The Commonwealth Games just whets my appetite in the same way a bookshop or library does. I see a wide range of physical pursuits that are worthy exploratory branches off my individualistic training path. Just as books provide you with the opportunity to acquire greater knowledge, greater depth of knowledge, correct or confirm or intellectually test previous information, and to provide exciting new portals into new ideas, different physical activities put your body new experiences. Even if the specific area does lend itself directly to your objective, the principles of its training might open new avenues of learning and development.
For example, a year or so ago I got back into training on a trapeze bar in order to better explore core stability. Not only did it open up a whole new insight into working out how to fully connect one’s body, the way you train on trapeze (as is the way train any circus skill) reinforced my approached to teaching martial arts. Although I employ a classical approach, when required, of teaching a student basic technique, I am much more interested in training certain exercises that condition the mind and body to respond in an efficient way. The circus artist doesn’t simply go through steps in order to develop their routine. They break up their training into individual exercises that help them develop certain abilities that become the tricks the general public applaud.
At Clubb Chimera Martial Arts we take a very different approach to training by placing the individual at the centre of his training. This means the student is coached to take control of his learning from the beginning, confirming refined non-stylized extensions on his own abilities as a foundation. He is then encouraged to sensibly explore and cross train in different systems. The way this is organized is for the student to decide which particular discipline will better enhance an important area of his personal development. Of course, when you cross train in any other activity it is important for you temporally immerse yourself in that discipline. You then will take the experience and the attributes back to your core path, making appropriate adaptions. This is better explained in my “Hierarchy of Training” article and its subsequent related pieces, “Specific Training”, “Attribute Training” and “Functional Fitness”.
Below is a list of sporting events taken from the 17 listed that I think are worthy of some degree of exploration or, at least, observation to better enhance the progress of a well-rounded modern martial artist.
Athletic events isolate basic components that are utilized in the execution of martial arts techniques. Of the field events the javelin is derived from martial arts and is technically as much a much martial art as any combat sport. The ancient Greeks relied a lot on the javelin in open warfare and single combat, and it is most famously employed in Homer’s “Iliad” in the fateful duel between Hector and Achilles. In self-defence terms, one might argue that projectile incidental weaponry need to be thrown as they been throughout history (see the ninja shurikens for example), but you don’t need to train the specific steps involved to hurl a discus, javelin or shot – where accuracy is far less of a factor than distance anyway – in order to be proficient in this department. Besides looking at comparisons between the way a ballistic effect is created when someone wants throw something and the way we throw an efficient punch, the field events don’t really offer a great deal of useful attribute training.
Jumping and the track events are certainly worthy of exploration for Functional Fitness. Tactical running is something different from any form of sport running, but it has the same fitness requirements. Certainly an understanding of how to run hurdles has its place when you are looking at running over obstacles in a self-defence situation.
However, specific running is an area that needs a decent analysis. Despite being a natural long distance runner, I place sprinting to be of more value when it comes to overall conditioning. Long distance endurance can be good for the development of fortitude, but in the main it is an outmoded form of conditioning that wastes a lot of valuable time a fighter could have spent any number of more relevant activities. Variations on sprinting, particularly when performed for very short bursts, are great for raising the bar for the Central Governor and strengthening fast twitch muscles. There is a certain degree of evidence correlating the height of the vertical jump with sprinting. .
Jumping – whether it is the high jump or the long jump – is another vital explosive strength exercise. Most combative movements are explosive in nature, so it makes sense to have a good regular number of explosive strength exercises. Long jump and triple jumps, of course, are good for developing muscular movement along the sagittal plane of movement.
My advice on taking information from these events to improve martial arts fitness is to perform sprints over very short distances – no more than 100 metres – with very short intervals in-between, perform vertical jumping exercises without worrying about the frozby flop and perform the long and triple jumps from the spot.
This one is pretty obvious and unless you are a western boxer, this comes under Attribute Training level on the Hierarchy of Training. Modern western boxing has evolved into a sport that refines the use of the jab, cross, hook and upper punches as well as evasions, parries, covers and associated footwork. In self-defence terms Geoff Thompson said it best when he explained that the vast majority of violent encounters start at hand striking range. This is the range where the physical side of the encounter can be finished swiftly if you know how to strike efficiently. Furthermore, striking with the hands should be sought at every available stage of the in-fight as well as the pre-fight. Boxing lays some pretty solid foundations for conditioning and movement that can be adapted in various other full contact arts such as Muay Thai, Mixed Martial Arts and even Wrestling. Amateur Boxing is definitely worth watching as a contrast to Professional Boxing. Amateur fights are very different with a greater emphasis on the art and the fighters are obviously younger. The round system is different, usually providing a faster paced contest than what you see in a professional bout. Amateur boxers are encouraged to throw more punches, as the more they land the greater number points will be scored for their team. This is different from the way professional bouts are scored, where the boxer who the judges decide has dominated the round is awarded ten points and the other fighter gets nine or less.
Depending on the objective of your martial arts training, gymnastics may have different levels of priority in your cross-training. Those pursuing the more performance based side of martial arts should definitely consider some formal training in gymnastics. They can definitely aid with improving creative demonstrations, stage fighting and stunt work. These athletes should put gymnastics firmly under Attribute Training in their personal Hierarchy of Training. For those pursuing a more directly combative route, be it for self-defence or fighting, gymnastic exercises should probably come under Functional Fitness. Certain pieces of equipment such as the vaulting horse and the rings are in regular use in many MMA gyms. The former can develop explosive strength and anaerobic stamina, which are required for good in-fight fitness. The latter is perhaps one of the most difficult forms of solo aerial performance, and develops tremendous core and upper body strength. The rings promote strong stabilizing muscles and a vivid awareness of unified muscular control, elements that might aid aspects of striking and grappling.
Sport Judo has changed a lot over the past century and even in the past few years. However, despite a clear bias towards the promotion of throwing techniques, it is still one of the most holistic forms grappling sport. Judo overloads grip strength in a combative area because it is a jacketed form of wrestling. No-gi grappling is often considered to be closer to self-defence training, but it doesn’t hurt to have an awareness of having your clothes gripped in a grappling situation. Judo teaches good upper body grappling, some takedown defence, submission techniques and ground fighting. Judoka are highly conditioned fighters who can take a lot of punishment and have a lot of tenacity. Above all else, they have an amazing repertoire of throws that have been tested against resistance.
Power Lifting comes under the Functional Fitness level of the Hierarchy of Training. Martial artists should definitely consider building a good strength foundation based on dead lifts, squats and presses. I strongly believe they should look to master a decent number of reps of basic bodyweight exercises – air squats, chest dips and pull-ups – before they start looking at improving their weightlifting.
I wasn’t ever any good at ball sports, but in later years I acknowledged that a lot of very useful information came from these often heavily funded activities. Rugby might seem like a far stretch in the Attribute Training level of the Hierarchy of Training due to the amount of commitment required when you join a club and get actively involved in matches, but it might be valid experience. A good number of my hardiest students were regular rugby players.
Rugby Union is a full contact sport, which involves combative grappling moves such as takedowns (tackles), clinching (in the scrum), pushing and evasive manoeuvres. A rugby player will be very used to having a tactical escape mind-set, which is crucial in self-defence, as well as dealing with multiple attackers and will develop a type of tenacity that is comparable to the boxers, wrestlers and judoka at the Games. Rugby Seven is a variation on Rugby Union with seven players each side rather than the usual 15 and with shorter matches.
Knowledge of firearms should not be overlooked in modern self-defence training. Although gun-related crime is not high in the UK compared to other forms of violent crime, the same might not be said if you are travelling abroad. When I trained in South Africa I immediately jumped on the opportunity to learn how to use handguns for self-defence.
Likewise, part of the service I offered to two private clients who were about to start living in South Africa, was handgun disarming and a list of reputable firearm self-defence schools over there. Shooting and the general use of firearms is its own martial art with variations, depending on its purpose.
Shooting at the Commonwealth Games consists of four events: rifle, pistol, shotgun and full bore.
The average UK citizen is probably just as likely to drown as they are to be violently attacked, so you can weigh up its direct operational importance however you want. Historically speaking, swimming has been trained as a form of martial art all over the world. The samurai were often taught methods of “combative swimming”, which some are still trying to revive. Outside of this, swimming is a great form of supplementary and recovery training. Whenever I had a lengthy period of recuperation from an injury or operation I would seek out the swimming pool as soon as I could. It develops good flexibility, strength and stamina, and can be good low-impact alternative to running.
As I previously mentioned, explosive strength is important to martial artists. Many Mixed Martial Artists employ competitive weightlifting exercises as part of their training. Both the jerk and clean and snatch are excellent methods for improving explosive strength. They have good variations on the dumbbell and kettlebell too. Don’t forget the clean and press too as well as the power clean. The former is no longer an Olympic event due to many debates over correct form, but it is a great all over body strengthening exercise. The power clean enables the lifter to put more weight on the bar for explosive movements and has become a standard exercise for many fighters.
As previously stated, wrestling is perhaps the oldest combat sport and maybe the oldest actual sport. There is a remarkable amount a fighter can learn from Olympic wrestling, be it Freestyle or Greco Roman. I found that its rules, which penalize negative play and encourage aggressive throwing of an opponent to the ground, make it a superb form of attribute training and perhaps the scariest of all legal mainstream combat sports. Not only do you get the tenacious attitude and fortitude that come out of other events like Rugby Seven and Judo, but the positioning and incentive to stay vertical are essential self-defence characteristics.
So, if you consider yourself to be a fan of the CCMA process or a martial artist with an open and progressive mind you can take a lot from watching some of the Commonwealth Games events this year. I urge you to look outside your respective training and investigate further into the wide range of disciplines out there, keeping a critical yet fair mind.