High-intensity training and martial arts – perfect match (No. 1)

high intensity training

This will be the first in a series of articles on things I learned from high-intensity training that affected my training (and vice versa). This is a six-part series that will take place over the next few months.


As for many, Bruce Lee was my gateway to the world of martial arts. In fact, the first film I ever saw was not one of his films, but it was made about him: Dragon – The Story of Bruce Lee. He could be seen in the film holding a copy Tand from Jeet Kune Do (an anachronism, because it was not published until he was dead, and it was not so much a “book” as a collection of his notes, compiled into something resembling the organization of a book).

I bought a book and then started reading anything and everything he wrote that I found. Part of this research led me to discover that Bruce was one of the first martial artists to believe that practitioners needed to incorporate an exercise program into their training. We could perform our art much better if we were stronger and healthier physical specimens.

Oh, but how to do it?

The hunt began.

Who has time to exercise?

As martial artists, we already spend a lot of time practicing our techniques. If you agree with Bruce’s ideas about exercise, you will be discouraged to find out how most exercise programs are structured.

Let’s take a look at the Insanity Cardio Workout developed by Mr. Sirun T. This program allows you to work out six days a week. Most sessions last 40-45 minutes. There is one that is a little less. Then there are some that go 60 minutes respectively longer.

Who has time to do this six days a week? I don’t know who doesbut I can tell you who No: anyone who is a serious martial artist!

But as it turns out, we don’t need it.

Danny Xuan, John Little and high intensity training

I read a book called Tao Wing Chun, which had two authors: Danny Xuan and John Little. At one point in the book, Sifu Xuan talked about exercise. He mentioned that his co-author had helped write a book called Body science, in which they set an exercise program that you did only once a week for 30 minutes max.

Get out of here, I thought. How it can be effective?

Well, I was determined to find out. I ordered Body from Science and tore it apart. When I finished, I thought, “If that’s only half true, then maybe there will be something to it.

The other author of the book (Doug McGuff) had a website with a “find a coach” page. I entered my zip code and found a place in Albany, NY. (For information, I live in Troy, NY, which is about fifteen minutes away.) One phone call later, I made a free session.

I entered a skeptic.

I came out as a believer.

Already from one series of slow leg pressures, my muscles ached so much that it hurt me to climb the stairs to my apartment on the second floor. It brought pain in a way that P90X, Insanity, and everyone else hadn’t brought in for a long time.

Why there is no “interval” and how high-intensity training works

When I say “High Intensity Training”, most people imagine high intensity Interval Training. That’s not it. Interval training is stop-start training: short bursts of intensity followed by long stretches of “steady state” activity.

High-intensity training is slow throughout the routine. It involves slowly lifting weights, stopping just before locking the limbs, and then stopping just before putting it down.

This can be hard to explain in words, so let me provide a visual. Here is my coach Jay Vincent, who leads me on the session:

The reason this exercise works is because you keep your muscles energized for the whole elevator. You see most people in the gym doing it while waving their arms like someone who just walked into a cobweb. They use momentum move weights, which will never give them any results.

I’m not sure who originally said that, but he was one of the proponents of high-intensity training: “The idea of ​​exercise is not just to make weights go up and down. It’s about getting the muscle under tension long enough to trigger an adaptive response. “

Slower repetitions, shorter duration, more intense training. That It’s how you incorporate martial arts and exercises into your schedule.

What high-intensity training on the human body taught me

First, it taught me that we are always at war with our bodies. We try to lose weight so we can be healthier, but our body does not know. The body only knows that you are trying to consume a lot of energy, and it doesn’t want to!

This is because due to evolution, our bodies have evolved into energy-saving machines. Centuries ago, when we did not live in houses and were more likely to be attacked by malevolent animals, our bodies learned to hold as much energy as they could because no one could predict when you would suddenly have to run from a mountain lion. The less energy expended, the better, so it all came together if we needed to escape.

Second (and related to the example of the mountain lion), our bodies do not know what kind of stress is going on. The body cannot recognize whether we are lifting dumbbells or running from an animal. All he knows is that he is exposed to enormous stress. If we survive, the body will realize, “Damn, it was intense. I’m deleted! I’d rather adapt and strengthen, otherwise I might not be able to do it if it happened again, whatever it was!

Third, I learned what the terms ‘fast twitch’ and ‘slow twitch’ really mean. Most people think that this is in relation to which muscle fibers come into play with slow or fast movements, but this is not the case. Instead, these terms refer to the rate at which a muscle fiber is tired. In this case, our bodies have evolved in a way that lasts incredible the amount of tension / stress before the fast threads come into play. (This is known as “muscle recruitment.”)

When someone does a “steady state” exercise routine for an hour or more, they may think they have a damn workout due to the length of the lesson. In fact, they didn’t get much out of it because they never recruited those fast threads.

How did it affect my training?

There are many ways HIT has changed the way I train. Some of them will be discussed in the coming months, so I will not name them all now. Instead, they start with just one: frequency.

Now, I’m not saying I only train my Wing Chun skills once a week. Hardly. However, thanks to HIT, I realized that “more” does not always equal “more”.

What i mean? Simple: as soon as your form starts moving south, it’s time to stop.

It seems like common sense, but not everyone believes it. They think that if they practice every hour of each day, they will develop faster reflexes or stronger punches or higher kicks.

That’s just not how it works. Every day we have the capacity to see how much improvement we can see. It depends on how much training we can handle. Once we cross this point, our form suffers and we may actually see our skills regression instead of improvement.

HIT also helped me learn to relax, take rest, sit at home, relax and enjoy the surroundings instead of constant training. I learned it from HIT because it was necessarily. Once you do this exercise, you can’t do anything that requires a lot of effort for a few days. In other words, practicing forms and techniques would be fine, but sparring would be out.


The discovery of the HIT exercise protocol was not just a light bulb moment for me; It was supernova moment. Suddenly I was able to see how an exercise routine was possible, even though my schedule was already crammed with forms, punches, kicks and sparring.

However, I bet there are people who might have one burning question: “It’s all right and good for strengthening part of an exercise routine, but what about that cardio? What about stamina? What about perseverance? “

This will be discussed next month.

~~~ Steve Grogan

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