Archive through April 18, 2006

Tim's Discussion Board: Qi Gong / Power Training : Stronger vs. Technically Better: Tim's ratio: Archive through April 18, 2006
   By Egg drop soup (Unregistered Guest) on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 09:48 am: Edit Post

Tim wrote "My ratio: If you are 100% better technically and your opponent is 50% stronger, you will be hard pressed to win the fight."

In my much more limited experience, I agree. But that raises some questions. Assuming (and I am) that strength can be attained faster than technical skill, then isn't it most efficient for our top priority to be to develop, according to that ratio, maximum strength first and foremost above technical skill?

No, I'm not missing the nuances, I just don't want to write them all out--but for instance:

1) I know that you can only strength train productively so much, and then past that technical skill training and training of other physical traits (stamina, for instance) that don't inerfere with your strength training regimen would be productive...

2) I know that you can't maximally strength train year round due to wear and tear and periodization principles...

3) I know that there is a point of diminishing returns once near-optimal physical strength is attained...

4) I know that there are different types of strength (isometric, strength endurance, explosive)...

5) etc...

But, is it true that, if you want to fight or have self-defense skills, then if you could be doing productive strength training and you are doing anything else you are not spending your time most efficiently?


   By M. Hatfield (Unregistered Guest) on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 12:56 pm: Edit Post

Yea, Sounds reasonable, but one problem would be, which area of strength to develop. That is, determining which strength training would enhance the techniques instead of being wasted effort or having it impede your technique.

Bruce Lee wrote about 'functional muscle' and some bodybuilder/martial artist wrote of how in the bodybuilding crowd, they falsely presumed that greater strength automatically gave fighting skills.

My strength training is for general fitness. The 'strength training' for techniques is stance holding and high repetition of those movements which generate power in techniques, such as the achilles, calf, thigh, iliopsoas, and back.

   By Egg drop soup (Unregistered Guest) on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 08:26 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for the response, Hat--and my name is Josh, by the way, I just couldn't get that name. One more quick point--I know that there are weight classes in many martial sports that mitigate the whole strength/size thing to a certain extent, but for self-defense it seems stronger and bigger is better, so put on that functional muscle--would you agree?

I'd relly love to hear from also Tim on this one!

   By Xen (Unregistered Guest) on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 02:21 am: Edit Post

Practising technique over and over to the point of exhaustion develops strength and technique. It develops strength in the muscles you need to use to fight. Why do weights when you can punch, kick, grab, or throw until you reach the point when you can barely stand up. Stamina, explosive strength and technical strength will all be developed for a purpose.

   By M. Hatfield (Unregistered Guest) on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 07:36 am: Edit Post

Recently read a book on rock climbing. Author felt that excess muscle was just as much a problem as excess fat.( even though strength was more important that endurance) Some bigtime boxing trainer observed that boxers with bigger biceps didn't have enough endurance (maybe too much time lifting instead of boxing). Near the very end of his career, golfer Arnold Palmer began strength training, it improved his game so much that he delayed retirement for several years. You just have to find the right balance for your needs.

   By Jason M. Struck on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 10:13 am: Edit Post

there's a lot of different ways to strength train. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome with martial artists is they are often only casually acquainted with any of them, and thus presume that bodybuilding protocols, methods and results are the only kind of strength training there is. Ironic isn't? The method that is pre-occupied with Hypertrophy alone, with little regard to actual strength, is considered the end-all be-all of strength training.

RE: Weight Classes - This is a matter of relative strength. You can train to become stronger without getting bigger. Three sets of ten on the bicep curl machine just ain't going to do it, and good luck finding anyone below the collegiate sports level that will show you/teach anything else. Most of the guys I train for strength and power, drop ten pounds, and increase their strngth in all their lifts. Thusly their relative strnegth imporves greatly, and they are much better off in San Da matches and Judo tourneys.

TIM IS RIGHT. I roll with guys that I am better than, but they have 20 lbs on me, and damn it, I win 2 out of 5 at best.

In self-defence, big is great! No one is going to pick on the big guy. In competition, maybe stronger for your size is better.

   By Jerry on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 01:44 pm: Edit Post

When I heard about the strength/skill ratio, I assumed it was not meant to be taken literally, because how you can you quantify either strength or skill, especially skill, by percentages? I just figured it was a way of saying that if the other guy is significantly stronger, you may overcome it with skill, but you need a LOT of skill.

Seems to me you need strength, endurance, flexibility, technical skill, and real(istic) fighting experience if you want to be able to actually use martial arts skill in fighting/self defense. In fact, I don't really care about fighting, but I'd still like to be strong and agile, and able to do cool moves, so I still want to train all those other things; only the realistic experience may be optional.

You want to work out a balance that doesn't slight any of those areas too much, just like if you're a football player you practice blocking and tackling, but you also train for strength, endurance and so on.

If one quality, say skill, takes longer to develop (which I don't really buy anyway), then you want to get to work on that one, right?
Not put it off till you're stronger.
Actually, all of these abilities take time to develop, and then they have to be maintained. If time is an issue, the trick is to find efficient training methods that get a lot done in a short time, not to sacrifice skill for strength or vice versa.

Regarding mass vs strength-- in a sport with weight classes you want to gain strength without gaining weight; also in a sport like climbing or gymnastics where you have to lift your weight, or in one where you have to run around a lot, like soccer. If you're already in the unlimited weight class, and you don't have to run or jump too much, mass may be helpful, even if it's fat.
Sumo wrestlers, football linemen, and superheavyweight weight lifters can be successful with a lot of fat onboard.
So in a bar fight, if it doesn't last too long, extra mass may be helpful, but it's probably never going to be as good as actually being bigger, i.e. having a big skeleton. If I really wanted to fight, I'd do a lot of sparring, not spend my life in the gym trying to gain weight.

   By Jason M. Struck on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 06:13 pm: Edit Post

i think in traditional martial arts, there is a great deal of prerequisite strength, power and flexibility required simply to become proficient in the techniques. Prerequisites that few newbies bring to the table.

Who here has ever taught any type of rigourous martial art? What percentage of your students came in with the required flexibility to do a deep horse stance, or high roundhouse, the leg strength to pick an oppenent up, or the power to suplex them? Almost every student brave enough to try these things will have at least one of these pre-requisites, but almost never all of them. The actual physicality of martial arts, and the commensurate athleticism required to excel at them is too often ignored in our culture.

I think that it comes back to some inadequacy issues. (AND THE KARATE KID) Openminded people who see what is around them, and also tell it like it is, won't necessarily protect your feelings or fears by telling you that you can beat Tito Ortiz, so long as your ward-off, roll back and press is technically sound, even though you couldn't run a mile in under 10 minutes, squat your own bodyweight or jump more than 15 inches.

There's fantasy and then there's Da Truf. Da Truf is when someone has more than a weight class on you, you'll be hard pressed to overcome that difference in physicality. This is presuming you are both somewhat trained fighters. Some jack-ass off the street may give you more oppurtunity to use your skill advantage, but let's face it, most aggressive bullies tend to pick fights they think they can win. Whether this means, size/strength, experience or willingness to hurt, they won't attack unless they feel certain they have the advantage. And they'll probably be at least half right. That's pretty much all it takes for you to get hurt in some way, or in trouble or both.

   By Jason M. Struck on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 06:15 pm: Edit Post

and shadowboxing for extensive periods of time thinking that this will increase power is just ignorant. Read any basic strength training/periodization text. I think the people that make ridiculous statements about cross-training and strength training would be blown away at was is available to them if they would just stop for a few minutes and read some quality materials

   By Egg drop soup (Unregistered Guest) on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 09:09 am: Edit Post

Thanks everybody, this is just the kind of discussion I hoped to see--very good food for thought. I'd still like to hear from Tim before it's all said and done...

   By Tim on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 11:02 am: Edit Post

Jason and Jerry have pretty much summed it up. It is a good idea to develop all your physical attributes as much as possible, along with skill (technical proficiency and sensitivity).

The key is to plan your training specifically around your goals. For example, you need endurance, but jogging marathon distances is not appropriate training for a fighter, nor is lifting like a bodybuilder the best method of strength training for a fighter. Your training has to be specific to your event, or purpose.

I agree with Jason, too many martial arts "teachers" lie about the need for functional strength and endurance. Any technique will be ineffective without sufficient power to back it up and the endurance to keep fighting until the job is done.

One other extremely important factor is stress. It is important to train, at least sometimes, under conditions you find stressful (hard contact sparring, competiton...) so that you can learn to manage your stress induced reactions. Many people that never condition or engage in stressful training practices believe their perfect technique and Zen-like calm will be enough to defeat the thug in a street fight. These same people will often be shocked to find they are exhausted after their initial adrenaline dump, often before a single blow is thrown.

   By Jason M. Struck on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 01:53 pm: Edit Post

i'm sure the fear is if it requires strength or some other physical attribute to complete, then you limit the recruitment pool of students, and you appear less competitive than all the other 'masters' out there telling people that they can beat others through pure skill. Hence honest people come off as either at best simplistic or at worst brutish.

re: stress
I find the most rewarding moments in my martial arts experiences to have come after i was scared shitless. If I possess anything like 'zen-like calm' it was achieved thru religious practice totally unrelated to martial arts, or after knotching something on my belt I thought i'd never do or never survive.

   By the real martial artist (Unregistered Guest) on Saturday, April 15, 2006 - 03:06 pm: Edit Post

the secret is to keep adrenaline injections or possibly a portable i.v. system filled with horse adrenalin. working out is for REAL martial artists.

   By marc daoust on Saturday, April 15, 2006 - 05:47 pm: Edit Post

adrenaline and endorphine is the reason why some of the best fighters in the world look sloppy
sometime.the body is only able to do the simplest motor skills,so the fancy stuff goes out the window!!
but sometime in the middle of this rush
every thing slow down and it feel peaceful in
the chaos.i guess that is what some refer to
"stillness(mind) in motion(fighting)"
but it's possible to visualize and mentally train
ones reactions in a very stressful situation
in order to program oneself to a certain state of mind.

   By Taiwan 69-73 (Unregistered Guest) on Monday, April 17, 2006 - 03:39 am: Edit Post

Hi guys,

I have always felt that conditioning for strength and endurance is critical to MA training. There are, indeed, many techniques that cannot be executed without a level of strength that is far beyond what one could call normal or average. Additionally, there is no doubt that endurance is essential if one is to perservere through a sustained effort. Any school of the martial arts that doesn't provide for a mandatory period of conditioning in the class is doing a disservice to the student.

As a teacher (and that's exactly what we are) I taught a minimum two hour class. I say minimum because we often went well beyond that. I only taught one class each evening so the period of time wasn't a problem. I worked during the day so I didn't have to commercialize to make a living. It's a good thing too because I cannot begin to count the number of students who walked out the door and never returned because of the mandatory exercise. I consistently heard, "If I wanted to exercise I could do that on my own. All I want here is training in the martial arts."
Jeez, give me a break, I know you aren't going to exercise on your own.

I had a weight machine for the guys who wanted to come early or stay late to do weight training.
In the class itself I required (and yes, I joined in. Can't stand to see others have all of the fun) 30 to 45 minutes of pure physical exercise (Pushups, pull-ups, squats, side raises, reverse raises, etc. etc.) and stretching. I also encouraged a few miles of running on their own, but knowing the majority wouldn't do it, used heavy bag work to enhance endurance. When a kid gets to the point where he (I say he versus he or she because it's quicker) can work a heavy bag hard and steady (punches, kicks, knees, elbows, etc) for 15 straight minutes he will have an acceptable level of endurance. The ones who stayed reached this level of endurance before they had been in class for six months.

This conditioning requirement is the reason I'm still poor today. lol The folks running the ATA school about a half mile away were hauling the money in by the bucket.

In short I agree with Tim's assessment that though technique is the great equalizer one cannot afford to give away too much in the strength arena.

Also, I must apologize if I step on anyone's toes. It is not intentional. Also if I am too long winded slap me around a little. It's just that I enjoy discussing the MA with other professionals. Now I'm going to shock everyone by saying that I see something in Marc's post that I agree with somewhat. There is a state of mind that some are able to attain that allows for a level of strength that is beyond the norm for that individual.



   By Tim on Monday, April 17, 2006 - 07:28 pm: Edit Post


Nice post. I sometimes have a hard time convincing people that "Internal" martial arts training includes as much conditioning as any other style of fighting martial arts.

   By marc daoust on Monday, April 17, 2006 - 10:12 pm: Edit Post

if you really like teaching you could make money
off of it.
all you have to do is have a beginners class
for the lazy and a advanced class with the conditioning for real deals.
the body will only do what it's capable and what
it's been trained to do.
also conditioning is good for the will power,
when you get to the point where you think you can't go no further and then go pass it,that can be zen like sometime!

   By Jason M. Struck on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 08:49 am: Edit Post

on the flipside : I've seen way too many instructors who confuse better conditioning their students or warming up with wearing them out at the beginning of class, so that the rest of their technical practice is terrible, and their learning process severely stunted due to fatigue. This is why almost everyone has a severe drop-out rate amongst the beginners. I am not sure it's that people are afraid of hard work, though that's certainly true. I think that when people feel like they are going through boot-camp PT, but then not really learning that much of what they came for (fighting), they get frustrated. No matter what reason a beginner states : self defence, improvement, exercise even, what they really expect out of martial arts training is the ability to beat someone up. You never feel that way after an hour of calisthenics. I say practice, teach train the skills after a short but sweet warm up. Leave the conditioning for afterwards, and like marc said... oh man... can't believe what i just said... like marc says, save the conditioning for a second class or the end or what have you. We had another great post on this where we discussed how to make everyone happy at something like a Taiji fightschool was it not?

PS: this is coming from the same guy who spends the majority of his time saying martial artists are too weak and too poorly conditioned, and is trying to make his living doing S&C for fighters. Go SportJudo! Senior Nationals! We gonna dominate!

   By Taiwan 69-73 (Unregistered Guest) on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 04:50 pm: Edit Post


Yes too many people have a mistaken impression of IA. IA trains with the same degree of emphasis on physical strength as other MA and then goes a step beyond. I have seen many amazing demonstrations of strength that would blow the minds of most people. I know you have seen such things yourself. Things that almost seem impossible. I have some pics from Hsu Laoshi's school that I would like to forward to you but I don't know how you attach anything here.


I was born in Jan, 1948. I am now retired but at the time I first heard about UFC (the mid 90's) I was pushing 50 and had a full time job to go along with teaching in the evenings. That job allowed me to retire at the end of 2005 and I was not only too old for UFC but was not about to give up my career to pursue that option. In addition I was already fighting a back injury, trying to continue teaching. I cannot answer for others who are involved in IA. I have been forced on a number of occasions to use my art in street confrontations. I did not enjoy hurting those individuals but had no choice. The purpose of MA training is to be able to defend yourself if necessary. The first thing I told a new student was, "If I ever find out that you are going out and picking fights or otherwise misusing what I teach you I will throw your butt out of my school." If you want some real meaningful fighting you should consider joining the army or the marines. As an infantryman you would likely get more fighting than you want. If you want a real test of courage there is none like doing your duty when your life is on the line. If you don't mind my asking how many years of MMA training do you have?


The physical fitness part of my class was the first 30 - 45 minutes. It was very intense so I always gave them a 10 minute break before we began training. I didn't have commercial school so I wasn't really concerned with losing students early. In fact, the exercise weeded out a number of students who I would have eventually had to weed out through other, less pleasant means. You know the ones who want to become deadly bare-handed killers in three easy lessons. These were the same ones who leaned toward being bullies and would have misued what they learned. To me there is no greater embarrassment than having a student who goes out looking for trouble. Trust me, the ones who wanted it and stayed received as much fight training as they could handle.

   By Jason M. Struck on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 11:05 pm: Edit Post

it sounds as though you have given the nature of your students a great deal of thought.