Anyone into martial arts understands that it’s no simple task. There’s a lot of work that goes into it regardless of discipline. Some types have more specific training than others, but similarities can be found across the board. The similarities found can help lead to universal tips that you may or may not be aware of. If you want to succeed in your martial art training, take a look at this advice. Use the following tips as a guideline of sorts that will hopefully improve your mind and body regardless of discipline and style.
1. The Importance of Conditioning
Training in martial arts will no doubt push your body to extremes. Not only will your heart and lungs have to keep up with the rigorous work, but your muscles need to adapt as well. You also need to teach your body how to hit and endure the impact of it.
Get in some good stamina exercises to improve your body’s capabilities. Aerobic and cardio training come in handy here. Go for cycling or running to enhance your overall endurance while strengthening your legs. If you want to take it easy on your joints, look to swimming.
Using the bag addresses other areas to condition your body too. It can help better the strength behind your punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks. You will most likely be performing a number of strikes no matter your discipline, so having your body ready to deliver these is important.
Other exercises work with conditioning the body to strike such as knuckle push-ups and the notorious banana tree workout used in Muay Thai.
2. Try to Relax (to an extent)
The word “relax” is thrown around quite about when talking about martial arts to the point that it is sometimes misunderstood. We don’t think about “relaxation” as holding back. Rather, we look at it as relieving tension so that your movements flow.
If anything is too rigid from your posture to your arms and legs, your balance will be off. As such, your performance can suffer. Work on developing a rhythm to connect with yourself and techniques. Good use of visualization helps as you can picture how a certain move should be done. The process can be broken down until you understand it enough to actually do it.
Another good way to relax is by performing slow drills. This may seem to counteract building stamina, but what good is endurance if you are not using the techniques the right way? Stand in front of a mirror and slow things down. That way, you can catch which parts of your body are tensing up and, in turn, are throwing you off.
The greater in-tune you are with your movements, the more your performance will thank you for it.
3. The Power of Breathing
It can be surprising how quickly we forget this fundamental rule: just breathe. Martial arts can get your adrenalin pumping like nothing else. Your body reacts accordingly, and that reaction can have a negative effect on the way you breathe.
When undergoing martial art training, never forget the importance of training your lungs. There are a number of different ways to breathe that certain disciplines teach (embryonic breathing, reverse breathing, etc.). What it comes down to is having not only greater breath control, but a stronger hold over your heart rate, which can save you from the harmful side of adrenalin such as allowing you to calm down and have command of the situation.
One of the best ways to train your breathing is to simply practice the various techniques. Take time out of your intense training to relax and place all your focus on the way you breathe. Yoga and meditation are good practices to look at when doing this.
4. Spar Against Someone Better
This training secret seems like a joke at first, doesn’t it? How could sparring against someone who could easily (and probably will) beat you benefit your training? There are two reasons you should do this: safety and improvement.
To first address safety, sparring with an opponent who is either on your level or more advanced ensures that there will be the required level of safety in place. Sparring is not the time to hurt anyone; it’s the time to learn.
Individuals who may be a bit new may be undisciplined and overly eager, which can lead to unnecessary injuries. An advanced sparring partner has done it long enough to have a better handle on control, and they know how to adjust the fight accordingly to keep anyone from getting hurt.
Advanced training partners also allow you the chance to truly improve your skills. If you always fight someone who you can easily beat, you fail to challenge yourself and run the risk of remaining stagnant. So what if you lose? Push yourself so that you can improve. Remember to speak with your partner beforehand so that you’re both on the same page in terms of technique and what is off-limits.
5. Make Yourself Versatile
We briefly mentioned remaining stagnant in the previous section. It is something that can too often affect those training in the martial arts. You become so comfortable with a particular set of moves, combinations, or style that you are unwilling to adapt.
Versatility is a good survival trait in the fighting arts. You can be great at something, but it is ideal to be good at other things as well. Balance your training on both offense and defense. If you’re into a striking style like kickboxing or boxing, for instance, try your hand at different combinations so that you don’t become so obvious in your fighting.
You never know what you are going to face whether it is in a professional match or out there in the real world. So, it is best that you learn how to adapt to be ready to face anything head-on.
6. Warm Up and Cool Down
This may be one of the more obvious training “secrets” on our list, but it is something that many still seem to neglect. Warming up and cooling down are necessary parts of your training. Properly doing this will help reduce your chances of injury.
When you warm up, every part of your body connects. Your muscles are relaxed and ready to provide great power, you have a better range of motion, your heart and lungs are coordinated, and you start to build up adrenaline.
Perform similar exercises that will be included in your usual workout routine, but with less intensity. Be sure to cool down to give your muscles a chance to recover.
7. Develop Good Balance
You have to maintain good equilibrium in order to perform the various movements that martial arts demand. Much of this balance comes from having a good posture; meaning, keep your hips, spine, and head aligned. Practice keeping your knees relaxed and even train using different stances.
You can make use of a mirror here as well to get a visual aid on how you look. This way, you will be able to execute each move with greater efficiency.
8. Add Some Weight Training
Do not neglect weight training. It’s something that many push aside too often as they feel it’s reserved for the likes of bodybuilding or other sports like football. Weight training has its place in martial arts as well.
You need a strength training program to build power, stamina, and speed. As a bonus, it can help you develop a good, lean physique. Make use of medicine balls, free weights like kettlebells, bench press, and more. Remember to change up your routine so you don’t become too stationary with your exercises.
9. Stay Flexible
No matter the discipline, just take a look at the movements involved. In the grappling arts, you are on the floor in a number of different positions. With the striking arts, it involves hits and kicks in different ways as well as good blocking. Flexibility can spell the difference between winning and losing.
Stretching comes into play when developing a good range of motion. There are a handful of stretches you can use (static, isometric, etc.) depending on what you want to place more emphasis on. For example, BJJ practitioners focus on total-body compared to boxers.
It is possible to overstretch and become over-flexible, so take caution. Too much can lead to muscle fatigue, instability, and injury.
10. Always Listen to Your Body
When reading advice after advice about training in martial arts, it is not common that people mention how vital it is to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. This is especially important for anyone who may be suffering or recovering from any type of injury or ailment from asthma to arthritis.
Being connected to our bodies can help us get the most out of our training. If your shoulder is telling you to pull back, then listen. Change up your training routine to perform exercises to strengthen the muscles in your shoulder, back, and arm. You can use various stretches and rotation workouts with the likes of an exercise band until you’re strong enough to move onto the likes of kettlebells and other weights.
Your training should never hurt; if you have to adjust your exercises to focus on one part of your body, do so as it will only make you stronger in the end.
There are many tips that you may not hear of when you first embark on your martial art training. Just remember to use what works best for you and will keep you on the right path to becoming a better fighter.