Under: Conditioning
23 May 2009


One of the reasons I got into karate as a kid was to learn how to do amazing things with my body as all things physical interested me. I liked climbing, fighting, riding a unicycle as well as hang gliding and scuba diving. Karate was just one more outlet to push my body to new heights.


I have found some activities that are not necessarily thought of as having anything to do with the martial arts but can be used to improve ones own strength, coordination and timing thereby improving your own martial art. I wrote a post on my other website (http://leananmean.com) about the fitness benefits of pole dancing here.


As you might know I try to find interesting material for this website that I can weave into karate, self-defense, conditioning, or general martial arts stories. In this post I will speak of fun conditioning exercises that one can do to help some facets of your overall martial art! I found this interesting (although a beginning foray) karate application of pole dancing.




Well although this was a very basic application of karate and pole dancing, I did see some good kicks off of the pole. I was and am still impressed at the level of fitness it takes to dance with a pole. I like the upside down/kick up moves. Now some of you are probably wondering how pole dancing might be applicable to the martial arts? One never knows where a fight will happen, and what skill might come in handy. I would argue that the better (and varied) your fitness level, the better chance you will have in a fight at unfamiliar surroundings.


Now I found some hula hoop videos but nothing related to karate (other than a fun way to get into shape). I found this video where the girl is doing some really interesting moves, keeping up to four hoops going at the same time. I would venture to say this girl could be good at martial arts judging from her coordination here.



I really love youtube because you can search for really great videos like this one. I think this is a great example of how an ancillary skill can improve your own martial art. Did you notice the timing, dexterity, and coordination required to pull this hula hoop dance off?


I found numerous examples of gymnastics that I think show off the body’s abilities. I do not think much of flipping or flying through the air in fighting because all you would have to do is to move out of the way but the conditioning to get your body into shape would be very helpful. Here is a video of a guy doing some amazing moves.




This guy has the coordination, timing and moves it takes to be great at any physical activity. I have used his one move of running sideways on the wall! When I was an up and coming brown belt I routinely sparred the black belts. On of the black belts seemed meaner than the rest and really motivated me to not get caught in a corner. He (John West) had me trapped in a corner one time and was coming at me. Now John was bigger, stronger and I thought we was also meaner! Anyway instead of running sideways (as would have made sense) I ran straight back and as he was following me, I ran up the wall on one side corner and down the other side corner wall and escaped!


When I took a gymnastics class in high-school we learned most of the stations, including the balance beam. One time messing around we played king of the balance beam (when the teacher had stepped out). Me an one other guy were the kings (he was in karate too) and I lost the face off. The balance beam was fairly easy for me though because I had a lifetime of walking on the top of fences (for fun as a kid).


I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at some exercises, dances that can contribute to your overall martial arts and fitness levels. Cheri Arbuckle commented on my post entitled, “Martial and Dance Arts Flexibility, Agility, and Coordination” how another great dancing exercise she does is belly-dancing. I saw some belly-dancing on FIT TV but looked for some martial arts applications in addition to fitness and found this video.



Belly-dancing seems to really work ones abdominal muscles, and area the really contributes to lower back health. I remember when I had gotten out of shape for the first time, I had put my son in the bike seat and popped my back out of whack going up a hill! That injury was mostly because my abdominal muscles were weak from a new desk job and very few workouts at that time of my life.


Whatever fun ways you can find to keep your body sharp I think is good. I do bag work, sparing, kata, body surfing, mountain bike riding, jump rope, and walking/hiking. The one thing I do not suggest is you leave out the exercise because once you lose your flexibility, timing, coordination – it impacts your whole life, not just martial arts!


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10 Responses to “Karate Pole Dancing, Hula Hoop, & Gymnastics; Enhanced Training?”

  1. Krista Says:

    Karate pole dancing’s a good one! I’ve heard of people making up kata but that’s got to be a first.

  2. Martial Arts News 5.24.09 « Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] Zimmer has an interesting post about how other activities can help your martial arts. I have found some activities that are not necessarily thought of as […]

  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Krista, I search the ends of the world to find interesting applications of karate… this one was a bit of a reach, but I was able to fine some transferable skills. :)

  4. Neal Martin Says:

    Interesting post. I’ve always thought gymnastics had good martial arts applications (you remember that eighties movie Gymkata!). Being able to move like a gymnast can only help your martial arts at the end of the day. The key here would lie in being able to integrate the two properly. Same with pole dancing. Both provide good foundations but may not necessarily equate into martial arts success. I may suggest hitting a pole dancing club to my fellow karateka at the next training session, just to see what new moves we can pick up. My guess is they’ll go for it!

  5. Stephen Martin Says:

    Amazing site! I found your site very interesting. Thanks! I like the way how you had portrait everything.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Neal, I remember seeing previews of Gymkata I think… was it any good? I know I get frustrated when during a movie fight scene, they start doing summersaults. :)
    Hi Stephen, welcome and feel free to comment on any topic you find interesting. I stopped by your website and it is an interesting idea to get a self-defense resource website (from what I could gather). I’ve always believed in a layered defense strategy, as you never know if the kick, pepper spray, dog, or cops will be the thing that makes you safe… putting them together is ideal in my mind.

  7. On My Own Two Feet » Blog Archive » Cross-Training: Bellydancing Says:

    […] Karate Pole Dancing, Hula Hoop, & Gymnastics; Enhanced Training? […]

  8. Sly Says:

    I love the sword-belly dance, that takes some skill and talent. Very cool post.

  9. Polly Says:

    I like the kung fu pole dancing – it might not be a real discipline yet, but maybe one day it will be! It manages to be strong and elegant at the same time. Maybe not useful unless you get into a fight in a pole dancing club – or maybe near a signpost.
    Polly recently posted..X PoleMy Profile

  10. Matt Klein Says:

    Great entertainment John. Amazing how those bellydance girls can balance the swords on their heads. I think dancing really helps with coordination, flexibility, and grace for a martial artist–and so much fun. Very timely article as I just purchased the Wii. The game that came with it; Last Dance 2. Going to shut the curtains because I will look like an absolute tool trying it.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Bullying- A Parents Guide to PreventionMy Profile