My 1200-ish punch-and-kick workout


An uppercut bag is best for this, allowing both kicks and punches from all positions.

I do a bit of Krav Maga, a flexible combat art from Israel. A lot of it’s drawn from boxing, and I like it because a) it’s simple, no bowing philosophical stuff; and b) it keeps you in great condition, pushing you into a balance of strength/speed/stamina in both core and outer.* With my heavy bag re-exposed from beneath moving boxes, I’ve restarted my thrice-weekly solo whackathons… two months and I’ll be back in shape!

Here’s my routine, latest iteration of a workout I’ve been swapping and substituting for several years to find something complete. You can do it at your own speed and take as many breaks as you need; even slowfight or shadow it if you want. It’s about 1200 blows, takes about half an hour, and the sweat should be pouring off after three minutes.

(Caveats: first learn the basics – how to stand, how to throw a blow: the jab, cross, roundhouse, hook and hammer. And warm up first; just a few minutes of stretching will do it. Without these you’ll overpunch and hyperextend. Don’t know what hyperextension is? Your shoulder will.)

Why do it? It’s fun and gets you fit. But the real value is psychological: whether you’re male or female, knowing how to strike a blow gives you a physical confidence most people don’t have… and the resolve to do it for real if you ever need to.

1st set of 200: Jabs & crosses:

Face bag.

— 66: fastjab-jab-jab, fastjab-jab-jab (3 x 11) (left-left right)

— 66: fastjab-jab-jab, fastjab-jab-jab (3 x 11) (right-right left)

— 66: jab-jab cross, jab-jab-cross (3 x 11) (left-left-right)

…for 200 total

2rd set of 200: Forward and backwards kicks:

Facing bag.

— 66: 3 x 11 front roundhouse (one-one-one, two-two-two etc) leaning back, other foot at 45deg, then change foot for 66 total

Back to bag.

— 66: 3 x 11 first back roundhouse leaning forward (one-one-one, two-two-two etc)  then change foot for 66 total

Facing bag.

— 66: 3 x 11 forward kick (one-one-one, two-two-two etc) with ball of foot into groin, then change foot for 66 total

… for 200 total

3rd set of 200: Backwards punches: 3 sets of a 3-punch combo of 33 each fist:

Stand with back to bag.

— first back KNUCKLEpunch straight vertically up over shoulder,

— then backwards roundhouse with SIDE of fist/arm,

— then backwards downwards groin punch with OUTER side of fist.

…. each set of 3 repeated 11 times with each fist (one-one-one, two-two-two etc until eleven-eleven-eleven)

…for 200 total

 4th set of 200: Elbow & knee blows:

Use elbows and knees to strike.

— 33: hands behind head, roundhouse with elbows at head height going left-right-left then right-left-right 11 times (1x 33)

— 33: burst forward bringing knee upwards to groin going left-right-left then right-left-right 11 times (1x 33)

— 66: backwards elbow blows: straight back to groin, rear roundhouse to torso, other arm roundhouse to torso then change sides (2 x 33)

— 66: attack forwards with elbows: driving forward and up from prone, driving forward and down from raised position, forward (2 x 33)

… for 200 total

5th 200: Hooks, uppercuts, hammers

Facing bag.

— 66: left-right-left x 11, then right-left-right x 11

— 66: from keeling or crouching, 3 x 11 uppercuts each hand (2 x 33)

— 66: downward hammerblows from arm raised (3 x 11 each hand)

…for 200 total

6th 200: Side, ground, and knee kicks:

Lying down with feet towards bag.

— 33: Lying on back: kicks: roundhouse to shins  going left-right-left then right-left-right 11 times (1x 33)

— 33: Lying on back kicks: straight forward sole kick to shins going left-right-left then right-left-right 11 times (1x 33)

— 33: Prone kicks: half-roundhouse from low kneeling position, flipping yourself half-over going left-right-left then right-left-right 11 times (1x 33)

— 33: scissor blow: scissor the bag with one foot striking slightly higher to bring opponent over (3 x 11 alternating foot each kick)

— 66: Side kicks (lean over and kick out and down without kicking leg away from line of body) try not to put kicking foot down for each set of 11 (3 x 11 each side)

Once everything feels nicely embedded in muscle memory (i.e feels instinctual, what coaches call “unconsciously competent”) you can start combining moves, like a rear roundhouse where you swing a 180 then forward kick plus a cross then carry on round to 270 for a nice elbow to the torso on the way back to 180. Hell, buy another bag and imagine they’re multiple attackers. Try it. It’s killer!

* And of course c) It lets you think you’re Jason Bourne.

Taking the blows

There’s nothing like having your own punchbag. I’ve just bought a “man-shaped” one, “man-shaped” here having the expanded definition of men with no arms, legs, or head and whose bodies resemble an upturned skittle. (And who are capable of levitation.)

The fundamental skills common to most boxing-derived fighting styles – stances, striking, and keeping your guard up – can be practiced with any weighty object. You can even have a go on a wall if you think you’re ‘ard enough. But the one I’ve just installed in my garage is the best kind for Krav, because it swings around: it’s a moving target.

Set it swinging, and you’ve got something marginally resembling the kind of big drunken bloke you’re most likely to be randomly attacked by, allowing you to practice all the basic blows against its marked targets.

The jab. The uppercut. The roundhouse. The hammer. The sucker. The open fist. The closed fist. You can headbutt it, elbow it, block it with your forearm; this guy just hangs there and takes it.

But because it’s suspended, you can practice kicks too. (My weak point; I’m so inflexible at the moment I can’t form a right angle with my legs.) The forward kick. The back kick. The roundhouse kick. The kick and spin. Even blocks. You can set it spinning and fight around it, a basic Krav technique. You can even go down on the floor, spinning on the small of your back, fighting upwards.

It’s been a long six months of injuring ankle then shoulder; this thing will help me get back to a strength and speed that approach something respectable before I return to Krav class.

There are only two things you can’t practice with it: escaping from locks and holds, and taking on multiple attackers. Wonder if I should install two?

Delivering a swift kick to the groin: why I love Krav Maga

As any fan of martial arts cinema knows, all you have to do to become the baddest mofo in town is acquire a “secret training manual”, perform a few comic interludes getting the moves wrong watched by your faithful sidekick, and by sunrise you’re storming the Shaolin Temple and kicking some serious monk ass.

I’ve been studying Krav Maga (not a martial art; it just looks like one) for a while now. (Badly). And have just had a few months out on injury time. So I thought that before I return to class next month, I could get an edge by acquiring their “secret training manual“!

There aren’t many good books on Krav, largely because it’s about doing not learning; a basic tenet is honing the body’s natural reflex movements by turning them into useful defences. Krav is practice not theory. But this out-of-print volume, translated from the original Hebrew of KM founder Imi “Sde-Or” and Eyal Yanilov, is a cracking read. Defence against knife attacks, defence against attackers holding a gun, use of everyday objects to counterattack, yada yada yada. There’s even a lesson on what to do if someone’s chucking grenades about, especially valuable on the streets of south London.

But ultimately the techniques of Krav are few and their delivery simple. And that’s what I like about it: its beautiful simplicity. No 99 basis stances or 48 positions, none of this crap about Sitting Dragons or Prancing Tigers or Monkeys Sitting On The Delicate Branch Of The Ancient Googah Tree. Krav has 3 stances, one of which could be accurately described as “standing normally.” Most of the defences against knife attacks seem to be variants on “deliver a swift kick to the groin” (after executing a forearm block of course.) It’s full of micro-cases written in complete deadpan:

“…The security officer then delivered a kick to the groin, stepped backwards, cocked his weapon, and shot him.”

Time to go and whack my punchbag for a while.

Ankle spanking in Baker St

Now THIS I don’t believe. I’ve made it down safely from over 13,000ft twenty times this year after stepping from a moving aircraft, and I sprain my ankle doing Krav Maga?

Yup, sprained. I just don’t get injured in the normal-human-being sense, and I think my dumbfounded amazement is equal to the (agonising) pain. Ten minutes from class end and we’re chasing around trying to stab each other in the back (life imitates krav) and I do a quick 180 to avoid a guy with a glint in his eye, my rubbersoled foot stays glued to the ground, and something twists deep down.

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK is the extent of my conversational skills for about three minutes. Icepack! Icepack!

OK, so I hadn’t been to Krav class for a month thanks to a skydiving holiday and prep for a triathlon, but I haven’t been properly injured in years. I was beginning to think it just didn’t happen to me. Then something like this happens, and maybe it’s a good thing to be reminded of your own mortality occasionally.

Home after a £32 taxi ride (I’ve been a student recently enough to care about that) and there are two lumps the size of golf balls on the outside of my ankle; the ankle bone’s sticking-out bit is buried under a mass of necrotising flesh. I’m going to feel this one for days.

And even worse, the class took place in front of some new recruits waiting for their induction. I mean, they’re going to think Krav Maga is dangerous or something.


Krav Maga: Hebrew for ‘getting the crap kicked out of you’

OUCH! Is there ANY muscle that isn’t aching today? No WAY was that Israeli guy a lowly P1.

It’s surprisingly hard to ‘slow fight’ – fight in slow motion so you can practice moves; the tendency is for both parties (or, since this is Krav Maga, three or more parties) to speed up and land a few extra blows. This one guy I was partnered with on Saturday was, er, a bit quicker than the exercise really called for. It’s all good; you wouldn’t get what you expect in a street fight, and ‘real’ situations are what KM is all about. But 90 mins of punching and kicking has seriously worn me out; for once I’m feeling like the thirtysomething I am. Gotta heal up in time to jump out of those planes on Saturday; stiff arms are no excuse at 15,000 feet…