(This article originally appeared on practicalhungkyun.com)
For the martial artist looking to improve his craft, there are a few bare essentials you need – apart from your actual martial arts practice – that will help propel you toward and beyond your goals. A healthy level of strength and a good program for all-over conditioning.
The more time you spend doing other exercises, the less time you get to practice your art. And each strength and conditioning movement you practice should ideally have a strong carryover into your striking, kicking, grappling, etc.
There are a few movements that many of you already practice a great deal that have a massive carryover into your power over your opponents: deadlifting, kettlebell swinging, heavy pressing, pullups, ab work, and loaded carries. But there’s one movement you’ve probably neglected that will have a major carryover into all you do – a movement you were born to do and haven’t done since you were a toddler.
I’m speaking of none other than crawling.
WAIT! Before you write the rest of this off as nonsense, hear me out. Crawling as taught by Original Strength strengthens and makes more efficient many of the natural movements that a true martial artist must do (in fact, crawling has a long history in martial arts training and was a popular exercise among Chinese martial artists). For example:
- Crawling is cross-lateral, just like a strong right cross or roundhouse kick.
- Crawling correctly requires that your eyes lead your head and that your head leads your body, much like what one must do when dodging a punch or executing a throw such as a suplex (have you ever tried to perform a throw without looking in the direction of where you’ll be throwing your opponent? I’m guessing not.)
- Crawling is a coordinated full-body effort that builds eye-hand coordination, in-between strength that fortifies all the corners of your body that many standard strength drills can’t do, and incredible conditioning.
- Crawling teaches you to relax under pressure. The longer you crawl, the harder it gets, but in order to crawl correctly, you must stay relaxed, no matter how hard you’re breathing or how much your muscles are burning.
- Your body is one large X, extending from the tip of your fingers to the tip of your toes. Your right wrist is connected to your left ankle, and vice versa. Your left shoulder is connected to your right hip. Your right serratus anterior is connected to your left oblique, and so on. Making this connection stronger teaches your body how to communicate with all of its parts better and connects you from top to bottom, tying your body into one strong, resilient piece. The better tied together you are, the easier it is for you to fight without falling apart; to get hit without getting injured. To train for your art without falling apart.
This last point is especially important, because martial artists take quite a beating in training, whether they’re strikers or grapplers. Your body is one piece, strung together by a myriad of moving parts (specifically your joints, bones, and various muscles and connective tissues). The stronger and better these are held together, the better you can express your power, speed, agility, and strength.
There is a right way to crawl and a wrong way to crawl. The following only scratches the surface of crawling, but it’s a quick overview of a few of the many things we cover in Original Strength as a way of utilizing crawling first and foremost as a way to improve your movement, as well as to improve your brute strength, conditioning, eye-hand coordination, recovery time, and a variety of other things for any sport or athletic activity.
Incorrect (left photo): Looking down, staying too tense – a great way to get worn out, but not to get stronger/better conditioned. C’mon – you’re better than that!
Correct (right photo): head up, eyes forward, butt below the shoulders, and the crawling is cross-lateral. A win all around.
For some intermediate steps, check out this video tutorial below:
To get the full, unadulterated information on how to use crawling to improve your athleticism, be sure to attend an Original Strength Workshop (there’s one coming up August 30-31st in Prague). For now, get started on working your way through the progressions and watch as your strength, conditioning, and athleticism improve in spades.
There’s a lot more to learn, but this is a great place to start.
Try it out and make note of the change in the feel and performance of some of your favorite exercises. And if you make some fast progress or hit a PR, I wanna hear about it! Drop me a line on Facebook (Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer” Salkin).
Have fun, and enjoy putting the hurt on your opponents!
Aleks Salkin is a Level 2 StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor (SFG II), StrongFirst-certified bodyweight Instructor (SFB), and an Original Strength Certified Coach. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He is currently based out of Jerusalem, Israel and spends his time teaching clients both in person and online as well as spreading the word of StrongFirst and calisthenics. He regularly writes about strength and health both on his website and as a guest author on other websites. Find him online at https://alekssalkin.com and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/alekssalkintraining