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Martial Health

Max Shank Master RKC Pull Up
You’ll notice that there are some martial arts that seem to cater to longevity, while others, sadly, promote a much shorter life or at least movement expectancy.

A Tale of Two T(h)ai’s

A perfect example of this is to see an 80-year old Tai Chi practitioner compared to a Muay Thai fighter of the same age.

I personally love to compete in Muay Thai. I think it is fantastic, but the methodology relies heavily on body "toughening," and pain.

Truth be told I think it is doubtful that you will find a seasoned Muay Thai fighter anywhere in the world much past 75.

Muay Thai is an adrenaline-surging, 1-versus-1 combat scenario. It is the epitome of competition, along with most full-contact martial arts. However, the demands on the body can come with a high cost.

Tai Chi is often associated with its slow movements and gatherings of old people in the park. But it is doubtful that you will find a more sustainable activity for promoting health and longevity.

These two examples are polar opposites, and my goal is to find the MOST EFFECTIVE middle ground—not only with martial arts, but with exercise.

I personally don’t wish to live as a 110lb "man" who can’t lift a full glass of water. I also do not have aspirations to relinquish my quality of life and movement to squat 1,000lbs.

I have written about athleticism in the past and highlighted the qualities that I try to cultivate in my own training, and in those that I coach. Movement quality is the foundation; coordination, strength, and speed round out the top three segments of the pyramid. It is important to acquire them in order if you want healthy, sustainable gains.

So how does this apply to exercising? A professional Muay Thai fighter might do some serious damage to a Tai Chi practitioner. Yes, and a 1,000 lb squatter is going to move like an elephant compared to a ballet dancer. We need to simply find the middle ground.

To do this, I recommend the following:
  1. Make everything you do as easy as possible, even if it is not
  2. Prioritize measured, relaxed breathing
  3. Make good posture not just a habit, but a rule
  4. Rarely go into the 100% effort zone. Similar gains happen at 80% with no bad side effects
  5. Think of your training as practice, not as combat—even if it’s combat
  6. Enjoy the process—too many focus on the destination only
  7. Set realistic goals and approach them like a smart person would
  8. Don’t play through the pain; nothing good will come from it
  9. Movement quality is the #1 priority; strength is easy to get if you move better.
  10. Don’t be a sissy; lift heavy things, jump, explode. Have fun.
Better Every Day.

Small Book Cover Master The KettlebellMaster RKC Instructor Max Shank is the owner of Ambition Athletics in Encintas, California. He is very active in martial arts, competes in the Highland Games, and promotes a holistic approach to overall fitness. For more information about Max please visit
Max Shank is the author of Master the Kettlebell, now available in paperback and ebook format.
He has also recently released Ultimate Athleticism, an ebook and training program.