Fitness Testing for the Martial Arts

Martial art sports require a high level of skill, mastered over years of training. In addition, to be successful in competition you need: speed, balance, power and super reflexes! We have discussed which of these are more important, such as having quick reflexes and good balance and coordination.

The importance of the fitness components will vary with the different martial arts disciplines. In some martial art sports, good strength and endurance are more important than speed and power. In order to improve as a martial artist, you should be testing and monitoring your fitness levels and adjusting your training according to the results so you can fully reach your potential.

Below are listed fitness components that are relevant in the martial arts, and some example tests that can be completed to measure these components. When interpreting the results of these tests, you need to consider that some will be more important than others. For a discussion of how to design, conduct and interpret fitness tests, go to the fitness testing guide.

Fitness Component example tests comments
Body Fat Skinfold measures should be performed to determine body fat levels. In many cases it is important to be as lean as possible so that the martial artist can maximize his muscle mass for their particular weight category. On the other hand, for some wrestling sports extra fat weight may be an advantage.
Body Size Being tall and having a good reach is a great advantage in many martial arts. You can measure body size measurements such as height and arm span. More about anthropometry and martial arts.
Aerobic Fitness A running endurance fitness test is appropriate, such as the beep test or the Cooper 12 minute run. You can find information on many aerobic tests from here. With high aerobic fitness martial artists can reduce the effect of fatigue during matches, and it also assists in maintaining concentration, and maintenance of skill under pressure.
Agility and Balance The quick feet or quadrant jump tests would be appropriate. There are many general tests of balance Agility, balance and coordination are very important for the quick yet controlled movement of martial artists.
Flexibility There are a few shoulder flexibility tests. The sit and reach test can be done for lower back and hamstring flexibility. The flexibility tests should be specific to the actions of martial arts, and particularly involve the trunk and shoulder region.
Speed Quick-Strike is a test of punching speed of movement and a Punching Speed test - these tests were developed for boxers. Movement speed around the competition area, and striking speed, are very important for martial artists.
Upper Body Power The Punch Power test is a test of striking ability. Upper body power can also be measured using the Upper-Body Arm Crank test. Great power, particularly for striking, is vital for success in many martial arts sports.
Lower Body Power The vertical jump test can be performed to measure leg power. The standing long jump test could also be used. Lower body power is important for explosive movements and kicking power.
Strength A hand grip strength test should be conducted, as well as bench press and leg press Maximal strength tests. Strength should be done to determine strength levels and to monitor strength changes in conjunction with training programs.
Strength Endurance Abdominal or core body strength can be measured using Sit Up tests, and upper body strength endurance can be measured using the Push Up test. tests of strength endurance are used to measure the ability to perform strength movements repeatedly.
Reaction Time The Light Board test can measure reaction time for martial artists. There are several other reaction time tests. Having a quick reaction time is important for evasion skills of the martial artist.
Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art from Kerala, India. Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art from Kerala, India.

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