Okinawa (which came from China). Traditional is deadly combat. You cannot effectively perform it in the ring, even full contact mixed martial arts, because if you execute it with control you’ll be knocked out easily and quickly, or tapped out.
Traditional technique kills or rips and tears tendons and ligaments. Well it also includes Iron body, which is the point of this article – and we’ll see the canine applications shortly. For the human martial artist iron body is developed with a form called Sanchin. If asked, this is my favorite of all forms and I work it nearly every day. It involves from basically a grapplers stance with toes turned in to protect groin, low kicks, and karate punches done very slowly with dynamic/full concentrated/high, high as you can muster/intense tension. Every body part is tensed from curled toes to neck/jaw. To culminate into your iron body goal (which takes years, not months) this tension has to be coordinated with your deep diaphragm, abdominal breathing – and your concentrated mind must direct the energy flow (electromagnetic energy). In school, the instructor bangs your body – from hands (for beginners) to rattan stick, to iron pellet filled canvas socks for advanced iron body. At home you bang yourself. Your mind is integral. You must imagine your focused breath slamming back into the area of contact. Boxers do much the same, slamming a hard rubber medicine ball to the gut while tensing or crunching but they only work the gut. Muay Thai fighters use rattan. The boxer Manny Pacquiao does both medicine ball and rattan stick banging (he has a background in Muay Thai). One more set of observations and we’ll get to the dogs. Most of this comes from one of my favorite training books, “Power to the People”, by Pavel Tsatsouline (Pavel to be short). Pavel used to train Soviet Special forces and holds a Soviet degree in Physiology and Coaching. Martial Arts and powerlifting is his forte. Don’t let the name of the book mislead – he has a tremendous sense of humor – this is one of the most progressive/informative manuals in my extensive library of training books. Pavel maintains there is nothing healthy about the modern bloated, steroid induced (short term – it dissipates soon as you stop – look at Arnold) body builders (what I call plastic muscle). He points out the martial artist needs to train (long, slow, distance) LSD – this is the only way to build slow twitch muscle and mitochondria – the power plants of the muscle cells – and LSD builds more – but for pure animal strength and hard body – you need heavy – very heavy weight. Low reps, very heavy weight builds myofibrillar hypertrophy (denser, stronger, lasting) muscle. Medium weight for high reps (modern bodybuilding) builds sacroplasmic hypertrophy (bloated, soft, useless) muscle, Pavel contends. I don’t agree with useless. Body builders are very strong and muscle mass is a prerequisite to build strength, and protects for contact sports like football. But that mass muscle is too heavy, oxygen demanding which severely depletes endurance, and is devastating for the fighter, and it is tight, low range of motion and heavy – and heavy you don’t want if you are a fighter. Speed you want – but like a panther speed/combined with power. Then another area in which I disagree with Pavel is that the “pump” generated in bodybuilding nourishes and hence builds muscle, particularly blood infused with all the proteins and ATP etc. It also builds vascularity, which I posit induces endurance when combined with endurance training (enhanced by the consumption of nitric oxide supplementation, proven to significantly enhance endurance). It is the SIZE and WEIGHT when one specializes on bodybuilding that I find detrimental to a fighter, including grapplers.
Analogy – in the hot humid swamps of wild boar hunting, the heavy muscled powerful American Bull will very quickly run out of gas – and in my experience, more often killed if he stays in with a bad one, than a much smaller, leaner, much faster, much higher endurance and yet relatively very powerful, pit. Actually it isn’t that basic. On a personal basis, I train all three modalities – endurance (slow twitch), strength (a balance – body building) and real heavy (fast twitch – power). And I feel it should be the same for the canine athlete – in either case I suggest avoid heavy bloated muscle and build functional, iron hard power. The significant/deeper lesson I got from Pavel is that you can command boost that power battery with what he terms hyperirradiation. He defines this as “the purposeful tensing of muscles other than the ones directly responsible for the task at hand” – or “the pneumomuscular and other strength promoting reflexes”. He maintains (and proves – and I can document) his “program produces superior results because it allows the highest levels of tension, full body involvement, and employs the heaviest weight”. He means, in effect – Sanchin (and he refers to and explains Sanchin). Hyperirradiation means increased strength through additional neural stimulation of the target muscles by the impulses from working ‘extra muscles’. He explains – “if you intensely/dynamically tense the entire body prior to a personal best attempt at, say, a deadlift – you greatly enhance the chance of exceeding”. Pavel points out that “neuroanatomics have found that the area of the brain that controls the hand muscles have a much higher presentation relative to actual muscle size than other muscle groups”. In his book he posits that “intense forearm/ hand work heightens neural stimulation of all muscles worked during a particular movement”. He said at least in his case, it sure enhances his ability to handle heavy weight in a variety of exercises – and I can add to that – me too. Today we know he was ahead of his time – hence the popular (weight training) fatgripz (google it)(I wrap washcloths around the bar or dumbbell or kettlebells). The wider grip makes you concentrate, grip harder and tense more. Pavel is against belts and wrist straps for deadlifts. They can help lift heavier – but they weaken your strength training gradation to lift heavier. That is just exemplary. It is whole body, brain-ordered intense tensing that makes for tough. You cannot shoot a cannon from a canoe, says Pavel – and you cannot lift a very heavy weight unless your whole body is tightened up and braced. Picture this, he comments, quoting Iron Ernie (powerlifting world champion Ernie Franz): “You go to squat, your legs are tight, but your arms are lightly clutching the bar. What will happen is the weight will feel heavy and probably shift on you. Hold firmly with every muscle ready for action, and you are more likely to lift with ease”. Pavel provides many more examples and the same concepts cited by world champion powerlifters. The most important ingredient for serious power, Pavel explains (along these same lines) – is the mind. That is why Pavel doesn’t call this intense total body tensing, dynamic tension – he calls it hyperirradiation. Irradiation means the application of electromagnetic radiation – like a microwave range. Well ki (Japanese) or chi (Chinese) is electromagnetic energy. Laughed at by western science and western doctors, it is within the last decade we found out what it is and it is real. All living things exude electromagnetic energy (chi) – and acupuncture uses it (space precludes further explanation in this article), but the mind can direct this flow. That’s why no heavy weight boxer (that includes George Foreman and Joe Frazier) has been able to break the punching power record registered on a dynamometer by a 135 pound Japanese karate master (cited in Pavel’s book and many other). Pavel points out that the powerlifiting wonder man of the 1950s – the 350 pound monster man Paul Anderson, was thought to be forever unbeatable with his surreal powerlifting – until in 1996 a Bulgarian defector snatched more weight, beating his record. The Bugarian weighed 132 pounds! Pavel explains further. Tension = force. “the tenser your muscles are, the more strength you display”. He suggests we “watch how the wiry muscles of a kickboxer stand out in sharp relief when a powerful kick makes its impact or how a gymnast’s compact deltoids appear rock hard and almost inanimate as he executes a crucifix on the rings”. Yes, Pavel suggests, force and tension can be said to be the same thing and “that is why neurological, or ‘bulk free’ strength training can be summed up as acquiring the skill to generate more tension”. (and he cites the famous Dr. Fahey agrees). It is about “synchronized electrical impulses supplied to the muscles by the nerves” (electromagnetic energy – chi). Pavel has another to me interesting clarification that I find intriguing. He says “pre-tensing to the point of cramping before getting under a barbell can be compared twisting a rubber band after it has fully contracted. The move enables the muscle to store great amounts of elastic energy as the descending weight stretches the rubber band and the twists in the bands on the way down”. He said Russian research showed that “the ability to store and use the tension loaded into the muscles in the yielding phase of the movement separated the elite athletes from ‘also rans’.” I would add that in Kung Fu this training is also referred to as “coiling energy”. I strongly recommend Pavel’s book for any athlete – and that includes those who handle canine athletes. Iron body can be enhanced by what is called, in karate, the “spirit shout”. This is an intense (110% emotion) shout co-ordinated with the breath at point of impact. Marines engage the same shout as do powerlifters. The whole body tenses (to extreme) with this shout. When I train my (heavy weight)(except I am genetically, slow twitch endurance – I am not capable of lifting very heavy) dumbbell presses, I psych up and tense to the max and scream when I lift – for example. Now the dogs. Can dogs train iron body and if so, how – and why? With dogs you get that tension when you walk (most) while they pull ahead – paws scratchin’ the ground, neck and back and strong leg muscles straining. We want tense to the max. We can step it up by having a partner walk a few yards ahead with another dog – your dog pulls harder. Now try this – when you work your dog pulling a weighted tire or cart – and to my mind all should (many dogs have no interest in pulling. You insure a competitive love for pulling by teaching a puppy to pull garage door weights at feed time). It is to me, important as I don’t know, personally, a more specific training modality, except for the springpole (or discussed shortly, the Schutzhund sleeve). In any event, pulling is important of course for the weight pull competitor but to my mind, also for the conformation show competitor for hard striated muscle.
But the real advantage comes to the catch dog – he wrestles and has a power edge given two dogs of equal endurance – the match dogs of yesterday – ibid. Okay to inculcate hyperirradiation try the following – which is what this article is finally about. Warm up with weight the dog can pull a distance and walk the dog, – partner with a dog in front, while you pull back on your struggling dog – just enough so he keeps going forward – he always wins in his mind – whoa – real tense. Then take it to the maximum level. Hook the dog, after the warm-up, to a weight the dog has to struggle, but even on a bad day he’ll make (he always has to win in his mind, of course) a few yards – or a yard beyond the normal competitive weight pull track. When you give him the command to pull (or bait is better – and EXCITEDLY SCREAM FOR THE DOG TO WORK IT) hold/restrain him with a leash hold – let him make an inch, restrain, make another inch, restrain (gradually increase the sequence as the dog learns he can win with persistent attempts) – release and let him make it across the finish line. This maxes out the tense by pre-tensing until the dog’s body quivers and is the point of this article. This builds the iron body. As noted with the long prelude in this article, the dog will also learn to pull heavier weight. I think it does more than train the dog to handle heavier weight – I think it will max the wrestling power a catch dog has given his endurance, and it will give a show dog enhanced, defined, but not large muscle. Personally I think it even goes beyond that – I think it builds a tough dog. Not a game dog, only genetics can do that – but a tough bugger. As to impact the canine equivalent to the boxer medicine body bang or the karate iron body – is the stick hits in Schutzhund – but done the way indicated in this article, not the casual stroking performed by classical Schutzhund. As can be noted in the accompanying photo, the Schutzhund trial includes the dog grabbing a large (hard to hold) hemp sleeve, and he must not let go until commanded, even through multiple stick strikes (and for possible animal rights readers – this does not teach a dog to bite people – not one bit – they know it is game – and they are under MORE control, than an untrained dog). Parenthetically, sleeve work is the most “sport specific” (for all – from the show to the hunting dog) training in terms of developing the gladiator mouth-eye co-ordination, body movement, to cyclic energy demands. But we are about iron body in this context. Almost all Schutzhund trainers make a big, waving flourish of a bamboo stick that stings at best and then actually just stroke the dogs. This so the dog is not afraid one bit of the stick and the trial is about mental not physical. But I found (on Long Island New York) these master level Schutzhund trainers (specialized in imported German Shepherds – GSD’s) that would really whack even a GSD that didn’t have strong nerves and the dog would stay. And they taught me how. When the dog is very used to a stinging bamboo stick (many, many hours – for this you start playing with a puppy, every day), you graduate to a hard stick and rap just hard enough to make the dog bite hard in retaliation (and gradually increase the force – using common sense of course you never even come close to harming the dog anymore than a boxer harms his own body) . Timing is crucial with this. You watch the dog’s jaw/neck and the EXACT MOMENT he clamps down in response to the hit, you feed him the sleeve (let it slip off, the dog carries it to the side and bites on it like a prey). Don’t “out” him – break him with a breaking stick. He is REWARDED for his hard bite. Just as you pull your hand away as you touch a hot stove, at point of impact, the dog will instinctively send “energy” to the impact point. In addition to maximizing the genetic bite this builds strong bones and iron muscle and a tough mind set. When he is experienced – you jerk the sleeve away a bit (by moving back a bit) whenever he lunges for a bite – making him work to get his hold – timing it so that he has to work for it – but he ALWAYS wins (when experienced, make him miss on initial attempts and tries harder – and gets it) – and whenever he gets a deep, to-the-corners-of-themouth bite and clamps down from a stick hit good – he is rewarded with the sleeve. This training is as specific as you can get. It is so related to the iron body training of traditional karate and kungfu. Another thing to do that differs from classical Schutzhund – hit all over – the feet, the stifle, the front legs (avoid the spine and any even close injury of course – use common sense). You can find a company that sells quality Schutzhund sleeves in the links on my web site email@example.com. As a precursor to this Schutzhund sleeve training, begin the very young dog on his springpole (and the same concept as sleeve work applies here – many dogs have absolutely no interest in a springpole as adults. Start with little puppies playing with a hemp rope). Some – generally the Red Boy bloodline types – the kind that like to holler when they work the springpole – let out a bloodcurdling SCREAM when you apply the hit (it is excitability, not hurt). To me this is akin to the aforementioned “spirit shout” generated by karate martial artists – and marines. It is not dog abuse – it is intense game. It is whole body tensed – real hard enhanced with an exhilarating scream. This does not mean the dog bites harder than a genetically engineered hard biter- but it does mean whatever your dog has – he will bite harder with this training. The loud screaming dogs tend – TEND – to have a less intense bite. A little side note here. Over decades I went through many changed perspectives. At first enamored with the screaming idiot dog (my Morochito, my Velvet). Experience showed me this attitude, impressive it may be, can lose to the calm, thinking athlete. Further experience showed me there are no absolutes. A screaming idiot may have miles of endurance and finishing bite and thoroughly win over experienced champion calm thinkers – or it can go visa versa. But that concept is not very relevant here. The concept here is using the stick as described with the springpole, then with the Schutzhund sleeve builds a fast-mouthed canine warrior with iron body. Iron body training doesn’t make a game dog, but the body becomes much harder and the pretensing builds prehistoric power. Pavel words it “squeeze more horsepower out of a given size engine without creating overly large, heavy soft muscle”. I say it creates a tougher, cobbier, power train explosion dog. Pre-tensing by holding back while the dog struggles to pull, to the ultimate/point of body shake combined with impact with stick hitting springpole and ultimately Schutzhund sleeve work – spirit-shout for those dogs that comply to hits with impact, screaming – innovative approach, tough training – imagine the possibilities – all this is canine Sanchin – iron body.
by Bob Stevens