Get Strong, Hit Hard & Toughen Up!

The Four Pillars Of Combative Conditioning

The combative training advice offered by “Toughen Up” is NOT your average, run-of-the-mill approach to working out.

You will not see photo’s of someone doing “bodybuilding exercises” in a karate uniform or kickboxing shorts.  I wouldn’t insult your intelligence.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a hardcore, fight-for-a-living mixed martial arts marathon training program, then perhaps you need to keep looking.  If you have aspirations of making a living as a prizefighter, there are people much more qualified than I to show you the way.

I’m assuming that you are a lot like me:  A mere mortal, about average, maybe even a-bit-lazy 😉 guy or gal who wants the best results possible in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of wasted energy.

I’m almost 50 years old.  I like beer, my big screen TV and cruising around on my motorcycle. I’ve got better things to do with my time than sweat and toil for hours a day for low-return results.

My days of rock’m sock’m, 6-hour-a-day, push-til-you-puke self-defense training sessions are behind me. Been there, done that.

If only I knew then what I know know.  I would have avoided a lot of wasted time, unnecessary sweat and painful/nagging injuries.  I would have gotten a lot better, a lot fitter, a lot faster.

The bottom line… I’m sure you don’t want to spend hours and hours grinding away at inefficient activities only to NOT achieve the results that you’re after.   I’m with ya on that one.

I’ve spent a lot of money, logged a lot of training hours and done ton of research looking for the shortest path from where I am to where I want to be.

Three things that I want to achieve with my workouts:

Number 1:   Get in great shape quickly and stay healthy as long as possible.

Number 2:   Design workouts that improve health,  avoid injuries and enhance every-day-performance (a.k.a. functional fitness)

Number 3:   Develop the legitimate ability to fight my way out of bad situation should one ever come my way.

Self-defense is 80% mental and 20% physical.

Your ability to stay safe is very much a matter of preventing, avoiding and defusing a volatile situation BEFORE you find yourself so deep in the middle of it that the only solution is to fight your way out.

However, in that 20%… when the threshold of violence is crossed, your fitness and skill will determine the outcome 100% of the time.  As I have written many times… A fight is an athletic event.

The WRONG kind of workout program can be useless and even counter-productive to real-world performance. You could waste hours and hours doing shit that won’t do you a bit of good in a street fight and STILL get your ass kicked!

I don’t want that to happen to me and I think’n you don’t want it either.  So let’s both make sure our training addresses the…

Four Pillars Of Combative Conditioning.

1. Strength/Endurance

Strength OR Endurance doesn’t mean squat in a street fight. One without the other will leave you over-powered OR gasping for air.   In the self-defense biz we have a term for that.  We call it “NOT GOOD!”  A combative athlete must be able to exert high-intensity effort for as long as it takes to end an encounter.  There are no “rounds” or rest periods in a street fight.

By the same token, he or she must be strong enough to scuffle, push, pull and produce exploisve, bone-crushing power to end the encounter fast when an opportunity presents itself.

Combative conditioning must integrate a balance of strength and endurance with low rep strength training and high-rep conditioning.

2. Mental Toughness/Body Hardening

Mental toughness in a street fight is the ability persevere and keep fighting through fear, pain, injury and exhaustion.  The vast majority of “victims” who are seriously injured in a violent encounter, are injured after they give up and go defensive.  A “never-give-up” attitude can be developed through proper training and will save your life in a self-defense situation.

Body hardening is the physical equivalent to mental toughness.  It’s the ability to take a hit, deliver hit, and withstand a collision with the ground or another person without incapacitation or injury. This too can be developed.  If you don’t believe me, go clunk shinbones with a trained kick boxer!

3. Combative Specificity

Training to be a fighter can get you into phenomenal shape, but being in great shape doesn’t make you a fighter.

Conditioning is specific to the activity that is trained.  Swimming won’t improve your running.  Running won’t improve your lifting.  You could be a phenomenal hockey player but brutal on the tennis court.  Your training must mimic the activity that you want to excel at.

The philosophy of Toughen Up (which you’re probably getting sick reading about) is to use combative training AND combat-compatible exercise to improve your health and your ability to fight.

There’s no sense building a healthy, beautiful body if some drunken piece of doo-doo can pound you out, steal your wallet, sexually defile you AND put your in the emergency room.  With all due respect, bodybuilding, jogging and aerobic dance won’t help you in a street fight.

Training must compliment and enhance your functional fitness and in particular your ability to physically defend yourself.

4. Skill Aquisition

The foundation of a combative workout is the flawless exectuion of the techniques needed to generate destructive energy and transfer as much of it as possible into the intended target.

Unless, you master the basic body mechanics of punching for example, don’t be wasting your time pounding on a heavy bag.  You’ll do nothing more than waste your time and injure yourself.  That’s why the “Power Punching Guide” is the prerequisite of the heavy bag and focus pad workouts.

Technical Skill involves performing your combative technqiues… the strikes, kicks, throws, submissions etc. effectively.  It is getting the job done with the least amount of wasted effort possible.

Watch a high-level athlete and how he or she is able to perform amazing feats with apparent ease. No straining, no wasted action, no trying-too-hard.

You have to know when to conserve your energy and when to EXPLODE. I have seen extremely “fit” people try too hard and do very poorly in a combative situation.

Much of what you learn in your combative workouts teaches you how to optimize your movements, conserve energy and avoid excessive effort that will quickly deplete your resources and lead to bad habits and training injuries.

The training advice from Toughen Up is built around those 4 pillars. I get into the specifics of how to achieve them in my Training Manuals and subsequent posts.

Enuff said.

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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  • Carlos Enguis

    Hi Randy,

    I can see that you strive for a better view of what self-defence is.

    I agree with you in all your appointments that you are saying here and I admire the good work you’re doing in this labour.

    I’m sorry if my English is not so rich.

    Carlos Enguis

  • just to say thank you! it has been a while. my quetion is on what do you think about hand conditioning?

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