Stamina in a Martial Art

Stamina – Learn the aspects and elements of this attribute and how to improve it.

Stamina is a physical quality in a martial art. To read about Martial art training systems

To check out the martial art checklist

The importance of it for us depends on our specific martial art and should be decided upon when understanding and examining the theory and goals of it (our martial art) and ours To learn about the theory and goals of a Martial Art

This site differentiates between stamina and physical endurance (we also defer between physical endurance and mental endurance). The first is anything related to the physical tiredness of the body, be it cardio or muscle.

Physical endurance, in the martial arts, means - the ability to with stand, with out sustaining serious injury or dysfunctional pain, a strike, a joint lock, a choke, ,a submission hold a throw, and a pressure point manipulation from a physical point of view.

(More on physical endurance in a martial art in future articles.)

What is it?

The capability of sustaining prolonged stressful effort - the ability to perform a physical action for a required period of time. Our success in achieving this is dependent upon the quality of our stamina.

There are 2 kinds of Stamina's:

1. Cardio-vesicular (from now will be referred to as cardio) Stamina – The ability of our heart, lungs, and blood circulation to provide the amount of oxygen we need to accomplish our needs.

Any physical activity which we set off doing and found ourselves begging for air at some point, was likely caused because we lack the stamina (unless of course it’s do to a mental problem or a health condition)

2. Muscle Stamina – The ability of our muscles to function for the length of the physical activity and its demands.

Any physical activity in which our muscles just seemed to tense, or not respond, or lose their capabilities was likely caused by lack of this attribute (Unless of course its do to a mental problem or a health condition)

Of course one could argue that lack of cardio leads to lack of muscle stamina (because the lack of oxygen to the muscles reduces their abilities).

Interesting enough, though, studies show that athletes that are cardio oriented – long distance runners for example – showed a reduction of muscle stamina ability, proving that there is another system involved… A metabolic system to name one (more on this in a bit)

As we examined earlier the stamina we need is dependent on our martial art and its conception of the fight..

The best way to prepare for doing something is to do it, or train as close as possible to it. For instance the best thing for a swimmer to do is swim, and for a runner to run...

We examined this in the Improvement and Development article and in the Sparring and Fighting Experience article

On the basis of this point of view, if we know we’re scheduled for a K-1 fight which will have 3, 5minute rounds, with a minute rest in between.

We can train 4, 5 minute rounds and rest a minute in between – (the extra one to simulate the stress factor) – while sparring to prepare ourselves for the stamina needed..

This is a good method, yet it holds some disadvantages - The biggest one being – when sparring, many qualities need to be combined for success thus making it very hard to focus just on one of them.

To put it into more exact definition - we need to figure out a way to simulate the fight and at the same time be able to focus most or all our attention on the stamina (or which ever quality or element we want) factor.

To achieve this we must define three things:

Three criteria’s to characterize our stamina training needs:

1. Length of activity.

2. Kind of activity

3. Muscle/s used. And in what way.

Length of activity:

How long is the physical period of effort? If it’s a boxing match, the length of our activity is the maximum time of our fight -10 rounds, 12, 15… The rounds being three minutes and 1 minute rest in between.

If it’s a street fight we might assume that 5 minutes is much above average, but there is no rest in between…

Types of stamina (muscle and cardio) activities:

1. Aerobics work – Means “working with air” – and refers to an ongoing physical activity, in which the body uses oxygen in order to provide energy for the body, using its metabolic system.

Exercises which are considered to be aerobic are – cycling, running, swimming… as long as they don’t extend to the anaerobic phase… To learn more...

2. Anaerobic work – Our body usually enters this stage at about 75%-90% of our max heartbeat. Because of lack of oxygen our body begins to use two different metabolic systems…

one of the results is that our body begins to produce lactic acid, which the body can not effectively clear from the itself – resulting in a “shut down” of our muscles.. To learn more...

The muscle used and how:

1. Hand muscles - to punch or may be to grab and lift…

2. Legs, to kick, or maybe only for moving. Maybe it’s to be able to hold our opponent in guard position…

After we defined the above, we’re ready to choose our training methods.

A fight is naturally an anaerobic experience, if not due to the activity itself, then due to the mental stress. Therefore we will concentrate on anaerobic training.

Great training methods

Fartlek – Means “speed play” in Swedish and works on about 60%-90% of our max heart rate (220 - age).

For a runner a fartlek drill can be – Running at 50% heart rate for 7 minutes, then sprinting for 30 seconds at 80% keeping at a medium pace until heart levels back to 60% and then sprinting again…

Doing this for 5 times and then running at 60% for 5 minutes, repeating this cycle for a total of 30 minutes. For more ideas and information

Intervals – A training method which brings us to 75%-95% of our max heart rate keeps us there for a predetermined time or distance and, then allows a rest period, predetermined by time or heartbeat level.

For a runner an interval drill can be – 300 meters sprint, 2 minutes rest ×5 For more ideas and information

With the help of these methods we train our specifics - be it cardio or muscle stamina.

Tools or instruments to exercise with:

• Pad work

• Heavy/boxing bag training

• Training in water

• Weights

• Rubber straps

• Sprints

• And much more


Let’s give some examples of a possible stamina improving training drill:

We will build our drill to suit a K-1 fighter.

First we define our specific stamina needs:

• Uses strikes

• Fights 3 rounds of 5 minutes each, 1 minute rest between the rounds.

• Severe stress

• Explosive activity, which is some times done with little air. (mouth piece, getting hit in the body, forgetting to breath…)

• Must maintain power in strike contrary to fatigue

• Always in movement, except for the break between rounds.

• Doesn’t need grabbing muscles.

It becomes clear that the best way to simulate the rounds themselves requires the use of fartlek exercises, and simulating the break between rounds requires interval exercising.

Earlier on we considered sparring training to be the best training to simulate our situation. Nevertheless, we also examined the disadvantages of solely doing this exercise.

The next best thing would probably be pad work. With this tool we have an exercise which simulates the body functions used for the fight, moving non stop, striking at times for explosiveness, and the resting period between rounds.

This tool also allows us to monitor and control our performance with more ease (we can push ourselves to keep the tempo and strike force, with out the stress of having to deal with being hit, moving with the right timing…)

This is a great tool but doing only it also has some disadvantages –

• Working our stamina exploits, depending on our drill and training regime, about 20-50 minutes of our training time.

If we train only with pad work as our drill, we will not leave our selves enough time or ability - due to fatigue or over training - to train other qualities such as technical training, power training and more.

As examined on the article of development and improvement in a martial art we understand that pushing and challenging our body in different ways is very helpful, and we get better results both physically and mentally through versatile training.

• Boring - not only for our body but for our “mind” as well.

The best way to go about it is to be versatile. We would definitely put a large portion of our stamina work into the pads, and a smaller but also large portion to sparring at changing or free tempos (especially as the competition comes closer).

Here’s one kind of training drill:

* Disclaimer – Always consult a physician before, starting physical activity the information here cannot suffice this.

3 minutes – shadow boxing with weights on ankles and in the hands.

1 minute rest (remove weights)

3 minutes pad work.

1 minute rest

3 minutes jump rope, mostly double jumps (the rope passes twice on one jump) 50 seconds rest

6 minutes heavy bag work We perform this drill at the half way part of our training, and as the last drill before cool down.

Like we said earlier the fight itself resembles a fartlek training. And therefore the whole drill should be done at this tempo, pulse wise.

(max pulse is very generally calculated as 220 minus the age. So if some one is 25 years old his max pulse is around the 195 pulse per minute).

We can perform this exercise as intervals during the rounds themselves – meaning we work at 75%-95% of our ability for the whole round.

This will probably cause, however, the rounds to be shortened, because normally at the peak of the anaerobic stage our body has trouble maintaining it for more then 2 minutes.

It is a great idea to keep notes which record our results, and our feelings,(Example – I finished the shadow boxing with a 150 pulse, and ended the rest at 100. I finished the pad work at a pulse of 170, and worked the last 30 seconds full power and speed. The break I finished at 120, my arms began to feel very heavy…)

It’s important that even when doing the same drill we change the peak occurrences;

For example – at first when doing the pad work we can reach max pulse in the first minute, for 30 seconds, and next time training the drill we keep the first minute 75% and then work it up to 95% for 45 seconds…

There are countless drills which we can use to improve our stamina. We just need to use our imagination and logic. (Register to our newsletter to get more ideas or visit our forums when they will be up and running…)


1. We understand and decide upon the stamina which we need for our martial art (if at all we need)…including, methods tools …

2. We build drills which will simulate as much as possible the fight, but at the same time allow us to focus on the “stamina attribute”, and which are versatile – both in qualities they train and in manners which challenges our body and mind.

3. We record our progress and build our session accordingly.

*One more note – Improving our stamina is not only hard physically but also mentally. We’re the only ones who know if in the drill we put 100% of ourselves, and really we’re the only ones who should care.

We are the one’s who feel if we with held our efforts or gave it every thing we had.

It’s very frustrating to lose a fight due to a lack of stamina!

One of the qualities which improve the fastest in a fighter and martial artist is his stamina, and running short of it in a fight is most likely due to lack of training it and not a lack of talent or innate ability.

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