Tag Archives: dice

Training Randomness in Martial Arts

Over the years I’ve talked a deal about the importance of introducing randomness into martial arts training.  Although some things seem to mesh better with linear progression training, like lifting weights (for me at least), introducing some randomness into training has real benefits.

One of the benefits you get from introducing randomness in your martial arts training is the ability to deal with the unexpected.  Chaos is really annoying.  But its real and you to learn to handle it.

Here’s an overview of what is and is not random in my training regimen these days.


Solo martial arts practice (four days/week).  I select random martial arts focuses by pulling labeled Popsicle sticks out of a pile.  Why not roll dice?  I want some randomness, but I need to cover all bases.  This method insures that, assuming I get through all the sticks in two weeks, I never get rusty at anything.

Running (twice per week).  I roll dice using the following program.  I have no idea if I’m running 3 miles for pace, half a mile as fast as I can, shuttle runs with a weighted vest, or what-have-you.

Extra calisthenics (whenever I feel like it).  I use PTDICE.  I have a few sets left.  Email me and I’ll sell you a set for $15 postage paid.

Not Random

Group martial arts training.  We stick with one  martial concentration and one constitutional (a 7 exercise deep calisthenics routine) for a full month before switching.

Weights (twice per week).  Still, I rotate out all exercises every 6 weeks.  Here’s some info about LPs.

Grip training (5 days/week).  Heath/maintenance 3 days/week,  pushing limits 2 days/week.  I’ve written a lot about this over the years, but recently I’m getting better results more safely.  More to come soon.

Martial Base Fitness Experiment

The Goal: Functional Strength With Less Wear and Tear

This is a great goal for everyone, but it’s especially important as we age and recovery times lengthen.  The older I get the hard it becomes to maintain my ability to perform certain martial/wrestling strength movements without staying sore and crippled half the time.  So I’m experimenting with what I’m calling “MBF” which stands for “Martial Base Fitness.”

Which Got Me Thinking

I watched a few of Pavel’s Strongfirst videos (this is not an endorsement and I haven’t read his books) and they reminded me that I have had success in the past with something very similar to his “greasing the groove” philosophy.  I always called it “greasing the gears.” So I came up with this new program.

The Idea

The idea (as I intro’d in Training Involution #124is that frequent low-rep, low-intensity sets will get you stronger and keep you healthier than infrequent, high-intensity sets. Or as my son once told me, “Just because you’re not doing white-out calisthenics doesn’t mean you aren’t training.”


  • 3×5 sets 2 days/week at 95% load = 3 x 5 x 2 x .95 = 28.5 reps
  • 3×5 sets  5 days/week at 76% load =  3 x 5 x 5 x .75 = 57 reps
  • Double the reps means you get functionally stronger with less risk

Program Outline

Four or five days a week I’m rolling 4 dice to arrive at a list of 4 exercises (see photo right).  Then I set a timer for 8 minutes and do low-intensity sets of no more than 6 reps each until the timer beeps.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s on the dice:

Dice 1 – Upper Body Dice 2 – Lower Body Dice 3 – Core Dice 4 – Whole Body
Push-ups Ankle Picks Shrimps Splays
Pull-ups Shots Jackknifes Reverses
Handstand Push-ups Jump Squats Crunch’n’punches Bear Walks²
Divebombers Squats Back Bridge¹ Bodybuilders
Sit-out Push-ups Duckunders Forward Bridge¹ Get-ups
Hop/Clap Push-ups Mountain Climbers Pikes w/ Triangles Sit-outs

Today I did 4 sets of Ankle Picks, Forward Bridge¹, Sit-outs, and Push-ups (only 3 sets of Push-ups because the timer beeped). 

I will post results in a couple of months

If you are doing anything similar and/or if you have relevant past experience, please comment below.

¹ When I do Bridges, I do them one of two ways: either with weight or with rocking — gently! — forward and back 6 times, left and right 6 times.  I never rock with added weight when doing MBFD because they would violate the low-intensity focus of this routine.

² When I do Bear Walks, I do 6 laps of the CF Temple space, approximately 18 feet per lap, about 100′ total.

Hermetic Dice, a Fire Sale, Book Update, WOOTW etc.

This has to be one of the most absurd titles in blogging history.  Hermetic Workout Dice?  Seriously?  Yes, seriously. Sometimes absurdity is a marker that indicates you are exploring new territory.  Sometimes the fool or jester is the one speaking the truth!

The dice set pictured above will be used to help me come up with the Cabal Fang #WOOTW (Workout of the Week) in the coming year.  They’re Hermetic because they have symbols on them rather than numbers or pips.  Symbols, in the Hermetic view, are gateways to accessing and understanding universal truths. Using these dice is like reading Tarot, “throwing the bones,” or trying to understand modern art.  They’re inspirational and aspirational not literal.

What do the symbols mean?  In Cabal Fang there are 12 concentrations (external focuses) and 12 symbols (internal focuses). So I’ll be choosing one of the two concentration dice and one of the two symbol dice. I’ll also roll the focus type —  that’s the one in purple ink — to decide on Speed, Power, Accuracy, Mobility, Form or Endurance. And then, to suggest the structure of the workout or drill (volume, sets, failure, pyramid, ascend/descend, etc.) I’ll toss in the green one — a a copy of the “type” die from the PTDICE set available at ptdice.com.

Speaking of PTDICE, they’re on fire sale clearance over at PTDICE.com.  Go over there and get yourself a set for just $5.99 + shipping!

The Cabal Fang book is currently in the hands of the formatter and as of right now the release date is holding strong at 2/1/2017!

Pre-order the eBook today for just $5.99 before the price goes up to $7.99.

And now, without an further delay, I humbly present the Cabal Fang Workout of the Week.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #37

I’ve had the creeping snots for several days now — allergies or a cold, not sure which. This is what I would’ve done yesterday if I hadn’t felt like roadkill:

Heavy Bag Striking Accuracy Drill.  If your heavy bag doesn’t have targets on it, use medical or sports tape to add some “X” marks about 3″ across — nose, solar plexus, kidneys, thighs, etc. Throw 100 combos of 5 strikes each at specific targets on your bag. Count your misses. When done, complete 1 Jump Squat per miss.

Physical Training. Complete 5 sets of Uneven Push-ups (one hand on a yoga block or other sturdy object), Wall Touches  and Zombie Squats. To find reps per set, divide your SSM (Single Set Max — how many you can do witbout stopping for 1 set) by 3.

Meditation on one of the Five Vital Graces. Choose one — Wonder, Sagacity, Frugality, Indomitability or Fraternity — and meditate on its purpose, significance, nature, value, etc.

Here’s the dice roll that inspired this workout.

Periods, Cycles and the Power of Greyskull

About a month ago my son told me he started a new weightlifting program called the Greyskull LP by John “Johnny Pain” Sheaffer.¹  I was intrigued, so I did some research.

This is one hilarious picture (thanks to Matthew Oliphant, whoever you are). I can’t believe how perfect it is for this blog post!

My research revealed two things.  (A) The Greyskull LP program is highly regarded by many experts, and (B) the science of strength and muscle hypertrophy  has progressed a great deal since I got my fitness instructor certificate about ten years ago.

So I started the program, modified slightly for dumbbells because that’s what I have and I don’t want to spend money and space on barbells.  Results are amazing. Only three weeks in, and I’m already pushing more iron that I ever have before.

Which brings me to another realization.  The “LP” in “Greyskull LP” stands for “Linear Progression” and it’s probably what makes the program so effective.


Linear progressions, clipboards, and rigid systems have not been my thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely rigid about my workout schedules.  I don’t skip workouts and I repeatedly have to check myself to prevent over-training.  But for many years, at least since this post back in 2013, I have been rolling dice to arrive most aspects of my solo workouts (except for grip strength).  Does that give me good all-around fitness?  Probably.  Does it help prepare me for anything, in true martial arts fashion?  Maybe.  But random workouts cannot  match the consistent gains of progressive, period-ized workout programs (especially when it comes to weight training).


Bottom line: I recommend a mix of progressive, random and static or maintenance workouts, depending on the goal or goals.  

Here’s what my workout schedule looks like right now.  I’ve added colors and the letters “STA,” “LP” and “RND” or “MIX” after each section so that you can see which ones are which type.  Red blocks are static or maintenance workouts, green are progressive, and yellow are random or mixed.


I’d be interested in the opinions of other martial artists.  How do you train? In your opinion, am I on the right track or lost in the weeds?


¹ My understanding is that the program is called the Greyskull (with an “e” instead of an “a” to avoid copyright issues) because it makes you look like He-Man.

Cards, Dice, Art, and your WOD

Some people create stuff, and that takes guts.  Starch.  Balls.   Because when you create art, some people might not like it.  I’m always creating stuff, and I do so unafraid because I have to create.  To quote the late great John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillen’, “It’s in him, and it’s got to come out.”  So maybe creativity doesn’t take guts.  Maybe what it takes is enough creative urgency, effervescent desire, and volcanic drive to overcome the of fear of criticism and hit the LAUNCH button.

If people don’t like what I create, no bigs.  It’s okay not to like stuff.  I see stuff I don’t like all the time.   Usually I don’t say anything because I’m a creator myself, and I know that sometimes I put a ton of effort into creating things that nobody seems to dig.  So even if I think somebody’s creation is kinda crappy, I often respect the effort.  But I do appreciate constructive criticism. So when I do comment on stuff I don’t like, that’s what I usually offer.  Constructive criticism: an essential part of a nutritious breakfast.

This morning I created a video for today’s WOD.  Check it out.  If you don’t like it, do whatever you want.  Slam it, pan it, dis it, or if you’re in a Boogie Chillen’ kind of mood, just offer some constructive criticism.  Note: This workout is a variant of one of the workouts in my book The Calisthenics Codex.

Instructions: Take a deck of ordinary playing cards, remove the Jokers, and shuffle.  Put the deck on the floor and flip a card.  Black = Push-ups, Red = Squats.  Aces = 10, face cards = 12.  Complete reps as indicated.  Flip a card and repeat.  If you do the whole deck, you will have done 200 Push-ups and 200 Squats.  I got to 34 cards before I gassed.  Oh well, there’s always next time!

PTDICE Artwork Samples and More

dicesampleCheck out this post over at the PTDICE website, and sign up to be notified when products are in stock.  These things are really cool.

The Basic Set will include nine dice — two dice to determine the workout type and seven dice that contain forty-two different calisthenics.  If you want to train to expect the unexpected, or if you just want to experience holding over a million random workouts in the palm of your hand, you’re going to want a set of these.

What are PTDICE and where can I get some?

PT1mockupOver at the PTDICE (c)  website we now have a mailing list option if you want to be notified when products are in stock.  You can also go check out the mockups and prototypes and whatnot, as well as find out how they work, what they’re for, and all that good stuff.

Bottom line:  PTDICE put a million random workouts in the palm of your hand, and can be used to create a new workout in seconds.