The number of conditioning methods “in the market” today are legion, and it would be unrealistic to attempt to explore and address them all in any hope of discerning what to commit oneself to. There are simply too many to wade through. For the martial artist, depending upon the art one practices, there may ideas and implements already at your disposal. If this is your situation, then work from that place. You are not the smartest person to have every lived, and the reason you began training in the art you are training in to begin with is because you don’t already know said art. Thus it would be folly for you to assume that you understood the best way to condition for art you’ve committed yourself to. Approach your training with humility. Seek the wisdom of your forefathers.

That being said, your forefathers were flawed people just like you, and after you’ve begun your journey by sitting under your tutelage, it will become time to go Ronin. This shouldn’t be an excuse to start haphazardly scooping up whatever training method tickles you, and tossing out all that stuff the old guys forced you to do just “‘cuz it’s boring”. When you’re ready to begin customizing your conditioning routine, ask yourself what it means to be a human. Better yet, ask the wise what it means to be human. Chances are, if you honor your humanness, you’ll be on the right track in finding the right kinds of conditioning regimens to improve upon what was imparted by your martial teacher(s). Just as ignoring the chickenness of a chicken leads to the disgusting paradigms of factory farming, so too does ignoring human nature lead to disgusting and useless paradigms of conditioning (and other life practices).

Ideally your martial art will have given you enough to get started with in the way of conditioning to keep you busy for a while, so that in the meantime you will develop a firm acquaintance with the nuances of your chosen art. Ask yourself next what it means to be a practitioner of your particular martial art. What excellent practitioners can shed light on this for you? Wrestlers don’t train like boxers, and they shouldn’t. Kickboxers do their own thing. Tai Chi practitioners yet another way. Part of the reason for this is because different arts need different things. This should be considered as you cultivate your conditioning program.

After all of this, you are finally ready to start adding personal opinion and preference. Too many people begin cultivating exercise programs based off of what they already like. But if kids were allowed to eat only what they like, they would end up only liking pizza, hot dogs, and ketchup, and never learn to appreciate fine wine, tea, or steak. (Wait… some kids are allowed to fail in this way…) Your knowledge and taste are undeveloped. Again, this is why you came to train to begin with. So start with the wisdom found in the discipline you’ve committed yourself to. Later you can begin to add corrective or additional measures to what you are doing by consulting wise people outside your tradition who have some reverential appreciation for what it means to be human. And if you can find exemplary practitioners of your art who will reveal their nuanced understanding, then apprentice under them. Then you can start grabbing stuff that’s simply “cool” or interesting. By this time, you’ve hopefully developed both as a person and as a particular martial artist, and your opinion now has some validity. Before, you were just some undisciplined chump, judging how things should be done from the outside.

To speak more specifically in recommendations:

First, don’t forget your own martial heritage. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t be foolishly rebellious son or daughter.

Next, if you are a westerner, or living in the western part of the world, or practicing a western martial art, then you ought to seriously consider how to implement Movnat in your conditioning. This method roots itself in the physical education conversation through the centuries in the west. It is part of your cultural heritage.

If you are a human being, living in the world, or practicing a human martial art, then you ought to seriously consider how to implement Movnat. Movnat is not only historical, but it seeks to appreciate human nature in movement. That is to say, its goal is to teach what is “natural”.

There are alot of ways to train Movnat, for different needs. Its a good base for anyone practicing anything in life. You’ll learn to run, crawl, climb, jump, swim, throw and catch, balance, and manipulate objects. Its just basic human movement, and everyone needs it. Some Eastern martial arts approach this sort of thing as well, to varied results. Traditionally in Kung Fu this is called Ji Ben Gong. If you have access to a grammar of human movement, your fluency in the complex movement languages that arise from that grammar will be much better. Similarly it is helpful to become bilingual in movement arts. Rather than simply cross train in different martial arts, consider learning something more fundamental. If you’re rooted in something western, like Movnat, consider Ji Ben Gong, or vise versa.

Now who can you apprentice under in your martial art, whether in actual practice, or by studying them from a distance?

From there you may be a 250 lb weight lifter who is stiff as an oak tree, and a more concerted effort in yoga might be good for you. But you may also be a 110 lb bikini model who’s so naturally flexible you’re famous and all yoga is going to do is boost your ego and perhaps injure you by pushing your flexibility without training any strength. The point is, you are a person, and you have personal needs. You must observe what those needs are and seek to address them. There is no universal-perfect practice, because our needs are all different and always changing. Not everyone needs yoga. Not everyone needs cross-fit. Not everyone needs dance lessons. Not everyone needs Tae Bo… While your ability to recognize and address your needs is massively hindered if you’ve not learned to develop your understanding and taste through basic training and knowledge of your art and your humanness-  once you have attended to these things, you will still end up needing to personalize your practice.

To recap:

  1. Learn the conditioning of your martial arts heritage first
  2. Study basic human nature, and the fundamental grammar of human movement.
  3. Apprentice under exemplary martial artists, especially those of the art which you practice.
  4. With a knowledge base now developed, and your personal tastes cultivated, you may now begin consulting your own perceived needs and preferences, and seek out problem-specific solutions.