What if you can’t even run away like you’ve been taught?
If you look at many of the common benefits that come from practice—coordination, flexibility, fitness, confidence, peace of mind, blah, blah blah, almost all of them can be achieved by being a mindful athlete, especially now with the modern trends of cross fit, yoga, parkour, old-school calisthenics, and what have you. Fitness first.
Certainly people can choose to derive these benefits through martial arts, as do I. For the average person though, all that other stuff does much more for quality of life than the actual martial knowledge.The beauty of training should be that you can get both at the same time!
One of my favorite illustrations of an aspect of the MKG Method is how siniwali drills build coordination for dirty boxing, functionalizing you in a flexible, fun format. You know who else is coordinated? Athletes. If you’ve never practiced hard, I could give a wrestler 3 angles and he’ll run you over after a few hours of training. Just the way it works. I don’t like it anymore than you do.
Some people need to be gently brought into turning it up. I was and still am there by someone else’ standards. Maybe they need to live in fantasy land for a little bit as they sort things out, build some unfounded confidence to allow them to progress later. Sometimes they stay there forever but are happier; that’s ok. But sometimes they get fit in service to the art they love; sometimes they don’t even notice, turn around and find they’re beasts. That’s a ‘better’ example of how (fill in the blank, here we’ll use martial arts) improves peoples’ lives.
Like sparring intensity, we should match our minimum fitness level to our desired level of functionality. Enough to have fun, train long sessions, spar, free flow, crush people in the UFC, fight through enemy lines with no bullets left? That’s up to you, but you’ll be more relaxed and have more fun if you can be honest with where you are and where you want to go.
Unlike sparring, fitness doesn’t have the same kind of potential for injuries, although of course, listen to your body. For the unfit non-sport oriented folk, I’ll just say this: if you take being functional so seriously, you can’t seriously disregard strength, speed, and stamina, can you?
If you have to choose between building martial skill and fitness, choose fitness first.
More attractive, better lifestyle outcomes, more able to do other activities, better health insurance rates, the list goes on. Fitness and toughness also allows you to train in more environments that might otherwise be beyond you.
You don’t really have to choose.
I believe you can always get some of the fitness in—much of my Instagram is a candid look at how I attempt to do that. Sometimes you spend valuable class time on skill building alone, leaving fitness their personal responsibility. But you kind of know what kind of group you have and what they need, and it can be a lot easier when your classes knock out fitness too, especially given that it would be specific to the art you love.
I just released an App on iTunes to help you with your solo workouts, or when you want a new routine. Like everything I do, it’s supplemental to your core training, meant as a tool for convenience.
I put a short video of Archie Luz on Facebook commenting on how fitness is a critical part of functional kali training. Check out his Instagram doing pushup variations. Monster! His kali is great, but when you feel how hard he hits, see how he moves, and you need no convincing he has it. Fitness. Athleticism.