Seems like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Why be fit? Why wouldn’t you want to be fit?

Sometimes the answer that if given to that question is “because I want to be a better martial artist!” which implies that fitness is somehow a wasted expense, time shot sweating when you could instead be drilling on the minutiae of perfections that swordplay offers.

I’m proud of my strength. I can stand next to a bodybuilder and know that her muscles were built lifting iron in rigid patterns, and my muscles were built solely by moving myself through space. My muscles show their usefulness in their shape. No roundness or bulges, but each muscle building into the thickness of the next. So I can perhaps see what people are thinking when they think they are better for spending all their free time drilling technical plays instead of working out.

To me, they are both failures. Extremes that oppose each other, with the true path being in the middle. It helps to understand what fit means, first. It doesn’t mean giant muscles, and it doesn’t mean running for hours either. Both of those approaches are narrow, confining, and unfit as well. Fit means nothing more than ability. Be able to do things. The more fit we are, the more we can do. Fitness is the work we do to become more able in life.

It’s unfortunate that fitness has become an industry, and our perceptions of what fitness means are shaped by the latest marketing trends and fads. The current big thing is the right thing, always better than that old thing, until a bit of time passes and the old thing has it’s turn again. Every once in a while a new thing pops up. With a heavy exposure to marketing all of our lives, we have developed an healthy immunity to most of the messages of fitness we hear.

This is our mental auto-immune disease. We have collated a healthy thing with an unhealthy thing. When we are exposed to messages of fitness, we suffer from inflammation. Our gut roils and our joints ache. Recognizing the cause of these pains, we learn to stick our nose up with righteousness and proclaim “not for me!”

And that is an error. It’s also an error to approach fitness without a critical eye. Working out in ways we “feel” to be correct is an error. If your workout involves stretching at any point before the end of all other activities, it’s an error. If your workout involves sitting on benches and chairs while wrapped in a machine, it’s at best incomplete. Every workout should involve work that increases your mobility.

There should be a balance between work that improves your structure — the strength you have to stand and hold various positions, and to resist being moved from those positions — and your mobility, the range or scope of powered motion you and your limbs have through space. These two aspects, structure and mobility, should be intrinsic skills to any martial artist. To work on them is to work on your martial arts skill. To avoid this work is confine your practice, and limit yourself to your own expectations of what combat will be. It’s the path of the predictable fighter, and the path of worn out older fighter, the one who retires from practice to due to an excess of injuries.