Conditioning, Training, What is the difference?

What is training, and what is conditioning?

Training is what you’re used to doing at most martial arts classes. Training is something that happens systematically. It comes from your art, whatever style you’re putting reps into, and there’s usually a step-by-step process to get you to the point that your instructor needs you. Whether it is to get you to the next belt or to progress you on the next part of the sequence.

Conditioning is the thing that happens when it goes to the part of your brain that is actually combative. If we separate the brain with the model that we use here at KPC, it’s the human brain, the monkey brain, and the lizard brain. When you’re doing your training, that’s in your human brain. That’s the newest part. Your lizard brain, your survival mechanism, doesn’t believe that that is actually true, that it’s actually going to work. When we talk conditioning, that’s the stuff that you’ve done your whole life to make sure that you’re okay. If we use social conditioning, a young girl, for example, may avoid eye contact and look away because her conditioning stated that that was the best way to avoid any problems in social situations. I can’t train that out of somebody, I can only condition it out of them.

Conditioning goes to a deeper part of the brain which is more trusted by your survival mechanism. Where this paradigm came from is, the US Air Force found that most fighter pilots couldn’t use any of their actual training for the first three to five dogfights. So they set their standard at five fights to make them a fighter ace. The first three to five fights were totally based on conditioning, not training. They survived by luck and luck alone, and instinct, and not through what they were being taught. After five fights, they found that their adrenaline was under control, their brain trusted their training, and they could use it well in a fire fight under a huge adrenaline dump. If we take this concept and flip it, over to self defence and fighting, what we’re trying to say is that you might not have any of your training come out within your first five fights. In fact, the person we get this paradigm from, Rory Miller, says it might even be your first twenty. So – how can you make that work? The problem is, there’s good conditioning and there’s bad conditioning.

Let’s talk about bad conditioning first. Bad conditioning is, for example, a punishment/reward system. If you one day are playing with your instructor and you punch him in the face, and he gets mad at you and you get punished for succeeding, the conditioning that goes into your head is that winning is less rewarding that losing. So you’re being conditioned poorly to survive in a self defense situation. I also equate this to bowing. If you have to walk into a room and give respect to somebody, every time you see them, thinking they’re above you, how can you stand up to somebody who is in your social circle equal to or above you? How are you being trained in any way to take that person down if they’re doing bad things to you, if you’re always walking in and being subservient while trying to learn to defend yourself?

Good conditioning kicks in through drills. The paradigm we like to use is, we start with discussion, then training, then conditioning, and then playing. Play is what creates conditioning the best. There’s no other way the human animal learns better than through play. Odd things happen, randomness kicks in, you start learning how to problem solve on your own. The conditioning’s the stuff that’s gonna help you. All of your training comes from – if you’re in my gym – my mindset, my thought process and how my conditioning works. If this worked for me I’m gonna transmit it to you. But since you’re the person on the ground, and your conditioning’s gonna kick in – if you can’t hit people, or you can’t joint lock or you’re too man to run – and that’s what a situation needs, you’re going through some bad conditioning.

So – when you’re training, you need to make sure that you’re doing a drill, first slow, to make sure you have it, then you want to challenge that drill. You want to make sure that you’re playing with it, you’re doing something that you really want, to hamper and make sure it’s the hardest thing you’ve done and add it to a bunch of other stuff, because that becomes play, and the randomness comes in. You’ll notice a move pops up more often than if you’re looking for it. With this in mind, every time you train, you want to make sure that your drills equal your thought process, and your drills equal your conditioning. So, if my training paradigm is not the same as my sparring paradigm, it’s counterproductive – my training doesn’t match the conditioning that’s happening. If I walk in a room and I’m told I can take any human being down – except for my instructor because he makes me bow to him when I hit him – your training doesn’t line up. Your instructor should be egoless enough to reward you for being successful because that’s their job, to move your conditioning forward.


Randy King





Leave A Comment