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Body conditioning can be an important part of a Martial Artist's training routine but it is often misunderstood. Taken to the extreme it can damage whereas done correctly it can protect. It does not matter how fast or strong a fighter is if he/she can't take a strike.

It always amazes me how some Martial Artists will not hit a punch bag without first wrapping their hands and then wearing gloves. Striking a bag without gloves is different than with gloves. It teaches proper wrist alignment, better accuracy, realistic striking and more control of the equipment.

Many people used to bandages and gloves can damage their wrists, fingers and knuckles without them. Gloves and bandages give artificial support. The hands are never fully closed and the wrists are lazy. Just look at a boxer shadow box (he does so as if he is wearing bandages and gloves). Remember when Tyson got in a street scuffle with another boxer, he ended up with a big cast on his arm after hitting the boxer just once in the eye!

The bag targets can be struck more accurately without gloves and bandages. Also, you can clearly see if you are striking with the correct parts of the hands.

Striking the bag without the wraps and mitts would be closer to the real thing (i.e. you won't be wearing gloves and bandages in a confrontation situation unless you are attacked while training!).

It is easier to control the bags movement, and you can also use different hand strikes instead of just punches.

Those training to box or kick-box have to use gloves and bandages on the bag because that is what they will be fighting with. However, those training for self-defence situations do not need them on the bag unless they have a cut or injured hand or wrist. Just to look good is not a good enough reason!

To condition the hands for the above development, simply strike the bag until the knuckles turn red (not cut or grazed). If you want to keep using the bag, then put on the gloves and wraps. Continue doing this regularly, and the time you can stay on the bag will increase rapidly until there is no time limit. Because you are not damaging the hands, they are conditioned without any side effects (e.g. hard skin or calluses).

Conditioning is supposed to protect the limbs not to damage them. The above method is best for hand conditioning, but striking posts may be used in moderation. Dipping hands into boiling sand, rocks or water is not really necessary unless you want solid stumps instead of hands!

Q-How much is enough?
A-The first signs of any broken skin or injuries.

(i) The best forearm conditioning drills are with partners (e.g. facing each other). Both partners perform the same block, striking each-others forearms. Also, try different blocks such as, inward, outward, downward etc. Finally, try different combinations of blocks.
(ii) Again, striking posts may be used.
(iii) Rolling a cylinder on the ground with the forearms can be productive, if not overdone. A rolling pin, bottle etc. may be used.

(i) Weights and abdominal exercises help to tighten the muscles, which make them easier to flex and protect when being struck. Even the intercostals muscles (the muscles between the ribs) can be strengthened with progressive resistance training (weights) to protect the ribs from being damaged or broken.
(ii) The medicine ball is a piece of equipment used to condition the abdominal muscles. For 2 person usage, one may bounce or drop the ball onto the others abs. For solo medicine ball conditioning, simply lie face down on the ball, on the ground, and roll around on different parts of the abdominal muscles.
(iii) A good 2-man drill is for one partner to stand with his/her hands on his/her head as the other rapidly punches their torso. Speed is more important in this exercise than power. The partner on the receiving end should not have to flinch or move back, but instead blank the discomfort from his/her mind. This drill also demonstrates that psychological conditioning is just as important as physical conditioning.

(i) Striking posts may be used.
(ii) Partner conditioning.
(iii) Rolling a cylinder over the shins (e.g. rolling pin).

Some Martial Artists feel they need to use oils after conditioning, but I believe that you should not damage your limbs so much as to need oils, plenty of fresh air will do. Physical conditioning also develops psychological conditioning. The more you put to practice the above methods, the more you will realize that conditioning is more to do with your brain rather than your body.

By Robert Devane