Forget being the toughest guy on the planet. It’s pretty easy for
martial artists to adopt complacency and begin to rest on their laurels.
Not you? Well, if the circumference of your waist is large enough to hide
the knot of your black belt, this article may be for you. Even if you are
in top condition, read on if you want to look lean and feel your best as a
combat warrior. I’ll make it real easy for you. I promise you won’t have
to execute ten thousand kicks or hold a sword over your head while standing
on broken glass. Lets face it; you’ll never stick to your work out plan if
it reminds you of torture. So, instead, I’ll give you eight simple
instructions designed to maximize your combat performance while maintaining
good health and longevity. I’ve managed to remain fit after three decades
in the martial arts and you can do the same.
Warm up with slow motion exercise and speed up gradually as you loosen
up. This process has become more important as I’ve gotten older. Before
and after an exercise session, you should perform a general stretch routine
to help break up adhesions and feed the muscles with blood to help speed
recovery. The combination of flexibility and strength together will make a
significant difference in effecting your technical performance. As strength
training builds muscle it limits the overall range of motion. Stretching
can counter this effect by limbering up muscles as they become larger.
It may be necessary to reshape your attitude and perspective. In our
cravings for perfection, we sometimes place a heavy emphasis on rank,
titles, or goals that don’t necessarily relate to meaningful life-goals.
Aim higher at achieving a sense of over-all health and self esteem in
addition to competitive rigors. It’s easy to avoid what is necessary to
take care of yourself and to take short cuts. Martial arts are a
discipline, which should compliment your lifestyle of fitness and long life.
Instead of rationalizing your un-healthy choices or using past
accomplishments as an excuse for not making the effort, take responsibility
for yourself. In other words, exercise accountability.
Martial arts are generally not the most efficient aerobic activity.
This is primarily because as you get better at it, you learn to pace
yourself during the execution of moves.
Stacked against other aerobic exercises, martial arts activity scores low
because the practitioner is usually not in constant motion. So, change that
by engaging in non-stop aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at least three times
a week. Your heart will love you. To avoid boredom and gain maximum
calorie burning, try to diversify your sessions every week or two. In
violent conditions, normal breathing is altered which can adversely affect
your performance. Good conditioning is not only beneficial for your
physical well-being, but also reduces panic, distress, and anxiety.
I know it may be hard for all you young readers to believe, but in my
day it was frowned upon by masters to combine weight training with martial
arts. The 60’s and 70’s are behind us now and well-researched weight
training has become an important tool for thousands of world-class athletes.
Remember, exercise increases physical reserve. You may need to call upon
that reserve in a life-threatening encounter. Conduct intense weight
training exercises such as the barbell curl, tricep extension, bench press,
etc., for 30 minutes to an hour, two or three times a week. Consider
exercises that target the internal and external obliques such as torso
twists and weighted crunches. It’s these abdominal muscles that help you
change direction quickly during grappling, increase kicking power, and help
absorb the impact of a blow. When you lift weights, you tear myofibrils,
the tiny sinews of tissue that make up the muscles. It takes a couple of
days for muscles to repair themselves and it’s during that period that you
actually become stronger. You don’t have to be a mad man when you work out,
just remember to work furiously with little rest between exercises while
conducting each move with precision and good technique. Gym’s are great,
but make sure to develop routines that provide a workout without specialized
equipment so that you can remain fit when your on the road or can’t make it
to a facility. Push-ups, crunches, and chair dips are high on the list.
Every martial artist knows that practice makes perfect. Depending on
your goals, the trick to performing well as a technician is to retain
worthwhile combat strategies via repetitive practice until they become
natural instinctive reactions. In English; good technique + practice,
practice, practice = skill. The benefits of being well rounded and active
are going to contribute to your overall fitness but won’t be enough to keep
the fat off. It’s true; physique does not make a good martial artist. That
‘s why we see so many porky masters who are pretty tough. However, if you
want peak performance you’ll need to take off excess flab. Reducing weight
is by far the easy phase in weight control. Eat less, exercise more, and
wallah! However, maintaining ones target weight is the tough phase. This
is achieved with a sustained life style program. Once this is established,
you’ll wonder what life was like without it. More muscle and less flab will
translate into improved fighting prowess, a better instructor image, and a
The accepted regimen these days is to eat a fist full of food, six
times a day. That is, a chicken breast, yogurt, or whatever, in portions
about the size of that lethal knuckle sandwich of yours. For each body
pound, consume approximately ten calories, one gram of protein, one gram of
carbohydrates, and at least .6 oz of water. In all, you’ll be eating six
small meals that contain about 200 – 400 calories each depending on your
weight and drinking lots of water (almost a gallon). Of course, restrict
your fat intake and remember your multivitamin just in case your diet doesn’
t give you what you need. You may not feel any different taking a
multivitamin but believe me; your body will make good use of it. I focus on
taking my carbs in the morning when I need the energy. My protein is
consumed after workouts, and I avoid eating late at night.
Relaxation is the key to optimum performance in martial arts. Rest and
work compliment each other. Do yourself and your body a favor and rest.
You need the down time for peace of mind and your muscles need time to grow
and recover between workouts.
Work on yourself from the inside. Avoid addictions and general bad
behavior. There are few things as ugly as a martial artist who lacks
character. It wouldn’t hurt for you to consider some personal
introspection. In fact, being a better person can relieve stress and help
you feel a whole lot better. Exercise can make a difference too. I believe
that these primary influences will ease tension and stimulate creative
thinking and overall alertness.
That’s it. In time, you’ll bump up your metabolism, burn fat, think
more clearly, build muscle mass, and perform better at your art. What more
could you want? Well, okay, you have me there. But if you genuinely want
to see some results, I encourage you to stick with these tips for a few
weeks and make the improvements that I know you deserve.