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The Role of Fitness in Self Defense and Martial Arts
If you do not have a physical foundation, you’re dead.
Imagine a military comprised of only extremely unfit men: Men who could not do a pushup or climb a flight of stairs without running out of breath. What if not one of them could run 50 yards or lift anything heavy? What if they only ate food from McDonald’s. It would be absurd.
These are men who need to be strong both physically and mentally. They need to be able to endure hardship and overcome an enemy that is trained, deadly and determined. A military force like that would not survive it's first encounter. The same is true for us.
If we are studying self defense for anything other than a fun pastime, then we need to be physically prepared to use it. We need to be fit. It’s that simple. We need to consume the right foods to build and fuel a fit body. We need to exercise in order to be stronger, have more endurance and recover from injury.
In truth, we are not just fighting the bad guy, but we are fighting diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and a long list of other conditions that are the result of a lifestyle that is not focused on health and fitness. To be effective with self defense and to be able to apply martial arts skills, we need to include real fitness in our training.
Capability to perform
Your ability to perform self defense is dependent on your fitness.
Techniques give you an advantage, but techniques are still based primarily on your physical skills. In other words, technique alone is not enough. We need to be able to generate power and speed to defeat an attacker. We need to be able to endure the demands of training and applying our techniques at full speed. We need the stamina to fight not only one, but multiple attackers. At the very least, we need to be able to run fast, but we may need to be able to fight and run fast all in the same incident.
Strength in particular will improve your chances of being successful. A good lock will give us leverage, but at a certain point, it may not be enough. We benefit by having more strength to secure that lock and control the opponent once we get it. Having both leverage and strength combined is much better. We need to be able to fight a larger opponent. We cannot make him any smaller, but we can make ourselves stronger. Strength is a prerequisite for explosive power. We need power for hitting hard and taking down an opponent quickly. Strength only comes with training.
Exercise will reduce your chances of injury. It does this by strengthening your muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Strength training will increase your bone density, making them more resistant to injury. A good fitness program will vary your physical development to reduce imbalances and injuries caused from repetitive training such as striking.
You need fitness to endure both your training and performing your technique during an attack. Striking targets, doing force-on-force drills, sparring and fighting off an attacker on bath salts all require fitness. Fitness training will also make you more agile and flexible and therefore able to perform technique with less probability of injury.
In addition to reducing your chances of injury, fitness will improve your recovery from an injury. Proper nutrition and rest allows your body to repair injuries more quickly. Fit people are also less likely to suffer from additional health complications resulting from an injury. They are not as likely to get sick when their overall health is challenged by injury. The better your fitness, the faster your recovery.
Confidence to Meet Challenge
Confidence is a critical ingredient in success. Without it, you will probably fail even when conditions are in your favor. Regular fitness training will improve your confidence. The feedback loop of doing exercise, measuring the results, and seeing your progress will build confidence. Your confidence is then also bolstered by your ability to perform techniques faster and with more power. This confidence will allow you to attempt things that are hard or uncertain, to fight a strong enemy, and to face your fears.
You need mental toughness to survive. Quality fitness training will get you used to pushing yourself, to working hard, and to developing personal discipline. If you train hard, you will become mentally stronger. That’s just what you need to endure an attack and prevail, especially if you are injured or disadvantaged. If you get hit, cut or shot, so what. Your attitude will keep you in the fight.
You will learn to persevere. If you continually push yourself, your willpower will improve and you will get used to accepting a challenge. You will accept it, even when you know it will hurt. You will become willing to work now for a greater result later. You will train yourself to continue and not to quit.
Meeting these challenges on a regular basis will help you prepare for a more serious life challenge. Every time you go to workout, you are not just making your body stronger, but you are making your mind stronger. If you do it right, you will train the qualities mentioned above every day you workout. It sounds cliche, but it is true.
I believe you need general physical preparedness as a foundation for your self defense and martial arts skills training. Fitness cultivated only through martial arts classes is not enough. There are self defense and martial arts exercises that can also give you fitness benefits, but they are not enough for a well rounded fitness program.
You need a more well rounded program that gives you more variety and develops other physical skills such as absolute strength. The program should be focused on fitness as the primary goal, and it should address nutrition, rest and recovery. In addition to the physical skills you develop, you will also develop the mental skills you need to survive and prevail in a violent encounter.
If you are interested in self-defense training and martial arts, consider joining the Tactical Arts Academy Warrior Athlete Program. It's a well rounded and thourogh approach to self defense and martial arts training. We can get you ready for any threat, skilled at a variety of disciplines, and in great shape at the same time.
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