Combat sports have provided a major entertainment diversion throughout history. Today, boxing and martial arts have become popular participation sports for many who are on the road to fitness.
Records dating back to 4000 B.C. recount “pankration,” a predecessor to what we now know as mixed martial arts (MMA). Historically, this sport developed in parallel to boxing. Participants were typically slaves or criminals who fought for their freedom.
Both sports were eventually banned by the Emperor Theodisius when he felt that they provided too much diversion. The earliest recorded boxing match was in 1681 when the Duke of Abermarle waged a match between his butcher and butler.
Modern era combat athletes are among the best-trained in the world. Fighting demands stamina, strength and agility. Those who are successful have mastered those skills and possess the ability to concentrate and plan strategy under severe conditions.
Combat athletes’ work outs consist of intense roadwork to build cardiovascular endurance. A normal average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats-per-minute. The resting heart rates of combat athletes are often in the 40 beats-per-minute range. This is reflective of superior cardiac efficiency.
Strength is improved by resistive exercise with weight training and repetitively hitting a heavy bag. Superior coordination is attained by drills that require timing such as jumping rope and hitting a speed bag.
“Boxing provides a great workout due to the variability of the fitness skills,” reports Jody Sheely, boxing trainer at Strike Force gym in Norwich and former boxer.
Interestingly, many of the activities utilized for combat sports training do not require striking or choking an opponent and may be an essential part of a new fitness regimen for many who will never get in a ring or cage.
Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.