Time for changes and “suffering” with style -Transmutation period

After successfully finishing with the accumulation period, where we focus on developing aerobic endurance and maximal strength, it is time for transformation. At the moment, we have a “raw” to some extent “unusable” material, at least not for high performance in karate. No one cares how much you can bench press or how long you can run and whether you have a six-pack or not, so leave the numbers for bragging on the social media. Now it is time to start shaping the potential you have into something more specific, something related to karate.


What is this period all about? (Transmutation period)

This period is about what matters. What are the skills and qualities that will allow you to have an excellent performance in kumite or kata? It is of vital importance to identify and use the right training modalities that enable the development of specific qualities and energy systems that support your performance.

Through dissecting the kata and kumite performance we can agree that they differ regarding time, style of performance, the way of execution, movement, etc. However, we can also agree that they share some similarities concerning power requirements, mental focus and lactate tolerance.

The training plan and modalities will differ, and it will depend on personal preferences. For this reason, in this article, I will cover the physiology behind different energy systems and how they can be adequately developed, which will help you in developing a personal training plan.

The transmutation period is where all the magic happens. Accompanied by “suffering” high-intensity training characterizes this period together with high heart rate frequency, increased blood lactate levels, discomfort during workouts, fatigue onset, starting training practice with incomplete recovery. It sounds terrifying, but unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect any changes without getting outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

The main focus at this period is on developing the anaerobic qualities related to lactate tolerance and specific strength endurance. This means that the glycolytic energy system will be affected the most by the training modules, making it more efficient.

What would efficient mean when talking about karate?

Efficient means better response to high blood lactate level in the blood, better recovery after high-intensity bursts. It also means improved ability to sustain speed and power output for a prolonged time (you what to be able to move fast and apply explosive kicks and punches and the end of kata and kumite). Furthermore, we are going to have increased efficiency of your body to recycle the blood lactates into glucose and use it as an energy source.

As a result of the high-intensity training load, adequate restorative, recovery techniques must be used to avoid overtraining. Therefore low aerobic activities, stretching, massage, daily log-book, monitoring of various vital signals such as resting heart rate and HRV, must be incorporated in the transmutation period.

As in the previous, accumulation period, there are KEY workouts in the transmutation period as well. The difference is that this time the focus is on developing anaerobic glycolytic power and capacity. We want to increase the ability of the body to sustain power output and ability to successfully respond to all demands of the environment during a state of high concentration of blood lactate (end of kata or kumite fight and faster recovery in between matches).

Since this period is comprised of a high-intensity workout, it is essential to separate the key workouts with low to medium intensity workouts, which would allow proper recovery. Remember, many times full recovery will not be possible.

Below is an example of a micro-cycle (one week), which can be adjusted to the need of the individual.

This micro-cycle is retrieved from Issurin, V. (2009). Block Periodization: Breakthrough in Sports Training. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2008


Looking at the table above we can see that two out of three key workouts are in the morning, which might not be the ideal schedule for most of the people. For this reason, you might consider scheduling your key workouts in the afternoon.

Usually, the most abundant and effective method for developing the anaerobic power and capacity is the High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Have in mind that body’s cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength is at its peak form 16 to 18 o’clock, so you might what to consider scheduling the most demanding workouts in the afternoon. How you construct the training practice regarding the intensity and work to rest ratio will determine what will you be working on.

Since the key-workouts determine the direction of the micro-cycle, it is essential to get familiar with the attributes of each one.

At this period the intensity of the workout is much higher (very often above the threshold zone) resulting in increased usage of carbohydrates as a primary energy source and increased level of lactate in the blood. For this reasons, all training modalities are meant to improve the efficiency of the body to produce power for prolong time (anaerobic glycolytic power) even in situations of increased lactate level, and sustain the work for a longer time (anaerobic glycolytic capacity/endurance).


Key workouts in Transmutation period

How your training is going to look like depends on your experience, skills, and your imagination. Whatever training modalities you choose when developing your workout, it is crucial to take into consideration the duration of the exercise, work/rest ratio, repetitions, and sets. Although the intensity is high and you have to expect to be fatigued, you have to know what exactly you want to achieve with a particular workout. Remember, I can take a kid to create a workout plan that will knock you down on your ass and make you crowing out of the gym. It’s hard to create a workout that will push you out of your comfort zone, challenge your abilities and again allow you to recover without putting you in danger of overtraining and injury.

At the picture above that shows a micro-cycle, you can see the “key” workout that in some way shape the direction of the mesocycle. Since the primary focus is on these “key” workouts, make sure you pay particular attention when developing these workouts.

Here is some guidance that will help you with that.


All activities in this period should be more sport specific and close the to the actual competitive activities. So, make sure to spend more time on the tatami, not on the running track or fitness gym. Different running modalities can be extremely beneficial especial regarding developing your anaerobic capacity. However, it should be something complementary to your karate training.

Since these exercises are meant to improve the ability to maintain the power output in presence of increased blood lactate, external resistance such as medicine ball, barbell, kettlebell of body weight can be used.


When it comes to activities related to building your anaerobic capacity, meaning you can sustain a high level of performance in high presence level of blood lactate, you can incorporate various HIIT modalities, hill running, performing karate techniques with resistance such as elastic bands, weighted vests, etc. These exercises are usually referred to as conditioning exercises, however, make sure they are used for the right purpose, right intensity and the right time of the season. Do not go to fancy. Be specific.

The exercises related to speed are the alactic anaerobic exercises (ALA). These are exercises with short duration, up to 10 seconds. ALA training modalities also focus on recruitment of the fast twitch muscle fibers and their ability to produce power. However, since they are of short duration, the level of blood lactate does not increase, which means this does not put as much stress on the body as the previously mention modalities. What does this say regarding exercises used for this purpose:

  • Directional sprints;
  • Agility ladder drills;
  • Various plyometric exercises for upper and lower body;
  • Medicine ball drills;

Again, make sure the activities performed are karate specific.

In the end, we have to mention the aerobic workouts, whose primary purpose is to facilitate body’s recovery from the strenuous exercises. This training modalities can be done separately, on their own, or can take place at the end of the practice. Pay attention to the intensity, regardless of the training modality (running, biking, kihon), and stay at around 70% of your maximum heart rate or lower.


Pay attention to recover

The transmutation period is known by high-intensity workouts, fatigue accumulation, increased demand of the glycolytic energy system, lactic acid accumulation, muscle soreness and increased stress of the CNS and sympathetic (flight and fight) nervous system. Therefore, it is imperative to pay attention to recuperation techniques as much as you pay on the actual key workouts. Something that you can consider implementing is regular massage, stretching, yoga, breathing techniques (techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system), cold baths, supplementation.

Tracking your progress and how your body responds to different stimulus, is something that must be taken into consideration. Having a daily log where you write how you feel is a way of tracking your currents state. Many athletes rely on their morning pulse when deciding workout intensity that day. And this is fine. However, in my opinion, there should be one more piece of the puzzle to get a clearer picture of the current state of the autonomic nervous system. This is done by measuring your Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV test should be done every day first thing in the morning. This test provides you with a detailed picture of your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, and whether they are in balance or not. This period is extremely taxing on the sympathetic nervous system, which might lead to overtraining if we push too hard. More information about HRV and how can you measure it from the comfort of your home, you can find here.

Wrapping it up

  • The training modalities in this period are closely connected with karate;
  • The transmutation period is mainly focused on developing the anaerobic glycolytic energy system;
  • This period is characterized by high-intensity workouts, fatigue, muscle soreness, increased blood lactate level;
  • Key workouts in transmutation period are anaerobic glycolytic power, anaerobic glycolytic capacity and strength endurance;
  • Do not forget the aerobic exercises whose primary role is to help with recuperation and recovery;
  • When developing, a key workout, consider the nature of karate and the discipline you compete in. Kata and kumite competitor will have slightly different demands concerning the different muscle groups involved in the activity;
  • Incorporation of various recovery methods is crucial to avoid overtraining. This can be stretching, yoga, breathing techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, massage;
  • HRV test can help a lot in tracking your body’s response to different stimuli. This will allow you to make timely adjustments to avoid overtraining.


What about you

Do you have any challenges regarding your training method and the ability to sustain good form throughout the year? What’s been your experience with periodization and what are the challenges you are facing? Did you find this helpful? Please, leave your thought in the comments

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