When people hear I practice Martial Arts, Karate Shotokan, at a competitive level and I also do Obstacle Racing they jump to conclusion that these two sports are so different and must require a totally different type of training.

However I’ve personally found many elements of my OCR training which helped me with my Martial Arts performance and vice versa. These are physical and mental as well.

In this article I will talk about what these two sports have in common.


Among them there is strength, speed, balance, core strength but also:

1. Focus

Many times when you get really good at a sport you may start losing focus, because the elements become so automatic that you don’t need to focus on them any more, particularly the basics.

There’s also the ego of being really good so you slow down, you get complacent. I see this in many Martial Arts practitioners  and sometimes in myself.

When you run an Obstacle Race the moment your mind goes somewhere else you are face down in the mud, you trip or you run into someone else. Maybe you get away with it a few times but at some point it happens, face in the mud.

In Martial Arts fights we fight for three minutes. In those three minutes you should not blink. The moment you blinked you lost. There is so much focus required for those minutes.

In OCR focus is critical for hours not just minutes and Martial Arts practitioners can and should learn from OCR runners.

2. Determination and resilience

It is so easy in winter or in really hot summers for us, Martial Arts practitioners, to go in a heated gym or with air conditioners and yes, sweat a little, but still comfortable.

On mats or wooden floor, no worries about cutting, tripping, slipping, freezing, breaking bones, ending up in the hospital etc. And we also have a nice insurance behind us, depending on the club!

As an Obstacle Racer I sign my own death waver. I train all year round, I can compete all year round if I choose to. I fall, get back up and keep running. I jump in freezing water, get out and jump into the next one. I tell myself I will never do another winter OCR again. I never keep that promise!

People trip, fall, slip, the probability of getting injured is higher than in many Martial Arts. OCR is a controlled environment up to a point.  The risk of hypothermia is non-existent in Martial Arts, yet common in Obstacle Course Races.

The power of not giving up, of getting up when you fall is one of the things today’s Martial Artists can learn from Obstacle Racers. There is no comfort zone in an OCR.

Finding common ground_2

3. Endurance

This is a big one. In many Martial Arts styles we have three minutes at a time of continuous pressure then we get a break.

We also wear mouth guards which make it more difficult to breathe. And if we are a bit nervous then our hearts start racing.

This is sparring, but we also have Kata (detailed patterns of movements practised either solo or in pairs) where we have explosive movements after slow ones.

We can do four or five Katas in a row in a competition, we need to recover fast and we need to be able to maintain the same level of strength, speed and focus throughout the same Kata and from one Kata to another. There’s a lot of hard work.

Training in Obstacle Racing can help with that. It’s good to practice a different sport that can help with your main one.

In an OCR you run on uneven terrain, you stop then run again, jumps, pull, push, carry, crawl etc.

The level of strength and speed have to be maintained to finish the race strong or sometimes to finish it at all.

Plus the endurance running part is a major element OCR, whether it’s a 5km on a hilly, boggy land or a 25km – endurance is key.

So there they are; three elements that OCR offered to improve my Martial Arts performance. Of course there are many ways to do that. But OCR is challenging, mentally and physically. As I said before there is no comfort zone in an OCR

Of course there are many risks to Martial Arts and OCR. But I find common elements that help my Karate. And giving myself this variation helps me keep my enthusiasm up.

So what other sport do you practice to help you get better and better? Are your training sessions creative or do you do the same things over and over again?

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