Tabata protocol training in the martial arts

This “Tabata protocol training in the martial arts” post can be placed in the “Get off my lawn!” category as I increasingly become a grumpy, old Personal Trainer. Go here to read my previous one.

For years, I’ve seen people claim they do, and worse, actually teach their version of interval training as Tabata protocol. Some people don’t know any better, but others should. Especially if they claim all the benefits of Tabata training, but can never deliver these with what they have you do. Then they’re just ordinary snake oil salesmen. It’s one of the many reasons I dislike the fitness industry I’ve worked in for several decades now:

  • Discover something excellent and effective.
  • Distort it into something it is not.
  • Sell it to people who want to believe there are magical shortcuts.

Unfortunately, the same is true for the martial arts community I’ve been in even longer: people claim they are doing Tabata but they’re not even close. At best, they’re doing some form of high-intensity interval, and though that is worth doing in its own right, that *doesn’t* make it Tabata. In fact, Dr. Tabata has expressed his concern about the incorrect use of his research in the past.

People don’t care…

Tabata protocol training: what it is not.

For the record, none of these videos here below qualify as Tabata training:

None of the exercises are able to generate the intensity required.

Not only lacking intensity but Tabata is a) not a beginner’s protocol and b) not something pregnant women should do. Unless you think risking miscarriage is a good idea…

Not even close to the VO2 max requirements…

Slow-motion kicking… I’ve got nothing.

Leg scissors?  Pointless for Tabata.

Aside from the poor technique: Anything that takes 30min. to complete has cannot be Tabata training by definition.

I could go on and on and show you many more examples, but you get the point.


What is Tabata protocol training?

Short explanation: after a light warm-up of about 10min. you do 7-8 sets of intense exercise with 10sec. rest breaks inbetween.

When it comes to what intense exercise means, an easy rule of thumb to see if something is Tabata protocol or not is:

If they are still standing and can easily talk at the end, it isn’t.

Dr. Tabata used world-class speedskaters and put them on a bicycle for his original test. They were exhausted at the end of it. As in: couldn’t do anything else but try to breathe and recover. None of the people in these videos are in that state, far from it. So all their claims of Tabata protocol are nonsense.

The intensity requirements are clear: approx. 170% of VO2 max. And you have to hit that every single set. Not just in the last one, every single one. That means you push yourself hard for each set, despite the fatigue building up exponentially.

For an idea of what that looks like, check out the last few seconds of my training session here:

To be clear: the reverse-pyramid interval training I do here is not Tabata protocol either. But the point is that none of the people in the above videos are coming anywhere near my level of intensity. So they’re full of it if they claim they’re doing Tabata.

Doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is not worth it. It only means they don’t know what they’re talking about or are lying to you on purpose. Neither one of these is a good thing.



Words matter. Definitions matter. Even if you don’t fully understand or even know them. This applies everywhere.

E.g.: would you buy a car from a manufacturer when their interpretation of “quality control” is to drive the car for a few minutes and if it doesn’t break down, it’s good to go?  I doubt it. “Quality control” means something specific in that industry and you expect that standard to be met when you buy a vehicle.

Why would you expect anything else from coaches, trainers, and teachers?

In my previous rant, I mentioned that I read a lot of studies. Like, tons of them. If you make any claims about Tabata protocol, I suggest you do the same. Start by reading the original research here and here. And then read this overview here. Then at least you will have some basic understanding of what Tabata training actually is and if you even want to use it for your martial arts practice. Perhaps you will even become a better trainer or coach by applying it as originally intended. At the very least, your own training sessions will improve as there is more to Tabata training than just doing the workouts correctly. What’s more, there are many other high-intensity interval protocols that are perhaps more interesting for you and/or your students. So you might end up looking into those as well.

It gives me a small measure of ironic pleasure to finally be able to use one of the most obnoxious things young people say nowadays:

Educate yourself…




Tony Ferguson’s horrible deadlift

Here’s a video of Tony Ferguson, a professional athlete and UFC champion, doing a deadlift last year:

There is a reason why I write my books and articles the way I do and this is a part of it:
Martial arts is one of the fields in which even the best have some of the worst training practices.
This video illustrates that clearly.Tony is an excellent fighter, there is no doubt about that. But I see only two explanations for this horrible deadlift:

  • He is trained by an incompetent conditioning coach. There is zero reason to let any client perform a deadlift in this manner, let alone with this much weight. Zeroat all.
    I teach all my clients how to properly hip-hinge without weight or with a broomstick. No exceptions. Technique comes first, weight second. If they don’t like it, they can find another trainer, because I won’t be responsible when they go to snap city and end up hospitalized.
  • He thinks he knows how to deadlift, but never really learned proper technique. Which would mean he is his own conditioning coach. As a professional athlete looking for every edge you can get, that’s just stupid.

I’ve rarely encountered a field other than martial arts where the most counterproductive or antiquainted training exercises and protocols are used by professionals. When I write in-depth about topics, it is precisely to avoid giving you incomplete information that can lead to injuries or worse. I’ve often been criticized for being too wordy, but it doesn’t bother me. Those who think TL;DR is the way to excellence will eventually find out that they missed their shot. Those who keep on studying and try to learn and improve, those are the practitioners who get to the top and stay there.

hip hinge

Showing Barry Eisler the range of motion in a proper hip hinge

There is a corrolary to this: I rarely talk about topics I don’t have experience with or knowledge of. I try to avoid adding bullshit to the already massive amounts of information that are shared all over the internet. So I usually either stay quiet on those topics or refer to others who are more knowledgeable.

I would dare say that if he hasn’t already, Tony could do worse than find a good coach to teach him the basics of the deadlift…

My new book: The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

And here it is! My new book, The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts, is available as of right now. If you want to read all the details on what it’s about, read this blog post.

The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

You can get the book in paperback and electronic version at Amazon and the other retailers in this list here below.


Coming soon:

  • Inktera

There are two bonuses that come with this book:

  • The first 100 buyers who send me a message via my Facebook Page can get access to a private Facebook group. In that group, I will give additional information to help you use the information in the book: pictures, additional techniques, instructional videos, video analysis of MMA fights in which the leg kick is used, you can ask questions and much more. This is first come, first served, so best not delay if you are interested in this.

Also, you will keep your access to the group once I finish posting all the content there. Important: you obviously need a Facebook account to be eligible for this and I will ask proof of purchase via email.

  • There is a resources page to which I repeatedly refer to in the book. You can find it here. There you can find additional information, some videos and links to the gear I recommend for your training. This page is free for all to enjoy.


It took much longer than I wanted to write this book, but it’s finally here. I hope you enjoy it and can use the information to improve your own skills.


I have one small favor to ask:

Please leave a review on Amazon. Just give your honest opinion, what you liked, didn’t like, etc. It doesn’t even have the be a long review, just a few lines is already better than nothing.

Reviews make a huge difference in improving sales of a book. I would greatly appreciate it you woudl take the time to write one. Thank you.


Finally, I’ve already started writing the next book: Boxing for Self-Defense. If all goes well, it will be released in December near the holiday season. If you want to be notified when it does, sign up here. No spam, just an email when there’s a new product.


Thank you for your support.

The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts, Coming Soon!

Before I get to the leg kick part, something else: it’s been several months since I updated my blog, sorry about that. Life happened and I’ve been crazy busy, that’s the honest truth. However, I haven’t been idle… First of all, I’ve been adding tons of content on my Patreon page. The feedback and support has been amazing and I’ve been kicking myself for not starting it sooner. If you’re not familiar with Patreon, I explained how I am using it here.

Second and most of all: my new book is finished and is in the final stages of production. The title is:

The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

More details and a special offer below, but first here’s the cover:

The Leg Kick for MMA

I just sent the formatting guys my list of corrections for the first draft they did. I should have a revised version back in a day or so and if there are no other issues, we can proceed to preparing the paper version. Once that is done, I can order a print proof, check it for errors and fix what needs fixing. When that is done, I can upload the files and the book will be on sale a few days later.

I can’t wait…


What’s it about?

Many years ago, I wrote a free ebook about the leg kick, one of my favorite techniques. I eventually put it up here on my blog as a  How-to do a Leg Kick series. and it was a popular bunch of articles for a long time. However, this guide was only a basic introduction to the leg kick and I wanted to do more. So my first idea was to make an instructional video, but due to technical problems, the shoot failed. Then I started developing physical problems and couldn’t do a decent job anymore, so I shelved the project.

But I still wanted to do more.

So I eventually started writing a much more in-depth version of this guide, which turned into  what is now “The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts.” If you read that original guide, you might wonder what is different in the book. Here are some details:

  • First, there are lots more chapters, check out the picture here below.  I tried to be as complete as I possibly can without turning the book into an encyclopedia.
The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

Chapter list of The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

  • Next, there are 160 original pictures included, to illustrate the concepts, techniques and combinations in the book.
  • In the book you get the link to a “Resources Page” I will make available on my site. It will feature additional content such as links to equipment, pictures, videos and more. Free of charge.
  • To the best of my knowledge, this is the only book that focuses on the leg kick for Mixed Martial Arts in such great detail.

So all in all, I think it turned out really well and I hope you’ll enjoy the book and find it useful for your leg kick training.


Special offer

I’m going to do two things I haven’t done before during the launch of this book:

  • I’m giving a discount for a short, undisclosed time period right after the book is published. If you are a Patron or on my notification list, you will be the first to hear about it and also know when that period ends. That should give you more than enough time to buy the book at the lowest price possible. Once that time period ends, the price will go up.
  • The first 100 buyers get access to a private Facebook group I created. In that group I will spend a few weeks giving additional information to help you use the information in the book: pictures, additional techniques, instructional videos, video analysis of MMA fights in which the leg kick is used, you can ask questions and much more. This is first come, first served (except for my Patrons; they get in for free) and once those 100 spots are taken, that will be it. Once all the content has been placed in the group and I stop posting, you will still keep your access to it. Important: you obviously need a Facebook account to be eligible for this and I will ask proof of purchase via email. Final instructions will follow as soon as I publish the book.

That’s pretty much it. So don’t forget to sign up for my notification list or become a Patron to get a shot at access to this special offer.

I think this is a fair and generous offer to those of you who want to support my work and are interested in the book. The offer is merely an incentive for you to get the book sooner rather than later.


That covers the most important information for now. There is more to come, but I’ll let you all know as publication comes closer.