How to structure your martial arts & self-defence training PT 2

How to develop you martial arts training and self defence when training alone

In the first part of structuring your martial arts training & self-defence, I spoke about making the most of your training time. 

I talked about splitting areas up and specialising on one area for around a month, which I stand by. I have been asked how do you keep other areas sharp when martial arts training?

The answer is in 3 simple steps 

  1. Shadow Fighting
  2. Bag Work 
  3. Sparring 

Let’s look at the three stages individually.

Shadow Fighting – Empty hand.

If you are not warming up with Shadow fighting in your martial arts training you are not maximising your time!!!

Aerobics in the form of star jumps, running etc is a fantastic exercise and helps with fight conditioning, however, it is not self-defence. The top professional fighters in the world separate conditioning and skill training so why are you doing differently?  Remember this is about making the most of your time when martial arts training.

How to shadow boxing for self-defence.

I set a timer up on my phone ( I use impetus on an android phone, the app is also available in App Store. For more details look here 

Each round is 1 Min 45 seconds with a 15-second rest so a full two mins, using this structure I do 5 rounds some days it would look like this – 

  1. Just Footwork
  2. + Punches
  3. + Kness
  4. +Elbows
  5. +Kicks 

So by the fifth round, I am using all my tools available in stand up (I clinch in all rounds from number 2 onwards) sometimes I will also include takedowns and shadow grappling.

Shadow Boxing – with weapons

If I feel like improving my weapons training and using them as a warm-up I apply the same concept. This means my self-defence warm-up could look like this – 

  1.   Just footwork 
  2.  + Double Stick
  3.  + Single Stick
  4.  + Stick and Knife 
  5.  + Single Knife 

With both examples here, destructions parries and blocks etc are included in every round. By following this template you are warming up using the movements you are about to drill which saves times and makes sense.

Bag Work for self-defence

I use bag work for cardio and conditioning and ensure I hit as hard, fast and often as I can. Due to my time restrictions, I follow the same template as shadow fighting only this time on the punch bag. That would look like this –

  1. Just Footwork
  2. + Punches
  3. + Kness
  4. +Elbows
  5. +Kicks 

 You make cake any skill training a cardio workout and combine both. If you feel your elbows need improving you could do this –

  1. Just Footwork
  2. + Lead Elbow
  3. + Rear Elbow
  4. + Elbow Combos
  5. +Free Play Elbows.

Keep the pace high, extend the rounds shorten the rest period all of this help boost your fighting cardio.

Now if you have the time, extend the template to do ten rounds and just go for it. IMO running is a great exercise however it’s cross over for what I want to achieve in my martial arts training and self-defence.

“Conditioning is for winning a fight, Cardio is for running away from one..slowly” 🙂 

Sparring for martial arts training & Self Defence

If ever there was a subject that people get wrong or worry about the most in martial arts training it is sparring 

Let’s be honest no normal person likes being punched or kicked and “losing”. We do however have to accept it and remember to learn from it hence why there is not a loser in sparring. 

Too many people want to run before they can walk, you can not be Jason Bourne before spending some time as Johnny English. This is why people get scared of sparring. Sparring can be as simple as one tool v another IE Jab v Jab, mixed IE Jab v Thai kick or all out it’s up to you. 

Here at Interception Martial Arts Hull as the name suggests we work on intercepting. The advantage of this is you are not confused about choosing what tool to use or waiting for the attack to start so you can respond, parry then hit is to slow just HIT! 

Paul Vunaks attribute 3 video is a fantastic example of how to set up sparring with a JKD/RAT slant on it. 

You win or you LEARN in martial arts training

Let’s look at the word losing; Losing is not the point of sparring the point is to learn. Do not let your ego take over if your partner keeps tagging you with a low hook. Guess what you have to work on? That’s right defending a low hook. It’s not rocket science, shake hands and thank them for helping you to become a better fighter and that is what we’re after. 

Been more aimed at self-preservation than perfection (another blog to come) sparring in an MMA/boxing sense is hard as we don’t wanna start duking it out we want to intercept or destruct, straight blast and clinch, hopefully finishing the attacker in his/her footsteps. 

What we do need in a sparring match is have your partner pretend they are Conor McGregor so you can practice your interceptions and destructions or as I have found out, you both sit out of range waiting to intercept each other and nothing happens. You both spend the whole round waiting for the other to make the first move….so no one does. 

Choose who is the attacker and then get sparring interceptions. 


So before you go back to doing actual work let’s just recap some key points. 

  1. Stop warming up with movements that don’t cross over to fighting, start shadow fighting. 
  2. Use a timer and have themed rounds, this will allow you to focus on something worth practising.
  3. Use the heavy bag, speedball etc for conditioning, again as above if you have limited time use something that will improve a couple of areas.  
  4. Stop sparing for your ego, learn and improve instead.
  5. Sharpen each other’s skills by choosing who attacks and who intercepts before you start. 

Thank you for the last 5 mins please remember to share and get in touch for more info.


One reply on “How to structure your martial arts & self-defence training PT 2”

[…] Not including sparing comes from two different ways of thinking. 1) It’s only a fitness class if that’s the case don’t market it as self-defence and stop ripping people off. 2) People don’t spar because the instructor doesn’t like it or has little experience. Either way again, stop ripping people off. For a small piece on bringing sparring into you training look at last weeks blog here  […]