Martial Arts Training Drills – Part Five

We have focused on stretching drills in the first part of our series. We now move to strength drills.

Strength Training

Judoka should focus on strengthening every part of their body. That includes arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet, toes, core muscles, back muscles (especially lower back), shoulder muscles, and neck muscles. You will engage all of those physical areas in the art of Judo. The same is true for Judo Self Defense, which is primary to training in Yon Ch’uan Martial Arts.

You will need to increase your ability to grip and pull strongly. You will need strength to endure a lengthy physical struggle along to explode into a successful throw. You will find how important core muscle strength is when you explode into a throw.

I studied Judo in the early 1960s when teachers were still using strength training methods they had learned when they served in the military in Japan and other Asian countries. I’ll be sharing those older methods with you in this article since that’s what I’ve used for the last 60 years. If you want to build strength with modern training equipment, I recommend you join a good gym or fitness center and learn from people with those skills.

Solo Strength Training

Grip strength is very important in Judo and Judo Self Defense. We grip both the gi (uniform) and obi (belt) with a partner, so you can also use the gi and obi in your solo strength training.

Take your belt and fold it in half .. hold your belt in front of you at arms length .. twist the belt in your fingers in opposite directions (e.g. left hand twists belt backward while right hand twists belt forward, then reverse) .. continue twisting your belt back and forth 20 times .. relax for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise five times

Take your belt and fold it in half, then half again .. hold your belt in front of you at arms length .. twist the belt in your fingers in opposite directions (e.g. left hand twists belt backward while right hand twists belt forward, then reverse) .. continue twisting your belt back and forth 20 times .. relax for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise five times

Hold your belt in front of you at arms length (without folding) .. hands should be even with shoulders .. pull the belt in opposite directions as hard as you can for 30 seconds .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise ten times

Hold your belt in front of you at arms length (without folding) .. left hand holds the belt above your head while the right hand holds the belt next to your right hip .. pull the belt in opposite directions as hard as you can for 30 seconds .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise ten times

Hold your belt in front of you at arms length (without folding) .. right hand holds the belt above your head while the left hand holds the belt next to your left hip .. pull the belt in opposite directions as hard as you can for 30 seconds .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise ten times

Hold your belt behind your head (without folding) .. hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders .. pull the belt in opposite directions as hard as you can for 30 seconds .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise ten times

Hold your belt behind your lower back at arms length (without folding) .. hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders .. pull the belt in opposite directions as hard as you can for 30 seconds .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise ten times

Put on your gi top (uwagi) with or without wearing your belt .. grab the upper part of the uwagi (thickest material) and pull up and down strongly for 30 seconds .. relax for 20 seconds .. grabbing the same part of the uwagi, pull outward and inward strongly for 30 seconds .. relax for 20 seconds .. repeat full exercise (pulling up, down, out, and in) five times

Take an extra belt (not the one you wear in class) and wrap it around a tree or pole .. facing the tree or pole, grab the belt with both hands and pull strongly down toward your hips, then (keeping tension on the belt) raise the belt up to head height and pull strongly .. continue to pull toward your hips, then head, for one minute .. rest for one minute .. repeat exercise ten times

Take an extra belt (not the one you wear in class) and wrap it around a tree or pole .. facing away from the tree or pole, grab the belt with both hands and pull strongly down toward your hips, then (keeping tension on the belt) raise the belt up to head height and pull strongly .. continue to pull toward your hips, then head, for one minute .. rest for one minute .. repeat exercise ten times

Lie down on the floor in a supine position (back on floor) .. place your belt over the bottom of your right foot and pull the belt toward you with both hands as you push the belt away from you with your foot .. hold for 30 seconds .. relax for 20 seconds .. repeat five times

Stay on the floor in a supine position and place your belt over the bottom of your left foot and pull the belt toward you with both hands as you push the belt away from you with your foot .. hold for 30 seconds .. relax for 20 seconds .. repeat five times

Move into a prone position (facing floor) and extend arms with palms on floor .. feet up on toes .. keep your face forward and back straight as you perform 20 push ups .. rest for 20 seconds (return knees to floor while resting) .. repeat five times (some students may need to begin doing pushups with knees on the floor, but the goal is to have knees off the floor during the exercise)

You can increase the strengthening aspect of pushups by doing more pushups (work up to 50 or more pushups between resting), and by having someone place weighted objects on your back as you do your pushups .. one way to do that is for a fellow student to sit on your back as you do the pushups, but that fits better with partner strength training

You can also increase the impact of push-ups by doing them with your finger tips instead of your palms on the floor

[Another option for push-ups is plyometric push-ups .. they add an extra aspect for strength training .. you can find some good examples on the Internet]

Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and both hands on your chest .. fall backward, slap the floor (mat), and immediately return to the seated position with hands on chest .. repeat the Judo sit-up ten times .. rest for 30 seconds in seated position .. repeat exercise five times

Hold medicine ball (or other heavy object .. large rock, piece of wood, etc) in both hands with legs in a wide stance (double shoulder width) .. raise medicine ball or other object above your head, then lower quickly between legs, and quickly raise above your head again .. repeat ten times .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise five times

Jump up and grab a strong tree branch with both hands (palms facing away from you) .. hand on the tree branch for 20 seconds .. pull up with your arms until you can place your chin above the branch .. return to a hanging position .. continue to perform pull-ups 20 times .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat exercise five times .. change the exercise by holding on to the branch with your palms facing toward you (if you don’t have a tree branch that will work, you can build a pull-up/chin-up bar in your backyard, or use one at a gym)

You can also increase your grip strength by hanging from the tree branch or bar for several minutes .. that is a good body-weight exercise .. rest on the ground for a minute or two before hanging from branch or bar again for several minutes .. repeat exercise five times

Place a thick rope over a large branch and tie it so the rope can hold your weight (a thick branch 15-20 feet off the ground works well) .. climb up the rope, hold your position at the top for five seconds, climb down the rope .. rest for 30 seconds .. repeat the exercise five times

Hold an object in each hand that weighs about five pounds .. fully extend your arms in front of you and hold the objects for 30 seconds .. lower the objects and rest for ten seconds .. repeat the exercise ten times

Hold an object in each hand that weighs about ten pounds .. raise the objects to your chest, then lower to your side .. repeat ten times, then rest for 20 seconds .. repeat the exercise ten times

Hold an object in each hand that weighs about ten pounds .. leave your arms extended by your legs while you raise the objects using only your wrists .. repeat ten times, then rest for 20 seconds .. repeat the exercise ten times

Run in place for five minutes lifting your feet about 18-inches off the ground .. rest for one minute .. repeat the drill five times

Run in place for five minutes lifting your feet about three feet off the ground .. rest for one minute .. repeat the drill five times

Run forward as fast you can for one minute .. rest for one minute .. run backward as fast as you can for one minute .. rest for one minute .. repeat the drill five times

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight .. place hands on hips .. bend knees slightly and jump laterally to the right (to the side) .. land with your knees bent slightly .. jump laterally to the left .. repeat lateral jump ten times left and right .. relax for one minute .. repeat exercise five times

Place about ten pounds of weight into a small bag that has a handle (you can also use a kettle bell or any weight with a handle) .. hold bag with your right hand near your face while extending your left arm straight forward with palm down .. squat down and back up ten times .. switch bag to left hand, hold right arm straight forward with palm down and squat down and back up ten times .. rest for one minute .. repeat exercise five times

Place a heavy bag on the ground (20 pounds at first .. work your way up to 50 pounds) .. stand 20 feet away from the bag .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag (your first movement in running toward the bag should be explosive) .. walk 30 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 40 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 50 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 60 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 70 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 80 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 90 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. walk 100 feet away from the bag .. rest for 30 seconds .. run as fast as you can toward the bag, grab it, and run with the bag back to where you were standing .. drop the bag .. repeat the exercise if you want, but it’s not necessary .. it’s a tough workout, especially as you use heavier bags

Pick up a 10-pound bag (or suitcase) and place it above your head .. walk across the floor in a squatting position, turn around and walk back in a squatting position .. you can increase the weight of the bag and the distance to build more strength

Fill a bag or suitcase with 50 pounds of weight .. pick up the bag or suitcase with your right hand and walk as quickly as you can for 50-100 feet .. put the bag or suitcase down and grab the handle with your left hand .. turn around and walk back to where you started .. repeat the exercise ten times .. you can build strength by adding weight and distance

Push a heavy object forward in the dirt at least 30 feet .. pull the heavy object backward in the dirt at least 30 feet .. repeat the exercise five times .. you can build strength by adding weight and distance

If you have access to a bicycle, ride it as often as you can .. ride uphill as well as downhill to build leg strength, core strength, and endurance.

If you have access to a pool, lake, or the ocean, swim in an old Judo gi (top and trousers) while wearing an old pair of tennis shoes .. swim as far as you can safely (especially if you’re alone). It builds strength and endurance.

Isometric exercises are also helpful in building strength. The key to building strength is body resistance in a static position. Here are a few examples:

  1. Stand with your back to a wall .. bend your knees and slowly slide down the wall half way .. push from the bottom of your feet, through your legs and hips, to your back .. hold the push for 30 seconds .. rest for 10 seconds .. push again and hold the push for 30 seconds .. repeat the wall-sit exercise for five minutes
  2. Stand with your right side to a wall .. place your right hand on the wall and try to push your body away from the wall as your body resists the push .. hold the push for 30 seconds .. rest for 10 seconds .. switch sides and do the same exercise with your left hand .. repeat right/left wall-push exercise for five minutes
  3. Sit in a chair and move it forward until you are sitting under a table or desk that won’t move .. place your palms on the bottom of the table or desk and lift upward as hard as you can and hold the lift for 30 seconds .. rest for 10 seconds .. lift again and hold the lift for 30 seconds .. repeat the exercise for five minutes

The plank, bridge, low-squat hold, pull-up hold, flexed-arm hang, and static lunge are other examples. Lots more isometric exercises to try, so check them out in an exercise book or on the Internet.

Next Time

We will share partner and class strengthening drills in the next part of our special series.

Enjoy!

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