This is a guest post from Dynasty Family Brother, 3-time USA National Shuai Jiao Champion, Lavell “Shaolin” Marshall (@rebelinthewindshaolin). Photos courtesy of Stephon Wilkerson (@xtwenty_twentyx).
Shuai Jiao / Shuai Chiao 摔跤 is an ancient Chinese form of grappling / wrestling, dating back several thousand years (as early as 2697 BC) and is the precursor to Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Its techniques can be seen and have been passed down to much more well known martial arts such as Judo in the west, due to America’s history and relationship with Japan. In addition, the sports-focused evolution of Jiu Jitsu and Judo has given these arts much more visibility and popularity than the lesser known, although much older arts such as Chinese and Mongolian wrestling.
“Shaolin Strength” is an ever evolving training method, or training methods rather that I created to improve the physical and mental performance of any person. I took years of Traditonal Kung Fu, Shuai Jiao / Chiao (Chinese Wrestling) and other martial arts training methods, along with movement, balance, sensitivity, calisthenics, weightlifting and combined with my own ideas and creativity to create this training methodology.
I don’t believe in doing the same routine over and over and over again.
There are certain foundation exercises that we do regularly to build certain muscles and connective tissue (such as squats, push press, thrusters, Kung Fu foundation work, pull up variations, etc.) but the order and their combination during the circuits, I change daily, adding and mixing to create a different “impromptu” feeling to your mind and body.
As a competitive grappler, it’s not about how strong you are, or your speed, agility etc. but rather how you apply it all to what you are doing. When you are fighting against another high level grappler, you have to be able to apply what you have in the most efficient and effective way and be prepared to move and attack / defend at all angles with strength, power and speed.
I see people all the time, who are bigger in size, lifting heavy and then we grapple and I throw them over my head.
They may be bigger but are they really stronger? Is strength how much you lift? Or is it your ability to use and apply these attributes to real life movement and action, during resistance and the constant changing reality we as fighters live in?
Power and strength mean nothing without sensitivity to a fighter of any martial art. So to keep it plain and simple, how can we train the body to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING we want it to?! How can we listen to our bodies and work with what we have? Developing and forcing evolution on our own individual selves and not trying to be copies of others – is key.
Here is an example of a typical session of Shaolin Strength training – remember the workouts are never the same so this particular circuit will always be changed around!
(10x reps each)
– Foam Roll.
– Forward rolls to hop (you hop immediately after you make it back to your feet on the roll, there is no gap or pause in between the movements).
– Single leg forward rolls to a hop (x 10 reps each leg).
– Mobility drills based on Shaolin Kung Fu, dance etc.
– Resistance band throwing drills.
– Movement & Sensitivity work.
– Sweep drills (one person keeps eyes closed and escapes sweeps while the other person with eyes open attacks the legs), kicks, freestyle movement for 2 songs trying to move without pause using stances, footwork, acquired skills, etc.
You have years of movement developed since birth, figure out how to use them and apply them. This is no different than shadow boxing or no-touch sparring movement warm up with a partner except this is more like flow grappling.
Choose any skill or skill set you want (flips, hand stand, hand stand walking, single leg drills, V-sit, form work, etc.) and work it for 10 minutes.
– Squats (x10 reps at warm up weight, 3 sets x 4 reps at 80-85% max, 3 sets x 2 reps at 90+% max).
– Clean to Push Press (4 sets x 2 reps at 80% of max, then 3 sets x 2 reps at 80 – 90% of max).
– Push Press (in between sets x 10 reps each leg) of single leg deadlifts, single leg squats, or single leg balance holds, all on a bosu ball.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Circuit
(5x rounds fast as possible)
– Sled drag / pull with anywhere between 3-5 45lb plates. 50 feet drag, 50 feet pull. With the pull drop to a squat / horse stance and pull hard as you can, as it slides to you hop backwards and repeat.
– 7x Tire Flips (after each tire flip, hop to the other side of tire turning 180 degrees in the air so that you’re facing the tire again).
– 10x Sprawl to duck walk to box jump (so in short, do an “up down” a few feet from the box, going right into duck walking then box jump and repeat).
– Barbell complex of 7x high pulls 7x hang cleans 7x thursters (go back to back without dropping bar). Use the amount of weight that you are comfortable with. I make my clients use anywhere from 65-135lbs. Everyone is on different levels. Drop the ego!
After 5x rounds, immediately do:
– 50x lifts / throws of your choice with a partner or throwing dummy.
– Body hardening (100x hits to the body, 50x to the legs and forearm conditioning).
– Horse stance for 5 minutes.
– 3x rounds of as many pull ups and push ups as possible.
Again this is just one day of conditioning but not every day is this intense. Some days are focused more on movement, reaction training, or explosive training. Some days instead of a grueling circuit, we do strength work, balance work, and rounds and rounds of grappling.
It’s all about finding the balance and evolving for you. I base everything around what you do – and then train you to be able to do anything!
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