Adapting your training to body limitations




Do you adapt your training to your physical limitations, or force yourself to work through them no matter what?

I ask because one part of my training frustrates me; I'm asthmatic, and so I can't do extended cardio. I'm also built sort of like a fire hydrant. (I am often mistaken for Jason Alexander, from Seinfeld) So, what ends up happening is that I learn all that things I'm supposed to to, and I approach it with ferocity; but I get winded quickly, and have an extended recovery time. Losing weight did not help as I hoped it would, it just made me quicker. So, I try to focus on techiques that defeat an opponent very quickly, with brutal finality, because I couldn't go 15 rounds. I couldn't even go one, really. 2 minutes of sparring takes me 5-7 minutes to recover from.

My body shape limits some of the things I can do too, but it helps others. I have short arms and legs, and a longish body for my height, and I'm stocky. I'd be lost in the sweeping movements of Tae Kwan Do or Kung Fu, I imagine... I really like the Akido and Hapkido that is an integrated part of my training, because my center of gravity is very low, so I'm very difficult to throw, and I know how to use the natural leverage I'm afforded. I want to tell myself it all balances out, and that I have strengths and advantages others don't; but after doing 3 forms in a row, when my pulse is at 190 and I'm only getting 800cc of air, I have doubts, ya know?

Do any of you have any physical limitations that you've worked around or successfully circumvented entirely as part of your training? What were the obstacles, and how did you overcome them?


Green Belt
Dec 28, 2002
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Hello Llarion,

I started Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan when I was ten years old. I started doing a physical activity because my Doctor, Dr. MacCarthy at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, diagnosed me with juvenile rumatory arthritis. He told me I would be almost crippled at the rate of my arthritis by the time I was 21 years old, but that physical activity might help. So, I always wanted to be a "ninja turtle" :) so we started doing martial arts. Now I am 22, a third dan, and I do everything physically that I am required to do, because I constantly pushed myself, and I never had the spirit that this "handicap" was going to stop me. And yes, there are times that I am in allot of pain, (most of the time). Yet, I have been on a National Forms team that won first place two years in a row (second place year before that), I have been on the WHAK fighting team B for 5 years, I have won Grand championships in my state, as well as Nationally, and I also teach 4 classes a day, 4 to 5 days a week!!! I am not saying all this to toot my own horn, believe me. I am just explaining that one can work with their condition, and still find a balance that lets them reach their potential. There are some days, if I push myself too hard, I will feel the effects for some time, but I can't just stop. Non activity is actually worse for my condition. Besides, I have 2 more years before I test for me Master, and then I can "slow down" just a little bit. :asian:

I also work on my condition with OPC-3, and I do Reiki, as well as zazen meditation. These, along with Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan, have helped me to keep my body from falling apart, and me loosing that which has been my love for many years, that martial arts. I am also a big fan of the Aikido and jujitsu side of TSDMGK, which is not so much of a shock to my system, as one might believe. It keeps the body flexible in parts that one might not associate with having to be flexible.

Illegitimus Non Carborundum (don’t let the bastards get you down!)

Michael Tabone



Im an asthma sufferer, ive had it pretty bad since I was a kid. Numerous hospital stays/Visits to A and E. I found the cardio part of my training really difficult at first. But keep working at it and you will get better, your body becomes more used to it and is less likely to set off an attack.

I have had to work a lot harder on my cardio than others but it has paid off, I can even keep up with the teenagers(just!). Go at your own pace but push yourself(not too far though). Since I started Tang Soo Do my asthma has gotten so much better, i dont need as much medication as I used to and ive not been rushed to hospital in years.

Also you may want to talk to your doctor. I found a few extra puffs of my preventitive and reliever before training helped. There is a drug called singulair(probably diferent name in the US) that I had for a while that practically stopped all my simptoms. Ive also been practicing Chi Kung which seems to help.

Imho cardio is one of the best ways to beat your asthma. I heard that before inhalers were common people were made to blow up thick rubber ballons to exercise thier lungs.

Best of luck

Vanilla Heath-Bar Crunch

Cant say much about Asthma, but you could email me and Ill put you in contact with my good friend Kelly Case, a TSD blackbelt who has been in a wheelchair for over 14 years.

Feisty Mouse

Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Jun 15, 2004
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I think a lot of us have had to adapt in one way or another - or found the martial art that is complementary to our body type/abilities.

Several years ago I hurt my lower back. I still very much wanted to come back to MA, but had to look around a) for a good studio with good people, and b) find an art that didn't mean I'd be kicking over my head, or taking hard falls, immediately.

And I did. And I love where I train, and the arts I'm studying. I still have to make adjustments - I prefer to kick on one leg vs. another, because of a knee problem, I prefer to punch with one arm vs. another, because of a shoulder problem - but it is "doable."

Best of luck!


Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Oct 25, 2002
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Austin, TX, USA
Although I train in a different martial art, I also have asthma. I'm an ex-smoker and have had difficulty in my training since Day 1 (about 6 yrs ago). When I decided that the Art was more important to me than smoking [actually, it was decided for me when I was forced to quit "Cold Turkey" at a camp about a month after I started--LOL!] I just kept up with the rest of the class as best I could until I had an attack. Then I would sit down and use my inhaler, and as soon as I could, I'd rejoin the class. During Cardio, I had to walk the laps for awhile, then a few months later jog, then two or three years later actually "run" (using a method of training that my former instructor suggested--I forget the actual term for it, but what I did was run one lap at full speed, then jog or walk the next one, then run the one after that, etc., ). It was very difficult, and there were times when I thought about giving up, but improvement did happen, and it happened very slowly over time. Using my inhaler before a class (especially when my allergies are bad) helps also.

I would suggest talking to your instructor and your doctor to see if they have any strategies to help you. Most importantly, don't give up! Do the best you can and remember that you are not alone....

Best Wishes,


Columbia Martial Arts Academy
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
May 27, 2004
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Not BC, Not DC

I have never been diagnosed with asthma, but I hav been diagnosed with reduced lung capacity. This can be accompanied by exercise-induced asthma. I have had lung infection after lung infection and whenever I get a cold, it always goes into my lungs.

A couple of years ago, I was working very hard on increasing my cardio fitness and I had NO GAINS! When I talked to a physician's assistant about the problem, he gave me inhalers specific to my problem. Using those, I began to improve just within a few months!

I continue to have intermittent problems with my lungs, but it is something I continually work on and treat through either inhalers, reiki, help from my teacher and my chiropractor.

One thing I have not yet done is have a lung specialist oversee my lung health and monitor my training program and progress. I know this is something I need to start, and you should too.

But there are progressive ways to increase your lungs' abilities to work for you.

Happiness and healing to you,



Hello Llarion,

Keep up the good strenuous training schedule that you are currently pursuing and please remember to Breathe! By Breathe, I mean, to really focus on how you breathe. Try to breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth continuously, while you stretch, excercise, drills and especially while you are sparring. You may also my want to consider increasing your breathing excercises and/or meditation. As time progresses, you should notice an increase in you stamina and energy levels. You should adapt your training at your own pace, remember that you are not in a race in your endeavor to achieve technical proficiency, but never underestimate yourself and your potential capabilities. OK?:)

Take care of yourself,



Blooming Lotus

Purple Belt
Nov 2, 2004
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Bris heading to Sydney feb ish
My brother has been a chronic asthmatic since he was a kid and he still has many years of elite long distance running and professional sports. I think weather is a factor, but if you can't move house, swimming has always been a great lung-capacity expander! Also try some qigpong or controlled breathing techs , ande for over achievers, apply it to skip rope session of 3-5x 100 reps ( for beginners ) / min : 1 min off and deep breathe ?? It's 3 -5 mins of xingku ( effort / hard work) and it's over with your health on the up each time thereafter!!! ;) Take a rest day between even if you must.

Anyone can find an excuse, Ie :- too fat, too old, too slow , no time, no legs and so on , but if you don't look after yourself, or work what your limits don't restrict, these are the symptoms of that not working and NOT the obstacle. ;)

cheers and happy self motivation :D