Martial Art Endurance Training

If you are a student of mine or a reader of this blog, then you know that I’m working hard on endurance training. That’s what this article is about.
There’s a kind of “hierarchy of needs” to martial art training. When we come in as a White Belt, everyone has a different level of talent, knowledge, acquired skill, and conditioning. I didn’t have much talent, but I had some knowledge and a little skill from earlier martial art instruction. My conditioning was generally poor.
What should happen is that, regardless of talent (or genetics), knowledge, skill, and conditioning should increase roughly proportionately. Depending on the person and their training habits these qualities may not improve as they should. Sometimes due to injury or illness (or laziness) a quality might actually decrease as the others increase.
It’s actually not uncommon to see this in martial art teachers. It happened to me. We can become fixated on teaching and growing our school, and not train like we should. Our knowledge may increase, even our skill, but conditioning takes a back seat. It is a dangerous place to be. When your conditioning is low but skill is high, it becomes easy to get into a position where injury is not only possible, but likely.
At any rate, as we progress in all three martial art qualities, there is a kind of logarithmic curve to our progression. You might remember that at White Belt, you had to do a lot of extra exercises to get “fit”. You didn’t know enough martial art to really get a good workout. As you go up in rank, that changes. You might find that lifting weights and stretching is unnecessary. My opinion is that to a trained martial artist, weight lifting and stretching are remedial activities. You might uncover a weakness that needs to be addressed and weight training can fix it. Otherwise, proper martial art training should be intense enough to keep your strength, stamina, and flexibility where it needs to be.
With all of that said, I based my plan on studying that I’ve done the past few years. I like Scott Sonnen’s work because he thinks in numbers and data like I do. The outline below draws heavily on his published work.
Basically, I’m going to fix my conditioning by focusing on martial art training. I’m using my hyung (form) training, and dahn juhn ki bub (ki breath training) to work on my conditioning. I’m using a heart-rate monitor to guide my training and measure my endurance. I’m also using a spreadsheet to keep track of the numbers.
The idea is to train for recovery and for breath control. To teach my body how to recover, I’m doing hyung until my heart rate reaches maximum (from a formula), then do working recovery exercises (based on the chi gung-like breathing of dahn juhn ki bub along with relaxing vibration techniques) until my heart rate comes down to 65% of that. I repeat this three to five times depending on how much time I have.
Another big part of the training is teaching my body to control its breathing. By doing dahn juhn ki bub with a square breath (that is inhale, hold, exhale, hold) for longer and longer counts, it will be better able to function in oxygen debt without becoming anxious. It’s made a big difference so far.

Techniques with PSBN CJ Farley
Thanks to KSW of Pekin for the image!

In the seven weeks until my next test, I plan to do this training three or four times a week. If you want to help keep me honest, drop me a line and I’ll share the spreadsheet with you.
I tested over the weekend, and while my conditioning was still way under par, it was better than a month ago. I was able to continue testing. It wasn’t pretty, but I finished. I’ll let you know in June how things go these next two months.

Published by Ken Ring

Born and raised in and around Muncie, Indiana, Kyo Sa Nim Ken got married after college, then moved away to learn how to fly airplanes. He came back to Muncie several years later as a Black Belt in Kuk Sool Won, opened his school and proceeded to teach the traditional martial art of Korea to the good people of Muncie.

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