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I would like to ask some opinions on the following matter:

I've been training Kung Fu (Eagle Claw, Lau Fat Mang lineage) for a year or so. Classes last from 90 to 120 minutes each, three times a week. I've been also hitting the gym four or five times per week for two years now, and running for half an hour on the nights I don't have Kung Fu classes.

I am now thinking that I should drop the gym (my weight is 71kg, 9,8% body fat - measured three months ago - and I'm 1,67m tall) and focusing on martial arts. The fact is, training Kung Fu alone may be not enough to be satisfied. I do have the option to join some Kickboxing classes - 1 hour per class, two times per week. I've watched a trial class of that and it was great, really intensive. Problem is, kickboxing classes occur on the same day of the Kung Fu classes, with 30 minutes of interval between them.

I think I could attend to both and drop the gym, and go running on the nights without training. I've also read some about training two martial arts at once and that seem ok if you're focused, but what about training them both on the same day?

  • Why is a kickboxing class necessary? Most sparring amounts to kickboxing in practice anyway (with a few, technical differences). Does your Eagle Claw class not spar? – The Wudang Kid Aug 12 '15 at 14:12
  • Depends on the kind of spar. Practicing forms involving a pre-stablished sequence of punches and kicks and other movements, we do it like once a week or so. Free-sparring we rarely do, and that's what I'd like to do more frequently, thus, kick boxing. – Marra Aug 12 '15 at 14:23
  • Ah, makes sense why you'd want to do kickboxing then. – The Wudang Kid Aug 12 '15 at 14:28
  • @Marra Pre-established sequences should never be called sparring. Sparring means the absence of rote patterns and sequences. – Dave Liepmann Aug 12 '15 at 18:32
  • I understand. Though I've seen people calling that sparring, I do agree with you. Therefore, we very rarely spar on our kung fu classes and, when we do, we do it without any protectors, gloves or handwraps. So we can't go for stronger hits, or else we can injury ourselves or our partners. Kinda different from my first impression on the kick boxing class. – Marra Aug 12 '15 at 18:35
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Well the short answer is: Why not try it for a month and see whether or not it's something you're capable of doing? Because you won't know until you try.

One of the main concerns of practicing more than one style at a time is that you might confuse them, and it will annoy your teachers as well as perhaps slowing your progress. This is a bigger concern for styles that are very similar (to beginners anyway). For example: Taekwondo and Kyokushin Karate, or Judo and Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Eagle Claw kung-fu and kickboxing will share only some basic strike techniques. The rest is very different. The two styles are pretty far apart, and I think you won't have too much trouble compartmentalizing them and not confusing them. During sparring you might confuse them, but you can deal with that as it happens. That is to say, your teachers will deal with it.

When you're at an advanced level in one style, then even similar styles will seem very different to you, and this ceases to be an issue. With just a year of training in Eagle Claw under your belt, you're not there yet. But like I said, the two styles are different enough that I think you have a good chance at not confusing them.

Next, you indicated that you want to train both Eagle Claw kung-fu and kickboxing on the same days, spaced a half hour apart, for a total of 3 hours per day training. This can be pretty aggressive and hard on the body. The main problem to watch out for here is something known as "over-training". That's where your performance plateaus or even worsens over time, because your body isn't able to recover completely.

Assuming you have a whole day off from training (48 hours between training sessions), you have a good chance of recovering, more or less completely, from the previous day before going into the new day of training.

But you still can't go so hard that you trash your muscles each time. If you do that, it will be a week or longer for you to recover. So you have to watch this very carefully. Don't overdue it, especially not in the first month. Take it much more easily than you're used to.

Also, when you have that 30 minutes of rest time between classes, immediately drink something that has glucose and electrolytes in it. Something like Gatorade. This will help you recover from your previous class so that you won't feel as bad in your second class of the day. You're trying to replenish muscle glycogen as fast as possible. So down that sugary drink. It will help you.

Running on nights that you're not training probably won't be good for you. You're going to need those days to recover. Probably. You might limit it to one or two nights a week, and do it on a weekend or something. Or do it right after your training has completed for the days you're training.

You might also benefit from taking a week off from training once every 4 to 6 weeks. It's non-intuitive, but this will allow your body to recover and will actually cause you to make more progress over time than if you did not take those weeks off.

One other problem you might see will happen well before the effects of chronic over-training are felt: When your body is even just a little tired, your accuracy and form begins to worsen. Training "technique" (form) when your body is in this state will cause you to drill incorrect form into your muscle memory. This can hinder your progress. You always want to drill with correct form.

So if you're going to train two styles on the same day, and you have a choice of which style to train first in the day, pick the style that has a greater emphasis on refined movement and form. Because that's the class you're going in to "fresh". The second class you're going to go to in a tired state, and so it's not as good for the second class of the day.

Like I said, you won't know until you try. Give it a try. See what happens.

I've personally been in such good shape in my earlier years (ages 16 to 21) that I could handle 3 hours of class per day, 3 days a week, just fine back then. Nowadays? No way. But that's me.

Oh, and just to comment on what you're doing with regards to dropping your gym workout: My opinion is that if you're trying to keep body fat low, cardio fitness high, and overall muscle tone and flexibility good, then this martial arts program you've come up with is very good for that purpose. You don't need gym workouts for that. But one thing you can do much better at in a gym is weight training, especially with free-weights.

Building muscle and strength is very difficult to do with just martial arts training, unless those programs also have you lifting weights (most don't do that in class). You can get "toned" in martial arts training, but it's not the same as actually building muscle.

The bottom line is that this depends on your goals and what you want out of it. It also depends on your own body and how it can deal with the increased loads and stresses. Listen to your body for signs of over-training.

Hope that helps.

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    I thank you for your attention and care. Gonna think about all that this week in which I'll be travelling before I make up my mind. Guess I'll do a month or two for trial, that's probably for the best. – Marra Aug 13 '15 at 11:03
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Beware overtraining. In my university years I trained multiple classes per day, nearly every day per week. In retrospect, it was not smart, too much wear and tear on my joints. If I had cut back a bit then, maybe I wouldn't have been quite as good at the time, but I certainly would be twice as good as I currently am now (in my late 40's).

Think of your training as a marathon, not a sprint. Train with intensity and focus, and push yourself, yes. But overdoing it early can severely constrain your ability to still be doing martial arts with ease 10, 20, 30 years from now.

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I can't tell you whether it's a good idea or not, but I can tell you that I do almost exactly what you're suggesting three days a week when my schedule allows it - 90 minutes of kung fu followed immediately by 60 minutes of kickboxing. I absolutely love it, because while training kung fu has been great for leg strength, flexibility, and other aspects of fitness, I don't get a lot of sustained cardio out of it. In addition to cardio, kickboxing also provides more opportunities for bag and pad work than kung fu classes do and that's greatly improved my power and speed. The cardio is really the big deal though, and I enjoy it so much more than straight cardio exercise like running or an elliptical.

I haven't typically had much trouble keeping the two separated, though our school has an overall philosophy of using whatever works, so YMMV.

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