training : armoured combat : conditioning

onditioning Training


The purpose of the circuit training for armoured combat is to develop one's endurance and aerobic conditioning. The reasoning behind this is should one's conditioning be high, there is less probability that an armoured bout will turn into a "brawl" or "train wreck" as they are so often described, because if the combatant is fatiqued early in the bout, he/she will wish to end it ASAP. This is where mistakes can appear, or injuries are incurred.

Most of the armoured combatants of AEMMA are fairly well trained on the use and applications of all weapons given the years of training, although more weapons based training should continue. The key attribute which has not been worked on with any consistency, is "in-harness" time developing enhanced conditioning. Although it is important to fight in harness on a regular basis and it is most certainly important to have these bouts periodically to continue to enhance weapons skills, it is the conditioning which we believe will enhance not only the combatant's ability to fight in harness, but also may materialize the appearance of more skilled technical forms given the improved conditioning.

The program below describes a training circuit which is directly oriented towards conditioning training all the while in harness.

Video clips Circuit station description
1. tire flip: using the large tires on the training floor, flip the tire, end over end 6 x towards the south, and then return with 6 x to the north wall.

Tire training will increase not only one's strength, but cardiovascular fitness as well. It's an old form of training, often used in training football players. The key here is to squat down when lifting the tire, and NOT use your back to lift the tire. Given that the individual will be in harness, it is imperative that the legs take on most of the force of the weight of the tire. As the tire comes up, there should be enough momentum that the hands positions can change the action changes from pulling to a pushing action.

2. kettlebell training: kettle bell press, work on a cycle of 6-8 reps per minute, starting with 1 minute per side for a total of 2 minutes; once conditioning is improved, do the same for 4 minutes, 1 minute per side

Kettlebells or "Girya" have been used in Russia for centuries and was brought to North America in 2000 by Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Russian special forces trainer. Kettlebell training focuses on three principle attributes: strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. It is also an excellent activity for burning excess fat, if one is considering loosing weight.

3. pass blocking: or "defend the draw bridge" by placing three tires on the floor, in a triangle shape, each approx. 2m apart. The defender (the "patient"), will offer resistence from being pushed between the two tires towards the third tire, in essence, will defend the "opening" while the attacker (the "agent") will push the "patient" back in order to get through the two tires to reach the 3rd tire (passing through the draw bridge). The drill would last approximately 15 - 30 seconds. Should the patient reach the third tire before the time is up, both would reset at the "opening of the draw bridge" and continue.

This drill works on maintaining one's balance when withstanding the force of being pushed back, and is also a great conditioning exercise.

4. takedowns and throws: With a partner, have him/her lift you off the floor either vertically (arms placed around the chest, and using legs and hip to lift one off the floor), repeat 6+ times, and the last lift ends with a throw. The fireman's carry, repeat the lift 6+ times, the last concluding with a throw.

The key intent is to learn how to fall to the ground without getting hurt, both during training and during armoured bouts. The individual must learn to use the muscular parts of the body to take the impact of the fall rather than trying to catch oneself by reaching out with the arms. An informative document on takedowns and throws and breakfalls can be accessed by clicking ==> here <== (pdf file, 1.8MB, sourced from

5. step aerobics: using an elevated platform or step, step up and down repeatedly, with right leg step up followed by left, right leg step down followed by the left, then left leg step up followed by right, left leg step down followed by the right, repeat for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest, and then repeat.

Step aerobics is a popular form of exercise done in many, if not most fitness centres. It is low impact, burns calories and improves ones cardio-fitness. The benefit of the step aerobics is dependent upon the speed of the movements, step height and duration of the exercise. This form of exercise will also improve one's balance, in particular, in harness.


At the end of the training period, should there be enough juice in anyone, some bouts can be done. However, my preference is to replace one of the circuit training sessions with a series of bouts, perhaps monthly, so that there is time to recover from injuries and to repair the harness. Conditioning training should not cause any damage to the harness.

Notes & References & Videos
  1. Flos Duellatorum (Pisani-Dossi MS): F. Novati, Flos duellatorum: Il Fior di battaglia di maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco (Bergamo, 1902)
  2. AEMMA. Armoured Combat Training (Arme) @ AEMMA. June 12, 2003. (An overview of armoured combat training at AEMMA.).
  3. Armoured Combat Training. (A series of short videos depicting armoured combat conditioning training).
  4. Events, Presentations, Exhibitions. (A series of short videos depicting armoured combat related events and bouts).
  5. AEMMA. 2008 pas d'armes at the ROM. March 15, 2008. (A presentation of the first armoured pas d'armes hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum).

Copyright © 2009 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts AEMMA
Released: November 12, 2009 / Last modified: March 05, 2010