fitness and fighting

Author: Staff Sgt. Scott Dunn Photo ID: 200599...
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Something I come across time and again in martial arts forums is the debate over the importance of physical fitness and conditioning in martial training.

Some of the arguments center on the technique vs “muscle” issue. This is the “so an 80 yo person can’t be a proficient martial artist if they are not training like a MMA fighter?” tack. This person argues the “use their strength against them”…”it’s all about technique, not strength”…”a fight will be over in seconds”… “conditioning and self-defense are separate disciplines” party line. They believe that martial arts are more about leverage, target selection and technique than the individuals physical conditioning. You tend to see many “traditional arts” people in this camp, especially “non-sparring” arts.

In the other camp are the people who believe that a fit and strong person with martial training, perhaps not a “technician”, but with basic skills, will trump an out of shape fighter. Many people who think this practice the more “sporting” arts; MMA, Boxing, Thai etc.

Personally, I think that many of the people who “poo-poo” conditioning are perhaps looking to justify their lack of it. Or explain why they are not doing a conditioning program.  I think that it’s important for anybody who takes “combative training” seriously to be spending a significant portion of their training time on physical fitness. Yes, technique is important, but all physical activity will be faster, stronger and more efficient with a fitter body.

Granted, not all martial arts schools have the time or ability to condition their students AND train them in the art they practice. Some arts, simply based on what they do,  are a workout in themselves. But MANY arts do not present an opportunity for physical conditioning, as many practitioners stretching out the belly of their Gi’s can attest to. The “martial arts” as fitness sales gimmick is not always as advertised.

H2H fighting ability aside, I believe that fitness training is as much about developing “mental toughness” and “fighting spirit” as it is about the body. I wrote about this in a previous post called “Embrace the Suck“. If you are not pushing yourself past your limits in the dojo AND the gym, you are cheating yourself.

In addition, when it comes to the soldier, the LEO and anybody in a self-defense/survival scenario; there are MANY other physical tasks beyond fighting that need to be considered. Running from threats, chasing suspects, carrying packs, jumping fences, dragging/carrying wounded people and simply doing anything while wearing a ton of “guns n’ gear” require you to be physically fit. It also helps in avoiding injury while you are doing these things.

In closing, let me clarify that I AM NOT saying that if you are not as conditioned as a Olympic athlete that you are misguided in your training, but we can ALL focus on being as fit as we can for our age, our needs and our time allowed. Thats my opinion. What’s yours?


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5 thoughts on “fitness and fighting”

  1. Great write-up! I fully agree with statement “…we can ALL focus on being as fit as we can for our age, our needs and our time allowed”

    A lot of truth in the article and you know, you just gotta do the best that you can do and set an example for your kids.


  2. Good point about appropriate fitness based on a lot of factors.

    I’m POSITIVE that hockey players, football players, baseball players, boxers, marathon runners…. all train differently for their particular event, so recognizing that a civilian self defense level of appropriate fitness is not necessarily that of a SWAT LEO or infantry soldier is a healthy way to get over the excuses and just knock out a few push ups and get on the tread mill every once in a while.

  3. Fitness is essential! Having the cardio to continue going may be the deciding factor in a physical confrontation. I think you need to have good technique training plus fitness and of course a sharp mind. Still when I teach I focus on the technique and expect the practitioner to train their fitness outside of class.(running, swimming, biking, weight lifting, etc) However, in an IRT class there is a lot of workout from focus mitts, heavy bag work, grappling, etc, etc. People who come in definitely lose weight if they have an extra amount of it!

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