Weight training for Martial Arts

There seem to be two sides to the argument about whether developing the body, building the muscles is any use to a martial artist or fighter and whether the time taken will be better used spent working on basic skills.

One camp is the big strong guys who use strength and power – we see the heavyweight boxer, the huge wrestler, the 6’5″ 200 lb karate knockdown champion, the fifteen stone bouncer with the body as wide as it is high. People look at these individuals with their huge chest and arms and immense strength and say “wouldn’t want to mess with him!”

Then we have the camp who talk about their superior fighting system, how technique can overcome strength, how their fighting spirit will win over the power of the body. They look at their huge, strong counterpart and when confronted with the above statement answer, often sneering, with questions such as “yeh, but can he use that power effectively?”

But what if the answer is yes? What if the big guy has been taught effective techniques and how to correctly use his strength and power?

What if our technician is a lightweight boxer, eight stone, with skill developed over ten years of training and competing, and the other guy is a heavyweight boxer, sixteen stones, also with ten years training and experience?

Would the heavyweight really be slowed down by all that bulk and muscles, would the lightweight really be able to avoid all the big blows and land so many small blows (but at a high speed, of course) that he could knock out the bigger guy? The answer is obvious! The stronger boxer would penetrate any defence the smaller boxer put up with big heavy blows and totally overwhelm him. The bigger guy may be slightly slower, but his power would more than compensate for it and would rend the smaller boxer’s power virtually useless, assuming he got the chance to even fire off some shots!

This is not to say that a good level of technical skill is not important, as long as this is not neglected in favour of strength training, the extra strength will only benefit the fighter.

It is muscle that moves the limbs, that sends out the kicks and punches, not fat or skin. Does anyone really believe that having a flabby body with under developed muscles really make someone a better fighter than their more muscular counterpart?

Developing muscle for the martial artist should not be confused with the sports of powerlifting and bodybuilding.

With powerlifting, the purpose is to become as strong as possible, to lift as heavy a weight as possible, so that on the day of the contest, the lifter who shifts the most weight will be the winner.

With bodybuilding, the purpose is to build the muscles and large as possible, and then strip the body of fat, for cosmetic effect, for the purpose of display, contests where the artistic merit of the body’s asthetics are in competition.

Although our goal is neither of the two, rather maximising functionality, we can learn from these athletes. For if we take the training routines from two sports which maximise muscular development, which go much farther than we need to go in our own development, how easy will it be for us to find our goals within these limits.

The same goes for boxing, where the boxer has trained his attributes to the limits, far further than the standard martial artist will ever reach in his career.

My personal training has taken me to hardcore weight gyms to train alongside bodybuilders and powerlifters, and to boxing gyms, to train alongside boxers. After twenty years, I have found where I fit in the scheme of all this, and have compiled this knowledge into this series of articles.

A lot of people say that weight training and martial arts do not go together. I say that is rubbish and I have proved that it can be done and that the goals can be met in both areas. The real secrets to this are in diet, nutrition and supplementation, perhaps the most important part of this first section, and one that I have left to it’s last part.

I hope thse of you who are reading this series from a martial arts perspective will not skip this first section and take the time to use the exercises to develop some or all of the body’s attributes before moving on to the section on skills.

I can assure you that you will be glad you did.

Although it’s an argument that will probably never be resolved, I’ll try and finish with some insight, and see if it makes some sense to you.

You get many small, skinny, wimpish guys who decry muscular development. They say things like the following:

“Women don’t like all that muscle” (no, of course not, women prefer fat blobs or skinny wimps!)
(this is along the same argument as “size doesn’t matter” – and that’s not true either!)

“All that muscle makes you slow.”

“Oh, it looks grotesque, I wouldn’t want to look like that.”

“Martial arts and muscle building don’t mix – you can’t do both”

“That sort of muscle and strength is no use in a real fight”

And the grandaddy of them all: “It’s not muscle, it’s really just fat.” (so why does it both you so much then?)

What you never see is the musclemen saying :

“All this muscle is no use to me. It makes me slow. I keep getting beaten up by small, skinny guys and women hate the way my body looks. I wish I had never built up my muscles. I’m going to stop training right now and lose all the muscle to get a better looking body”

I think that about says it all.

Now get down the gym!