Strength Training in Martial Arts

Happy New Year to you all, I’ve been a bit slow off the mark getting back into the swing of things in 2008, but I’ve got one more Xmas party to attend and thats it, back into good hard training.

The subject of strength training has been debated long and hard in the martial arts world for a number of years. Many instructors simply refuse to accept that it is of any use at all.

How they justify this is usually weak cop outs like:

“It slows you down”
“Strength doesn’t matter if you have good technique”
“Your time is better spent practicing punches/kicks/etc…”

And many more, but you get the idea.

In my experience, many students come to me wanting not only to learn a martial art/self defence but also to get fit.

Many senior students I see are unable to perform optimally because of a lack of strength and conditioning.

How do we fix this?

Knowledge.

Look back into old style training methods and you’ll see Japanese Karate-ka performing a high tension kata called Sanchin (also see seishan), have a look at Tai Chi masters training with huge heavy weapons and see the Shaolin Kung Fu stome lock training.

These are all forms of strength training.

Sanchin, and similar forms/kata, are methods of High Tension training. Since tension = strength, the practioner is actually learning to recruit more muscle fibers into each movement. Much the same as a power lifter. This type of training is often refered to as Dynamic Tension and is a variation on Isometric Training.

An Isometric contraction is basically a muscle trying to contract but being prevented from doing so.
Question: Whats the heaviest weight you can lift?
Answer: One you can’t

Try this, place your hands together in a prayer possition, palms pressed together infront of your chest. Take a deep breath and as you slowly exhale push your hands together as ahrd as you can for about 7 seconds or a 10 count.
While your arms don’t move, you’ll feel massive tension through the chest. Next time you try it, your muscles will respond with even greater tension, in other words you get stronger.

I will write more on isometrics at a later date but for the moment may I refer you to an associate of mine at http://www.isometric-training.com/.

The Tai Chi master that is training with a sword thats bigger than he is performing slow, graceful movements is also strength training. Although he’ll never admit it.
A muscle held under tension for an extended time, will adapt and get stronger. That means when a smaller, lighter weapon is used, you’d better look out, he will be lightning fast and massively powerful.

And finally the Stone Lock. There is a Russian equivalent called the Kettlebell, I’ve spoken of these before, and will again in future articles. Put Stone Lock training into YouTube and you’ll see footage of chinese ma’ers lifting and throwing these mad looking objects around. Then look here and you’ll see many of the same excersises performed with kettlebells.

Why do I not mention the standard type of training you see in most gyms today? Why do I not advocate doing 10 sets of bicep curls on monday, 10 sets of leg extensions on tuesday………etc???

A bodybuilding type split is of next to no use to you unless your goal is to get big and slow. Plus the time you need to spend training will leave you exhausted for your Martial Arts training. My training partner did just this. He needed to put on size, so quit martial arts for 6 months and dedicated himself to a bodybuilding programme.

While this worked for him at the time, he realises that it is counter productive to spend 6 months of the year not practicing his Martial Arts. Now he uses much more effecient methods, and while he isn’t putting on size, he is stronger than ever, and when he hits the bags, they stay hit!

What all the above methods do is work the whole body as a unit, there are no isolations for the rear delts or the long head of the triceps. The whole body including the deeper supporting and core muscles, is worked quickly and efficiently, often a complete workpout will last around 30 minutes and will leave you stronger and more energised for the rest of the day.

I will post more on my favorite strength training methods over the next few weeks. I’m also building more pages dedicated to this subject for the website.

Keep an eye open for updates. You can also come to train with us, click here to find out how.

Till next time

Wild Geese Martial Arts
any cause but our own

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