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Weekend Warrior: A Report (And Workout) From a Martial Arts Retreat

By James Parker

Many of you are familiar with mixed martial arts, sport combat, and the UFC (that's Ultimate Fighting Championship). And if you've done my workouts, you might guess that I take many of the ways I train myself and others from the routines that battle-proven athletes have used in these sports. In so doing, I try and adapt the professional fighter's methods to everyone’s user abilities. So when I recently had the opportunity to attend a seminar with arguably five of the best mixed martial arts coaches in the world, you can imagine that I leapt at the chance. Who better to learn from than the very men that train champions in the top promotions in the world? Where better to get ideas for a martial arts workout that can kick RealJock readers' butts?

Background: Introducing the PWR
The Paradise Warrior Retreat, or PWR, was started by Yoram Gazit, a former military man who fought on the Gaza Strip and who, in his fifties, still loves to train in mixed martial arts. At every retreat he can be found on the floor with all the participants, easily going as hard as the youngest among them. Gazit’s life long love of the martial arts caused him to seek a way for people to learn from some of the best fighters and instructors in the world in serene settings, which he believed would allow for the warrior within everyone to soak up the offered knowledge like a sponge. Welcome to the PWR. This retreat has been around for over five years and is one of the most economical quality seminars available to the public.

For this recent seminar, Gazit decided to expand on the original idea of having top level fighters teaching to the public, and started something that could well become a pivotal moment in mixed martial arts history. If the fighters, who may or may not be good instructors themselves, could give so much, what about the men who taught them? Wouldn't they have something truly exceptional to offer in terms of training techniques and strategies? So, at Dana Point, CA just this last March 13th through 15th, Gazit was able to assemble Professor Ricardo Liborio (American Top Team), Kru Mark Dellagrotte (Sityodtong Boston), Greg Jackson (Jackson’s MMA), Dave Camarillo (American Kickboxing Academy, San Jose), and Shawn Tompkins (Extreme Couture, Las Vegas). I literally do not have the space necessary to be able to give these guys their due. Suffice it to say, these men have been responsible for a majority of the champions that fans of promotions like the UFC have enjoyed routing for.

To say that the knowledge available at this seminar was invaluable for anyone pursuing any form of mixed martial arts knowledge—from the actual fighting aspects to the nutritional and fitness components—is seriously understating it. But since RealJock is predominantly a fitness community, I’m going to pass on some of the more fitness-applicable techniques I was able to obtain, along with a workout based on them. Be aware that some of the actual workouts shown were partner-type. I’ll try and stick to the individual forms for the majority of you.

You can start with the traditional 5 minutes on a cardio machine of your choice or you can use this warm up as a precursor to the actual work out. Start to move your upper body joints through small ranges of motion. Circular motion works well as long as you have the room and you won’t accidentally smack another gym member. Move your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and neck in clockwise and counter-clockwise small circles. Traditionally, a warm-up should be light and gradual, so keep all joint rotations minor to start. When you are done with that, take a minute to rotate your torso, hips, and ankles through the same type of circular motions you did for your upper body while on the machine. Then go into jumping jacks, followed by jumping claps (same feet as jacks, but spreading your hands wide and clapping in front of yourself on the jump). Non-ballistic alternatives would be prisoner squats, or front and side lunges. Finish your warm up by “high” (just how high depends on your definition and personal range of motion) kicks to the front and rear. If you feel like it you can also do a light, non-ballistic stretch of all your muscles, spending a small amount of time on each to loosen and prepare them.

Four Combinations
Now for the actual workout. If you have a heavy bag or a partner, excellent! If not, you can use as a guiding point any stationary object that’s taller than you, or just use your imagination. This workout is similar to my "Fighting Cardio: Get Lean With Bag Boxing", except that is has a specific combination rhythm. I'm going to give you four punch/kick combinations, each to be done for 60 seconds.

  1. Combination One: Let's keep it simple for our first combination. Start with a left jab followed by a right kick. For this combo, I use and teach a right roundhouse kick aimed at mid-thigh level. This is known more accurately as a leg kick or tree-chopper, but you can use any kick that you feel comfortable with (some students have used push-kicks, and others even use knees). The key is to keep the sequence quick. Shoot out a left jab, bring it back fast, and immediately go to your right (roundhouse, if desired) kick. Do this for a minute straight, without switching sides, and without breaking your quick rhythm.
  2. Combination Two: Combination two is a little more complicated. This will be a left jab, then a right cross (this means your right shoulder is further back and your right hand crosses your body to reach your opponent), followed by a left kick. For this combo, I use and teach an inside leg kick. This kick aims diagonally for an opponent's inner thigh—so your left foot will kick across between an opponent's legs to connect with his or her left inner thigh. This kick will target the inner quadriceps and adductor muscles, so it's a great training tool—but if you're working with a partner, be careful! This kick, if misplaced, could seriously ruin his or her day. If you’re using such a kick and have a partner, be careful: this is the kick that can end up a little too high and ruin his/her session. Keep this combo going for a minute, again working fast and consistent in the tempo.
  3. Combination Three: Ready for the third combo? Here we go: left jab, right cross, left hook, all followed by a right kick. A hook is a punch that looks a lot like you’re trying to give someone a hug one-handed. Keep your palm facing yourself with your hand at face level and your elbow slightly down, and rotate your body (not your shoulders) to land the punch.
  4. Combination Four: Combo four is the most complex, but you've practiced all these punches in the last combinations. This is a powerful left jab, a right cross, a left hook, another right cross, and a left leg kick.
Putting Together the Routine
Put together, your shadow box/bag/partner routine looks like this: after your warm-up, you'll do one-minute rounds of each of the four combinations, followed by a fifth minute in which you do a mixture of the combinations in any way you'd like. You should take a 30-second to one-minute recovery between rounds. Doesn't seem hard enough? Here are some ideas for adding difficulty.

Sprawls make a great contribution to this workout. A sprawl is much like a burpee. Bend down and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Next, lower your body weight while simultaneously popping your legs out behind you spread-eagle. For the sake of your lower back, keep enough control of your movement that you can keep your posture the same as if you were in plank formation: that is, keep your back flat and hips level. Add a sprawl to your routine after each run through of a combination (so: punch, kick, sprawl), or you can a set of them to finish out a round for the last 20 seconds or so of your minute.

Another option to get greater difficulty (especially as you adapt to this program) is to add a right cross and a left hook after each leg kick. For example, combo three: left jab, right cross, left hook, right kick—then bring your leg back to start or set position, plant, and then throw another right cross followed by a left hook. This will take a little rhythm, so imagine that after your kick connects, your opponent starts to charge forward. You time him to run into the last cross/hook combo.

Wrap It Up
Be sure to stretch each and every muscle—shoulders, back, legs—to make sure that you’re not overly sore from your work. I usually try and finish this routine with some light fat-burning cardio in the 60 to 65th percentile of my VO2 maximum heart rate range if time permits. Have fun with this one and take a look at the Paradise Warrior Retreat. Remember everyone can teach you something as long as you keep an open mind.

Special thanks to Shawn Thompkins, Kru Mark Dellagrotte, Professor Ricardo Liborio, and of course, Yoram Gazit.

About James Parker: James Parker is a certified personal trainer, mixed martial artist, mma conditioning coach, and freelance writer in Los Angeles, California.