I have wanted to start learning a type of martial art for a long time, but my lifestyle didn't help (I have lived in 5 countries in the last 10 years, changed location at least once in each of those countries; very busy schedule, etc) and now that I've almost succeeded to settle I would like to finally get to that.

The problem is that I have still to wait to move once more (and I'm not sure if it will be after a couple of weeks or months; I truly hope it will last less than a year before i'll be able to move) before selecting a dojo, because at my current location I can't find any.

On the other hand, I wouldn't like to waste the time until then and thought that performing some basic training even before being in a dojo can't hurt. At least I'll be in better shape when I start.

Should I do push ups? Run? What else? How much should I do, given that I'm an absolute beginner regarding martial arts? Are there recommended resources like books or videos?

How far can I go with the training?

  • Related: What exercises are safe (or not) for total beginners?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 15:02
  • Moving doesn't necessarily mean you can't train in a dojo. Find an art you're interested in, then go and look at google maps for training in the last few locations. If you have time to run or exercise, you can find time to train. If you want to learn a martial art, study it; if you just want to get in shape, you can join a gym!
    – stslavik
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 19:04

5 Answers 5


Training Martial Arts Without Coaching is Not Recommended

I came to the same conclusion you did in this answer on Stack Exchange Fitness: skill development without a partner and without a knowledgeable instructor is very hard, slow, and prone to producing bad habits instead of ability, so you're better off becoming a beastly physical specimen instead. Your goal should be to become strong, powerful, mobile, and able to perform vigorous tasks without tiring. The question of how to do that is extremely broad and depends very much on your current physical abilities and attributes. Fitness.SE is a much better place to start that inquiry.

Attribute Development Prior to Martial Training

The short answer for "what should I do instead" is to develop the primary physical attributes for combat sports: strength, power, mobility, conditioning.

To do that, you'll first want to have an aerobic base, best developed by running, swimming, rowing, or biking over medium-long distances. That could mean getting a solid mile or 5k time, or rowing 2000 meters on a machine. At the same time you'll want to train basic calisthenics for strength, as prerequisites for barbell training: push-ups, pull-ups, dips, air squats, lunges.

You'll also make sure that you've got the necessary mobility for rigorous training, like an effortless third-world squat, overhead shoulder position, and being able to touch your toes. If you're not fit, I'd recommend the training program in Robb Wolf's book, The Paleo Solution (which is mostly about diet, but has a very respectable ramp-up program for physical training). Yoga is also a solid staple, and ideally should be practiced weekly throughout your training.

Once these basics are in place, the more important heavy resistance training can begin: loaded squats, deadlifts, bench and overhead presses, power cleans. Barbells are best for this task. To learn how to use a barbell properly, the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore is a great resource. At this stage of training your runs would become less frequent (once a week or every two weeks). Bodyweight calisthenics can be relegated to warm-up or accessory exercises at the end of a workout, or you can use bodyweight exercises as your upper-body resistance training: pull-ups, chin-ups, and dips are all productive and can be used with additional weight. Hindu push-ups and their advanced counterpart, handstand push-ups, are tough to load with additional weight but are extremely useful nonetheless.

Setting long-term goals like a double bodyweight deadlift or a bodyweight press are helpful in spurring progress as long as they don't cause you to overlook injuries or mobility problems.

Short, high intensity conditioning work such as kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell complexes, sled drags and Prowler pushes, sprints and hill sprints would fit in a few times a week after you've developed a reasonable level of strength--more than five pull-ups, a squat loaded with your bodyweight for reps, a greater than bodyweight deadlift.

Eventually you'll want to prioritize developing power in addition to strength. Exercises would include snatches, jerks, push presses, broad jumps, height jumps, sprints, and increasing the priority of power cleans. Benchmarks such as a bodyweight clean-and-jerk or being able to jump up to sternum height are useful goals.

At that point I'd also consider gymnastics: bridges, work yourself up to a pistol (and then jumping or weighted pistols), front and back levers on rings or a bar, muscle-ups, and so on. These feats build on your strength base and develop other attributes like balance and coordination. They're also clearly impressive.

This training would take several months to several years, and would well prepare you for technique training and sparring once you have the chance.

  • 3
    Thank you Dave, this is exactly the kind of answer I needed.
    – 0ana
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 7:42
  • I would insist a bit less on muscle and more on suppleness, but I agree on the main point: alone, you can only prepare yourself for a martial art, not train yourself in one. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 15:18
  • @Nowhereman Supple in what way? The Olympic lifters I'm familiar with are quite bullish on extensive mobility work. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 15:28
  • Well, I'm not sure lifters make the best material for martial artists. When you practice any martial art I've known, being able to bend in most directions without hurting yourself is more valuable than being able to bench-press any weight. YMMV Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 21:32
  • @Nowhereman Maybe you could you add your own answer to describe what you mean? I'm not sure how improving one's clean and jerk decreases or interferes with mobility work. Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 22:04

Meet sportive people. Try to motivate yourself and start from scratch: e.g. the first day try to run 1 km and do 20 push-ups and 40 sit-ups. Try to push it to the limit.


I suggest Judo and/or boxing.

Both of these are easily transferable around the world, nearly every town in every country has these.

This could actually benefit you, as you will get to see different approaches and styles of the same arts and give you an edge.

Ronda Rousey is probably one of the best fighters alive, and she is schooled in Judo - all of her training is there for a purpose to help her UFC fighting and nothing else. I can say from experience that no matter how many miles you put in on the road, or hours in the gym, nothing is like being thrown around like a rag doll on a judo mat for the first time by someone half your size!

  • 2
    "at my current location I can't find any [martial arts schools]" Commented May 1, 2015 at 14:44
  • Apologies, I did mean to add to this, most Judo and Amatuer boxing clubs are non-profit, rarely advertized and have little or nothing on the internet advertizing themselves. It's probably worth going in to a few sports centers or calling them up and asking if they know of any in the local area. Also, contact the Judo and Amatuer boxing club associations can point you in the right direction too. I suppose I'm just not quite believing that there isn't a Martial Arts class somewhere nearby, I've been in towns with population of less than 1000 and there is a MA school!
    – Matt
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 20:14


Strap a cell phone to your arm, turn on the endomondo app and start jogging. It makes jogging so much fun. It tracks automatically tracks and graphs distance, speed, time, pace and allows you to compare yourself with other people around the world. Uploads everything automatically online. As for weight work, you can never go wrong with pushups, crunches, pullups and squats. But as with all things, the chances of you sticking with it are directly linked to how much investment you put in. That's where the social aspect comes in. Whatever you do, try and do it with others and preferable people you like.. It's the difference between dabbling in something and changing your lifestyle.

  • Thank you for these tips, Kamil. I'll take a look at endomondo. It is true, the social aspect is important, but I cannot do it here, I live in a very small town and preparing to move to a larger one soon where I will be able to pick a dojo, but until then I just have to do what I can alone.
    – 0ana
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 7:48

Odd, martial arts courses are widely available. However in the absense of conventional teachers, the greatest source of knowledge, Books. Martial arts manuals and training videos. While this is NOT a recommened course compared to a real teacher. On the other A private instructor?

If you're a novice, it couldn't hurt to begin a exercise regimen first, then learn how to fight. Less chance you'll hurt yourself

  • I'm really confused as to what exactly you're recommending here. Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 19:42

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