Martial Arts Body Composition

If we analyze the body structure of the top athletes in every sport, we find certain trends.

For example, it would be unlikely to find a highly accomplished basketball player that is under six feet tall. There will always be some outliers, however, players should take advantage of the "cards they were dealt" and pursue a sport where their body type is preferred. At the same time, body composition can be tailored to an extent through training for the specific sport. Below, I will share some insight related to the martial arts and how the sport karate competitor can utilize their body composition in order to achieve the most success inside the ring.

Everyone is different- it's literally in our DNA. Your DNA can predispose you to certain traits that will express themselves throughout life. Your DNA will determine your skeletal frame. What you're given, you have to work with- so let's use it to the utmost. There are three different body types that exist: ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. Ectomorphs have a long and lean body structure, meaning they hold very little body fat, but also don't possess as much muscle. Endomorphs tend to hold a lot of fat but also a lot of muscle and because of this they can easily put on weight. The last body type, mesomorph is a combination of the two; a solid structure that is not overweight but at the same time is not underweight either. It's important to understand your body type this way you can make adjustments to your training to excel in any sport. Keep in mind that body types look differently not only due to genetics, but also because of the ratio of type I to type II/IIx fibers made from methods of training.

Muscle Types

Briefly breaking this down, type I fibers are smaller in size, they produce a low amount of force, but they don't fatigue quickly. Type II fibers are the largest in size, produce great force, and fatigue at a moderate rate. Type IIx fibers are large, produce the highest amount of force production, but fatigue the greatest. Speed and power are two of the most crucial components to having a fundamentally solid performance in sport karate. It may be easier for some to have greater speed, just as it may be easier for others to generate more power. The smaller framed, ectomorph competitor would have an easier time accumulating speed whether that is through hand combinations, twisting in the air during tricks, or utilizing weapon techniques. They also most likely possess more type I fibers in their musculature. If you find yourself with this body type make sure you focus on speed drills during your practices, because this component in your forms will make you stand out. Some examples of these include fast chop punch drills, plyometric exercises (quick jumping exercises), and spinning your weapon at a significant rate for a specific amount of time. If your body frame is a bit more muscular and solid, you'd want to be going for power in your routines, showing off hard hitting punches and strikes. For this, lifting heavier weights is encouraged as well as other exercises like medicine ball slams and variations of squats (these are just a couple examples). This competitor may also have more type II/IIx fibers which is why even though they may not be as fast, they can punch stronger than someone who is smaller. This is not to say that lean ectomorphs cannot work on building more muscle to generate more power, and that solid mesomorphs cannot train agility drills to work on their speed. (Note that through training you can facilitate fiber types to have some characteristics of both, but the fiber type cannot fully change from one to the other).

Do not be discouraged, this article is meant to inform the martial artist about their individual body type in order to facilitate proper training. Once you understand what works for your body then you can focus in on your forms and have confidence owning your individual style.

Black Belt Magazine has a storied history that dates back all the way to 1961, making 2021 the 60th Anniversary of the world's leading magazine of martial arts. To celebrate six decades of legendary martial arts coverage, take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through some of the most influential covers ever published. From the creators of martial art styles, to karate tournament heroes, to superstars on the silver screen, and everything in between, the iconic covers of Black Belt Magazine act as a time capsule for so many important moments and figures in martial arts history. Keep reading to view the full list of these classic issues.

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