The warm up, I’m sure you will all agree, is now considered to be an integral part of any decent martial arts class. We line up, take the bow then go through a series of aerobic exercises designed to warm up the body, increase the blood flow and get us in the right frame of mind for the training ahead. If it’s done correctly the warm up should also reduce the risk of injury whilst at the same time improve your cardiovascular fitness. Personally I find some of the warm up sessions very time consuming and they can take valuable time away from our martial training. At times I have felt like I am in a step aerobics class instead of a martial arts class. So how do we avoid this? What can we do to meet all the requirements and get all the benefits from correct warming up without the session turning into a Tae Bo class. I believe I have the answer, or at least part of the answer. Allow me to explain in more detail.

There is a way which we can make the warm up more relevant to the art we study, a way to make the warm up more functional. You may suggest shadow sparring and I would agree, but very few people (myself included) feel comfortable when shadow boxing. In fact it can destroy confidence in beginners and is pointless if done incorrectly – if you think it impossible to shadow box incorrectly I suggest you train with boxing coach

Tommy Thompson. We use a 4 phase warm up sequence that replicates actual combat, without actually going in hard. Each phase lasts for 2 minuets with a brief rest between for instruction. This gives us a total warm up time of 8 minutes that is very physically demanding if done with the correct application and attitude.

Phase 1

Students face each other in an orthodox left-to-left boxing stance. Using the left hand only, each student should try and touch his or her partners left shoulder -this replicates the jab (photo A). Both students are allowed to parry the attack with the rear hand (right) only (photo

B). We want to touch our partner’s shoulder but we don’t want him or her to touch ours. Footwork and movement are also encouraged as offensive and evasive techniques, (photo C shows Nicola and Kerry working phase 1).

Phase 2

Students face each other as before but this time the objective is to slap the outer or inner thigh of your partner (photo’s D & E) without getting slapped yourself. No blocking or parrying with the hands is allowed. The only evasive technique permitted or encouraged is the use of footwork (photo F). Matt attempts to strike Mic but Mic quickly moves back just out of reach. Hard slapping is encouraged but must be mutual between partners. The hard slaps work wonders for the footwork! (photo G) shows Mic demonstrating a hard slap on Martin who picked the wrong night to wear shorts! (photo H) shows Nicola & Kerry working phase 2 live.

Phase 3

Start off as before but the objective this time is to lightly step on your partner’s foot (photo I). If your foot gets touched by your partner’s you go down for 10 press-ups, with no cheating! As you do your press ups your partner must stand over you in the guard position (photo J) this protects you from injury in case other students stumble into you whilst you are on the floor. It’s also a good mindset to take with you into the street environment. If one of your friend’s, colleagues, or associates goes down during trouble outside of the class environment you stand over them and protect them from further attacks etc. Back to the training drill – if your partner fails to stand guard over you he or she will have to do the press ups followed by 10 more for you! Phase 4

During phase 1 it is inevitable that students adopt a more upright stance and the eyes focus purely on the area around the shoulder (photo L).

During phase 2 the shoulders are completely forgotten and a lower posture is taken with the focus purely on the thigh area (photo M).

During phase 3 students bow their head and concentrate on the feet and on the feet only (photo N).

Phase 4 prevents this from becoming a bad habit by mixing in all the previous drills into one for a grand finish. We can touch the shoulders, slap the thigh’s step on the foot whilst aiming to prevent the same from happening to us. Press-ups are only required if you manage to touch your partners foot as with phase 3. With this phase we are forced to be aware of all the three ranges drilled so far. (photo’s O & P) show

Nicola and Kerry working the final phase.

So there you have it, a warm up that will develop timing, balance, footwork, co ordination, distancing, evasion skills, cardiovascular fitness, upper body strength to name but a few of the benefits from this drill. It’s economical, it will save time and it’s relevant to what we need as martial artists.

Safety Tip

We recommend the wearing of bag mitts during this drill, as this will prevent exposed fingers accidentally catching your partner in the eyes.

Good all round awareness should also be encouraged particularly in busy classes, there should be no excuses for students stumbling into or knocking each other. As well as keeping your eyes on your partner you should also look out for your other classmates who are training around you. Eventually this will develop good awareness skills and peripheral vision.

Commit yourself, train hard, never sell yourself short by training easy. The class is soon over and if you have applied yourself correctly during the training session-the sense of well being afterwards is a very rewarding and deserved. People (non martial artists) often ask me why still train hard at my age, the answer is simple, because I can! There are many people who would willingly swap places with me, people in hospital etc. There is always someone somewhere worse off than you.

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