Thursday, July 28, 2011

Exercise of the Week: Straddle to Stand

I'm sure I didn't invent this exercise - I've seen Tom Kurz do it in some videos of his - but I'm not sure if there's an official name.  So I'll stick with "Straddle to Stand" for now.


  1. Stand on something that allows your feet to slide/ move around freely.  You can stand on Valslides, put your feet into gymnastics rings or stirrups of a suspension trainer, or even wear socks on a very slick linoleum/ hardwood floor.  The less friction the better.
  2. Let your feet slide out to the sides into a straddle - as if you're trying to do a split.  If you can do a split, then great.  If not, go as deep as is comfortable.  If you need to hold onto something for balance, do so, but don't hold yourself up with your hands.  Also, it helps to tilt your pelvis forward (anterior pelvic tilt) - as if you're sticking your butt out - to clear space in your pelvis.
  3. Once you've gone as deep as you can, hold briefly, then pull yourself back up using just the strength of your hip adductors (the muscles in your groin and along your inner thighs).
  4. Repeat.  Do up to 5 reps.  As you get stronger, try going deeper, or holding some weight while you do it.


This exercise is specifically for karateka or other martial artists.  It's designed to build up strength in your adductors with your legs spread far apart.  To be honest, this isn't a range of motion that is important for most athletes - you don't really ever see football players in that position, at least not on purpose!  

But if you want to have good high kicks (and don't we all?  Regardless of how impractical high kicks are for self defense?) then you need to be both flexible and strong in your hip adductors - so your kicks are high and you remain stable in the high kick position.  Very few exercises target these muscles in this range of motion.  

Do Straddle to Stands twice a week.  Combine them with daily dynamic stretching and some evening passive stretching (while cold) and you'll be kicking people in the head in no time! 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mindful Exercise

The other day I ordered a DVD containing over 3 hours of information about performing a single exercise - the kettlebell swing.  I'm not plugging the DVD - I haven't gotten it yet, it might suck, all the usual reasons, and it's not a review copy (although if anybody has any materials they want to donate so I can review them, send away!)  I'm bringing it up for another reason.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine (a non-karateka), who asked me, more or less, why the hell I would pay for or watch 3 hours of material about an exercise I already know how to do.

If you are involved in martial arts you probably don't think there's anything odd about devoting 3 hours (or 3 days, weeks, months, or years) to a single technique in your art - the subtleties of timing and body positioning that make a great punch different from a good punch are complex and, yes, subtle.  But you might not often put as much time or thought into your supporting exercises.

Spending hours learning about, then many more hours refining, the fine points of an exercise are important for a couple of reasons.

Safety:  If you are moving heavy loads or doing a lot of repetitions of a movement (think of people either doing near maximum lifts or joggers - opposite but similar problems) then the injury potential for the movement becomes large.  Small adjustments to your body mechanics can greatly reduce your risk of getting hurt.  Squat with 5 lb. dumbells with your knees caving in?  Probably okay.  Do it 1000 times a day?  You'll mess up your knees, hips, and ankles.  Do it for fewer reps, but with 250 lbs. on your back?  Again, you're going to be sending your chiropractor/orthopedist/physical therapist's kids through college.

Getting your body alignment perfect won't make movement risk free, but it will greatly enhance your safety.

Performance:  You might not realize it, but there are a lot of details that go into doing even simple movements (bench press, deadlift) at a high level.  As a beginner you're going to make great gains on these movements no matter how you do them.  As you get stronger, though, you'll need to focus more and more on perfecting your technique if you want to continue to make progress.  Listen to something like Iron Radio and you can hear guys who can talk about the bench or squat for hours - it's not just "put the weight on your back, sit down, then get back up."

Performance is not just a matter of how much you can lift or how often you can safely do a movement before hitting failure - after all, you might not care if your squat is 200 lbs or 400 lbs as long as your legs get stronger.  Performance is also a matter of what the training effect will be.  If you squat a certain way you might get all the stress on your quadriceps - which is nice, but not great.  Improve your technique and you can shift the stress - and therefore the adaptions - to your hips and glutes, which will have a much bigger impact on your overall fitness, athleticism, and martial ability.

Boredom:  We all have different tolerances for going into the gym and mindless cranking away at the treadmill, Hammer machines, elliptical, or whatever.  Some people can keep that up for years; others can't.  I personally am actually pretty good at doing mind numbingly boring stuff in the gym if I think it will help me improve.  BUT we all prefer routines that are less boring.  Doing the same set of exercises while only half paying attention, listening to music or watching TV is a completely different experience than working to perfect a complex motor skill.  That's why people enjoy golf and videogames and bowling in a way they don't enjoy pedaling away on an exercise bike.

Working on the skill of doing exercises - striving to perfect your technique, adjusting to the daily variances in your body's stability and mobility, fully concentrating on the moment you're in - that's not boring.  Pushing away at pads on a machine can be.

Brain Health:  You, like many people, may be convinced that doing exercise in an engaged way might be less boring, but you'd still rather just watch TV from your treadmill and reap the health benefits of exercise.  Sadly, you'll be missing out on a big chunk of those benefits.  Your brain, just like any other of your body's systems, gets crapped out with disuse.  If you aren't constantly forcing your nervous system to adapt to new demands it will slowly lose the ability to do so.  If you stop learning, you eventually lose (or at least decrease) your ability to learn.  If you stop acquiring and refining new motor skills you lose the ability to acquire, and to even maintain, motor skills.

Not worried about it?  You're okay with growing old and not being able to improve your golf game?  That's fine - but if your motor control declines you won't just lose your ability to sink a putt, you'll slowly lose your ability to run, then walk, then get out of a chair.  For fun, go into a nursing home and ask the residents how cool it is that they get wheelchairs so they don't have to move around under their own power anymore.

Will kettlebell swings prevent you from ever being incapacitated?  I'm not sure.  But mainaining your neural efficiency is a big part of maintaining your ability to move yourself around, put boxes on shelves, walk through an airport, have sex - do any of the things that make life worth living.  If you're in your twenties that may seem like a pretty distant concern, but the way to be healthy and have a high quality of life (and a well functioning nervous system) in your old age is to start building up your body - muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, and nerves - now.

Mindlessly pumping away at machines or cardio equipment is just that - mindless - and it doesn't exercise your mind at all.  Now doing machine circuits at Curves is certainly better than nothing, but it's nowhere near as good for you as a mentally engaging workout where you are constantly working on form the way a professional dancer is always working on her basic movements.

Summary:  The age old machines vs. free weights debate may not have a clear cut answer about which is better for your muscles, but there is no doubt that free weights are better for your nervous system.  Be engaged in all your exercises - really focus on form when you do pushups (pack the shoulders, tighten the core, screw your hands into the ground), not just when you do punches, and keep your nerves responsive and healthy!  As an added benefit, you'll get stronger and more resilient as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exercise of the Week: Fireman Pushup


I know I should (and eventually will) put up a video, but bear with me for now.
  1. Start in a plank position (facedown, forearms flat on the floor, body rigid, like a pushup position only your whole forearm - from hand to elbow - 0touching the ground).
  2. Lift your right arm and place your hand on the ground underneath your shoulder.
  3. Push up, letting your left arm straighten so you end up in a pushup top position.
  4. Supporting yourself with your left arm, pick up your right hand.
  5. Lower yourself onto your right forearm.
  6. Lower your left arm so you return to the start position.
  7. Repeat, switching left and right.
The entire movement takes longer than a regular pushup - maybe as long as 2-3 regular pushups.  Keep your body rigid the entire time.  For a little extra arm work when you do step 3 keep your left arm off the floor - basically, you're doing the top half of a one arm pushup.


I love this exercise.  First, it's a nice arm exercise - as I wrote above, if you do it right you're doing the top half of a one arm pushup with every rep.  Keep your shoulders and neck packed and you're doing a lot for coordinating your posture, and stabilizing the shoulder.

But the real benefit of this movement is the kind of core training you're getting.  This is like a plank - you are training your core to hold your body stiff, but you're not just stopping your body from collapsing in the middle (resisting spinal extension) but also stopping your body from twisting (also known as anti-rotation).  As soon as you pick up one of your hands - step 2 - your right shoulder wants to twist towards the ground.  The only thing keeping your body straight is your core!

The other beautiful thing is that your weight is constantly shifting from one arm to the other.  It's much more dynamic than, for example, just holding a pushup position on one hand.  Every time you shift your weight from one supporting hand to the other your core musculature has to respond, dynamically.  Which is exactly what you want your core to be good at doing - quickly adjusting to a changing load of forces.  After all, when you throw a punch, you don't push with that arm overseveral minutes - you shift from no rotational forces to heavy rotational forces back to none in a very short time.  If you want your core to support punching it has to be good at resisting rotation quickly, and then turning back off when the punch is finished.

Your weight shifts back and forth (left to right) multiple times with each rep.  All in all, a very taxing workout for your core!

If you need to, feel free to wear a weight vest while you do it or put your feet up on a Swiss ball or something to add some challenge.  You could also keep your hands/ forearms on a Swiss ball but I don't think you could use a TRX for it.

Just please don't do 100 reps with each arm!  As always, when strength training, harder is better than longer.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Catching, then Boarding, the Wagon

After my shodan promotion I took 12 years off from karate training.  After my nidan promotion I didn't do as badly - I took off maybe 6 months, and I did train a little during that time, though sporadically.  Now, after my sandan promotion, I'm in the middle of another layoff - but this one is caused by the picture leading this post.  That's what's left of my beloved Civic - and my layoff is because of the resulting shoulder injury, not mental burnout.  I'm actually quite eager to train, I just don't have full use of my arm back (though please don't worry about me, it's already 90% better and I should be fully healed in an other week).

There are various reasons we fall off the wagon - injuries and illnesses, lapses in motivation, personal and work situations that interfere with our diet or training, travel, holidays... I'm sure I missed something.  In each case your long term success depends on one thing:  getting back on the wagon.

How you go about doing that depends somewhat on why you were off track and how out of shape you are. Here are a few tips:

1.  Ease back into training.  This is super important.  There is something about the body that causes your fallloff in work capacity to happen much slower than your ability to resist the stress of training.  What I mean is, after a layoff you might find that you can do 90% of what you used to do in a workout, but the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will be much more severe.

This is a bad thing for several reasons.  DOMS will keep you out of the dojo or gym for a few days, slowing your attempt to get back in shape.  It's also demoralizing for some people.  Also, and more seriously, if you make yourself sore enough your muscles will adapt by building up non-contractile tissue inside the muscles - like scar tissue or connective tissue - to increase their resilience.  The last thing you want, as a martial artist, is more dead weight on your body.  A little soreness is okay; really bad soreness will have long term detrimental effects on your body.

Do less than you think you can do for a few workouts as you get back into shape after your layoff.  Keep quite a bit "in the tank" - stopping well short of complete exhaustion - until you're back in fighting shape.

2.  Ease back into your diet.  If you've managed to eat clean during your layoff, that's great.  If you haven't, though, trying to go back to a 100% clean diet might be too big of a change.  Ease your way back into eating clean the same way you did it the first time - though feel free to accelerate the timetable.

For example, suppose you were pretty close to eating clean Paleo.  Suppose you backslide by drinking diet soda, eating milk chocolate, then eating ice cream.  Maybe during your "fall" from the wagon you ate a lot of chocolate, soda, and ice cream.  When you try to get back, give up the ice cream first.  Then, a few days later, the chocolate (or at least cut back a lot).   Then the soda.  Trying to do all 3 at once is too much for most people (though if you can handle it, by all means do so, there are no physiological reasons to stick with the Diet Coke if you don't have to).

3.  Pursue different goals.  If you're coming off an injury and can't train with the intensity you'd want, try going after a different goal.  For example, I've been eating more calories to support hard training and strength gain leading up to my promotion last week.  I wanted to have the highest quality workouts I could, and I wasn't actively trying to lean out (I didn't get very fat or anything, but I also didn't get any leaner).  Now, with promotion done and my shoulder messed up, I can't do hard karate workouts even if I want to.  So now is the time to cut calories, increase my sub-maximal intensity training (more casual walks, fewer snatches), do more mobility work, and lean out in preparation for my next round of intense training.

You could also take this time to do a dedicated cycle of strength training, do some longer duration endurance training (not too much, maybe a couple of weeks worth), and focus on mobility work and stretching.

4.  Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't.  It's easy to dwell on what your body can't do.  Doing so won't, however, make you any better.  So... if your arm hurts?  Work your legs.  Back hurts?  Work on mobility.  Everything hurts?  Do visualization training, study your terminology, watch instructional videos.  Almost any injury leaves you with modalities you can train safely - it's up to you to figure them out and work them.

5.  Be patient.  After a 12 year break people told me everything would "come back to me" right away.  It didn't.  It took a long, long time for me to re-learn what I'd once known and get to be even a shadow of the  martial artist I'd been at 23 (and I wasn't very good at 23, either).  But it is possible - I'm still not very good, but I'm better than I was at 23 - it just takes a while.  Be in it for the long haul.  If you train intelligently, eat right, and drive carefully (slow down at intersections - trust me!) you can be healthy and make progress for a long, long time.

6.  Forgive yourself.  Berating yourself for sliding off your training or eating schedule is counterproductive.  I'm not trying to get all touchy feely with you, but while it's good to try to figure out what led you to backslide there's no point beating yourself up over it.  Brush off the dust and get back on the horse.

The ultimate cure for a long layoff is ending the layoff.  Motivate yourself (watch some movies, read some books, attend a tournament, whatever) and get back in there!


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dark Side of Accomplishment

Pop quiz:  What do Jon "Bones" Jones, Bill Clinton, and I have in common?

Answer:  A tendency to become assholes in the moment of our greatest success.

I honestly can't decide if this is a universal human trait or not - it certainly manifests to varying degrees in different individuals - but I've seen it in plenty of people.  I don't know where I read this analysis of Clinton (I certainly didn't make it up) but the gist of the theory is that every time he'd experience great success in some area of his life he'd get arrogant and cocky and do something stupid to screw it up.  I've done this myself, plenty of  times, though with much smaller consequences - I get that feeling of success and invulnerability, push the envelope a little bit, then some more, until everything pops and I wind up acting like an asshole.  If you know me, you might think that this is my natural state of being all the time, but the painful fact is that when I get high on myself my behavior actually gets much, much worse.

In martial artists this leads to some weird behavior.  You might think that the arrogant among us would ease off on training - but the opposite usually occurs.  After all, the arrogant karateka know how they got so good - by training - and they don't want to let that slide.  So they keep training very hard, but, they stop really learning.  They''ll correct mistakes pointed out by their seniors, but they won't really try to understand the mistakes or develop new insight into their technique.  The feeling of accomplishment fills their heads like wax.

Plus, they become assholes.  In a way that is usually tempered by dojo etiquette, which makes it subtler, but still present.  Even if it's just the way they look at the lesser mortals around them - they're still being assholes.

There are several cures.  One is to be around much better karateka than yourself - this helps cure our overconfidence.  If that's tough to find, try YouTube.  If you're really one of the best in the world, and can't find anybody more skilled than you to temper your arrogance...  then kudos to you, sir, and may I ask why you're reading my blog?  In all seriousness, however, I don't think anyone is so skilled in all areas of martial arts that they can't find someone to look up to in some area or ability to make them feel humbled.

I had a moment like this last weekend - for about 90 seconds I was pretty happy with my skill as a karateka (this was after promotion).  Luckily, I was alone in my room, so I didn't get a chance to do anything super obnoxious before snapping out of it (if I was obnoxious to you last weekend, I apologize, but that was just my normal personality, not the super obnoxious me I can become when I'm feeling cocky).

Moments to be careful of include (but are not limited to): achieving new ranks, mastering new kata/ techniques/ skills, winning competitions, and successful sparring sessions.

The annoying thing is that walking around all the time feeling down on yourself because of how much you suck at martial arts, comparing yourself to the great masters and always feeling like a loser, is equally counterproductive.  Being too humble can be demotivating, and giving your own opinions too little weight can make it very hard to advance in your understanding of martial arts.  The trick seems to be finding a happy middle ground, and if I knew exactly how to manage that I'd absolutely tell you.

Bottom line:  try not to be an asshole.  When you're feeling best, and most accomplished, is exactly when you are most likely being the biggest jerk.  If you're reading this and think I meant you, I didn't - I really wrote this about me - but if you think I meant you then maybe you have some self examination to do.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reflections on Gasshuku and Promotion

I had an interesting week.  I learned a few things, re-discovered a few more, and made a ton of new friends.

First, a short list of things NOT to do before/ during promotion:

1.  Get into a car accident.  I got hit (driver side front corner) going through an intersection last Tuesday morning (promotion was Friday).  Being both male and a little bit stupid I gave my statement to the police, then walked about 15 blocks to work.  Then another mile or so to the car rental place where I got my replacement vehicle.

My instructor forced me to get medical attention the next day (she threatened to block me from promotion if I didn't get checked out, which isn't entirely unreasonable, but I still wasn't happy about taking an extra half day off work).  It turns out that I'm okay - sort of.  I have no actual injuries - nothing that should hospitalize me - but my chest and shoulder were seriously banged up.  As in they hurt enough to make me cry when I try to roll over in bed.

Instantly I went from hoping to do really, really, well on my test to just hoping I wouldn't completely embarrass myself and my instructor.  Even when I was doped up on ibuprofen, though, I could feel that I'd lost about 50% of the speed and power in my right arm.  That's one of the big things they deal with in Z Health - your body shuts down motor units when you're working through a painful range of motion, to protect itself, which is why mobility work and soft tissue work can often unleash a ton of strength you didn't know you had.

Final result:  car completely totalled.  I walked away.  The woman who hit me was hospitalized.  I'm still sore but getting better daily.  And I survived promotion!

2.  Work yourself into a nervous frenzy.  I stressed myself out again, worrying.  But I did a lot better than last time...  so, progress, I guess.

3.  Complain.  I have to admit I can be a fun burglar.  When I'm too hot, or bitten by bugs, or whatever, I have a bad habit of getting bitchy and complaining.  I make myself miserable, I make everyone else miserable, and I have a terrible time.  This promotion was at a camp at a monastery.  No air conditioning, sun beating down on us, waking up at 4 AM to meditate outside, mediocre food, long drive to get there... you get the idea.  I found myself a couple of times running a little loop of bitching in my head - but for once in my life I was smart enough to snap out of it.  I very consciously decided to NOT complain, on the inside or the outside, and try to enjoy the good stuff that was happening.

It's a good thing I did, because the good stuff was amazing.  The weather was fantastic - just as the final 2 rounds of kumite for sandan candidates (including me), the capstone of promotion, started, the skies opened up and it just poured rain on us.  I got two big guys - both bigger, stronger, and far more skilled than I, to spar with (one at a time), and they kicked the crap out of me, which was good, because that's what's supposed to happen during promotion.  The next morning we got to meditate and watch the sun rise.  We did all kinds of camp - team building type of stuff, the kind I usually hate, but all the people there were just so nice, so supportive, so skilled and diverse, that I had the time of my life.  I got to make new friends and get to know old friends much better.  I had to write song lyrics and make an ass out of myself onstage (we had to produce skits).  I got too little sleep, too much food, too much sun and bug exposure, and I had an awesome time.

In the end I also got my sandan (third degree black belt).  Better yet, my teacher says I didn't embarrass her, and while I think she's just being nice, I'll try to believe it might be true.

Weirdly, a handful of people there recognized me from reading this blog, which took me totally by surprise.

If you're a fellow Seido practitioner, Osu!  Welcome to my blog.  Please note that everything I write about here is my personal opinion and NOT the official "line" of our style.  If I write about the correct way to punch it may not be the right Seido way -  it's my opinion, and I'm NOT an instructor!  Especially if anything your teacher says should contradict my writing, listen to THEM (please!)  Of course, you can think about what I write, but I'm no authority on our style.

Here's something I've re-discovered:  the people who practice in my style are nice.  I don't mean they're weak, or soft, or anything like that, but... they're nice.  I've met a ton of people who train in Seido and pretty much all of them are super nice, super supportive, and just great to be around.  Everybody does everything they can to make everybody else better - not to show up anybody, not to show who is stronger, but just to nurture everybody else's karate.  That doesn't mean you won't get hit during kumite - but it won't be out of malice, it will be out of competition, as a part of training.

It's amazing to be in such a large group of people, all tied together by their love of what amounts to a system for dishing out violence, and almost without exception they're all super nice people.  I wish I knew how this was managed - I wish there was a reproducible recipe for this kind of karate.  I'll think about it some more, but in the meantime I'm just very glad that I lucked into this family (the karate club at my college was a Seido club, run by Shuzeki Shihan Chris Caile, who is a fantastic guy, but in all honesty I trained there because it was the only type of karate I could get to without a car - it wasn't the result of exhaustive research or analysis on my part, just blind, fantastic luck).

Bottom line:  If you ever get a chance to spend 3 days training and hanging out with a bunch of karateka, do it.  Even if there's no air conditioning, and you'll be sleep deprived, and you have to drive 16 hours to get there and back, and you'll get bitten my mosquitoes, and you're recovering from an injury, and you can't really afford it - do it anyway.  From your deathbed I bet you'll remember listening to crickets from seiza and forget all the traffic you hit on the way home.  I bet I will.

I'm thinking about what it means to be a third degree black belt.  I'll write about it at some point.  In the meantime, I have to take a break from training to let my shoulder heal, then it's back to training!


Countdown to Promotion: Ultimate Week

For reasons I'll explain in a future post this entry has been delayed.  Sorry!

It is normal to want to train very hard in the days leading up to your promotion/ event/ competition/ whatever.  You're probably in great shape, you're worried about losing the edge off your skills right before you need them most, and you're psychologically probably very "up" for your chosen field.  I have one very general piece of advice:


The last few days (and I have no scientifically precise data on the exact number, let's say 3-6) before your peaking event should be mostly restful.  This is not when you're going to make gains - this is when you can rest, heal, recover, and make the most of the hard work you've been putting in at the dojo.  Here's what you need to do:

Gently increase calories.  You need to eat at or even a little bit above maintenance this week.  You don't want to get fat, but unless you really pig out you're not going to gain noticeable amounts of weight in 3 or 4 days.  You don't want to be depleted at your event.  You don't need to eat giant bowls of spaghetti or whatever each night to refill glycogen levels, but you do need to make sure to get a moderate amount of carbs each day while avoiding heavy exercise.

Don't train heavy.  No heavy strength work starting at least 3 days before your event, no high intensity intervals in that same time.  You're just not going to get de-conditioned or weaker in 3 or 4 days - your body isn't that plastic - but you might hurt yourself or just get sore and depleted.  This is not the time to get in shape - the 3 months before this were the time to get in shape.  If you did your work then, you'll be fine.  If you didn't, nothing you do in the last week is going to be enough to matter.

Meditate and relax.  Your mind is very possibly your worst enemy now.  You're probably stressing a lot about the competition.  If you have to think about it, actively visuallize yourself being successful - acing your kata, winning a trophy, meeting your own personal goals for the event.  If you can, avoid thinking about it altogether.  Spend time each day meditating.  Enough anxiety will ruin your performance just as quickly as a physical injury - maybe more quickly.

Stretch and do light skill work.  You don't want to train heavy so your body can heal and regenerate, but you also don't want to let it stiffen.  Keep your motor patterns grooved with short, light workouts.  You're not going to get any better at anything in this last week, but you can easily avoid backsliding.  Go over kata in your head - visualize the moves - which is both good for your technique and very good for remembering the sequences.  Do lots of light, dynamic stretching to keep your body limber.  If you have to wring your shirt out after a workout you're working too hard.

Don't do anything new.  New movements/ techniques lead to soreness, which you don't want to deal with on your event day.  This is not the time to take up hill sprints or Olympic lifts. 

Sleep lots; do soft tissue work.  Get an extra hour or two a night if possible.  You're healing and recovering.  If you can, get a massage - even an amateur massage - get in as much sex as you can handle, and do extra sessions of foam rolling or whatever myofascial release work you prefer.  You're preparing your body for an event, treat it the way a Formula 1 team treats their car the day before a race. 

For me, the mental aspect of this week was the toughest.  As I mentioned before, I get nervous, and if I let myself I'll run through doomsday scenarios in my head and generally work myself into a nervous frenzy.  Then, when the time comes, I forget an astounding percentage of what I used to know.  This is bad!  You have to do whatever it takes (other than binge drinking) to take your mind off the event or to think positively about it.

If you have to travel a long way to your event, bring clean food to eat and try to arrange the schedule so you get as much sleep as possible (not always possible, I know).  Pack early.  Stay calm!

Remember, the last week is the time to recover and relax, not to make improvements.  As hard as it is to do, focus on recovery and not training for a few days.  This works - when I took my nidan promotion (not this one, for reasons I'll explain later) I was in my all time best shape - because I spent 3 months kicking my ass in the dojo, then took a week to recover enough to feel how much I'd improved.  You can certainly do the same.  Stop the heavy training, sleep and eat, and you'll be fine for your event.

If you're reading this while preparing for some peaking event in your life, good luck!