Functional Training & jiu-jitsu during corona pandemic

Gepubliceerd op 21 oktober 2020 om 23:26

The coronavirus obviously has a huge impact on the practice of martial arts and other contact sports.  Is it better to temporarily close all martial arts schools or do martial arts instructors have any other options? If you search the internet, there is a lot of creativity and a lot of instructors nowadays or forced to offer alternative workouts (in the dojo or online). 

First of all, we need to take a look at what functional training really is.

The main word here is "function". Function is purpose. Functional training is focused on movement patterns that have a purpose. That purpose can be related to getting better at everyday activities - like walking, squatting to pick up something heavy, pushing a revolving door, or getting in and out of a chair - or preparing to compete in a sport, like soccer, football, tennis or martial arts. A functional workout is simply one that strengthens you in a particular way that directly translates to an activity outside the weight room.    

The basic components of functional training are balance, posture, strength and coördination. Functional training doesn't focus on large and complicated fitness machines but instead uses  small equipment (fitball, resistance bands, kettlebells, ...) and body weight exercises to increase strength, mobility and stability. Functional training is also popular because it gives people the tools to exercise in the comfort of their own home.  Above all, it is important that your training is FUN-ctional!

7 basic movements of functional training:

  1. Squat:    is a movement pattern where you plant both feet on the ground, then bend your legs to lower your body down while keeping your chest up and lower back straight. In our daily lives we use this movement pattern when we come in and out of our chair
  2. Lunge:   a lunge is a single leg exercise movement that requires one leg to step forward and bend while the other leg remains stationary. It’s a dynamic exercise where you can move forward, sideways and backwards
  3. Bend / hinge:   bending is a movement pattern where you bend your torso by hinging your hips. E.g. when you want to pick up something from the floor.
  4. Push: a push movement is when you’re pushing an external weight away from your body, or your center of mass away from the ground.
  5. Pull: a pulling motion is the opposite of a pushing motion. You are pulling a weight towards your body, or pulling your center of mass towards an object. E.g. when you are pulling a branch to reach for an apple.
  6. Twist : most human movements have some rotation involved. There are two primary types of twisting, or rotational movements: rotational en anti-rotational. Rotational movements are the basic twisting exercises (twist to throw a ball). Anti-rotational movements are exercises when the rotational movement is prevented (you try to keep your body and core stable).
  7. Gait: a gait is a movement pattern when you’re walking, jogging or sprinting. It requires pulling, lunging and twisting motions to propel the body forward. E.g. going for a walk with your dog, going for a run, ...


Functional training utilises exercises that improve your movement proficiency in these 7 primary patterns to give you an edge so you can achieve your goals safely and with good health. All of the 7 functional movements can be progressed to make them harder, regressed to make them more manageable, and modified to work around pain. A Functional Trainer will use these functional movements to create a training specific for your goals and needs.

For most people, the practical application of functional training is to make daily activities easier to perform.  But it is especially useful for people who study martial arts and are not allowed to make contact during a corona pandemic.   Martial arts as a way of fitness is nothing new. Cardio boxing and kickboxing have blown up as a popular way to get in shape and present members with some basics for self defense. For the traditional and mixed martial artist, the primary focus is and always should be on the technique. However, there is huge value in adding a strength and conditioning program to your school because it will make your students better practitioners and can grow your business.

A lot of people are drawn in to the “gentle art” of jiu-jitsu by stories of the frail, 145 lbs Helio Gracie beating professional fighters twice his weight through proper technique and leverage. Through drilling techniques over and over again, jiu-jitsu gives you the power to control a ground fight with opponents that are much larger than you. Technique wins over strength. That said, it never hurts to have extra muscle when competing with an equally talented opponent. And this is where functional training comes in handy.


Here are some of the benefits functional training will have on your students and your school.

Student Benefits:

  • Increase Mobility:   One of the huge benefits from functional training is the mobility you gain – especially in the hips and shoulders. This can greatly help people on the mats with the rolling and with the speed and accuracy of the strikes and kicks.
  • Grip Strength:   This is most essential to the grappler but strong grips also help in self-defense scenarios.
  • Explosive Strength:   The ability to surprise an opponent with a burst of strength will set them off balance and change the direction of a bout.

Business Benefits

  • Increase Dues:   Being able to upsell your students on new offerings relevant to their current training is a great additional source of revenue.
  • Broaden Student Base:   A lot of people are turned off by violence and intimidated by martial arts because they don’t understand the art. Reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise join your school is a great way to introduce them to your art.


Strength and conditioning classes don’t require large space or ton of additional equipment.  Offering a variety of classes at your school is a great way to keep your student engaged and excited about their training, especially in these crazy times.