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  • Why do many traditional martial artists look down on weightlifting as easy and useless? Why is weightlifting so much more accepted in Western martial arts and fighting styles (especially sports like MMA and wrestling).

Self Defense/Why do many traditional martial artists look down on weightlifting as easy and useless? Why is weightlifting so much more accepted in Western martial arts and fighting styles (especially sports like MMA and wrestling).


I notice there is a stigma in among traditional martial artists that weightlifting is useless and that its the easiest method of strength training. This is particularly true from styles that focus focusing on cardio, technique, all-round body strength and/or flexibility such as Tae Kwon Do and Silat, Not only do many traditional styles belief believe pushups and other non-weight lifting exercises are much tougher than lifting weights but lifting weights is so DAMN easy! In their logic "sit down and simply lift the repetitions as much as you want. GET TIRED? Just wait a few minutes than continue again!"

As someone who recently started weightlifting, I'm telling you its ******* HARD WORK. My arms are still sore simply from lifting. Not as breath gasping as say 10 pullups but its ******* tiring enough to be sore and thirsty after a session.

Even popular media depicts weightlifting as being incredibly easy and a popular trope is the skinny nerdy boy who gets bullied daily going into a a gym and in a few weeks or even days later they are muscular enough to KO their bullies in one hit!

I can tell you some of the muscular guys I met at the gym told me it too them MONTHS if not YEARS to get their body so it isn't simple as going to the gym every day either. They told me if you want to build muscles eventually you would have to push yourself.

I can't tell you how many TMA masters I met who state to weightlifting is nowhere as difficult as some of the warmups done before practising techniques such as the stretching and crawling exercises. While I definitely agree stuff they do like break bricks are probably much tougher than weightlifting, some of the stuff they do like stretches are easier than weightlifting (assuming you are conditioned in both exercises).

The reason I post this thread is because in MMA weightlifting is now such an accepted part of training that even in Asia you won't find people who will train without incorporating dumbells and other weightlifting tolls in their exercises. Even Asian fighters who started with styles that are often grouped under "TMA" such as Yoshiro Akiyama (a dedicated Judo artist IIRC) will use multi-station machines and weight benches and other lifting machines generally looked down upon if not outright forbidden by old masters of TMAs. Indeed the use of weightlifting equipment is one of the things that traditional masters have against MMA and I seen more than enough complains about how MMA fighters are neglecting the old proper way to build real strength such as stretching,crawling and other warmup exercises,etc.

I am curious about all this. I have read some TMAs like Kyokushin and some of the older masters such as Mas Oyama advocated using weights. But the vast majority of Asian styles oppose weightlifting on the basis it is easy work nad useless in fighting. We're even talking about using equipments not necessarily weights but can be used for strength building purposes like lifting woods and manual labor that replicates the building effects of weights like chopping trees. Most TMAs I notice tend to focus far more on forms  (or katas as they are called in Japanese styles), hitting  the air, and flexing exercises and dancing exercises and in general cardio like jumping jacks and running. I note its only witht he introudction of boxing into Asia and the rise of modern MMA that resistance machines and dumbells had began to be used by Asian martial artist.

However I notice in the West for as early as the Ancient Greeks, weightlifting style exercises and equipment had already existed. For example the Greeks had this special exercise equipment that had handles that illustration shows resembles using modern kettles. The Romans had stuff similar to modern Barbells.

From as early as I can find, every western fighting-related sport from renaissance fencing to jousting involved using heavy objects in training. In fact I remember reading when boxing was first introduced in Asia's spectator sports world, one of the shocks many Asians who tried to transition to boxing was the huge emphasize on using resistance machines and other equipment they never seen before.

I mean even non-fighting Western sports like running involved weightlifting before as I recalled the Greks used some special wooden thing similar to modern resistance machines for training their athletes legs.

Why does the West have a huge emphasis on weightlifting and has been so advanced in combining weights with typical sports training regime (especially fighting sports) while Asian martial artist (in fact Asian culture as a whole) neglected weights and even rejected (or at least were flabagggasted at the concept when western sports were introduced)? Why did Asians prefer flexibility based exercises and "bodyweight lifting" for lack of words such as standing on one finger and squats for strengthening martial artists for centuries?

Well, short answer is that old school training did involve strength training... but Americans didn't like it.

I've seen classical systems that while they didn't do weights like we think of them now, most definitely had strength training via weighted objects. So a big part of the answer is because what they're being taught as  'traditional martial arts' has been watered down to their comfort level-- and that level is awfully low.

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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