Friday, April 22, 2011

What do you want to get out of your martial arts training?

The benefits of strength in martial arts
Our previous post, Todays Quote: KaratebyJesse, has elicited some excellent comments, and I’d recommend that before reading on, you check out the post at KaratebyJesse.
Back? Great!
The money question,

“What do you want to get out of your martial arts training?”

So the gist of the the matter is that today’s Karate practitioner may be ignoring some of the great benefits of true, old-style training, which consisted of strength, endurance, and body hardening, in addition to what the “traditionalists” like to cling to (provocative, no?), which is kata training.
So the comments from our esteemed, uh, commenters, do have some agreement with the need to supplement their training, but, I actually came down on the side of Noah, who said, “I think that whether supplemental training is important in martial arts depends entirely on what you want to get out of martial arts.” Yes? No?

Why you SHOULD supplement your martial arts training

Weight training will benefit almost all martial artists, whether they know it, or not. Weight training has the commonly known benefits of increasing strength and power, but also improves muscle tone and reduces the chance of injury if done properly. An ancillary benefit of weight training is that, if done through a full range of motion, it can actually increase your flexibility – not reduce it, as commonly believed. For that to happen, martial artists must stay away from machines and focus on dumbbell, kettlebells, and cables (or fitness bands). These improved attributes will help any competitive martial artist (open Karate, TKD, Judo, BJJ, or MMA), as well as those who practice within a traditional style.
Plyometrics, or explosive drills, will improve speed, reaction time, and explosiveness. The benefits of those attributes should be obvious to all, whether you wield Arnis sticks in training, perform chi sao with a partner, or ukemi onto a mat after a throw. An immediate benefit of plyometric training is also the improvement of power throughout the range of motion which may not improve via standard calisthenics or weight training.
Cardio training cannot be underestimated in it’s benefits for all martial artists. Even traditional sparring can run one’s heart rate to 90+% of RM, meaning near, or over the maximum capacity based on a formula which factors our age. By including cardio training, of either intermittent (such as Tabata or intervals/rounds) or steady types of training (like running, biking, or walking), you increase the capacity of your heart to pump oxygen, delaying fatigue, and you reduce the time to recovery from intense loads. To me, the greatest perk of cardio training, even if you don’t compete, is that you can actually train longer. Want to run that drill three times with good form? How about twelve? Which will give you better benefits? I like to learn, not take breathers. How about you?
Bodyweight exercises have become more and more popular, much to my surprise, and are the rage in everything from pro football to MMA, but all can benefit. Bodyweight training can be as simple as a burpee, which can combine calesthenics (pushups and squats) with plyometric jumps, and train the heart as well (cardio). These types of exercises could be as simple as pushups and situps to yoga or CrossFit, but will improve every area of fitness, and increase our capacity to training.
This is just a short list of the benefits of supplementary training, but

What did our commenters think?

tgacetgace got a little passionate about it, and seems to get disgusted by the belief that, "The fight will be over in a few seconds so there is really no connection between cardio and being able to defend yourself." Meaning that some may believe that they are so lethal, deadly, and badass that they don’t really need to improve in areas outside of the lethal, deadly, badass techniques which are held back only by the civil conditioning that keeps us all safe from their badassery. I tend to agree, if your goals are to actually be able to defend yourself- more than technique may be needed. Want to run or fight if you’re outnumbered and, literally, outgunned? It would help if you could run more than a half a block, right? tgace, rightly, posits that it doesn’t take much to improve fitness beyond a few minutes a day. If your goals change, change your training. Makes sense.
craig-willitsPer instructor Craig Willits, “the serious martial artist - high level competitors, or those who use their skills to stay alive, for example - supplemental conditioning should be more than just hopping on the treadmill on days you're not training. It should be structured to work with martial arts training and not against it.” Great idea, but what training goes against your martial arts training? He promises a post over at Martial Arts Spectrum, and I’m hoping he answers that question. I agree, though, that you can tailor your supplemental training to improve your martial arts performance by doing specific work, like cables in a punching manner, shadowboxing instead of a bike for cardio, or sprinting intervals instead of running 20 miles. The closer you get to your given style, the better the conditioning will benefit you.
mattkleinI think an even more important benefit, long-term, is brought up by SenseiMattKlein: “It is for being able to inspire and motivate my students, living a healthy lifestyle, and preservation of my career. We as instructors owe it to ourselves and our students.” Good health alone should be a good reason, but longevity in our chosen activities will only come about if we go beyond what is required by that activity. If you're into that kind of thing.
I still think the best comment was by Elias, who said, “I AGREE WITH YOU.” But that’s just me.

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Elias said...

LoL I'm glad I got a mention.

I've abandoned doing weight training, mostly because I don't have access to kettlebells, and wouldn't know how to use them if I did.

Aside from technical training, I do Plyometrics and anaerobic training mostly these days, but also a fair amount of cardio.

While anaerobic capacity will be more useful in a fight, by improving your body's ability to deal with lactic acid, I think Cardio training is almost as important, because it does make the cardiovascular system more efficient, as well as making your body more efficient at flushing out the lactic acid.

Relating that back to the idea behind the post; I train Krav Maga, with a focus on training for 'reality' (and I realise how pretentious that sounds), but I also train (a little bit) for appearances... Which probably means I should lift weights a lot more :p

tgace said...

I think that if one looks around, they see that the people who really "Fight" other words actually try to KO an opponent while not getting KO'd themselves...are seriously into physical conditioning along with technical training.

The same goes for the armed services and LE, at least those Mil/LE personnel who consider themselves professionals. Physical conditioning training and mental toughness go hand in hand.

Nathan at TDA Training said...

Elias! I like your first comment better, but this one's good too.

Tom - absolutely.

In an earlier draft of this post, which I lost when there was a crash, I said something to the effect of, "if you actually practice a 'martial' art, you train to utilize that system, but above those requirements." Or, possibly it was far more awesome. But my point is that our focus on technique while not being able to run 1/2 a block will not help us.

There is a reason why the military places such an emphasis on running over almost all else in terms of fitness: to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, "Fatigue makes white belts of us all." Again, loose quotation.

And how often have we seen better-conditioned journeymen beat the Tyson's of the world? Buster Douglas was not considered more than a placeholder on a calendar for the "Baddest Man on the Planet" but trained as if his life depended on it. Tyson partied harder than he trained, and was decked by a sparring partner before the bout. I can also admit to being demoralized by fighting an opponent I could not overcome after becoming tired.

Is it important? Only if you don't like getting you ass kicked.