Before we get into the scientific nitty-gritty, let's do a little experiment. Stand up right now and do 10 rapid Hindu squats. (For those who don't know, this is a deep knee bend that is favored in the grappling arts.) Make sure you do 10 of them hard and fast. Now it's time for a quick self-assessment. How do your legs feel?

by Mark Hatmaker

There is a possibility that your lungs puffed a wee bit and that your heart rate rose, but I'll wager that the low number of repetitions did not make any fatiguing demands on your legs. They're probably good to go for another 10.

Since what you're feeling is not leg fatigue but more likely related to elevated heart and respiration rates, do 10 more — but this time, I want you to time them a little differently.

Rather than 10 hard and fast Hindu squats, go leisurely. Drop down for the first repetition and stay there for one minute before you return to standing. Repeat for a total of 10 squats.

I'll wager the majority who submit to this experiment will do the first set of fast squats with no problem but will become a bit bored by the slow ones. However, it is the bodily sensations accrued by the second set that will pave the way for today's lesson.

Now, whether you did the experiment or not, here's the upshot. The hard and fast set of 10 squats will feel noticeably less taxing than the slow set. Why should this be? After all, in the slow set, you're essentially in a resting position — the deep squat, aka the third-world squat.

The difference in effort is not one of mere perception; it is one of biomechanical function. When you squat with speed, the extensor muscles, although no longer required to remain standing, stay under tension all the same to control the rate of descent.
In the fast iterations of the squat in which an immediate turnaround is required (rising back to standing), the extensors still under load are able to increase the present tension and make the rapid rise easily. In the slower iterations, you stop at the bottom, and the extensors, which were under load during descent, disengage. In other words, the tension decays.

To return to standing, you must place them back under load, walking the scale back up from 0 percent to full use.

Fast iterations of the squat allow the leg musculature to use “elastic loading" in which your extensors behave like rubber bands stretched and tensed for use. Slow iterations involve slack rubber bands that require full muscular engagement with zero elastic aid.
Elastic recoil aids speed and conserves energy. When you run, the associated calf muscles and Achilles tendon do not go to zero slack as a foot peels off the ground with each stride. There is still tension loaded in the toes, the feet, the Achilles tendons and the calf muscles, and that allows for elastic rebound once the next foot is placed on the ground.

Here's another experiment: Sprint 50 yards as hard and fast as you can. At the conclusion, note your internal state. I'll wager, just as with the fast squats, that you'll have elevated respiration and heart rates. However, running 50 yards at full speed will not be experienced as taxing on your legs.

Now, cover that same 50 yards, but this time, take one bounding step and land on one foot‚ pause for three seconds, bound to the next foot and so on. It's important that when you're making these giant steps, you land with a flexed knee and remain in knee flex, which one would assume would aid the bounding task. However, the three-second pause allows for elastic decay.

After this is complete, again note your internal state: elevated respiration and heart rates and likely a remarkable increase in perceived leg exertion in comparison to the sprint.

Now let's tie this in to combat — or any athletic endeavor. When your stance forces you to start from stock-still, by biomechanical definition, you cannot use elastic loading for speed or energy conservation. Any footwork of the slow, plodding variety will not use elastic load or, at the very least, will entail small elastic load assistance. Static stances and deliberate footwork are by definition slower and ultimately more taxing.

I'm not advocating the use of bouncing or bounding footwork in which you are barely in contact with the ground. That's always unwise. Such overactivity can lead to inefficient energy expenditure, and the reduced contact with the ground makes weight transfers and direction changes less efficient.

What you may find, however, is that there's a better method of movement that takes advantage of elastic load in a way that improves your speed and reduces muscle fatigue. It's up to you to determine precisely what that method is and whether it meshes with your chosen martial art.

Mark Hatmaker's website is

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: or go to

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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