In the past few weeks, I met a bunch of friends after a long time. We had a sort of mini reunion of my 10th class friends and a mini reunion of my engineering friends. After having met all these folks, one theme that came out in common with some of them was that I lost weight. While it was true that I lost weight, I did not care to explain why to any of them, primarily because it can’t be explained in a single sentence. My weight loss is not related to any health issue but is related to adapting to goals. Just like in finance, goals related to health also need adaptation so as to give yourself the best chance to succeed. In the short term it may feel like you are taking a loss, but in the long term, you are actually making inroads to be successful. You should have the propensity to take short term pain to make long term gains. What has all this to do with my weight loss you ask? Read on to learn more.

If I did not care to explain my weight loss at that time, then why now? A couple of reasons actually. One, I never really explained how I hurt my shoulder, which was related to weight loss. Two, it has been a while since I wrote anything on health and fitness for which I even have a category on my blog. So I thought why not write something on the topic? Going back to what my friends thought about me, it was quite interesting. Not all of them complained about my weight loss actually. Some did not openly have an opinion. The ones who had an opinion had different things to say about me. No matter what they thought about me, they have always been and I am sure will be my well wishers. They are just making statements about what they observed about me.

Some friends felt that I lost weight in a negative sense in that I don’t look as strong or bulked up. There is a good reason for this line of thought. You see, I have always been a skinny guy and not in a good sense. I struggled to gain weight and get in shape because I cannot pack muscles like some people who can build muscles by just looking at weights. I was on a quest to build muscles like a body builder and most of my friends know this. They have seen me transform from a skinny guy to a guy with some definition. So they were left wondering what happened to all the bulk and why do I look like I lost weight. I did lose weight, but for what reason?

A good number of friends expressed that they felt that I still look the way they remembered me in school or college. Really? Like in school when I could not even grow facial hair? Anyway, I will take that as a compliment. A funny few checked out my six packs quite literally. And a few mentioned that I am sporting a Bruce Lee body and these guys are the ones that hit the nail. The reason for losing weight is to achieve that kind of body and not for aesthetics, but for function over form.

The problem is that I joined karate when I was 36, a time when most people retire from sports. It is quite natural to lose strength and fitness as you age. And around 40 or so most athletes (but not all), tend to go down the curve. While skill can develop as you practice more and thus as you age, some physical aspects tends to turn south. I am talking about clean athletes. You can continue to gain strength if you abuse drugs like steroids or other supplements. What I personally found as I aged is that while I could still continue to gain strength albeit slowly, one thing I could not improve no matter what I did was reaction time. The super fast reflexes you have in your 20s fade away once you hit 30s and fade faster in 40s. What has all this to do with weight loss you ask? I am getting to the point.

In karate and probably in most other martial arts I would guess, you need to be agile and fast. The speed aspect is extremely important to the point that we are taught to execute a kick or punch in the blink of an eye. Now imagine having a lot of muscle and trying to move that hand or leg in a blink of an eye. The muscle slows you down. Fat is of course your enemy but even too much muscle also negatively impacts speed and stamina. When you are sparing (kumite), you have to be fast enough to avoid the kicks and punches of your opponent, and not just that but you should have the stamina in the end to be able to attack them back. What I was noticing was that I have no way near the speed or reflexes of the younger opponents in my karate class. I could manage as many pushups or pullups or pistol squats as any of them. But man are they quick.

To fix the weakness I decided to improve my speed by shedding some weight. I used to be 54 kgs some 2-3 years ago, but I slowly reduced it to 52 kgs now. That gave me some speed advantage but it also made me look skinnier and weak. But don’t be deceived, there is still strength, but in a different form. When you are in a street fight, it does not matter how much muscle you have. You have to be fast enough to be able to dodge the throat punches and groin kicks first and should have enough stamina to exhaust the opponent before delivering your blink of an eye attack. So that is what I am trying to train. I was consciously losing weight for those of you who are wondering.

All this talking about losing weight and improving speed is fine and dandy, but did it really help? Well, I am faster than before, but still not fast enough to escape a broken shoulder apparently :). And that is where we come to the shoulder injury. In one of the training sessions, I was matched up with a bulky 80 kg fellow for a takedown session. Basically the opponent (so will you) will try to put you down by throwing or grappling like in judo. In one of the takedowns, the guy pulled me down to the floor with such strength that I fell on my right shoulder and was not fast enough to escape his weight on me. I heard a sound in my right shoulder that sounded like a louder version of cracking knuckles and then severe pain leading to a doctor visit and shoulder sling and 2 weeks of complete rest for the hand.

Anyway the point I was trying to make is that I was still not fast enough, but I am glad I am improving. More importantly, since my goal now is to be a martial artist, my strategy has changed from bulking to speed. My earlier goal was body building and I was trying to bulk while keeping a low body fat. I will continue to maintain this (lower) weight until I can achieve a black belt which seems like about a couple of years away. Not sure what new goal I might have at that time and how my appearance will change then :).

It is just like in financial goals. If your goal is to save up for kid’s education that is 3 years away, you wouldn’t invest in stock market now would you? But if your goal is to retire after 20 years, it would be silly not to invest in assets that give inflation beating returns. If you are training to be a marathoner you want to have excellent cardio vascular system with a lot of stamina, while a sprinter goes for a completely different body make of fast and powerful muscles. Choose wisely based on your goals.