ONE Championship contributor Adam Bernard shares how crossfit can be beneficial to martial arts training.
As a lifelong martial artist who currently holds a fourth-degree black belt in kempo, I am always looking for ways to better my skills in the dojo. Sometimes this means working with higher ranks. Other times, it means putting in work outside of the dojo that translates to what we do inside the dojo.
Like many folks out there, I started hitting the gym pretty hard while in college. It was not until I dove into crossfit three years ago, however, that I began to see radical improvements in my martial arts skills. I have found myself reaching new heights, both figuratively and literally, and all of this has all been happening while in my mid-to-late 30s.
Here are five ways in which crossfit has improved my martial arts skills.
#1 Stronger Kicks
There’s a big focus on leg work in crossfit. Deadlifts, cleans, squats, thrusters, lunges, wall ball, rowing, assault bikes, and a host of other exercises strengthen the lower half of your body. Because these exercises are usually done for an extremely high rep count, and within a time limit, not only are you strengthening your legs, you are gaining speed.
After just a few months of crossfit, the improvement in my kicks was noticeable in strength, speed, and, when hitting the bag, sound. I went from having good kicks to having head turning, ‘whose kicks are those, and what does he have against the bag?’ kicks.
#2 Better Stances
In addition to improving my kicks, all of the leg work has also improved my stances, a key aspect of the martial arts. The stronger your stance, the less likely you are to be taken down.
Pre-crossfit, I had a solid horse stance and a decent twist stance. Now my horse stance is one of the deepest at my dojo, and my twist stance both looks nice and I can strike effectively while in it.
#3 Improved Agility
While all the leg work has improved my kicks and my stances, crossfit also embraces working out the shoulders and the abdominals. Pull ups (and muscle ups if you are a beast), push presses, clean and presses, and a variety of other exercises work the shoulders, while toes-to-bar is usually the ab workout of choice (hanging from the pull up bar and bringing your toes up to it).
Guess what happens when hanging from a pull up bar becomes your preferred method of hanging out? Your upper body becomes more agile. As an additional bonus, this also makes various locks involving your arms significantly easier to do.
#4 Stronger Blocks
Being that you are improving your strength in basically every part of your body, it should come as no surprise that another positive result of crossfit training is that your blocks become stronger.
Not only that, but in the event you do not block a strike, your ability to withstand a hit is much improved (but get the block in, regardless!).
#5 Improved Endurance
Crossfit has you doing a variety of exercises either in a specific amount of time, or in order to find your personal best time for a specific workout. Both of these concepts lead to pushing oneself while working out with weights.
You will always leave a crossfit workout exhausted and completely drenched in sweat. You will always enter the next workout ready to better your time, improve on a lift, or finally get that muscle up.
Because the rest of life moves at a much slower pace than a crossfit WOD (workout of the day), attempting and achieving these physical goals leads to a skyrocketing of one’s endurance level.
Crossfitters like to joke, ‘your workout is our warmup,’ and there’s quite a bit of truth to that. For a martial artist, the end result is being able to do a lot more at the dojo.
All of this having been said, not all crossfit gyms are equal. If you are looking to give crossfit a try, seek out places in your area that will let you take a class for free. See how you get along with the trainers and how knowledgeable, and helpful, they are.
Personally, I am at a crossfit gym where the owner is also a chiropractor, so I know they are safety-conscious and serious about making sure everyone is doing the lifts/moves correctly.
Just like with a dojo, it is important to be comfortable with the instructors and know you are in a place that cares about your safety. Find that place and get to training!