15 Nov

Is physical conditioning applicable to fishing? The short answer is a resounding, “YES.” Further, I submit that an easy approach to physical conditioning is found in a Karate-based procedure known as “Sanchin.”

Sanchin Kata at the Lower Salt River, Arizona

As you may see in this video, filmed while fishing at Water Ranch Lake in Gilbert, Arizona, Sanchin is easily incorporated into your fishing regime.

I am always intrigued by the lack of physical conditioning of fisherman. Perhaps, the weekend angler may find an excuse in the fact that the sport of fishing, from his perspective, is merely an escape from the banality of the grind of everyday life. Assuming that such justification is correct, then, one may assume that at the opposite end of the fishing spectrum, that of the competitive tournament angler, the physicality of fishing would be of importance. Once again, I am surprised at how little a role one’s state of physical conditioning plays in fishing, even at this competitive level.

When I address physicality or the lack thereof, I refer to a minimum or slightly above minimum level of physical conditioning. I do not refer to athleticism in terms of being able to achieve physical feats above the status quo level of physical performance. Rather, I refer to the fact that many anglers fail to achieve their full fishing performance potential because they find themselves out-of-breath from a minimum level of physical exertion, suffering from aching joints, including the back, knees and ankles, from standing for so-called “extended” periods of time, suffering from aching shoulders, wrist and elbows from numerous casts and the like.

The question then, is how to achieve this level of physical conditioning without entering into a strict physical training regiment? Clearly, the stricter the training regiment, the less appealing it is to one who partakes of a “sedentary” activity such as fishing, even competitive fishing. The answer is relatively simple. First, maintain a physical existence in your daily life, second, physically prepare your self to fish, third, breath properly and efficiently and fourth have correct posture. Sanchin is the ONE procedure that incorporates all of these factors and more. Further, Sanchin takes less than three minutes to perform. SANCHIN can be performed regularly by ANYBODY, ANY PLACE and at ANY TIME. By instituting a simple regime of Sanchin, you will achieve an enhanced level of fishing-physicality.

I submit that if an angler pays attention to achieving a minimal level of physical conditioning, then the burden of the physicality of fishing will not impede their ability to achieve a level of performance that exceeds the stats quo. The idea that an angler should pay attention to the physicality of the sport of fishing is far from new or novel. Ernest Hemingway was not only a great writer, he was an avid outdoorsman and fisherman.

Big Game Fishing – a Hemingway favorite

He was acutely aware of the need, not for athleticism, but for good physical conditioning of fisherman. In an article entitled “The Great Blue River” published in 1949 in Holiday magazine, Hemingway had these observations and comments surrounding the state of big game fisherman.

. . . I have never lost a marlin nor a tuna to a shark. . . We try to fight them fast, but never rough. The secret is for the angler to never rest. Anytime he rests the fish is resting.

So now, say, you have this marlin down thirty feet, pulling as strong as a horse. . . He is as strong as a horse. Treat him like a horse. . . . You do not have to kill a horse to break him. You have to convince him, and that is what you have to do with a truly strong, big fish. . . To do this you have to be in good condition.

You have to be a fisherman, or at least in very good shape. . .  You don’t need to be an athlete. . You ought to be in good condition . . .

In almost any other sport requiring strength and skill to play or practice, those practicing the sport expect to now how to play it, to have at least moderate ability and to be in some sort of condition. In big game fishing they will come on board in ghastly shape, incapable of reeling in 500 yards of line, simply line, with no question of there being a fish on it, and yet full of confidence that they can catch a fish weighing twice or three times their weight. (See Endnote # 1).

Whether you are fishing from the shore, or a boat, fishing for trout or tarpon, you need to acquire a minimum degree of physical conditioning to enhance your fishing experience as a weekend angler, or “put more dollars in the livewell” as a competitive angler. Sanchin is an easy, convenient means of attaining that level of physical conditioning. Until the next article, I remain,

Sensei John


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1. Lyons, Nick, Hemingway On Fishing, (Nick Lyons Press, New York, NY, 2000) p. 146-149, originally published as “The Great Blue River” in Holiday magazine, July, 1949.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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