Bob Sykes talks to Ian McCranor about the out of control issue of obesity and why martial arts instructors should be at the vanguard of halting it...
former England Karate international and longtime friend to the irrepressible Geoff Thompson, Ian McCranor is, to say the least, a well seasoned student from the school of hard knocks... Not being one to live off the reputation of his past performances, the mighty McCranor has discovered a fresh way to channel his undying energies by impacting on what is today a multi-million pound slimming industry... Bob Sykes: Ian, welcome back to MAI. Could you possibly tell me a little about your fresh approach to the martial arts? Ian McCranor: My new approach is very simple... While everyone has been clambering around, working out how they can get a piece of the MMA and self defence pie, I have been looking in a totally different direction. What I discovered is fascinating. There are 65 million people living in the United Kingdom - 46% of those are considered obese (very fat) while a massive 80% of Brits see themselves as carrying more weight than they are happy with. That 80% means only two out of every ten people I see today are happy with their weight and even they are only that way because they work at it. I also discovered that weight loss is a multibillion pound a year industry, dwarfing anything that even the most illustrious MMA promoters make. I also discovered that 80% of people who try to lose weight fail and then fall victim to the scam artist who promises them success with either a pill or some sort of at-home workout device. After ten years living in the States and working with overweight individuals I had that eureka moment - I had discovered the real facts about permanent weight loss and it wasn’t about a particular diet or any one particular workout routine. How important do you feel it is for any martial arts instructor to set an example by
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actually themselves being in shape? I now deal with facts rather than opinions - opinions are reserved for private conversations with friends these days. It’s a fact that the martial arts in Great Britain are in the pan. Standards are terrible, leading to the majority of martial arts clubs catering to children as children don’t ask questions and, to a child, it’s just one big game anyway. Do the instructors teaching children have to be in good shape? Dealing with facts again, the answer is no - there are many older, out of shape, but very experienced coaches from all sports who do a great job at passing on their knowledge. Being a role model and setting an example is a completely different matter though, and this is where the waters start to become a little muddy. Someone who wants to lose weight and decides to hire a personal trainer would look for a trainer in great shape, right? Wrong. People get fat for one reason, but remain fat for a completely different reason. People aren’t stupid - they know how to lose weight, they just don’t have the time or the motivation to do what’s required. A fat, out of shape bloke is not going to ask a fit, muscular trainer to help him get into shape because he feels embarrassed and intimidated - instead he will, in most cases, hire a fat trainer due to the empathy factor, and the problem with this approach is that expectations are often set too low. This has happened to the martial arts also. The expectation of what a martial arts instructor should look like has changed. A fit, muscular, disciplined athlete is not the current image - now here is where I cave and turn to opinion... I think it should be.
“There are 65 million people living in the United Kingdom - 46% of those are considered obese (very fat) while a massive 80% of Brits see themselves as carrying more weight than they are happy with.”
How do you motivate someone to lose those extra pounds? Motivation is the key word, the buzz-word if you like. Motivation is the missing link. The problem with losing weight is not a lack of information. There has never been a time where the information is so readily available, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Losing weight is one of the hardest things someone will ever have to do, but approaching it with all the correct information makes losing weight easily achievable for anyone. Your question was how do I motivate someone? Losing weight is not a one-size-fits-all solution and finding out how each person ticks is very important. One of the best
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Do the instructors teaching children have to be in good shape? Dealing with facts again, the answer is no - there are many older, out of shape, but very experienced coaches from all sports who do a great job at passing on their knowledge. Being a role model and setting an example is a completely different matter though, and this is where the waters start to become a little muddy.
examples I can give would be the lady who came to me with the prospect of the mating game interaction. Being fat was her over 10 stone to lose - she had tried everything - or at least invisibility cloak, no one saw her as she navigated life’s possithought she had. Once I figured out what made her tick she bilities. Yes, she wanted to lose weight but wasn’t prepared to dropped over five stone in the first four months. At the time of give up the ‘cloak’. Now that we were aware of the real issue writing this, she is almost finished with weight loss forever. we had our Focus. So how do I succeed where everyone else seems to fail? I use something I call Awareness, Focus. Here is how Many would say that it is easy to talk about it works. Imagine for the purpose of this explanation a man losing weight when you’re displaying a six who wanted to build a bigger biceps. The recommended and pack, but what experience have you had, correct practise would be to lift a suitable amount of weight Ian? For starters, were you ever fat? for the correct amount of repetitions. The next stage in the This brings us back to the ‘empathy factor’ that I spoke about process would be adequate rest and diet... Yet, if any of these earlier where a fat person hires a fat personal trainer who, requirements are not adhered to then the desired results will in most cases, steers the client in the direction of what they not accrue. refer to as a ‘realistic goal.’ Losing weight is very hard work Now imagine this man has been doing and time consuming, but the rewards FURTHER everything correctly, but is not getting are life changing. I have clients regularly N: INFORMATIO the results. I take a look at all the things who, when asked, in a perfect world what our at Join the TaeRobics team he is doing and discover that he is not weight would you like to get down to, they next instructors course on 11th lifting enough weight, so I attempt to almost always choose a weight far short Sept. Contact taerobics@live. remedy the problem by giving him the of what they can achieve - as though just co.uk or text/phone 07739 correct amount of weight. He then tells losing scale weight is the ultimate goal. A 020100 for more information. me there is no way he can hold that man who weighs twenty stone and settles weight due to the fact he has very weak for being sixteen stone has done a great with MAI’s belief in keeping In wrist - something he had never bothered job, but really they are just now a lighter information that you delivering to mention before. In fact his weak wrists fat bloke. The scale is not the best baanywhere else, we are get can’t only came to light when he attempted rometer, the scale simply measures how The Stop Being Fat launching to lift weights in the manner required, so much weight is placed on it and doesn’t as a regular column Network he wasn’t aware of this problem himself. take into account fat around the heart or 2011. Ian has September starting This is a great example of Awareness, clogging the arteries. The scale is simply success helping tremendous had Focus. a compass letting you know that you are as well as weight lose people By becoming aware of what is holding going in the right direction. s opportunitie business providing you back and focusing on it, you will You won’t get visible abs with exercise instructors. arts for martial bypass many of the pitfalls associalone. You already have good abs, if you ated with weight loss. The focus in this didn’t you wouldn’t be able to hold yourFat ‘Are you fat?’The Stop Being instance is now taken off building the self upright. Your core is worked everyday Network is asking this question bicep and attention is given to strengthen simply by standing and bending. The in next month’s magazine the wrists in order to accommodate the only way you are going to see a six-pack and the answer may just have weight required to exercise the bicep. is through a very strict diet. Exercise will at yourself in a looking you I have discovered that the majority of thicken the muscle fibers, but all the different way... completely people on a weight loss programme are exercises in the world will not show working with weak wrists ‘metaphorically speaking’ so off a six-pack if you are carrying too much fat. failure is inevitable. Of course the man with weak wrists was When I moved to the USA, I had some huge adjustjust an analogy to explain what I believe to be the weight loss ments to make, any routines I had previously stumbling block. The lady who dropped five stone is a real adopted in the UK were out of the window. I wasn’t person - her Awareness, Focus was life changing from the competing any more so I had basically slowed very first day. She, like most people had struggled for many down and taken things easy. In the first year I had years to drop even a couple of pounds, she had tried every gained close to five stone and didn’t even recognize diet and her home was full of workout DVDs. She absolutely the fact. It was only when I saw a picture of myself did believed that her body was not the type that could lose weight. I realize what had happened and here started my journey As I mentioned previously, people get fat for one reason, but through the weight loss industry. People are fat because they remain fat for another reason. do what is required to be fat. People are wealthy because they So, I asked her to tell me why was she fat. Not what made do what is required to be wealthy. The only thing stopping her fat but ‘why’ she was fat. This is an incredibly important anyone from getting in the best shape of their lives is their question that almost every fat person does not know the own limitations and expectations. answer to. It took a while, but with a bit of probing she found the answer and a door to a whole new world burst open. She So where does the martial arts aspect fit said she was fat because she felt she was invisible. Although into all this? she seemed a confident, outgoing person she was secretly shy I am fortunate to have been involved in Karate at a time when and timid when it came to men - she was very uncomfortable physical conditioning was a major part of the training, this with the idea of men chatting her up and would be mortified at really isn’t the case in many clubs today. When I think of a
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People are fat because they do what is required to be fat. People are wealthy because they do what is required to be wealthy.The only thing stopping anyone from getting in the best shape of their lives is their own limitations and expectations.
martial artist or, in my case, a Karateka, I still picture an athlete - someone who looks the part. If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a professional footballer you would see the image of someone in great shape, the same would be true of a marathon runner etc... Now close your eyes and picture a martial artist. I am pretty confident I can say that you just had an image overload as your brain scanned through many files within your unconscious that produced images ranging from incredibly skillful to the downright bizarre. I am very sure most people will not picture fit, conditioned athletes unless they have only ever been subjected to the competitive element of the martial arts. As someone who was involved with competitive Karate at national and international level, I had to compete at a certain weight, so knowing how to eat to make weight, while still having the energy to fight ten or more matches was very important. Every athlete knows how to lose and how to maintain weight, so they are in a unique position as weight loss ‘mentors’. Many martial arts athletes have simply not yet recognized this fact yet. The martial arts have split into quite a few camps these days - this has always been the case, but even more splits have occurred. The camp that I am interested in is the one just mentioned, the one that recognises conditioning as a prerequisite and believe a martial arts practitioner to be a disciplined athlete as well as a skillful technician. I know this sounds very clichéd, but self-denial was a discipline associated with martial arts practise - a discipline that is sadly missing in today’s clubs and an essential component for permanent weight loss. The martial arts athlete possesses exactly what is required to be weight loss mentors. So just how, in your opinion, Ian, does a martial arts instructor make the transition from, let’s say, teaching kata to becoming a weight loss mentor? Weight loss is 80% about calorie balance - very easy to understand, but very difficult to adhere to. As I have already explained, I believe that getting someone to lose weight requires individuals to reinvent themselves - simply giving them the information is not enough. For the martial arts instructor the transition from teaching their art to motivating people to lose weight is going to require them to reinvent themselves too, which is actually a lot easier than it sounds. Given the current climate, the martial arts instructor may
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want to ask themselves a few questions. Are they happy and are they making a comfortable living? Martial arts instructors have no choice but to become involved with weight loss - it’s not a question of if they become involved, but ‘when’. Obesity is on the rise and weight loss is the subject of regular news reports, magazine articles and chat shows. I truly believe that retrained martial arts instructors now have the opportunity to attract the fastest growing, un-tapped market available to them in the form of the overweight, general public. But many might say that the martial arts are about self-protection, not losing weight? The answer to ‘what are the martial arts all about’ will depend on whom you ask. Self protection has had its day actually - yes, many people have built their entire career around the subject and a great many martial arts instructors have jumped on the bandwagon, but real self-protection has now created its own identity and is seen as a stand-alone genre. When I say it has had its day, I am referring to its connection to the martial arts. Self-protection is not about being a skillful fighter, as all top self-protection advocates will no doubt echo. Yes you can cherry-pick individuals who are both martial artists and seasoned street fighters, but your average martial arts practitioner will never come close to a real altercation. This is a very interesting question as it brings to light another important misconception about weight loss. Should you go and see a dietitian if you are looking to lose weight? Many would argue yes, but that is totally wrong. Again you can cherry-pick dietitians who are also fitness specialists but, to assume a dietitian can help you lose weight is to assume wrong. You will be amazed to know that I have many fat dietitians in my weight loss programs! Martial arts instructors will have far more success in helping people get into shape than they ever will producing fighters or people who can defend themselves. My job is to help martial arts instructors to recognise the difference and therefore their potential. To be honest, Ian, I’ve never found it a problem but, in your opinion, how does one condition the mind to lose weight? This is the “what is the secret to weight loss’ question that every fat person is dying to know the answer to. Conditioning the mind to achieve weight loss is really no different to conditioning it to achieve any goal. I know that many people use a computer as an analogy when talking about the mind
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and for one good reason - a super computer called the human brain controls everything we do, therefore the information we program into it is vitally important. Let’s picture your brain as your home computer. You ask it to perform a task, it then searches for installed ‘software’ and it scans files until it locates the information you are searching for. Obviously, if you are searching for a file that is not installed on your computer it will not find it. People who attempt to lose weight go through a very similar process, the difference however is that the file located is often labeled ‘failure’. Every time someone fails at losing weight they create yet another file and every time they start another weight loss endeavor their super computer knows exactly where to ‘look’. Most people who go on a weight loss program are doomed to fail because the file labeled ‘success’ is simply not installed yet. If we all agree that the more you do something the better you get, then it’s really not surprising that millions of people are experts at weight loss ‘failure’. So how do you programme them for weight loss success? All fat people need to be completely re-programmed as they are absolutely destined for failure right now. The reprogramming cannot happen until an individual is ready to participate totally in the process. So where does physical exercise fit into weight loss in your opinion? Physical exercise is the smallest part of weight loss, but it is the biggest influence on making weight loss possible. For example, you can work out for five hours a day and not shed a single pound if your calorie intake exceeds your calorie expenditure. The way in which you work out is far more important than the style of workout too. There is a chain of fitness clubs here in the States… let’s just call them GymLumps. Gym-Lumps is a franchise that is very popular with fat people, in fact, if you ever felt inclined to watch fat people working out this is exactly where you would go. I know it sounds strange because if Gym-Lumps is a fitness club then you would expect that some people who go there would actually lose weight,
Let’s face it, the only people who enjoy dripping with sweat whilst gasping for their next breath as their muscles scream for mercy, are the exercise enthusiasts. A fat, out of shape person in a class for the first time will not necessarily ‘enjoy’ it - they will struggle, hurt and feel totally out of their comfort zone, but this is exactly what is required. No one can ever give you the key to weight loss, you have to earn it.
right? This is not the case though, Gym-Lumps has grown into a sort of fat person’s retreat - a gym that accommodates rather that motivates. A brilliant business strategy I have to say. Think of it this way - jail is supposed to be a punishment, a place so awful that you will make you think twice before committing another crime. For some people this is exactly what happens but, for many, jail is a college - a place for criminals to network and become better criminals. The only way to really stay out of jail is to stop being a criminal, requiring a complete lifestyle overhaul which is not easy when crime is the only life you know. Gym-Lumps provides an empathetic ear and enables its members to stay fat by creating a network of weight loss failures, which in turn has the same effect on each other. If someone really wants to lose weight they need to first accept some painful hard truths. They are fat because they do what is required to be fat, which is a choice... The only fat people you saw in Britain during the war were the wealthy, whilst everyone else survived on rations. Physical exercise is absolutely essential, not just because you are burning calories, but exercising in the correct manner creates a very powerful alter-ego that exists alongside of what you perceive as your reality. You have to work out in a manner that allows this alter-ego to take over and guide your every thought/action. When this happens
losing weight is not only a given, it is a breeze... Ian, you look in great physical shape, I am guessing you put this down to TaeRobics - the workout you have established in the States and now bringing to the UK? Absolutely, Bob, TaeRobics is the hardest, most exciting workout I have ever been involved in, believe me, it’s not for the faint hearted, but it does produce some phenomenal results. As effective as it is, TaeRobics is not a stand-alone workout that gets the job ‘done’ by itself. TaeRobics is just a key that opens a door to incredible possibilities. Losing weight requires you to do things that you don’t like, let’s face it, if dropping those unwanted pounds was as simple as just doing something ‘fun’ you would be doing them already and regularly. If a fat person says, “Hey you need to come to the latest dance craze class, it’s so much fun...” you are not going to a place that facilitates weight loss or weight maintenance. The TaeRobics format wasn’t created to be fun - it was created to get results, the results make people excited, so they keep coming back. Let’s face it, the only people who enjoy dripping with sweat whilst gasping for their next breath as their muscles scream for mercy, are the exercise enthusiasts. A fat, out of shape person in a class for the first time will
not necessarily ‘enjoy’ it - they will struggle, hurt and feel totally out of their comfort zone, but this is exactly what is required. No one can ever give you the key to weight loss, you have to earn it. Bob, this is a very exciting time for us as a company, we now have people who have been through the first phase of instructors courses in the UK who are currently practising and building their own TaeRobics classes. We have a full time gym in Indianapolis, USA and our Stop Being Fat Network is about to be launched in the States and across the pond. Weight loss and personal conditioning is without a doubt the next big thing... Martial Arts Illustrated has a reputation of having its finger on the pulse and has never been afraid of courting controversial issue - you really can’t get any more controversial than calling someone fat! I would like to thank you, Bob, for being so open-minded and giving me the opportunity to bring this topic into the martial arts world and look forward to addressing this subject in much deeper detail in the coming months. BOB SYKES
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