By Phil Ross, AFS Community Expert

My background in the martial arts and fitness is very deep and wide. I am of the full belief that there is an undeniable synergistic relationship between the martial arts and fitness. Ponder this thought, what is one without the other?

For example, if an individual is “buffed” and in great shape, but cannot execute a proper punch, how well will he or she be able to defend themselves or their family? Another example would be an overweight, unhealthy martial artist. What kind of example is this individual putting forth? How can they effectively lead a class if they are huffing and puffing? I have seen far too many examples of the both of the aforementioned. However, I see a change in the trend occurring on a first hand basis.

As a Chancellor in the University of Diverse Defense, I’ve been tasked with delivering the fitness portion of the presentation to be rolled out at this year’s MAIA Show in Las Vegas. Additionally, I have workshops, videos and books dedicated to the blending of the self-defense and martial arts with strength and conditioning. My Survival Strong program was launched a little less than two years ago. Most of the participants have not been from the martial arts community, they have been fitness instructors, enthusiasts and physical education teachers.

Considering the demographics of the attendees at my seminars and scenarios presented in the previous paragraph, it’s my strongest belief that self-defense and fitness not only belong together, but enhance each other. I’m bringing up my system and book, because I know them best. There are many other, qualified instructors and a host of other bona fide systems; Krav Maga, Systema C.O.B.R.A., R.A.D., F.A.S.T, LRT, CDT. Any of the aforementioned systems, as well as some that I’ve missed, are a good bet to get proven self-defense training.

The addition of self-defense and/or martial arts to a fitness professional’s arsenal will also provide you with another means to train your clients. A great many of my one on one clients like to mix in focus mitt work and defensive tactics into their strength and conditioning regimen. Not only does this addition create a more diverse and interesting session, but the client gains confidence. Plus, they no longer feel as if they are “all show and no go”. There’s something primal about being able to punch and kick effectively and defend one’s self. This ability strikes a chord with many people, especially with all of the violence that we witness daily on the news and Internet.

As a fitness studio proprietor, the addition of a Self Defense program is a great asset to the offerings for your client base. The best way to get your program implemented to is host a seminar for Self Defense seminar and survey the participants. If the survey is positive, forge a relationship with organization and either you or your staff member(s) become an instructor or hire one from the organization. Another avenue to pursue for fitness facilities is to have a children’s martial arts program.

At my school, we have one for Pre-K, 3 to to 5 year olds and another program for 6 to 12 year olds. Other studios have more age designations. Unless you already have a martial artist on staff, you will need to hire an instructor for outside of your organization. If the facility is large enough, children’s martial arts classes and adult fitness classes may be run simultaneously so that parent and child are both getting their training in.

Good luck with your training and implementation of martial arts and self-defense at your studio. If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to email me at or PM me on Facebook.

Strength and Honor


Phil Ross is an 8th Degree Black Belt, Master RKC, Bodyweight Specialist and Published Author. His name is synonymous with Martial Arts and fitness. A veteran in both industries with over 40 years of practical experience and over 30 in teaching and instructing, Phil's training was put to the test in the ring, on the mat, in the street, on the stage and in the classroom.


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