Workout Routines

Combatives Expert Kelly McCann: Is Your Body “Good to Go” for Optimal Performance of Self-Defense Moves?

“Good to go” is a common military colloquialism indicating readiness. Are you physically good to go for performance of self-defense moves during an unexpected, violent street confrontation? Physical fitness is one of the essential preparedness prerequisites.

What’s considered adequately fit in regard to defending yourself? How can it be quantified? On the no-to-low end of the spectrum, some believe fitness is irrelevant because combative techniques are supposed to incapacitate an attacker so quickly.

“Supposed to,” hmm? That’s a pretty naive perspective.

The results of any techniques are always conditional on the street because of myriad variables that are out of your control. You can’t depend on technique, power and luck always aligning perfectly to achieve a desired outcome; “guaranteed to succeed” is a dangerous appraisal of any technique, tactic or weapon.

Middle-grounders believe fitness is a requirement for effective self-defense moves and achieve their personal concept of it in different ways — from running to weightlifting to cross-training. Although well-intentioned and generally fit, some in this group may find that their conditioning program failed to adequately prepare them for the demanding and specific physical requirements of a snot-slinging fight for their life.


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Those who believe fitness is essential and maintain extraordinary levels of it are generally conditioning hounds anyway — whether they practice combatives or not. Even in this group, some may miss the mark in achieving the specific fitness level necessary for a nasty physical confrontation in a parking garage.

Attack situations generally require a period of intense physical exertion lasting less than three minutes. There are exceptions, of course — a protracted struggle to prevent a rape in an isolated environment, for example — but street attacks are normally quick, brutal events intended to overwhelm the victim. They tend not to be slow, sustained incidents requiring “long distance” physical endurance. During an attack, you’ll rely primarily on fast-twitch muscles for speed, power and plyometric explosiveness.


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How to Win a Street Fight: Four Self-Defense Moves From
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Basically, fast-twitch muscles use your body’s glycogen stores for energy during short periods of intense exertion and will fatigue quickly. Conversely, slow-twitch muscles use fat stores to provide sustained energy throughout prolonged periods of lower-intensity work and fatigue more slowly.

It’s important to understand how attacks occur, as well as how your body will physiologically respond in order to develop task-specific fitness goals. By tweaking your conditioning program, you can effectively and efficiently achieve “street fight” fitness in addition to greater general fitness. I believe street-fight fitness is best achieved through intense anaerobic interval training, but I also believe aerobic endurance training is still a requirement for general fitness.

An easy way to distinguish the two is by measuring your heart rate. It’s helpful to get a heart-rate monitor. They’re inexpensive and take the guesswork out of reaching and maintaining your target rate. Get a model with a large readout so you can attach it somewhere other than your wrist in the event you glove up to hit the heavy bag or spar.

An accurate method for determining your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. So if you’re 40, it’s 220 – 40 = 180. Low-intensity aerobic work keeps your heart beating at 65 percent of your maximum, or 180 x .65 = 117 beats per minute. In contrast, intense exertion is anaerobic at 85 to 95 percent of your max: 180 x .85 (or .95) = 153 (171) BPM.

An aerobic routine puts you in the zone to burn fat efficiently, is easy to sustain for long periods and can be used on your off days as a recovery workout. An anaerobic routine is much shorter in length, is also beneficial for fat burning (in the hours following your workout), requires more recovery time and is more characteristic of the physical requirements of a brawl.

If you don’t exercise, put the Twinkie down and get off your ass. Confirm your suitability to exercise with your physician, then get after it. If you do train but want to tweak your routine to specifically address overcoming physical failure during self-defense moves in a violent street confrontation, try including either short-duration, high-intensity interval routines or long-duration aerobic activity at least twice a week to balance out your training.

Conditioning Your Body for Self-Defense Moves | Day 1

Combatives workout exercises #1 from Kelly McCann self-defense moves training article.

Conditioning Your Body for Self-Defense Moves | Day 2

Combatives workout exercises #2 from Kelly McCann self-defense moves training article.

Conditioning Your Body for Self-Defense Moves | Day 3

Combatives workout exercises #3 from Kelly McCann self-defense moves training article.

Conditioning Your Body for Self-Defense Moves | Day 4
Rest and recover.

Conditioning Your Body for Self-Defense Moves | Day 5

Combatives workout exercises #4 from Kelly McCann self-defense moves training article.

To maintain my readiness, I train four days a week, using both …

10 Ways to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Real Self-Defense Moves!

The combination of cardio fitness and the martial arts has been a boon to the martial arts industry. The popularity of such programs has greatly promoted public awareness and participation. Unfortunately, despite the positive aspects of the martial arts fitness trend, it has also produced some potentially dangerous side effects.

If you watch any of the infomercials for martial arts fitness systems, you will invariably see interviews with people who have successfully gotten into shape and the compulsory before-and-after photos testifying to improved health and confidence. However, you’ll sometimes also hear comments like, “Thanks to this program, I can now take care of myself in a self-defense situation.”


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Although it is encouraging to see how these programs can increase a person’s self-confidence, there is a tremendous difference between confidence in one’s actual proficiency in self-defense moves and false confidence in the movements of an exercise program that only resemble an actual fighting technique.

As an instructor of cardio kickboxing and a variety of application-oriented fighting arts, I have found that the best way to maximize your fitness benefits without compromising your defensive skills is to base your exercise routines on self-defense moves. This way, your training is consistent and you can use the exact same motor skills for both activities. This synergy also helps refine the form and the resulting function of your technique. By relating all your movements to realistic self-defense moves, you will also find it much easier to stay focused and motivated in your fitness training.


SELF-DEFENSE FITNESS/CONDITIONING VIDEO
Get in Shape for Martial Arts and Self-Defense Moves With Champion Kickboxer Stephanie Cheeva!



To develop the cardio-kickboxing programs that I teach, I followed 10 simple rules that maintained the self-defense orientation of these fitness routines. Although the routines you practice may be very different, in most cases, they still contain the roots of functional self-defense techniques. By applying these same guidelines to your martial arts fitness practice, you can find the “fight within the fitness” of your routines and use cardio kickboxing to greatly enhance your defensive skills.

How to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Self-Defense Moves — Tip #1: Adapt your punching motions to practical self-defense moves. Punching with full power on the street is a dangerous proposition. Unless you train your fists and wrists to punch without the support of hand wraps and boxing gloves, you are better off using more practical striking surfaces. Using the same movements of your standard jab, cross, hook and uppercut in your fitness routines, substitute palm-heel strikes, web-hand strikes and finger jabs for fists. This will allow you to practice the same striking combinations while ingraining the habit of hitting with practical tools.


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How to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Self-Defense Moves — Tip #2: Focus on practical movements that can be done in regular clothing. Although you shouldn’t completely discard high kicks and other fun movements, try to alter your routines to emphasize practical movements that do not require an extensive warm-up or exceptionally loose clothing to perform. This will get you used to operating within normal ranges of motion and keep you focused on practical techniques. As you begin to understand the defensive applications of these movements, you will begin to appreciate them more and be less concerned with doing the flashy, fun, yet impractical movements found in many martial arts fitness programs.

How to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Self-Defense Moves — Tip #3: Developing cardiovascular fitness obviously requires that you move constantly. However, make a point of identifying the difference between functional fighting movement and meaningless jumping around. By using real fighting footwork as the basis for all your routines, you will ultimately develop better balance and more power in your strikes.

How to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Self-Defense Moves — Tip #4: Add other useful motions to your routines. Most cardio-kickboxing routines focus on punches and kicks. Don’t be afraid to add elbows, knees, hammerfists, blocks, parries, grabs, locks and any other useful movements to your routines. This not only rounds out your routines by providing different types and ranges of motion but also provides a whole new arsenal of fighting techniques.

How to Turn Cardio Kickboxing Into Self-Defense Moves — Tip #5: Feel free to alter your fitness routines to emphasize realistic street techniques. Most martial arts fitness routines are designed to be challenging and fun, but they do little to ingrain practical fighting skills. By practicing combinations that follow the flow of realistic defensive techniques, you develop better motor memory and functional conditioned reflexes. To do this, you may have to alter your performance of the routine …

Neck-Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Martial Arts Injuries and Protect Vital Targets

Scott Bolan and Mike Gillette contend that many martial artists do not pay enough attention to the neck as a vital target. This may be due to its status as a forbidden zone in traditional martial arts training and martial arts competitions. However, if one considers how the neck is constructed and what it houses, it certainly becomes an attractive target in real-world street-fighting situations.

Therefore, Mike Gillette practices neck-strengthening exercises to build up the musculature supporting his head. He suggests that neck-strengthening exercises increase structural integrity during self-defense moves and help increase resistance to choke pressure.

NECK-STRENGTHENING EXERCISES VIDEO
Mike Gillette Explains the Neck’s Structure and Its Susceptibility to Injury in Martial Arts and Self-Defense Training


“The neck is an interesting piece of architecture because it is the pathway for some of the most aspects of the body: the central nervous system, all of your airway, your internal plumbing as far as your circulatory system is concerned,” Mike Gillette says. “But interestingly, it is all built around one of the most structurally weak parts of the body.”

Gillette’s breakdown of why neck-strengthening exercises are an important part of martial arts injury prevention and street-fighting preparation considers:

  • impact injuries from falling to — or being thrown to — the ground
  • tissue compression during a choke attack

The neck-strengthening exercises that Gillette recommends include flexion, extension and rotation. He says that these movement patterns need to be addressed together to ensure balanced development.

NECK-STRENGTHENING EXERCISES VIDEO
Mike Gillette Demonstrates Neck Exercises for Strengthening Its Structure and Preventing Injury During Martial Arts Training or Self-Defense Techniques

“The nice thing about working on neck strength,” Gillette says, “is you develop strength in this area pretty quickly. You’ll experience pretty immediate feedback, which is [good for motivation].”

The martial arts conditioning expert warns against movements during neck-strengthening exercises that are too fast or jerky, as this would be in stark contrast to the goal of injury prevention. “Notice that I’m not going quickly, I’m not snapping,” he says during a demonstration of lateral flexion. “These movements are all very smooth. They have to be smooth, they have to be controlled because [the neck] is a very easy area to injure.”

Gillette’s final word regarding this workout routine? “All of these [moves] are very simple,” he says. “Don’t over-think them. Don’t try to make them more complicated than they are. You need to work on all [the] planes of motion to have a sufficient balance of musculature. … If you’re not building up the flexion muscles, if you’re not building both sides of your neck, you’re setting yourself up for injury — and that’s the opposite of what we want to accomplish here.”


For more information about Scott Bolan and Mike Gillette’s training programs and products, visit martialpowersecrets.com and devastatingfighting.com.…

Kettlebell Expert John Spezzano Shows You a Kettlebell Workout Technique Using the Overhead Lunge

In this exclusive martial arts fitness video, John Spezzano shows you how to execute the overhead lunge with a kettlebell! John Spezzano is the author of The Martial Arts/Kettlebell Connection, which contains detailed photographic instruction on this kettlebell technique and scores of others to help your kettlebell training in the areas of strength, stability, stamina and flexibility.

As martial arts expert John Spezzano describes the first part of the exercise, “We grab the kettlebell with both hands, and give it a little bit of a swinging motion and bring it up with both hands and just let it land gently in what we call ‘the rack.'” Spezzano advises participants to not allow their wrist to “face up to the sky” but rather to be “nice and locked straight” with the elbow resting against the rib cage.

Next comes the push press, as Spezzano describes in the kettlebell exercise video: “[You’re] actually going to do a little bit of a squat and then use that upward momentum to get the kettlebell up and overhead.”

As in the first part of the exercise in the kettlebell video below, Spezzano advises, “Make sure when the bell is up, your wrist stays straight … wrist stays straight, elbow locked straight, shoulder pulled down into the socket.”

A 30-year veteran of the martial arts, John Spezzano is a Russian Kettlebell Certified instructor under Pavel Tsatsouline and a full instructor of both Jun Fan gung fu / jeet kune do concepts and the Philippine martial arts under Dan Inosanto. Spezzano is also qualified to teach maphilindo silat (under Inosanto), wing chun (under Francis Fong) and muay Thai (under Chai Sirisute).

KETTLEBELL EXERCISE VIDEO | Kettlebell Expert John Spezzano Demonstrates the Overhead Lunge

Editor’s Note: John Spezzano’s full-color kettlebell workout book, The Martial Arts/Kettlebell Connection, is AVAILABLE NOW in Black Belt’s online store!


How to Win a Street Fight Using Self-Defense Techniques, Fight Psychology and Combat Conditioning

There are a few videos floating around the Web of old-time catch-as-catch-can wrestler Billy Robinson. In one of them, he recounts easily handling a famous strongman in the early 1970s. After beating him over and over, Billy Robinson claims the bewildered powerlifter asked him, “What makes you so good?”

Billy Robinson’s response: “It’s not me that’s so good. It’s you that knows nothin’!”

The point of the story was to show that catch wrestling is more about skill and knowledge than it is about strength, but it sums up why any martial artist succeeds or fails in a fight.

How Important Are Self-Defense Techniques?

Lots of factors determine success or failure in combat—your level of fitness, how you handle fear, your skill set and so on—but in a very real way, knowledge precedes and determines all of them.

The obvious example is your skill set. Whether you’re in the ring or in a self-defense situation, you have to know a set of fighting techniques to succeed. If you want odds that are better than a mere chance of winning, knowledge is key. You need to study a collection of self-defense techniques and make sure they fit with the kind of fight you’re preparing for. Then you learn to integrate them into a seamless whole so you know how to set up and transition between different fighting techniques. The better your self-defense techniques are and the better you integrate them, the better you will be at fighting. To many people, this is the kind of knowledge that defines a martial art.

Unfortunately, those same people often fail when they fight. Does it mean their skills are sub-par or that their knowledge is false? Perhaps, but it’s also likely they’ve been defining what they need to know a little too tightly. It’s what they don’t know about fitness or psychology or something else that’s losing fights for them.

The Value of Fight Psychology and Workout Routines

One thing martial artists often dismiss is the value of strength training exercises and conditioning workouts. They’re frequently viewed as superfluous, things that make you look good but don’t affect your skills much. The problem with that attitude is the people who hold it display ignorance about what exercise is and what it does. Any martial artist who takes the time to learn the benefits of weight training and plyometrics is simultaneously learning ways to improve as a martial artist. Real knowledge can help you do everything better, from an aikido wrist throw to a heel-hook submission.

Martial artists can also have a blind spot when it comes to fight psychology. They get accustomed to practicing in the relative safety of the training hall and are surprised by their own fear and paralysis when they actually need to fight. This is as true in sport fighting as it is in self-defense. But plenty of research has been done on how people react to aggression and conflict. Some self-defense experts have made it the basis of whole systems. If a trained martial artist fails in a fight because of paralyzing fear or some other mental glitch, he should blame his lack of knowledge—specifically, he doesn’t understand the automatic responses all humans share and doesn’t know how to handle them, so he can’t perform well under stress.

The main thing that distinguishes a martial artist in a fight is knowledge. It’s knowledge of self-defense techniques, basic exercise science, fight psychology and a host of other things that make him good. And it’s what the other guy doesn’t know that makes him beatable. The question we all have to answer before fight time is, Which one am I? Making sure you know as much as possible is the best way to ensure you’ll come out on top.

(Keith Vargo is a freelance writer and martial arts instructor who lives in Japan. For more of this martial arts musing, check out Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior.)

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