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Have you ever noticed how people’s body shapes adapt to what they do? With many it can be quite evident what sport or training they perform just by looking at them. The body adapts to make the motions that it performs easier and more fluid. The body develops in a way so as to expend as little energy as possible, while at the same time, gaining maximum output for its intended purpose. Strength and flexibility is built where the body perceives it will be necessary in order to perform the actions it is most used for and a particular “build” is gained.

I find that many martial artists these days don’t “look” like they should. There is a general misconception that being big and muscle-bound makes you a better fighter. Muscle-bound guys “look” scary. Especially if a few tattoos are thrown into the mix. And so, many martial artists and fighters go after this “look”, often to their own detriment. More time is spent in the gym lifting weights to achieve a build than on developing fighting skill and strength.


I blame cartoons like He-Man and Conan for this misconception. Many of us grew up watching these cartoons and, from a young age, started to associate muscle-bound, oafish brutes with being heroes and fantastic fighters and warriors. The big guy was automatically the one to be careful of. The gyms became full of guys lifting weights as if that was going to make them skilled fighters. Scrawny guys would join the gym so they would stop being bullied. Because of the association of “big guys” being “tough”, people’s perception of what a true fighter looks like, changed.

As a martial artist or fighter your training shouldn’t be based around “looking good”. You should work to achieve your body’s ultimate functionality for its intended purpose – in this case, fighting. Spend time training to become a fighter, and fighters build will be gained naturally. Allow your body to take on the natural shape for the motions you intend to use it for. Any cross training should have your martial art and fighting in mind. You should not allow other training to override or replace your targeted training. Your martial arts/fight training should be complemented by any other training that you may do.

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Whatever your intended “sport”, there should be more time focused on its training. As soon as other training takes precedence, you can no longer say that that is what you are. A person who focuses most of his time training in his martial art, but also lifts weight s, is a martial artist that does weight lifting. A person who does martial arts, but spends most of his time lifting weights, is a weight lifter that does martial arts. It is great to look good, but there is a difference between a body builder and a fighter. You have to weigh up what is more important – looks or functionality.

There are definite distinctions in body type depending on where people put their focus. The same is true in other sports: a long distance runner doesn’t resemble a shot- putter.

Lions don’t try to look like elephants. They are built a particular way in order to fulfill a purpose. They are built for the kill. So too should be a martial artist.