When I started training Jiu-Jitsu as a system for Self Defense, it became very apparent to me that the students did not take their personal fitness to a level anywhere near that of competitive Martial Artists or Fighters.
Having a competitive Boxing and contact Karate background made me far more conscious of my fitness than many of the people around me. There is not that same goal of getting into tip top condition for an upcoming fight or Tournament because that goal is often preparing for a fight on the street that hopefully would never happen.
It is very difficult to sustain a very high level of fitness without a specific goal. Therefore, it is important for the average student to set their own goals and take their level of fitness to whatever they feel is required for their own situation. Remember why you are training and consider if your fitness will carry you through a real fight, especially if it goes on for more than a few seconds as it most likely will.
Try walking into your local Boxing Club and you’ll be punched by the smell of Sweat as soon as you walk through the door. The whipping of skipping ropes, rattling of Floor ceiling balls, speed balls, thudding on light and heavy bags, people doing sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, shadow sparring and Sparring with their training Pals. The general level of energy is simply impressive.
These guys train hard for a couple of hours each and every night, so then ask yourself; “What kind of match would I be”? Some people have trouble showing their techniques on a compliant partner so are they really going to work on a guy that’s continually pounding them with 3 and 4 punch combinations, dancing around on his toes and can probably keep this up for quite some time.
“I’ll just take him to the ground” you might think but how are you going to react when you’ve been hit hard, maybe even for the first time and your mind has gone blank. Have you trained so much that instinct takes over and your body is reacting automatically? If this guy throws anything other than the right arm swing that your practices have been limited to, you could well be in trouble. This guy may not be a drunken bum throwing a single Hay Maker, trouble can pop up anywhere.
These days Road rage for example is even becoming pretty common, here you’ve got someone who steaming from the ears and could really be anyone from any background, trained or untrained. Ensure that in training you have different partners and vary the levels of intensity and realism.
You don’t need to train full-on all the time with your techniques but every now and again raise it to a realistic level, it will not only give you an inner confidence that this stuff really works but will give you more of a workout too.
If we trained full-on all the time then many would get injuries and you’ll end up having no one to train with.
If necessary get your attacker to wear padding to reduce that risk of injury at that higher level. Think for a moment about those guys getting trained up for an upcoming Kick Boxing Match, a full contact Karate fight, Judo or wrestling. They know that if they do not get into Prime condition for that fight, then it’s likely that they’ll get their Ass kicked soon after climbing through the ropes. Needless to say most are pretty well prepared cometh the day.
It’s not to say that you have to get to that level of fitness and keep it all year round but be aware that these guys tick over most of the year with a reasonable level of fitness and then train hard, real hard, during the 5 to 7 weeks leading up to a fight. Attending a class a couple of times per week and practicing your techniques is great for getting your techniques sorted out but take your own Fitness Training into your own hands.
Try working on your Stamina, Strength, speed, flexibility etc outside of classes. If you’re going to wear a Club emblem, then wear it with pride and live up to the expectations that other people have of Jitsuka. There is only an hour or two for classes so much of the time has to be taken up practicing and perfecting techniques so make an effort to get some fitness training outside of Jiu-Jitsu classes.
Whatever level of fitness you’re at now, try taking your body to that next level of fitness, you may even get to like it! At least you know exactly what it took and what it feels like to be there and get all the benefits that go with it. When you are punching those bags just try to simulate fighting conditions by raising and lowering the tempo.
When you go hard, really go for it, when you lighten up think about your defence, movement and striking technique and don’t let up on your speed. Use different strikes; fist, open hands, sides of hands, elbows, knees, shins and feet.
Know what it feels like to hit a solid object, otherwise the first thing that you break could be your wrist. Practice striking in combinations, it’s a far better way of getting through to your intended target.
The more you practice your own striking techniques, the more natural they begin to feel and the more instinctively you will react. Don’t just be a head hunter either and give some thought to the many other effective targets that are available.
Sparring and grappling is also an essential part of training so do not neglect it. Even if you cannot follow a schedule as laid out here, remember that doing something has got to be better than doing nothing.