There are many different physical attributes that help with your martial arts training and self defense skills: strength, power, explosiveness, endurance, coordination, sensitivity, speed, and flexibility, to name just a few.
But what’s the most important one?
There are various martial artists who build their game around a few special attributes, but if you were going to pick just one to focus on, which is the most useful?
It has to be endurance. If you’re tired, you are not strong, you aren’t fast, you’re not strong, your techniques go to hell and you’re not even smart anymore.
Here’s a video I shot on this topic while doing my own big weekly cardio session – a hike up a 2.5 km long trail with 800 meters of climb…
Endurance is the most critical attribute – whether your training is for martial arts or self defense.
Working on your heart and lungs through cardio exercise is the best thing you can do. It ensures that you can use your techniques, your brain, and your other attributes even when you’re tired.
Besides, the number of people who die from heart disease and stroke far exceeds the number who suffer knife attacks. Some aspect of your self defense has got to be about your own health.
So what’s the best kind of cardio?
Running. Boxers swear by it. It’s the most efficient kind of cardio and builds your endurance fast. Besides, if you get into a fight or have someone try to steal your wallet, you might have to run away, or run after someone. It will be easier if you’re accustomed to it.
If your joints are at the point where they really complain when you run, there are alternatives.
Steep mountain hikes (at a steady pace without sitting down) are a great way to get your endurance up. You want to get your heart rate up well above normal, break a sweat, and stay in that strenuous zone for at least half an hour. If you can work your way up to an hour, so much the better.
Failing that you have stair masters, rowing machines, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, swimming in a pool, etc.
Cardiovascular endurance translates very quickly and effectively into your martial arts game. Your sparring partners will notice. Typically, they remark on how strong you seem and how relentlessly you push.
Of course, you may not actually be stronger (in terms of your upper body lifting ability for example) but you won’t be getting tired. Your opponents will be betting tired though, and that will make you seem so much better by comparison.
Great cardio training lowers your resting heart rate and allows you to stay stronger for longer. Then it just becomes a game of wearing your opponents down, keeping up the pressure as they begin to gasp for air and weaken, and then going in for the inevitable opening.
If you want to improve your fighting ability – and your overall fitness – make cardio exercise part of your weekly routine. You’ll be glad you ever need to use your skills in a real fight!