Six Qualities Your Martial Arts Training Should Have

No matter where you are in your martial arts journey, your martial arts training is a key element of your journey.  In many ways, the training is the journey because it is the vehicle that transports us from where we are ability-wise to where we want to be with our abilities.  Here are some elements of training that you should be sure are part of your regime.


This is kind of like the mission statement of a business; it defines where you want to go with your training and what you want to achieve.  It sounds so simple (like “duh” I want to become better, so what’s there to think about), but the consideration of your training’s purpose is paramount.  Think about it: the way a tournament fighter will train is very, very, very different from the way someone who is interest in self-defense fighting will train,  and someone who is interested in self-defense fighting trains is somewhat different from how some interested in combative fighting will train.

The difference between these three individuals is what sort of situations they want to prepare for.  The tournament fighter is preparing for structured one-on-one fights that involve rounds; techniques and target areas are restricted down to a very small percentage of what the art could otherwise encompass.  Someone preparing for self-defense or combative fighting, however, must be prepared for “anything goes” scenarios where there might be any number of opponents who are not limited in any kind of techniques or target areas that they will attack with.  Self-defense fighters will want to plan to react in a way that limits damage to the opponent, sets a favorable tone with witnesses, and quickly removes one’s self from harms way.  Combative fighting assumes that there is no way to get out of harms way, and it’s life or death fighting; this is the sort of training that soldiers would do in preparation for traditional warfare on a battlefield.

The basic message is that one ought to think about what one wants to achieve with one’s training, and then structure one’s training around that.  Different goals will necessitate different training regimes.


Deciding on the purpose of one’s training leads to the next element that training should have: Realism.  One’s training should reflect the sort of situations that one is preparing for.  I’ve met martial artists before who talk like they really value self-defense fighting, but then they only ever spar using tournament rules.  That’s not a realistic way to train for self -defense at all!  Instead, they should do sparring that also involves grabs, throws, joint locks, tackles, etc because this is the type of anything goes fighting they want to prepare for.

The other side of realism is safety.  The best way to prepare for combative fighting is to be involved in real combative fights.  The problem is that real combative fights generally result in severe body damage that can result in permanent damage and death.  No one wants to be crippled or die from their training, and that’s why we do things like wear safety gear and don’t strike full force to sensitive targets like the head and vital organs; these measures make it less real, but they make the training more survivable.  Sincere training always involves a balance between faithfully preparing for the anticipated situations while remaining reasonably safe.


The more often and the more consistently one trains, the more one will get out of one’s training. One should train regularly to keep techniques current.  Furthermore, martial arts training often strives to develop techniques and response times until they operate at the subliminal or instinct level. This is only achieved through sincere training that is regular over a long period of time.

Once again, this can be overdone.  Rest time is important too.  If one trains so much that one over-taxes one body, then one will hamper one’s ability to advance through training, and one might lose ground or even injure one’s self.  As one of my mentors once said, “Proper resting is just as important as proper working out.”

Physical Conditioning

This one is pretty key and is often overlooked by many martial artists.  No matter what situation you want to prepare for, physical fitness is probably going to be important.  What’s your cardiovascular stamina?  How much weight can you push? Will you get tired if the fight goes on for more than a few minutes? That last one might sound easy, but people who actually spar know how tiring it is and that if you’re not doing any training to prepare for it, you’ll probably fatigue out and get your rear-end handed to you.  Return to the purpose of your training: think about the situations you want to prepare for and what physical attributes you’ll need to succeed in them.  Then go about developing those physical attributes.  This is all about the fitness of your body.


Your physical conditioning might be turning your body into the equivalent of a suped-up sports car, but if you try to power that sports car with muddy swamp water, you’ll be in for a sorry surprise.  Even awesome and powerful cars need quality fuel and fluids to operate correctly.  Your body is no different.  The better you eat, the more fit, vital, and healthy you’re body and mind will be.  You’ll get more out of your training and you’ll be more prepared for the sorts of situations you are preparing for.  Always strive to feed your body quality foods.

Collaborative and Solitary

Both training with other people and training by one’s self is important.  Obviously, there are many sorts of training that require at least one other person to train with.  Can one practice sparring on one’s own? No, not really.  Classmates and training partners help us complete training that necessitates another person, and they can even encourage us along in the other parts of our training.

Training by one’s self is also important.  If you don’t train by yourself, then your training is never ever really yours.  Those of you who logged many hours of solitary training know exactly what I’m talking about.  Training with others is great and sometimes necessary, but there’s a real magic that can only occur when it’s just you training by yourself.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, give it a try and find out.


Hopefully this post provided some food for thought.  Think about the training that you do and how it reflects these elements.  I think that Purpose and Nutrition are very commonly overlooked, and it definitely hurts the training of the individuals who ignore these.  Always think about what you want to achieve through your training and how well your training is helping you get there.  Go make it happen.

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