easy it is to apply “bursts” of intensity and apply this to interval training, and b) the ability to combine footwork with hand patterns. Both of these characteristics are critical when trying to find and apply sports-specific conditioning for the combative arts.
A recent article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal (Vol 35, No. 1, Feb 2013, pp. 1-9) discusses “Strength and Conditioning for Fencing”. Modern fencing is obviously done for sporting purposes (it’s one of the few sports featured at every modern Olympic games), but has combative roots. Current competitions feature preliminary bouts that last up to 5 minutes, with elimination bouts of 3 three-minute rounds with one-minute rest in between rounds. As the authors state “fencing involves a series of explosive attacks, spaced by low intensity movements and recovery periods……there is a great need to repeatedly defend and attack and too often engage in a seamless transition between the two.” That sounds a lot like most martial arts activities, so training protocols for fencing might be interesting for other stylists as well.
The authors felt that metabolic conditioning from high-intensity interval training was the best approach and that sparring provides the most specificity and optimally adapts the energy systems for purposes of competition. But unfortunately, you can’t always spar, and it’s also difficult to quantify the effort involved for programming and progressive overload purposes. They recommended using work:rest ratios and average work duration specific to their sword. For example, in men’s foil the work to rest is 1:3 with average work duration of 5 seconds. They program a 2m-4m-2m shuttle to encourage multiple changes in direction across varying and fundamental lengths. Using fencing footwork and facing forward at all times, they lunge/shuffle forward 2m, back 2m, forward 4m, back 4m, forward 2m, back 2m, rest. The number of sets and rest intervals can be varied accordingly. It’s important to work on sets with both the Right and Left foot as the lead, even if competition is only done with a primary lead, to reduce muscular imbalance.
I use similar footwork and intervals with the Martial Ropes. A 2m burst laterally or on a diagonal and then returning is easily achieved. 4m gets a little problematic due to how the rope moves and the need to continue with a pattern, but 2 meters is enough to simulate most martial applications of covering the gap between you and your opponent.
Intervals are also easy to manage. 5-15 second bursts using all the major angles of attack, interspersed with “rest” (either active rest in the form of low intensity, steady-state swinging or complete rest) can easily be chained together to gradually build capacity and or specificity to your arts competitive structure (ex. 2 minute rounds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes). By combining the rope patterns with the footwork, you are able to build fluidity
and coordination, two things sorely lacking in many peoples’ motor patterns, especially once you put a weapon in their hand(s).
Give the ropes a try and see how your conditioning and your footwork starts to improve.