Pros and Cons of Ran­dom­ized Train­ing for Mar­tial Artists

I re­cently read an ar­ti­cle that was crit­i­cal of ran­dom­ized train­ing as it re­lates to the CrossFit Games.

Black Belt - - FIT TO FIGHT - by Mark Hat­maker

My im­me­di­ate re­sponse was: A) I agree that the ran­dom­ized CrossFit pro­to­col does not “tun­nel in” — that is, ad­here to speci�ic­ity to cre­ate skill mas­tery in a given sport. Such mas­tery comes only from sport- and skill-speci�ic train­ing.

B) It’s not sur­pris­ing that the ma­jor­ity of CrossFit Games win­ners, as well as those who ex­cel there, don’t ad­here to the ran­dom­ized pro­to­col. In­stead, they “gam­ify” their train­ing to do bet­ter in com­pe­ti­tion. The Games are no dif­fer- ent from any other sport in that they ask ath­letes to per­form speci�ic tasks and the ath­letes must gear their train­ing to those tasks or fall to com­peti­tors who have fo­cused on those tasks. THE CON­CEPT be­hind ran­dom­iza­tion — and the rea­son it should ap­peal to mar­tial artists — is to pre­pare for real-world sit­u­a­tions rather than com­pe­ti­tion. In the real world, we have no speci�ic task on the hori­zon, yet we may be called on to per­form vir­tu­ally any skill on any given day.

We have no idea if we might have to sprint to es­cape a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, draw from a steady reser­voir of go-to stamina in a mass at­tack or pump out an in­or­di­nate amount of power in a bat­tle with a heavy­weight. For mar­tial artists, real life is not a game with a guar­an­teed task list. It’s un­pre­dictable. It’s ran­dom­ized.

The ar­ti­cle’s cri­tique pointed out that ran­dom­ized train­ing does won­ders to a point‚ but then a plateau is reached. Is that a bad thing for us? Not nec­es­sar­ily.

A plateau will af­fect us only if our goal is to com­pete in, for ex­am­ple, pow­er­lift­ing, Olympic weightlift­ing, marathons or the CrossFit Games. If our goal is to make the per­for­mance of an ex­er­cise our “sport‚” then ran­dom­ized train­ing is for naught once we pass the ac­clima­ti­za­tion stage. ALL PRAC­TI­TION­ERS of the com­bat arts — tra­di­tional mar­tial artists,

com­pet­i­tive grap­plers, kick­box­ers, even op­er­a­tors in the mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment — have it dif­fer­ent. As the true �irst re­spon­ders‚ we need a plateau of ro­bust­ness built by ran­dom­ized train­ing. What we de­sire to en­gage in af­ter reach­ing that plateau is not more and more push-ups, heav­ier and heav­ier lifts, or longer and longer runs.

Once we hit the plateau, we want to main­tain our level and use it as a jump­ing-off point for our com­bat train­ing. Our goal is not to be the elite doer of ex­er­cises. We see clearly that ex­er­cise, no mat­ter how elite the per­for­mance of said ex­er­cise, is a prepara­tory ac­tion and no more. Ex­er­cise is a means to pre­pare our body and mind for the rig­ors of our mar­tial art.

To spend the rest of our lives get­ting bet­ter at our prepa­ra­tion is a bit of wheel spin­ning on par with get­ting bet­ter and faster at writ­ing our ABCs or recit­ing the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion ta­ble as op­posed to tak­ing the al­pha­bet and cre­at­ing new sen­tences or ap­ply­ing math­e­mat­ics to real-world needs.

That said, the ar­ti­cle was cor­rect: To ex­cel at any given sport, we must groove that sport, so to speak. But to pre­pare for chance or chaos — which is pre­cisely what mar­tial artists train for — we must build a ran­dom­ized base.

To all my com­bat brothers and sis­ters, I say go ahead and cre­ate an ad­mirable ran­dom­ized plateau. Then, in­stead of dump­ing all those ex­tra hours into climb­ing to the next plateau, spend your time pol­ish­ing your mar­tial arts skill set.

In short, CrossFit is great for you, both be­cause of the work­out you get and be­cause the short du­ra­tion of the ses­sions leaves plenty of time for the dojo. Just don’t let the pur­suit of a Hero WOD — that’s Work­out of the Day for the unini­ti­ated — dis­tract you from your des­ig­nated grap­pling WOD or heavy-bag WOD.

Once we hit the plateau, we want to main­tain our level and use it as a jumpin­goff point for our com­bat train­ing.

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