Varg Freeborn: Many fights have turned lethal when they should not have because someone lacked the conditioning or skills to handle a physical fight.

About the author

Varg Freeborn is the author of Violence of Mind and Beyond OODA. He is an instructor for personalized fitness and skill development. And he offers specialized training for individuals and small groups in force-on-force, incl. weapons-based self-defense – based upon handling and operating a weapon in CQB and chaotic situations. 

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Conditioning is the best road to advanced technique

The Article

For me, conditioning is the “Schwerpunkt” of performance, and it is the most commonly skipped component of training.

It is twofold: there’s the physical fitness aspect of conditioning, and then there’s the practice and repetition skills-based aspect of conditioning.

How many times have you walked into a dojo and witnessed horribly out-of-shape people learning fighting techniques?

I know I have also seen it in dojos as well as on the gun range, where fantasies of fast-paced gunfights are lived out, but often the real work of preparedness is lost on the majority of participants.

This is evidenced by their inability to perform many physically challenging tasks.

Now, to be clear, I am not talking about people with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities.

My job as a teacher is to guide your development to be able to effectively fight within your own limitations.

However, some limitations can and should be overcome, and I would argue that a great majority of the technique and skill used in a fight require a minimum amount of strength, speed, and endurance to perform them adequately.

Understand how to move your body through space and how to leverage yourself against the environment

I would also contend that the more strength, speed, and endurance you have in a functional manner, the more effective you are in performance, and the greater your chances of lasting through a real deadly fight will be.

This concept is well established in athleticism, and we should feel the same about physical performance in self-defense fighting and martial arts, including gunfighting.

Conditioning is the best road to advanced techniques.

A technique that emerges from dedicated conditioning work is a technique that you truly own. It has your own signature on it.

The instructor can show you the basic skill, and you can awkwardly emulate it, but when you understand how to move your body through space and how to leverage yourself against the environment because you have developed strength, speed, endurance, proprioceptive capability, and kinesthetic awareness, you customize it into a technique to match your body type and your most efficient movement pathways.

You develop around your individual limitations, genetic heritage, and clothing choices.

It’s truly yours.

Conditioning through the increase of physical capabilities and the repetition of skills is the only way to achieve this.

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The areas where I believe the good guys can gain the best advantages

I guess a huge gap that I try to fill with conditioning is the performance aspect of skill and technique.

It is very easy to mimic and repeat a technique with semi-willing participants, but a real fight with a dedicated violent attacker will generally be a lot more work.

Especially if you are a smaller framed man or woman, and it will be tenfold as hard if you do not have an athletic background.

I currently spend more time with my remote coaching clients and students than I do with martial or weapon-based training.

In fact, I now focus my fight training on weapons-based force-on-force and spend the rest of my time training individuals to develop strength and functional physical capabilities like speed, explosiveness, and endurance.

These are the priorities as I see them, the areas where I believe the good guys can gain the best advantages for their time and effort. It ties directly into your orientation with confidence.

The confidence you gain from a truly earned technique that you own, coupled with a great sense of capability in proven strength, speed, and endurance, is irreplaceable and genuine.

It is not a false confidence, especially if you’ve spent hundreds of hours proving it to yourself and getting better each time.

This all applies to every type of fighting, whether it’s striking, grappling, or even gunfighting.

You can see the difference in all of them.

If you are out of shape, you will have to resort to lethal much quicker

The confidence aspect can not be downplayed at all here.

It is well known that someone who is not “fit” or capable of fighting very well will go to the lethal option much faster than they should.

The more capable and confident you are, the less panic you will experience.

You may be able to solve a problem without going lethal because you can get away or control it with less than lethal force.

Many fights have turned lethal when they should not have because someone lacked the conditioning or skills to handle a physical fight.

This literally happens all the time.

I have personally made these mistakes myself, so I truly believe in what I am saying here.

The more confident and capable you are, the better your options and your ability to choose from those options.

This is something that we see in police officers that are not well trained, as well as with civilians. Lacking the necessary conditioning and technique to go hands-on with someone and control them leaves you with very few options.

You may kill someone when you really didn’t have to, and that might haunt you quite a bit.

The courts do not make exceptions for people who are unfit as much as they do for those with serious physical limitations, disabilities, age, etc.

And today, public opinion about the use of force is merciless.

Regardless of the legal outcome, one thing is definitely true: If you are out of shape, you will have to resort to lethal much quicker than if you had some conditioning.

If you carry a gun or work in a profession that leads you to confrontations, this should invoke some serious thought.

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Photos by Varg Freeborn

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