Sunday, April 12, 2015

Firebending Strength and Conditioning

In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra, firebenders are fast, explosive, and hot-headed (see what I did there?).  Their style of combat is based on Northern Shaolin, which relies on flexibility, power, and speed in combat.  It is very beautiful, but it can also be very brutal.

That's fire.
Coming out of his foot.

And a brutal style of combat needs an equally brutal level of training. This training is based on the training a young martial artist at the Shaolin temple would receive in order to master his or her kung fu properly.

Warm-up and Stretch

  1. 1 Mile Easy Jog
  2. Stretch Kicking- 15 Each Side
  3. Forward Bend and Stretch- 1 Minute
  4. Side Splits Stretch- 1 Minute
  5. Front Splits Stretch- 1 Minute/side
  6. Big Arm Circles- 15 Each Way
  7. Arms Overhead Side Bends- 15 Each Side
  8. Trunk Rotations- 15 Each Way
  9. Choice of Stretching- 5 Minutes (see notes)
  10. Run Up Stairs and Bear Crawl Down- 10 Minutes
Then, Choose 1 of the Following (see notes for exception)

1. Stance Training (Rest 30 seconds in between each stance)
  1. Horse Stance- MAX Time
  2. Bow Stance- MAX Time Each Side
  3. Sliding Stance- MAX Time Each Side
  4. Cat Stance- MAX Time Each Side
  5. Twisting Stance-MAX Time Each Side

2. Combat Training

  1. Forms Practice/Shadowboxing- 30 Minutes
  2. Heavy Bagwork- 10 Minutes
  3. Two Person Forms/No Contact Sparring- 10 Minutes
  4. Sparring- 10 Minutes
  5. Body Conditioning- 20 Minutes

3. Physical Power and Conditioning (Choose 3)
  1. 100 Push-ups w/Feet and Hands on Blocks
  2. 50 Lengths Wrist Roller w/20# while in Horse Stance
  3. 25 Clap Push-ups/15 Pullups x 3
  4. 50 Pull-ups
  5. 300 Sit-ups
  6. 100 Sit-ups, 100 Side Bends, 100 Back Extensions
  7. 100 Strict Toes-to-Bar
  8. 50 Pistol Squats/side
  9. 200 Jump Squats
  10. 200 Squats w/partner
  11. Handstand Hold Practice- 15 Minutes Total
  12. 5 x 100 Meter Walk w/Gripping Jars


  • If you are a beginner, please do the warm-up and stretch portion and only 1 of the three workouts.  If you want to do the other workouts, you may do so on another day. I recommend a beginner train three days a week for the first couple of months. After that, you can move to four for a couple of months and then five days a week.  You can even move to six days a week if you feel up to it, but that may be too much for you.  You will not want to do the same workout back to back in the beginning. #1 on Monday, #2 on Wednesday, and #3 on Friday, for example. This will allow you to practice each of the disciplines and advance in them without beating yourself to death or injuring yourself right off the bat. 
  • If you have been training for several months, you can do two of the workouts together, if you like. 
  • After a year or more of training, if you have grown comfortable to doing two of the workouts in one day, you may try all three in one day. 
  • I have linked a description of all the stances for the first workout, in case you are not familiar with them. 
  • If you are just beginning with the stances and cannot hold them for very long, put 5 minutes on the clock for each stance and hold each stance for as long as possible during that time limit. Once you can hold each stance for five minutes without stopping, you can revert to doing one set for maximum time.
  • In the second workout, if you don't know any Northern Shaolin forms, you can just shadowbox. You can also look up forms from that style on Youtube and practice them as best you can.
  • I recommend that you at least wrap your hands for the bag work to keep your skin from ripping.
  • Once again, if you don't have any knowledge of two person forms, you can just do no-contact sparring with a partner. This means that you will practice your techniques without making any contact with your partner and keeping an appropriate distance not to accidentally make contact. 
  • For sparring, it can be light to heavy, but try to wear gear to keep yourself and your partner from getting hurt.
  • Your body conditioning can be a variety of things from hitting and getting hit by your partner, to lightly hitting stones or wooden posts, doing knuckle push-ups, or anything that puts hard force on your body. Please start light and both volume and intensity over a long period of time. If you rush, you will hurt yourself.
  • The calisthenics do not need to be done in a single set. Just complete the total number in as few sets as possible before moving on to the next exercise.
  • It is good to vary your hand position on the push-ups and pull-ups.
  • The push-ups on blocks will increase the range of motion of the movement for you.
  • The wrist roller will be held out in front of you at shoulder height as you move the weight up and down. Make sure your horse stance is tops of thighs parallel.
  • Your side bends should have your fingers interlaced and raised above your head, palms facing up. 1 rep is bending in each direction.
  • Don't swing your body on the toes-to-bar. Raise your legs slowly until they touch the bar and then lower them slowly to the starting position. If you cannot touch the bar, raise them as high as possible.
  • Do assisted pistol squats at the beginning if you have to. You could also do very high step ups.
  • Make sure you are squatting as low as possible on all of these squats.
  • Be very careful with the jump squats and the weighted squats. If your form is not good on your squat, you could easily hurt yourself, so please stop short of the listed number of squats as a beginner.
  • For your handstand hold practice, put time on the clock and try to hold the handstand for as long as possible. It doesn't matter how many times you fall, just keep practicing. If you can get to the point of holding the position for the whole time, then try holding the handstand on your fists or fingertips sometimes just to change it up. 
  • The gripping jars should start with no more than about 20# in each jar and weight should be added slowly over time in the form of sand or steel shot. 

That's all for today! Until next time, good luck and train hard!
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