John Saylor's
Shingitai Jujitsu Association

One of America's leading authorities on jujitsu,
grappling, judo and self-defense








Physical Training
By John Saylor

The Foundation for Combatives and Self-Defense

Most martial artists who compete in jujitsu, judo, submission grappling, MMA or some other combative sport are doing some type of physical training outside the dojo. Not doing so would pretty much guarantee humiliation and losses to better prepared fighters.

Whether or not it’s a complete, systematic program designed to eliminate all weaknesses and bring them to a peak at the most important contests of the year, is another matter. But at least they’re doing something. From my observations, the same cannot be said of most self-defense oriented martial artists.

When I was a boy coming up in judo I watched self-defense practitioners, usually a couple fat older guys off in the corner, practicing some kata or one-step sparring. My fellow training partners and I viewed the self-defense people as second-stringers—as those who couldn’t cut it in competitive fighting. Remember, these perceptions were those of a young teenage boy who had barely been outside his own backyard, but 40 years or so later I’m convinced that most often this is still the case. There are many exceptions of course, and I’ll tell you about a few of them in a bit.

Are the self-defense martial artists inferior genetically, or what? I don’t think so, but I believe they are often lacking in their commitment to a complete fitness program. How odd. If you think about it, what could be more physically demanding than an all-out street assault? After all, this is the event self-defense martial artists are training for. In a street assault so much favors the attacker(s). The bad guy determines when and where he will attack. It may be dark. There may be multiple attackers. They are probably armed, and if you see it coming you’re one of the lucky ones. And if all this isn’t bad enough, you can bet your sweet butt you’re not going to have time to do a nice warm-up prior to the attack. If ever anybody needs to be in top fighting shape it’s the man or woman training for self-defense.


Elite Military Units

Do you know what the world’s top sport fighters and all elite military teams have in common? World-class conditioning!

I was surprised to learn that Russian Spetsnatz (Special Forces) soldiers were required to do general physical training at the same sports institutes which were training Olympic and World-class athletes. The Russians obviously realized that superior fitness was the foundation for elite military operatives as well as elite athletes.

From my own training with former Spetsnaz operative and instructor, Vladimir Vasiliev, I can testify that these elite soldiers train hard physically with a wide variety of unique methods, and are in tremendous fighting shape.

Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Marine Recon, and members of other special operations units are endurance athletes of the highest level. The difference, though, is that when they go through their running, calisthenics and obstacle courses, they don’t usually have the advantage of $250 running shoes, nice sweats, or a perfect running surface. They often run in combat boots over rough, uneven, and sometimes muddy terrain. Or they go on long, drawn-out marches carrying a 60 lb ruck sack or even their buddy who simulates a wounded man.

These elite soldiers have to perform in all kinds of weather, at odd hours, and often under the worst of circumstances. This may be why so many former star athletes, not accustomed to the same discomforts, have washed-out of Special Forces training.

These elite Special Forces soldiers have fitness levels comparable to elite athletes in endurance-based sports and clearly understand the connection between fighting and fitness.


Lower-Than-Whale Crap-Fitness Levels

In contrast to these elite military personnel are many police officers, and of course, most self-defense oriented martial artists. I’ve never understood why so many police officers who often go into harm’s way are in such poor condition. Many may place too much trust in their sidearm, although most don’t fire enough rounds in realistic conditions to be proficient in its use. Most are on a steady crime-fighting diet of coffee and doughnuts, and do little if any exercise.

Self-defense oriented martial artists aren’t much better. They place so much faith in their “deadly techniques” that they often neglect physical training.


The Solution

We in Shingitai must do our part to change this sad state of affairs. Start with yourself. Resolve to start a consistent physical training program. If you don’t have a copy of Strength and Conditioning Secrets of the World’s Greatest Fighters, go to our website (www.johnsaylor-sja.com) and order a copy today. Study this book from cover to cover and use that knowledge to transform yourself into a new person.

Exceptions to the Rule, or “Attitudes are better caught than taught.”

Thankfully there are exceptions to the pitiful slug-like physical conditioning of most self-defense martial artists. Let me tell you about a couple of them.

The first is Dan Rinchuse, a 60-year-old Uechi Ryu Karate and Shingitai Jujitsu instructor from Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Dan trains hard, both on the mat and off. When I’m in town doing a seminar, the night before we always go down into Dan’s basement gym. This place has all kinds of cool stuff: a collection of weights, bands, climbing ropes, a variety of traditional grip-training devices from Uechi Ryu, even a beautiful wood floor, and much more. Even more impressive than the gym itself is what Dan can do with it all!

Recently, Dan underwent a knee replacement surgery, but used the down-time from martial art training to concentrate on other areas of his body and to strengthen the Shin (mental toughness and strong spirit) aspect of Shin Gi Tai. He has made tremendous progress, and now after a time of rehab, has returned to his martial art training. Dan has always been a lead-from-the-front type instructor who is a continuing inspiration to his students.

Another friend of mine, Jim Jelinek, is 56 years old and is a long-time Shingitai Black Belt. Each Tuesday evening Jim has me up to his home dojo in Orville, Ohio to train him and a few other dedicated students. The youngest person in this small group is 36 years old. The rest are anywhere from mid-40’s to 56. What’s unusual about this group, though, is their dedication to training. Jim, the oldest, whom we lovingly call “The Bone Yard” due to his slender frame, and because whenever he runs into you it hurts, sets the tone with his attitude and personal discipline.

Our group starts each practice with 20 to 30 minutes of physical training exercises designed to strengthen potential injury sites and to improve overall conditioning. Occasionally we employ ultra-slow exercises like squats, leg raises, and push-ups to improve tendon and ligament strength and breath control. In these slow exercises Jim is the undisputed champion of our small group, often going as long as 5 minutes in a squat, for example. Jim could go longer so I put a time limit on it so that we can move on to our specific Shingitai Jujitsu training.

Like Dan Rinchuse, Jim, who has lately been suffering from tendonitis in his left shoulder, uses injury not as a vacation, but as an opportunity to concentrate on strengthening other areas of his body.

Jim Jelinek has often spoken to me about envisioning our little dojo as being a “research and development lab” and a “prototype of what a dedicated, self-defense oriented group of older martial artists can become.” Trust me, although most of these guys are primarily self-defense oriented, there is definitely no “second-stringer” attitude in this club. They think like “major-leaguers” and are striving to become one of the elite.



Do You Have What it Takes

While writing this piece I had a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) and immediately called J.P. Pocock, coach of the outstanding Shingitai club, “The Fight Farm,” to discuss it.

“Why don’t we bring back the Shingitai Pentathlon,” I queried, “and hold it as a competitive meet for both self-defense martial artists and sport-fighters?”

During his formative high school years, J.P. competed in a number of our club pentathlons, and so was completely familiar with the concept.

“Good idea,” he replied. “What would the individual events be?”

And so began a lengthy discussion of specifics---which exercises to include, whether or not to have weight classes, age groups, or Master’s categories, and so on. We still haven’t worked out all the details, but we are in total agreement on the general idea of providing a fairly-run, exciting challenge to encourage our members to push beyond their personal barriers.

And we did change the name to Shingitai Warrior Games which not only sounds better, but gives us more flexibility as to the number of individual events.

You don't achieve the results that 2 time Judo Olympian and current
Swat Team Member Damon Keeve
has without Top - Notch Physical Training.

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