Martial Arts have always been resistant to accepting strength and athleticism as desirable characteristics. Instead, ‘technique trumps all’ has always been the tagline that martial art(ist)s stand by. When an opponent is able to use their strength to out-muscle their opponent, this is considered a dirty tactic as it doesn’t reflect the martial arts’ core philosophy of using correct body position, rather than muscular contraction to produce force. Like it or not, the game has changed and will continue to do so.
So, being athletic is advantageous. How do we add it to our toolbox?
#1: Maintain Your Martial Arts Mentality.
As we talked about earlier, at its core, Martial Arts is about being able to win based on skill and technique. Even with an increase of strength and power, it is important these don’t become your primary weapons. Outmatch your opponent with skill. If they increase the intensity, your strength and conditioning will allow you to keep up. Beat your opponent everywhere, starting with technique.
#2: Find YOUR Right Program.
Don’t go to the gym with your friend and follow his program. A program needs to be specified to your base level and your goals. Find out what your starting point is. This isn’t just how heavy you can squat or how many chinups you can do. It is looking for postural imbalances to correct, finding out which muscle groups are firing incorrectly and using appropriate activation exercises to wake them up. Find out YOUR body’s starting point.
#3. Strength Training will Help
Strength training doesn’t have to make you bulky. Nor will it necessarily make you slow. Olympic Sprinters are some of the fastest athletes in the world, and Strength Training plays a critical role in their training regimen. Power, Speed and Anaerobic Conditioning all have a strength component to them. If you increase your base level strength, the ceiling for these fitness parameters increases too.
#4: Supplement Not a Substitute
Your training in the weightroom has the potential to consume you. There is something amazing about seeing yourself improve objectively. There is a saying that goes ‘The Iron Doesn’t Lie’. In Jiu-Jitsu, you may have got the tap because you set up your sub perfectly, or because your opponent made a mistake. You may be inclined to believe one more than the other (this will differ depending on which side of the tap you are on), making milestones harder to identify. When your squat goes up by 5kg, you got stronger. If you are the type of person to engage in Strength and Conditioning, you are probably one of the more dedicated athletes. This puts you in the ‘obsessive’ category, and puts you at a risk of doing too much, at the expense of what you are doing it for. Make sure you know that your Strength and Conditioning Regimen is there to help your BJJ. It isn’t another sport you are taking up.
#5. You Need to Follow a Plan.
We touched on this in #2. That you need to make sure your training regimen is a reflection of YOUR body. Also make sure that you have a structured week-to-week plan that details how you plan on increasing the intensity of your program, while factoring in periods of recovery to make sure you don’t burn out. This is another common mistake seen way too often. Hungry fighter comes in the gym. Wants to become world champion. Trains twice a day, six times a week for 6months. Disappears. You would rather have a plan which isn’t as aggressive, but allows you to love the sport for 60years, not 6months.