Task Related Fitness Training By Dennis Martin
While any training is good, CQC involves specific requirements. Close combat is a high-intensity activity, with a total energy output, utilising gross motor skills.
Anaerobic training is essential.
The effects of sudden violent confrontation have to be felt to be believed. A good friend who is a very fit doorman told me "I train regularly, but in this fight I threw only three techniques and was totally knackered and couldn't speak".

We need specific, hard anaerobic work to build, support and maintain Combative fitness. In future issues we will be discussing such training in detail, including such routines as the Meyer building program, CQB circuits and partner drills. However, to start this series I want to emphasise the importance of the fitness value of the combatives techniques themselves. Bruce Siddle, founder of PPCT has taught this subject to many prestigious agencies, including UK special forces. He has developed an integrated approach which includes diet, nutritional supplements and weight training. Following his presentation I asked him about the value of impact training on pads, mitts and heavy bags for anaerobic fitness and he confirmed that it was excellent. So this article will discuss heavy, full-force impact-target striking as the basis for our task related training.

Impact Training
Today training on various impact targets, pads,mitts,bags is common in self-protection training, but it wasn't always the case. Boxers have always trained this way, but more traditional martial arts shunned this aspect and some continue to do so. Terry O'Neill had the first kicking pad in the country. He was given it after visiting the Los Angeles Police Academy, where they used pads in both empty hand striking and baton training. Today martial arts shops offer a range of such equipment but back then when Terry introduced the pad into his classes it was revolutionary. Eventually pads were manufactured over here and I bought a few and used them on our first VIP Protection courses.

It was an eye opener! We had guys with all sorts of high grades in the martial arts, as well as serving members of the military, security personnel and applicants with no prior formal training. I remember really bracing to hold the pad for a heavyweight 5th Dan TKD stylist expecting real force, only to find he hit like a feather. The next guy in line, with no previous training hit really hard. Over the years this was repeated on almost every course. We did have martial artists who could deliver impact, but we found they had always trained on pads or bags before. By the way, those early pads were quite soft and easy to penetrate. I've still got one lying around somewhere and daren't bring it to train with our Combatives group.... it would be as useless as holding a pillow today.

Equipment Selection
There are numerous types of impact training devices offered. Here are the main ones we find useful :-

Kick Pads - Also called "shields". Full length, filled with closed-cell foam and fitted with strapping to hold the pad in various ways. Essential for full power kicking and knee strikes.

Half-Shield - A smaller, square version of the pad. Quite versatile, can be used for kicks and knee strikes or held for elbows, hammerfists and other strikes. I think I'd prefer to buy two half-shields rather than one full kick pad if finances were tight.
Thai Pads - These strap to the arms and are held at the appropriate angle for kicks or hand strikes. Especially good for close-in knee work. Also heavy elbow drills and Axehands are ideal on the Thai Pads. I prefer the leather versions, more expensive but worth it.

Focus Mitts - Well known in boxing as "spot mitts" these are excellent for working combinations, incorporating movement and changing target angles. Again, go for a quality product

Body Shield - These are a kind of deeply padded protective armour which is strapped to the chest and abdomen. The wearer's hands are free, so he can play the role of attacker while the trainee defends and counter-strikes to the armour. We find this especially useful in counter-weapon training.
There are other devices, but these are the ones we find most useful. We have a couple of devices, which we have made ourselves as nothing commercially available fits the bill. For Chinjab training we built up a "head and face" onto old focus mitts. This gave us the realistic angle required to replicate attacking the shelf of the jaw. Our targets also include "eyes" which can be clawed on the follow up face-claw attack. We have also salvaged a damaged kick-pad and produced two smaller units, for placing on the ground to work on stamping kicks. By the way, it is a good idea to inspect your pads/mitts regularly and prevent splits and rips by judicious applications of duct tape. This will double the life of your equipment.

In cardio-vascular work we try to maintain an energy output as long as possible. In Combative anaerobic training we try to put out as much energy in as short a time as possible. Don't go for reps at the expense of intensity, make each technique real as if your life depended on it... which it does!
No matter how fit you are, you should be totally drained after even a short burst at this level of intensity. Don't get me wrong, cardio work is great and shouldn't be neglected, but it's not what we are talking about here and now. I know guys who train for an hour solidly kicking with strong, fast kicks for an hour. This proves something, but I'm not sure what. They kick strong but not as strong as possible and that's what we need. Every rep is total, intended to put the man down, then do the next one even harder. The chant is "hard, harder, hardest". If you train with this level of intensity, you won't be kicking for an hour.

Training with equipment gives you feedback and feedback is what builds improvement. Feedback comes in two forms, firstly you get the kinaesthetic feedback from feeling your strikes hit the pad. Immediately you know whether the strike was strong, fast, penetrating and accurate. Secondly, your partner gives you verbal feedback. He feels the strike through the pad and can confirm if it was strong, and more importantly, was it stronger than the previous strike. He also watches to check that you are not telegraphing the blow. Finally, he monitors the pace and encourages you to keep going, to work harder, to increase the workrate.

The pads I use in my own training are excellent, really well made giving great feedback. However, while training in Clint Oosthuizen's CQC class while in South Africa, I noticed that I was finding the pad work unusually tiring. I came to the conclusion that the local pads, being filled with wool, absorb the strike and give very little back. They seem to suck the energy from your strikes. It's rather like running on deep sand rather than on an Olympic track, I'm definately going to obtain some wool filled pads to add to our training over here.

Top US Combatives instructor Bob Kasper made a very important point during a course organised by Peter Robins. He warned us that for heavy impact training any arm pads should be held to move in the natural direction of the arm. This is sound advice, I had sustained a shoulder injury and while being treated a boxing coach turned up with the same injury, with the same cause... holding mitts. Similarly when holding kick pads, we want to feel a certain amount of force coming through, this is a useful level of desensitisation. If it's too much though, it's potentially injurious. Tony Rimmer and his training partner Steve penetrate even the best pads with their kicks. We make them use two pads together... and even then a lot comes through.

Do You Train With Dummies?
Finally, in recent years realistic dummies have been offered for impact training. Most of the ones I've seen over here are not suitable for full power Combatives training. The SparPro from the USA is now available over here and can be used for the kind of intensive workout we have been talking about. We will be returning to the topic of fitness in future columns but for now I want to emphasise that although the shops and mail order catalogues are full of shiny new products, all you really need is a pair of mitts, a half-shield, a partner and lots of sweat.

Dennis Martin teaches regular COMBATIVES SKILLS and TACTIAL BLADECRAFT courses. For readers in the Merseyside area interested in practical, task-oriented training there is a small CQC group which trains regularly. Details via our address below.
Any individuals wanting to attend or any organisations wishing to book a course contact :
CQB Services (mailing list),
17 Dumbrees Road,
West Derby,
L12 6RB
Please include a stamped addressed envelope. Alternatively E-mail : RealityCheckUK@hotmail.com