As well learning the various techniques involved, much of martial art training involves forging your body into a deadly weapon.
This involves conditioning various parts of the body so that it can both deliver and absorb blows of extreme force.
Without this training to harden the body, it would be seriously injured on impact. In this article, I’ll discuss the techniques used to turn your body into living steel and a key training tool to help achieve this: the shin conditioning stick (such as this featured on Amazon).
What happens when you condition the body?
The human body is in a constant state of renewal. Every cell in the body is being replaced on a continuous basis. Skin cells are replaced every 27 days, whereas it can take 10 years for bone cells to be swapped out.
If a part of the body is damaged or injured, then it will be replaced. However, usually it’s not just a simple like for like replacement. The body will actually rebuild it and make it slightly stronger.
This is how bodybuilders progressively get larger and larger muscles. They will work out with weights to create microscopic tears in the muscle. Given adequate nutrition and rest, these tears will be healed and the muscle rebuilt back even stronger.
How do you condition the body for martial arts?
Martial artists use a similar technique to bodybuilders. Instead of using weights, they will cause micro-trauma to their body’s by subjecting it to repeated impact. Not enough to cause any noticeable damage or injury, but enough to trigger the body’s repair process.
This process causes microscopic cracks and fractures in the bones. The body repairs these quickly and overcompensates, depositing excessive calcium phosphate to make them even stronger than they were before.
Patience, it takes time.
It’s important not to rush this process. If you try to go too quickly, you’ll end up injuring your body.
At the end of a conditioning session, you should never have calluses, bruises or broken skin. If you do,then you’ve been using excessive force.
It’s consistency that’s key in this type of training, not the force used. It’s moderate training over time will deliver the results you’re looking for.
It can take around two years before your bones and skin to toughen up. You can’t rush this process.
The techniques to harden the body
Heavy Bag Training
The use of the heavy bag is a feature of many fighting styles, such as boxing and muay thai.
You can specifically focus on an area of the body to condition or you can complete a more general workout for all round development. Obviously, the latter approach will require a much longer session on the heavy bag.
You can use all the striking tools of the body on the heavy bag: punches, palm strikes, knife hands, elbows, forearm strikes, knees, and kicks with both the shin and the foot.
Image from YouTube
It’s generally recommended that you complete 75 – 100 repetitions on both the left and right side of the body. You should also spend more time working on the weaker side of your body. If you’re right handed, you could do, say 80 punches with your right fist and 100 with your left.
When punching the heavy bag, you may want to use wrist wraps (see my article here), at least at first, to protect the skin on your knuckles.
Remember not to use excessive force. Your body should never be in pain at the end of training session.
Another useful way to train to condition and harden your body is to spar with a co-operative opponent.
I used to do this when practising Karate. With an opponent, I would punch to my opponent’s stomach and they would block. I would then punch to their head, and again they would block. We would then swap and take turns ensuring that both left and right sides were equally trained.
This attack and block routine would continue for several rounds.
It was very similar to the video below:
Another method would be to actually spar lightly with an opponent without wearing protective pads. You have to go very lightly when using this training technique and it’s much more playful style of training. Both sides can take it in turn to attack and defend.
Again, you have to be careful not to use too much force or you’ll both end up injured.
Muay Thai Shin Conditioning Stick
The shin conditioning stick is a highly portable and versatile bit of kit.
You can train with it outside of the gym and even whilst you’re watching television.
It involves striking the body on the area you’re trying to develop.
Rather like when using the heavy bag, the general recommendation is 75 – 100 hits on the targeted area, ensuring that both the left and right sides of the body are trained.
It’s not just for developing the shins but can be used on the forearms, stomach, thighs and hands.
The shin conditioning stick can be easy fit into your kit bag and used whenever you have some spare time to train.
Granted it may look a little strange to those not familiar with this type of training but it’s a highly effective way of hardening the body for martial arts. I actaully use a bamboo Kendo practise stick like this one on Amazon. It’s hard enough to provide sufficient resistance but is flexible, so that it doesn’t bruise or cut the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How often should you train with a shin conditioning stick?
A: Provided you’re not injured you can incorporate this training method into your daily training regime.
You can even whilst you’re at home or at the end of a training session at the gym.
Q: How hard do you need to strike?
A: You should never hit so hard that you injure yourself or experience pain. It’s the consistency of the training method that counts: consistent repetitions over the long term will deliver results.
Of course, you need to use a reasonable amount of force in order to trigger an adaptive response. It will take a bit of time before you get the balance right but if as a rule you try to avoid any sensation of pain, then you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Q: Are shin conditioning sticks expensive?
A: They are very reasonably priced. You can see an example here on Amazon.