Physical Conditioning & Drills

Zombies, Run! 5K Training for iPhone Review

I hate running. Hate it. With a passion. Stationary biking is only slightly better since I can watch TV while I do it, but there is only so much cardio I can squeeze out of biking without attending a spin class. Running really is a necessity, especially with an upcoming physical test, so anything that motivates me to go out running is good.

My knees aren’t the greatest, and a doctor student of ours, who is also a triathalon enthusiast developed a running program for me to help ease me into running. It failed. Not because it was a bad program, but because when I’m running, I want to listen to music, find a rhythm, and not stare at my watch.

I guess I lack the discipline for running.

So earlier this year I tried working her program into the Zombies, Run!
iPhone application, hoping the video game and story elements would help prod me along. I was still stuck looking at a watch, trying to get my interval running in, while listening to the story and avoiding zombie swarms. I eventually fell off the wagon before the program took root.


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6 Great Full-Body Strength Training Exercises for Martial Artists

I do a lot of physical training including martial arts, running, outdoor activities, etc. I like to include some strength training as part of my general training regimen, but I like to be efficient with it. Rather than doing resistance training that only isolates one muscle or one muscle group, I like to try and do multiple muscle groups at once. I have a number of go-to exercises that I use for this purpose. (more…)

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The Benefits of Moving Outside Your Comfort Zones

The Benefits of Moving Outside Comfort ZonesRecently, I had a big opportunity come my way in the film industry for my fencing skills. There was one caveat that led to me pushing my boundaries; they wanted me to lean up a bit for the role I would potentially be playing within a couple of weeks. First off, I’ve always maintained a healthy weight for my size and I’m fit/strong and all that, but I realized that there was room for me to trim off a little extra padding around my mid-section.

I decided to strictly manage my diet and exercise to lean up as much as is realistic within the short period of time I had, using a weight loss plan I found online. Even if I didn’t get the part or whatever, I figured it would be a great challenge for me. And it was. I managed to lose 5 lbs in one week, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but this translated to losing 2 inches off my waist, 1 inch around my hips, and 1 inch around my chest. This was great progress for me in such a short period of time. (more…)

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Running Workouts for Martial Arts Practitioners

Running Workouts for Martial Arts StudentsLast week, I wrote a blog post about the benefits of running for martial artists. This week, I wanted to go a little more into detail about what types of running might best serve the needs of a martial arts practitioner. Interval running is probably the best option for people who do martial arts, blending the aerobic cardio training of lighter running/jogging and the anaerobic cardio training of fast running/sprinting. Aerobic cardio gives you the kind of cardio you need to keep going over longer periods, such as belt tests. It’s also the type of cardio that burns fat. Anaerobic cardio, on the other hand, helps you use higher levels of energy in shorter bursts, like you would use when sparring or grappling, especially when doing so competitively when nervous tension tends to cause you to burn even more energy. To do interval running, you alternate between lower intensity running/jogging and sprints. The length of the intervals depends on what you’re training for. (more…)

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The Benefits of Running for Martial Artists (or Anyone!)

The Benefits of Running for Martial ArtistsI know that many people take up a martial arts in order to get fit and lose weight, and it’s very possible to do so purely through a combination of training and nutrition, as Rick (one of my students) did. But if you’re looking to take your fitness to higher levels, you may need to do some sort of other training outside the dojo. When it comes to bang for buck, running is one of the best cardio workouts you can do. Skipping is great too, but when the weather is nice I like to get out and enjoy it. (more…)

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Balance Breaking Games for Martial Arts Training

Balance, stance and structure are all important concepts in the martial arts. When you take your attacker’s balance, shift them out of their stance and compromise their structure, you can more easily throw them, take them to the ground, draw them into locks/submissions, etc. Conversely, by maintaining strong stance and structure, you apply locks, throws, strikes, etc with greater efficiency making them easier to apply with less effort.

One way we like to emphasize these concepts in our classes is by playing balance breaking games in stances like horse stance and forward stance. These help students understand the give and take of balance stance and structure and its relevance to the martial arts. Watch the video below to see how we play these games. (more…)

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How to Keep Adrenaline Under Control for Martial Arts (Or Anything!)

Adrenaline can be a great tool for self-defense or martial arts sports. It can give you an extra rush of energy when it really counts. It can help you cope with taking hard hits. It can make you more aggressive when aggression may be needed to give you the edge. But it also has its downsides for self-defense, sport or even when you’re just training. It can narrow your field of vision, make it difficult to hear (whether it’s your attacker’s buddy coming in to help or instructions from your coach while in the ring). It can even cause you to use more force than necessary to quell an attacker. (more…)

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Dojo Hockey Warm-up for Martial Arts Classes

It’s important to have a wide variety of cardio warm-up options to develop different body movements, but also to keep things interesting for your students. Our traditional warm-up choices have always been skipping, stair climbing, running, and even the occasional game of freeze tag. Recently, I introduced a new game, dojo hockey, as a choice for warming up. It was something that I once did in a Taekwondo class a while back. I remembered it and thought it would be a nice change. It is now our most requested option for warm-up. (more…)

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10 Things You Can Do Outside the Dojo to Become a Better Martial Artist

1. Train Your Balance.
Improving your balance helps your kicks, throws, takedowns,
stances, and many other techniques in the martial arts. Try
standing on one foot while you put your shoes on and tie
them, one foot at a time. While you’re waiting in a
check-out line or for a bus, you can also train your
balance simply by standing on one foot. If you’re going to
do this, however, try to do it inconspicuously, unless you
don’t mind people thinking you’re a bit strange! Below are some extra tips for training balance. (more…)

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Muscle Memory & Confusion for Building Technical Ability & Strength

My last two posts addressed Muscle Memory and Its Role in Self-Defense, as well as 4 Factors that Affect Muscle Memory Development. This week, I’ll be discussing how muscle memory and muscle confusion work into martial arts training regimes to build technique and strength.

Warm-ups are not only used to get the body warm to prevent injury. They also help develop body movements, and strengthen the body, to help students improve their performance of the techniques learned in class. To this end, I try to work in movements that relate to the techniques I plan to teach later in the class to develop both strength and technique.

If I’m running a ground defense class, I’ll use shrimping, bridging and rolling and/or turtling as part of our warm-up. These movements not only develop strength, they develop the students’ technique in movements that apply directly to ground defense. By having these drills, students get to work on their muscle memory as they warm up and build strength. (*Be sure to check out all the ground defense drills I teach in my new ground defense book!)

Here is a video of me doing these drills:

These are just examples from my ground warm-up, but these principles can be applied to any other aspect of martial arts training. If you’re working punches, try doing punching with hand weights or resistance bands as part of your strength training. If you’re working on kicks, try doing isometric leg training by going through the movements of your kicks slowly and holding your leg out in the extended position. If you’re working on throws, try throwing a heavy bag or weighted throwing dummy. Breakfall training also strengthens the body and prepares you for being thrown. If you’re going to be sparring or you’ll be taking hits to the body for some other reason, do a medicine ball ab toss to strengthen the muscles you use to absorb hits(see video below).

Muscle Confusion for Further Development

After a while, students get very comfortable doing strength training exercises like the ones shown above. And that’s good because if it’s in their muscle memory, they’re more likely to use it on the street when it counts. That being said, if students are to continue to develop their muscle strength/endurance, they can’t just keep doing the same strength training drills all the time. Muscle memory makes people more efficient at doing the movements, using less efforts for the same results. This is a hindrance for muscular development. That’s why I like to switch things up and do movements that are not natural and are not trained often. This leads to “muscle confusion”. When the muscles aren’t use to a movement, they tend to exert themselves much more so to make the action happen. This in turn helps develop muscle strength and endurance.

Below is a video of another drill I like to throw in to my ground defense warm-up. I uses the same core muscles that are important on the ground, but using movements that are counter-intuitive to the way the body naturally moves. Basically, you swing your arms and legs in opposite directions while lifting your hips, causing you to move across the floor. Even if you don’t manage to move much, it’s still a great ab workout. The embedded version is a little cut off, see the full size version here).

How about you? Do you have any special exercises in your pocket that you like to use to develop your skills (or confuse your muscles)? Please share them in the comments. 🙂

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