The WORST way to practice Special Technique.

As far as injury prevention goes. This is a great big juicy low hanging fruit we can all pick. All that's required is a little insight into the nature of special technique demands on physiology, the risk of injury and, how you intermingle this work with everything else that's staple in the Dojang.


Y'know, patterns, pad work and kicking people in the face and stuff.



The Thing About Special Technique


Jump turning kick, flying high kick, flying twisting kick, flying side kick, jump reverse turning kick, jump 720 backflip tornado super kick..... what do they all have in common besides being badass and involving kicks?


It's explosive plyometric training.


Forget that you're kicking for a moment. You're jumping as high and as hard as possible for reps. This matters a lot with respect to where and when you choose to do this work. Particularly when we aim to cover other disciplines during a 1-2 hour session.


Bringing the kicking element back into consideration. This adds another considerable dimension.


Comparative to plyometric training with box jumps you're adding in a rotational component, the weight distribution through each leg upon jumping varies a lot more. Finally, you're landing full force on one leg as opposed to two.


 Do you like memes? I love memes.



Standard Programming Practice


We're always designing programmes whether we realise it or not.


  • Thrown together a random workout on holiday? That's a programme.

  • Thought up a really cool plan in your head for the next class you're taking? That's a programme.

  • Or written it down? That's a programme, too.


In the strength and conditioning industry where we take programming to a professional level. We all learn some pretty basic "Do's and Don'ts" which for the most part, martial arts instructors all tend to follow.


Do's -


  • Design a programme which meets the client/group where their skill level lies.

  • Encompass Progressions and Regressions of the exercises in the programme.

  • Be prepared to pivot when things aren't working. (Client is feeling rubbish today? Get rid of those heavy squats)

  • Focus on the low hanging fruits first.

  • KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)




  • Choose exercises which exceed the skill level of the individual(s)

  • Programme hop.*

  • Over complicate things.

  • Be a douchebag.

*To programme hop means to design a given programme for someone/yourself, then perhaps a mere 3 weeks in you see a new, sexy and exciting exercise and just hop onto it. You haven't given the original programme a chance to flourish and if you repeat this process a lot, you'll seldom make any real, measurable progress in what you do.


Sure you'll 'workout' regularly. But that's easy. Progression is something else.

But the main don't I want you to zero in on, is this.


Don't put the most complex and physically demanding exercises at the end of a long workout when the client/group is fatigued.


It is "Don't be stupid 101" Think about it, when do most injuries tend to happen? right at the end of sessions. I remember when I ruptured my ACL. I was taking a sparring class which was an hour of hard pads followed by an hour of sparring. It was the last round, and about 10 seconds before I was about to call time on said round and move into a warm down.


I went for a turning kick and...





A Much Smarter Approach To Special Technique (Plyometric) Training


The short answer? Do it when you're at your freshest.


Aw yeah.


Here's the bullet points for what you need to encompass.


  • Rock up to training.

  • Specific warm up. (Activate, not stretch. Mobility, not stretch.)

  • Practice special technique drills with no more than 6 reps per set.*

  • Spend a maximum of 4-6 sets working on it.

  • Move on to arm wrestling.

  • Go home.

*The worst thing you can do with special technique is to hammer rep after rep without rest. The quality of the technique will nearly always degrade after rep 6-10 depending on the individual. So to create a marathon type scenario is just senseless.


Power exercises don't fatigue in a way we can perceive fully. It doesn't burn or ache. All that happens is the performance drops off dramatically. When that happens upon a high impact single leg landing, your risk of injury dramatically increases. Especially those who don't have great levels of strength/stability in the first place.


You need a maximum of 6-10 reps per set. Before allowing a 90-120 second rest period to replenish ATP stores. The principle ingredient to power development during these drills.


Or you move onto whatever else it is you want to cover. Either way, you've bagged some essential practice at the best possible time. Max effort jumping requires max performance and effort. Why the devil would you approach these shenanigans absolutely spent?


"But, but. At our competitions, special technique always comes last!"


Yeah. When this order was decided, it had nothing to do with exercise physiology. That's everything to do with the value placed in each distinct discipline with respect to the Art. Patterns are far and away the most important, so that comes first. Then sparring, then breaking and special. This decision has got absolutely nothing to do with scientific research or physiology during exercise.


It's similar to the decision about the size of weight lifting plates for Olympic lifting. They're roughly 17.5-18 inches in diameter. Is there any scientific research which determined that this was an optimal size?



Nope. It was a case of "Yeah, that'll do."



Let's wrap it up.


Don't do high power, technically challenging, high impact stuff when you're knackered. Simple.

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