Training for Warriors: How to gain new strength from the old school

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[First published in 2008. Scroll down for plain text. Part of the Training for Warriors series, by Martin Rooney*]

In training and in life, when something or some
piece of information is no longer used and then
resurfaces, even though it is old, it appears to be
new. I have seen this phenomenon in action over
and over in the training industry. Forgotten exercises that
were performed hundreds of years earlier all of a sudden
become the “new” rage. Diet practices that have been
followed for centuries become the latest fad. These examples
left me with the question if there were, in fact, any
new things to really learn. This question started a quest
that led me back to where Gracie Jiu-Jitsu began.

“There are no new ideas.
There are only new ways of
making them felt”
Audre Lorde

Last month, my adventure
in search of the “new” began in
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On this
adventure, I believed that I was
in search of new training techniques
to improve my training
arsenal. In accordance with my
suspicions, I was not surprised
to find was that what was “new”
to me was actually quite “old”
to others.
Rio was an amazing city
and one of my favorite places in
the world to visit. For all of the
GRACIEMAG readers that have
never been, there, I suggest
that you make the pilgrimage
at least once in your life and get
immersed not only in the physical
and technical training, but
the language, food, and culture
as well.

“The best ideas are common
property” Seneca

Over the last few years,
I have developed what I considered
was a “new” philosophy
that basic exercises using
simple tools might be the best
form of training. On my trip, I
was instantly reminded by the
chin up and dip stations every
few hundred yards lining the
beautiful beaches that not only
don’t you need an advanced
piece of equipment to get a great
workout, but that Brazilians have
been using my “new” philosophy
for a long time. After this reminder,
each day I had the luxury of
getting incredible bodyweight
workouts out on these beaches
with my old training partners
Rolles, Igor and Kyra Gracie and
Flavio “Cachorrinho” Almeida.
These workouts were spent both
sweating and learning new ideas
about old exercises from them
the entire time.
I also had the privilege
of training at Gracie Barra and
at Gordo Correa’s academy. In
both experiences, again I was
hit smack in the face with the
old appearing to look new. Gordo
showed me some classic guard
and half guard techniques as
well as some strength exercises
using the gi. While training with
the Jiu-Jitsu players, I was again
amazed at the technical level of
the Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and now
understand why they are still
doing it the “old” way. I hit another
stroke of luck in that my
friend and training inspiration
Prof. Alvaro Romano was also
in town and took us through
an amazing warm-up with his
updated Ginástica Natural system.
During this session, Alvaro
took the group and me through
a number of older exercises he
has used that looked (and felt!)
completely new to me.

The next morning after
the training Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie
Barra, the soreness in my hip
flexors and lower abdominals
was letting me in on another
“old” secret: your body is always
trying to tell you something and
if you listen hard enough you
will figure out answers for future
physical training. Not only does
the soreness that one may experience
clue you on the areas of
the body you may need to focus
on, but the actual way you created
the soreness might, in fact,
be a great way to train that area.
In this case, the soreness I was
experiencing was advising me
just how important “Anterior
Chain” strength is for playing
a successful guard. When I say
Anterior Chain, I am talking
about the muscles of the core
in the front of the body. This
includes the upper and lower
abdominals, the obliques, the
intercostal muscles of the ribcage,
the hip flexors and the
adductors of the legs (groin).
For anyone that has ever injured
any of these areas of the body,
you know what it is like to play
Jiu-Jitsu with them hurt: almost
impossible. That again demonstrates
just how important these
muscles are to have not only
technically trained, but flexible
and strong as well. This month’s
article is going to revolve around
exercises for improving the flexibility
and strength of the anterior
chain muscles involved in
playing guard.
Since this article is about
going back to the old to find the
new, I am only going to require
your body weight and one piece
of equipment for the training.
That one piece of equipment is
the chin up bar. Although this
is an old piece of equipment, I
hope that this month’s article
has you performing a couple of
new school exercises. Instead of
using the bar for classic chin ups
and pull ups, the Guard Workout
will use 5 exercises to hit the anterior
chain. Even if the exercises
aren’t something you haven’t
seen before, I am sure that these
are some exercises that might
not have a current spot in your
regular training program. Add
these exercises to your routine
and I promise that you are going
to get some old ideas to produce
some new gains.

1. Knee-sups
Begin hanging from the bar
with the legs straight. Pull the
knees up to the chest, hold for
3 seconds and then return to
the original position. Repeat for
2 sets of 10 reps.
2. Twisting knee-ups
Begin hanging from the bar with
the legs straight. Pull the knees
up and out to the side by twist-

ing at the waist. Hold at the top
for 3 seconds and then lower to
original position. Repeat for 2
sets of 10 reps.
3. Pike-ups
Begin hanging from the bar with
the legs straight. Keeping the
legs straight, lift the legs to the
pike position. Hold for 3 seconds
and lower to start position. Repeat
for 2 sets of 8 reps.
4. Pike scissors
Begin by pulling the legs up to
the pike position. Then alternate
scissor kicks with the feet as
shown. Repeat for 2 sets of 20
total scissor kicks.
5. Around the world
Begin hanging with the legs
straight. Keeping the legs as
straight as possible, bring the
feet up and out to the side, then
overhead and then around to the
other side finally returning to the
start. Repeat for 2 sets of 5 revolutions
in each direction.

“Man’s mind, once stretched
by a new idea, never regains
its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

After performing this anterior
chain workout, I am sure
that you will have a new appreciation
for the “old”. After my
adventure, I concluded that the
definition of something as new
or old is up to the individual
and his or her experience. The
moral of this article is that if you
want to read something new,
go out and get the oldest book
you can find. On this quest for
knowledge I also suggest that
you keep three things open at all
times: your eyes, your ears and
most importantly, your mind!
Now get to work!

* Martin Rooney is the founder of the Training for Warriors system and has trained champion fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC and Olympics. His TFW fitness program is used in over 175 facilities in 25 countries around the world. Information about TFW certifications at

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