Fitness is a critical element of survivability in any encounter. A gun or knife is certainly an equalizer in many ways but, fitness still plays a role. More importantly, maintaining your fitness improves your quality of life.
My friend and former training partner Phil "Wicked" Wyman, a Marine Corp Martial Arts and Fitness instructor, MMA fighter and all around fitness machine, introduced me to the Russian Kettlebell back in 2003, after training with the "Evil Russian" Pavel Tsatsouline. At first, I thought it was just a gimmick, a slight variation of a dumbbell. I quickly realized, after a brief tutorial from the fitness machine, that the difference is in the exercises and routines. Kettlebells develop your strength, endurance, flexibility, stability, balance, coordination and grip all in one brief workout. I have always detested running so, I also use kettlebells for cardio. I typically use a lighter kettlebell with high reps for these workouts. My favorites are Steve Maxwell's 300 Kettlebell Challenge video,Keith Weber's Extreme Kettlebell Cardio Workout video and the basic Russian Kettlebell Challenge workout. For more detail check out DragonDoor.com for articles, videos, workshops and kettlebells.
Another excellent fitness tool are olympic rings. My long time student, mad inventor and Straight Blast Academy Instructor, Pat Kurtz designed and built an improvised set for me a few years ago. Though they are associated with the extreme strength of gymnasts, they can be used by people of all ages and fitness levels. I used mine to help rehabilitate my knee after ACL reconstruction surgery. You can supplement your lower body strength by using your upper body to pull. I used this method to work on one legged squats, known as pistols. You can also vary the intensity of upper body exercises by adjusting the angle of your body. A push-up can be done while standing with a slight lean forward or as an incline pushup with your feet higher than your head or all the way to an inverted overhead press. TRX makes systems designed specifically for home use. Check them out at trxtraining.com.
Crossfit implements all of the above and is an excellent model for combat athletes. Their site has a variety of resources to get a person in any physical condition started on the road to functional fitness. Go to Crossfit.com to get started. While your there check out Jeff Martone do a turkish get up with adult woman overhead!
Your basic mental and physical health are the most critical attributes for the warrior to develop and maintain. If you can deadlift eight hundred pounds or run a marathon in just over two hours, good for you. If you lose your health, what good is your strength and endurance? You may not be strong enough to lift yourself out of bed or have enough endurance to walk across the room if you lose your health through illness or injury.
Train smart and limit unnecessary exposure to injury. Listen to your body and learn to feel the difference between muscle soreness and pain from injury. Remember, training is a lifelong process. Pushing through an injury or ignoring chronic pain could set you back years in the long run. I'm speaking from experience. I'm still paying for my lack of patience and common sense.
Training fighting skills at a very high level can be taxing on the body but, because of the amount of focus required, especially with weapons, it can also be draining on the mind. Be sure to balance intense training with lower intensity, fun training or other enjoyable activities. Balance is the key to maintaining the health and fitness necessary to train for the long term. See this article for more on this subject: Form, Flinch or Flow by Kevin Secours.
I believe flexibility is a key attribute to focus on as we get older. It's not a bad idea for younger people to establish a program early in their training as well. Flexibility is one of the few attributes that require you to relax in order to improve. Being able to consciously relax your mind and body has tremendous benefits in high risk encounters as well as our day to day lives.
Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all good practices to consider integrating to add balance to your training. I did yoga for a short time with the Yax Brothers down in Virginia when they were first getting serious about it. You can check out some of their tutorials at yaxyogaconcepts.com. Part of the reason John and Chris took up yoga in earnest was the fact that injuries were mounting from unbalanced training. We were doing full contact sticking fighting once a week on top of our regular JKD sparring and rolling Jiu Jitsu several times a week. Yoga wasn't for me but, I would encourage everyone to check it out for themselves. For internal styles of Chinese martial arts I would recommend Master Tim Wolfe. For more information go to American School of Black Panther Gung Fu on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/133432926833336/. Find what works best for you but, make balance, in training and life, a priority and enjoy the process.
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Extreme Kettlebell Cardio Workout
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TRX Kettlebell: Iron Circuit Conditioning
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