I'd like to find some specific physical training exercises to directly benefit my practice of martial arts (both unarmed and weapon).

For example, I recently discovered weighted Indian clubs and maces. Incorporating them into my training has positively effected my sword practice.

Beyond martial art specific technique practice, forms/kata, and sparring, my regular workout regimen already includes an array of common stretches, calisthenics, running/sprinting, and the use of the previously mentioned weighted clubs/maces.

  • Do you think it would be more effective to narrow the focus of the particular art I'm looking to support, or to narrow the focus of the particular training result I am looking to achieve?
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 16:29
  • 2
    My goal is to tailor a training regimen towards maximizing my potential effectiveness in unarmed and melee ranged combat. I already regularly do a range of calisthenics and running exercises, and study/practice/maintain several martial arts. I fairly recently learned about and incorporated Indian club and mace training, and now I'm curious about what else is out there that is tried-and-true but unknown to me. However, having limited free time, I want to only incorporate training which supports my current goal of being the best close quarter combatant I can be (for self-edification).
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 17:08
  • Martial arts are collections of training techniques for combat. How do you decide on which training techniques fit this question?
    – mattm
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 22:08
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    Can this discussion of whether this question is, or is not, "macho-ism" go to meta? I don't see it as such, but it would be best discussed there.
    – Bankuei
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 17:06
  • 1
    The nitpicking of this question is strange and uncalled for. This is a straightforward question, and would not be improved by specifying an art (because the answer doesn't change except at the elite level or for niche arts) nor by haranguing the OP about street fighting. (Why that hobbyhorse has been raised here, or to what end, is unclear to me.) Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:48

3 Answers 3


I only have anecdotal evidence to support this, but I have trained with students with experience of dance and/or gymnastics; they are frequently stronger and more flexible than students without experience. They seem to pick up the techniques a lot quicker!. They also seem to have a better idea of how the body works, so their techniques are generally sharper and faster than non-dancers/gymnasts at a similar level.

I believe this is because of the mixed nature of the training required for dance or gymnastics, working on multiple areas that are very useful for martial arts (for example, core strength or flexibility).

  • I suspect the reason for that is that dancers are used to pick up movement patterns and repeat them. Certainly, I noticed the same things as yourself: dancers make for fast progression. Although, it could mean that gifted individuals excel at both dancing and martial arts. ☺ Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 15:21

Athleticism is athleticism

There is no difference between physical preparation for combat arts and physical preparation for sport. One must develop physical attributes. The list of attributes one must develop varies slightly by source, but the basics are fairly consistent. You could use the list of physical training goals from Kurz' Science of Sports Training:

  • strength, speed, endurance, coordination, agility, and flexibility

...or the CrossFit list of physical skills:

  • endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy

...but basically the goal is to be a capable athlete. Be able to safely get into positions and exert lots of force quickly and correctly, and then change that force nimbly, and continue doing so for a long time.

Developing athleticism

The prioritization of these skills varies somewhat (but only somewhat) and generally involves resistance training, cardio, stretching, and continually learning varied movements. Some techniques are well known to be more effective than others at producing athletic results. Superior training approaches that come to mind include gymnastics, track and field, Olympic lifting, and all of the supplemental exercises in these realms.

Therefore, in my opinion, most martial artists should focus their supplemental training on becoming a supple, powerful physical specimen with an undepletable gas tank. Kettlebell work is fine. Running, cycling, running, yoga, powerlifting, crossfitty-type workouts, and Olympic lifting are all good choices as well. Gymnastics works for some but it is a lot to ask of older trainees and it may not be quite as useful as a secondary or supplemental pursuit.


Tendon remodeling for impact absorbtion

One of my best kinesiology and sports medicine instructors also does a lot of instruction at the local circus school - and he noted that folks who do lots of trampoline training end up with stronger tendons and are capable of taking impacts (including on hard surfaces) far better than the average person.

So far science points to tendons strengthening under lots of high repetition exercises, or continuous stress over time... so the repeat impacts of trampoline would seem to be creating those conditions (probably along with people becoming better at body mechanics in taking impact as well).

Obviously, however, you will need access to a trampoline and preferably skilled instruction, as trampoline accidents and injuries from people just setting one up and going at it are relatively high.

A different way at getting at this effect which I've only recently encountered is high velocity, low weight loading from catching thrown objects. The Sikh martial art Shastar Sanatan Vidiya demonstrated this using thrown iron balls or tossing up and catching a spear or staff a few inches, over and over, so that the downward weight pulls on the tendons in the spine.

I have only gotten to practice this a little bit, and it's unquestionable that the back muscles are activated for this, and it seems in line that it would lead to tendon strengthening, but I haven't had the months/years of practice to talk about larger effects and whether the effect in taking force better is worth the time invested.

Ground Tumbling, Pratfalls

Falling happens in fighting. Along with the usual styles that teach falling techniques, there's a variety of tumbling activities ranging from acrobatics, "movement play", parkour, some dance moves, and clown pratfalls.

While these tend to have some similarities they also have some differences mostly in the types of falls they expect, how one is expected to come out of the fall and exercises for practice. Nonetheless, I'd say it's worth looking at these to see what's worth taking and what won't work for your goals.

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