5 Lessons from the World of Martial Arts

Bruce Lee Martial ArtsIn a previous article, I have mentioned that I got interested in martial arts. Any martial art besides being an ‘art’ is definitely a solid collection of cool and useful skills. I realized that strength training and martial arts compliment each other very well, and by ignoring one or another, you are missing the whole package. Perseverance in both of these forms of training will most likely turn you into an unstoppable machine physically and mentally.

[NOTE: Of course, you should mix both strength training and martial arts to a preferred degree. For example, there is no point in 6 strength training workouts and only 2 martial art sessions per week if your goal is to become a fighting champion]

So what have I learned from the world of martial arts so far?

Lesson #1: You Are Fragile

I never enjoyed fighting although I have been into several massive fights throughout the years. Some of them were successful, others were not. Luckily, my ass has never been kicked in a street by a professional fighter. It would have ended in one shot.

The thing you probably do not realize is that there is a whole bunch of people out there that train specifically to beat anyone if they need to. Martial artists condition their bodies to hold any punches and kicks, to escape them, to be faster than you, to be calmer in a combat situation, to punch and kick harder, etc. In a possible confrontation, they will have a tremendous advantage over you. To give you some perspective, even a mediocre martial artist should be able to neutralize you fast because of his skills. A good martial artist can injure you badly in seconds, possibly even kill you.

Will this hypothetical confrontation happen in real life? I don’t know. A good martial artist will use his skills ONLY when he or his family and friends are in danger. Anyway, realizing the fact that you are fragile should make you think twice before starting a random fight for no reason.

Lesson #2: If You Are a Bodybuilder, You Are Fragile Even More

This is true for any other strength-related discipline too. You should understand that attaining serious muscle mass, maximal strength, or endurance doesn’t make you a good fighter automatically. Yes, you will appear intimidating. However, do not be ignorant – one precise liver shot and you are down. One explosive low kick and you wouldn’t be able to walk for a week.

A lot of people stop being humble and become douchebags once they get bigger and somewhat stronger. The reality is that size and strength are not crucial in winning a fight. Specific explosive strength, physical and mental conditioning, skills, and knowledge of human weak spots are.

Lesson #3: If You Are a Fighter, You Are Still Fragile

Finally, even if you practice martial arts and consider yourself pretty good at them, you should still stay humble. Once you start believing that you are fast, strong, and skillful enough, that is when you most probably will get a reality check.

[NOTE: If you have watched the UFC 194 fight between José Aldo and Conor McGregor, you should understand that even the guys who are at the top of the game can be neutralized with one punch]

Lesson #4: There Is Some Work for MythBusters

Even in the Age of the Internet, lots of martial arts trainers still believe some outdated dogmas that are not supported by experience whatsoever. My favorite myth is that strength training makes you slower and makes your muscles “too tensed”. A lot of trainers advocate avoiding strength training to be a good fighter for this reason. Well, I am hardly an expert in martial arts but common sense and my strength training experience both tell me otherwise:

  • I strongly believe that explosive leg strength developed with power cleans, or kettlebell swings and snatches, or sandbag shouldering WILL supplement your punching and kicking pretty well;
  • I strongly believe that core toughness and tendon and ligament strength built with heavy compound exercises WILL help you at least to get less injuries;
  • I strongly believe that muscle mass built with strength training WILL help you because being lean and muscular is simply more efficient than being a 60-kg pencil-neck with 12-inch guns or being a heavy lard-ass.

Again, in my opinion, strength training and martial arts are synergistic activities. They supercharge each other.  Practicing both is definitely better than practicing either one of them.

Lesson #5: Mix What Works for You

Despite the greatest minds saying that every martial art has its own place and value, and that they all should be treated with respect, there is still lots of intolerance and douchebaggery between different styles. It may be unofficial but it is present.

Usually, it is highly pronounced in traditional martial arts. Everybody thinks that their style is the toughest. The reality is that mixing martial arts is the optimal way. Having your own style comprised of the techniques of the whole gamut of traditional martial arts that suit you the best makes you a unique opponent that is WAY tougher to beat than any traditional martial artist.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”
― Bruce Lee

Closing Thoughts

This article turned out to be somewhat grim but I just wanted to give it to you straight, like a pear cider made from 100% pears. Anyway, the main take-home point for you here is to remain humble, open-minded and respectful. It takes courage but it is well worth it.

Play rough!


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7 thoughts on “5 Lessons from the World of Martial Arts

  1. Aguiar

    Hello, Alex.

    I’m curious about which martial art you are learning. Can you tell us?

    And in which specifically way did your strength training did contribute to your martial art practice?

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey Aguiar,

      I’m learning kyokushin karate. My strength training contributed in all the ways I’ve described in a lesson #4. If I had no strength training experience whatsoever, I would be lying in a puddle of blood, sweat, and tears after the first free sparring.

      – Alex

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      I make time for all the activities. Besides, they do not interfere with each other much.

      Regarding skateboarding, the season is over. The weather doesn’t allow to skate anymore. Luckily, I’ll be able to snowboard soon.

      – Alex

  2. Marc

    Perfect Im 28 now and still in love with Skating thinking about coming back after about 2 year pause… I additionaly perform crossfit style workouts, I have also trained Karate Kyokushin and Judo, but I have found out that incidence of injuries in Judo is ridiculously high and decided to quit… I have dislocated my elbow for a second time during Judo sparring and due to Job issues just cant aford another one. Yeah I know, Skating is also not that safe, but you can moderate the Level of difficulty and in Sparring martial arts ist not as easy…

  3. Oliver Clarke

    I have a question about martial arts and contact sports, I’ve done MMA and tae kwon do for a few years, but I’ve had a couple of years off and I’m now looking to start again.

    Nothing has compared to the training I did when I was at an MMA gym and even just doing the drills at home has boosted my training and made me feel more explosive, and even feels like my testosterone has had a boost too.

    But really what I want to ask is how you prepare against the toll sparing takes on your body, when I was at either of the martial arts gym’s sparing was 80% power (even when told otherwise) and the toll my body took was crazy, especially as I was going 5 days a week and at the start was incredible bad.

    I just wondered if there anything you do to prevent injury both now and in the future?

    Thanks so much,

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Well, there is no recipe for this other than practice. The body adapts with time. If you want to compete in martial arts, then you have to persevere. If not, then 5 days a week is too much.

      – Alex


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