Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Inverted Training: Rolling First, Technique Later

In all of the MMA and kickboxing classes I've taken, kendo class after kendo class, karate classes (private and in public dojos), and other structure martial arts environments, the approach has always been:

1) Warm Up

2) Technique

3) Sparring/Rolling

It is a split with a great deal of logic behind it.

#1 provides movement prep - get the body ready to perform maximally and minimize injury. #2 you learn new techniques while you are fresh. #3, you apply those techniques in live conditions.

Occasionally I've found partners willing to try it swapping 2 and 3. That is:

1) Warm Up

2) Sparring/Rolling

3) Technique

I find that mentally and physically, I prefer this. #1 stays the same, but instead of doing technique while fresh and then rolling/sparring/fencing to apply it, you swap them. You roll, spar, or fence while fresh. You get in your rounds. As you start to tire - mentally, physically, or emotionally - or as you figure out what's not working today - or just as class time winds down - you turn to technique.

The idea here is that you work on techniques that you couldn't apply earlier. You'll know what they are, or your partner or your coach will. But also, you let your body start to recover from the strain of sparring and rolling. Training technique is never as intense.

Another upside to this approach is that you don't want to leap into intense training with a new technique. You want to take it slow, you want to go slow and work on it, you want to focus on easy and perfect technique and work up. That's not as difficult when you aren't keyed up to roll.

Still another potential upside to this approach is that you immediately learn to apply good technique when tired. You practice perfect technique, and drill the techniques over and over, in a somewhat fatigued state. You have to focus on getting it right while tired. In fact, anything you learn this way would be learned while tired. If you can execute it correctly while below your peak capacity, then you will be able to execute it correctly when below your peak capacity - in a match, in sparring, in some non-training application.

I've managed to get people to do this a number of times - roll first, learn second. Personally, I find I like the upsides of this method. It's more difficult to learn new things when fatigued, but equally, you learn to focus when tired and how to apply things when tired.

If you find it hard to focus on technique because you're looking forward to rolling, or if you can't seem to apply your techniques when you roll, try this. Drill the new things and drill the perfect technique after you spar or roll, and see if it accelerates your learning of your sport.


  1. Roll-first also allows the instructor to hit observed weaknesses real time. You work what your class just showed they need to work on.

    1. That's a good point.

      I was thinking of the free-style student-driven classes I attended most recently - you had to come in and decide what you needed to work on. Rolling is a great way to figure out what's going wrong.


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