Strength Training & MartialBody
This short article is motivated by a discussion with a student who was asking how and where more conventional Strength and Conditioning training fits into attribute focused training methodology. It would be easy to think, looking at the MartialBody Attribute list that it doesn’t, however this is not the case. In this post I will outline where I think Conditioning and Strength Training fits in, and how it is not the only consideration when specifically looking at improving the performance of the Martial Artist.
A Mountain of evidence.
Firstly, we need to observe and accept the mountain of evidence that proves a regular strength training routine is good for your health. You simply need to do a quick PubMed search and you will notice that building some skeletal muscle mass has been shown to protect us from injury, improve movement and even protect us from certain life-threatening diseases. There is no doubt that some strength training in the form of lifting heavy things and moving them around is good for you.
With this in mind if would be dishonest for a coach to dissuade their students or athletes from making some time in their training week to focus on this work. This is especially true if the person in front of you is severely lacking in basic strength or has low volume of muscle. Even if it is to the detriment of some other qualities the first step on the ladder for any person wanting to improve performance is a base level of strength and conditioning. Now, there is a prevalence in some sections of the martial arts community to deride strength work as less ‘refined’ than some of the other traditional conditioning techniques out there. But if we look at the tools that the old generations would use in their training, heavy bokkens, thick Staffs or rocks and boulders, we can see that what they were doing was simply strength training by another name.
The caveat here is that we are not talking about a ‘body building’ type of program. Far from it, we are more simply looking at the a maintenance type of approach, or some strength building without mass accumulation.
In the MartialBody approach strength work would generally be paired with HeavyBody softening work to make sure that the muscular training was not creating unconscious or unwanted tensions.
With that said it is important for us to frame what we do with in the context of our Goals and our specific skillsets. There are numerous examples online of small, highly trained individuals besting much larger opponents in competition or challenge matches. There is a simple reason this is possible. Efficiency and appropriate action.
The most important quality that the martial artist can obtain is ‘Efficiency’.
Efficiency of technique, of effort and of strength are all qualities that will trump meir strength in many situations the martial artist will find themselves in. If you put two people together to spar, one is a Muay Thai Expert the other from BJJ, the MT fighter will dance rings around the BJJ guy in stand up. Likely the BJJ exponent will be unable to use their strength as they desire and will gas relatively quickly. But when you reverse the situation and the two ground fight the BJJ practitioner will swamp the MT figthers strength and be relaxed and comfortable, while the Muay Thai Fighter becomes hopelessly gassed out.
Their cardio and strength did not change as the roles reversed they simply were not efficient in their application of their strength or effort. I like to point out the difference between punching a shoulder with medium force, then simply re-targeting that same punch onto the tip of the jaw. The strike is the same, the strength is the same, but the effect will be wildly different due to the the target.
Of course, we need some level of strength and cardiovascular capacity to survive combat sports training, but the way in which things get better, and easier is not by getting fitter and fitter, it is instead by getting increasingly efficient in what you do.
We should remember that no matter what we do there is always a trade off, and it is no different when we think about Strength training. We may limit the effectiveness of some of the other potential methods if we build too much strength and infact will possibly close the door entirely to others. However, So, I still think that some base level of physical ‘fitness’ is required of most people and should be sought by those who are as interested in their health as they are Martial Arts skill.
As such, strength and conditioning work is normally necessary for most people coming into the Martial Arts and should not be shunned or ignored. It should form a small but important part of most people’s preparation, especially in the early stages of training, and should be something we return to in order to maintain some level of fitness as we get older.
The outlook we ultimately need however should be more focused on the search for efficiency and for the optimum use of the human body for the given task. This is where MartialBody training fits in.
Train appropriately, train to be healthy, and train to be efficient.