T Nation

Martial arts training

I started competing in open tournaments very recently (May 8th was my first tournament), and in competition, I noticed that I lack 2 things:
speed/explosiveness and leg endurance. Since I’m a little guy, I have to rely a lot on my leg endurance, as I do a lot of “dancing” around my opponents, and fancy footwork exhausts me a lot faster than actually kicking. As for speed, I would just like to improve it, since most of the people I fought were a lot faster.
So what would you recommend I do in order to improve both speed/explosiveness and leg endurance?

comments, anyone? before this thread is gone

It’s hard to say, because you don’t state what your routine currently is…
but here’s some ideas:

Place a towel on the floor of your dojo (if it’s hardwood), put your hands on top of the towel and get your body in push-up position. Now sprint for laps or distance. Christian Thibaudeau has an article on this where he uses protein jug lids, try and find it on T-Mag.

Squats. I prefer sumo style, it opens the legs up and strengthens the adductors.

Jump Rope.

So you could do 4 (6,8,10…)sprints across your dojo floor then immediately jump rope for 60 seconds. Take a 45 second break and repeat three times.

Then do 4 sets of 15 squats with a 60 second break between.

Good luck!


When I was involved in Karate I used to do alot of Jumping Rope. I did sets of 100 jumps with about a one minute rest in between. You might start out with less jumps if you are not used to to the rope.

Another way, if you are not into the Jump Rope, is to use Jumping Jacks instead. Do 100 Jumping Jacks rest for :60 and repeat.

I also did a lot of light contact sparring with a weight vest on. I say light contact because you are doing it for endurance mainly. Use a weight that is 10% (or so) of your body weight. If you are 160lbs then a 15lb to 20lb vest is plenty heavy enough to tax you while you spar.

I also used ankle weights instead of the weight vest. Only 3lbs on each ankle will do the trick.

As far as speed goes there are many hand drills which can be performed with a partner. There is currently a book on that very subject by Loren W. Christensen: “Speed Training,” maximum speed for Martial Arts.

Good Luck

thank you both for your advice!
ZEB, you’re always full of useful advice. I like the jumping jacks routine (since I have no skipping rope, or a place to jump). The rest of the equipment, I don’t have either, but I’m sure the jumping jacks will really improve the endurance in my calves (which is crucial for good footwork).

bramstroker, right now, I don’t have a routine, other than going to the dojo three times a week. I actually like your routine a lot. The sprinting will definitely build leg endurance as well as speed and stamina, and the sumo squats will also add to endurance.

So now, I’d like to make an 8-week program built on your advice. Here’s the program I’m thinking of:


sprint for 60 seconds, 15 sumo squats.
rest one min.
Do this 4 times


jog 8 laps (x 400 meters)


same as monday


same as tuesday



Saturday, I go to the dojo for 4 hours, so I get a very heavy workout there.



For a progression, for the first 5 weeks, I was thinking that each week, I would add one more round of sprinting and sumo squats (monday and wednesday), and on tuesday and thursday, build up to jogging 6 kilometres. In the last 3 weeks, I thought I’d do high octane cardio, but instead of sprinting for 1 minute, I’ll do bag work for 4 rounds of 2 minutes (since that’s how long a sparring match is in a tournament).
I will alternate between a round of hand combinations, and a round of kicking combinations.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll replace the jogging with stairmaster for 30 mins.

Basically, that’s the routine I’m thinking of. I still wonder though if there’s a place for plyometrics in my routine, or should I just do without them?

Thanks for all your help!

Hmm… I think that might be overkill on your legs. You’ll be doing anaerobic training 5 days a week, with 4 of them consecutive.

Plus, you’re assuming that your body will adapt for 5 weeks to a continually increasing load. Like an extra lap and extra set of squats or greater distance every week. I would evaluate your aerobic endurance, can you run 6 kilometres or more at a consistent pace? Like sub 8 min. miles? Or sub 7 min?

If you have the time, I would do the floor pushing/squats in the morning and do standard running in the evening on Mon/Thurs or Mon/Wed. I would also add kicks in to the squat routine, if you don’t train in martial arts during the week. Like maybe do 50 jumping jacks then throw 10 roundhouse kicks each side, rest 30 sec, 50 JJ then 10 side kicks.

After you feel you have established a running base, then add in 1-2 sprints at the end of some (not all) of your runs. Build up to 5 or so.

As for the sprint/squat routine, I would alternate laps and time as your goal for each week: I’m gonna do 8 laps then 20 sumo’s with 50 kg’s (for example). Or I’m gonna get as many laps in 60 sec then do 8 reps with 65 kilo’s, maybe I can get 10 laps (that’s the voice in your head psyching you up)!
Or maybe you’ll be hella tired and just want to do 5 sprints and some light squats.

I’m suggesting this routine because I’m guessing that you lack really high general fitness (cause you don’t have a specific routine). I think sprints become more useful as the overall fitness level rises. I did martial arts for all of high school and even though I could do barrels of push-ups I couldn’t run for crap and was overall pretty weak. Lots of weight training, running and eating healthy made all the difference.

Good luck in the tournaments!

Thank you, bramstroker! Your advice really gives me direction.

Actually, I do martial arts training during the week. On mondays and wednesdays, I go from 7-8, and saturday, from 11-4 (with 1 hour rest between 12 and 1, and another 30 mins. rest between 2:00 and 2:30).
I plan on doing this routine in the summer, but I’ll be going to summer school, so I won’t be able to afford the time for a separate morning and afternoon workout. The summer school will only last for the first 4 weeks though, so the next 5 weeks, I can do morning and afternoon.

So here’s my revised routine:
first 2 weeks:

Tuesday, Thursday: jogging. build up to 6 km at a steady pace. After the jog, rest 5 mins. do 3 sets of 30 bodyweight sumo squats. followed by 3 sets of 6-8 plyometric pushups.

Since I’ll be going to the dojo on mondays and wednesdays, I won’t work out on those days.

Next 3 weeks:
tuesdays and thursdays:

run 6 km. rest 5 mins. 2 shuttle runs - as many as possible in 60 seconds. each week add 1 shuttle run, until I reach 5. 3 sets of 8-10 plyometric pushups.

Last 3 weeks:
Mondays and Wednesdays:
Jog 4 kilometres
2 shuttle runs.

Tuesdays and Thursdays:
High Octane Cardio - bag work.
3x2 minute rounds - alternating hand combinations, with kicking combinations.
in between rounds, do these exercises: as many pushups as possible in 1 minute
after next round: as many crunches as possible in 1 minute
after next round: as many leg raises as possible in 1 minute.

and there you have it! My revised routine. Please let me know what you think of it. You seem to be experienced with constructing exercise programs, and you have a good fitness know-how, so I value your opinion.

Thank you!

Cut the shuttle runs off at four,

Cool routine.

Thanks a lot for your guidance, bramstroker! I’m really psyched about my routine now. Your patience, and kindness will be remembered.