How to Fly

Fact: Taido uses lots of jumps. If you want to be able to take full advantage of Taido’s unshin, tengi, and ungi, you will need to have plenty of jumping skill at your disposal. This article is about building these skills.

Before I get into my recommendations for improving your jump, I want to make a brief disclaimer (which has nothing to do with the general disclaimers for this site as a whole): my jump isn’t great. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not bad either. I can jump over most mid-level kicks and do high back flips. I can launch into the air and spend a moment observing before I decide whether I’d like to spin, kick, or something else. My jump is respectable; it’s just not great.

And that’s my number one qualification to be making the following recommendations – I can’t yet jump the way I want to, and this means that I have to work at it. I have to try things out and specifically practice to improve my jumping skills. I have read books and articles on the subject looking for scientific training protocols and time-tested drills. I have experimented with a lot of different methods, and I have some ideas about what is necessary for increases in jump height and control.

What follows are some general programming recommendations for improving your overall jumping skills. You will have to make your own decisions about how to plug these into whatever training you already do, as planning training cycles is well beyond the scope of this article.

The most important thing to remember is that jumping is a high-stress movement. You are working in opposition to gravity, so you will have to expend a lot of energy. You have to develop explosive strength and speed over your entire body. Jump work will wear you out and require ample recovery. Don’t overdo it, or you may have to deal with injuries. Try integrating these methods into your current training gradually and pay attention to feedback from your body.

Testing

Before starting on any new kind of training, it’s generally a good idea to establish a baseline and set testing standards so you can measure your progress (or lack thereof). Warm up and measure your best out of three attempts at the following jumps: standing vertical, standing horizontal, stepping vertical, stepping horizontal, any specific jump you wish to improve. This is not going to be scientific, so just make sure you have an idea where you stand so that you can compare later on.

From the Ground, Up

We’re going to work our jumping skills from the ground, upward, beginning with general mobility/flexibility and then building strength and speed from the feet to the head. Jumping requires whole-body coordination, so it’ll be necessary to cover as many bases as possible in our training regimen. We start with our feet.

Toe Crunches

Most people in america don’t spend a lot of time barefoot. We wear shoes that restrict our natural range of motion, retard our ability to absorb and retranslate impact with the ground, and reduce our nervous sensitivity. In order to counteract our daily dependence on modern footwear, we should spend as much time as possible each day barefoot. This may be uncomfortable at first, but it will do as much for your jumps as all the depth jumps you can force yourself to do.

Just take off your shoes and walk around a bit. Pay attention to the feeling of the floor or ground under your feet. Experiment with walking and turning on different parts of the foot. Spread your toes. Then, squeeze them towards your heels, as if you could make fists with your feet. Relax and do it again. Do a few repetitions of this exercise anytime during the day you have a chance. It works best on thick grass or carpet, but playing with a variety of surfaces will give you a lot of nervous stimulation that will improve your body’s ability to use the information it receives through your feet.

Ankle Circles

After the toes, we need to work on our ankles. The basic ankle exercise is to lift one foot and turn it through the entire range of the ankle’s motion in wide circles, making sure to work in both directions. If you can do this while balanced on the opposite leg, it will be all the better for your jumps because balance (the ability to interpret and make corrections based on the information gathered by the eyes and inner ears) is vital for aerial control.

When you can do lots of wide circles in both directions, you can move on to alphabet shapes. “Write” each letter in the air with each foot, trying to keep your leg as still as possible. This will improve your coordination and strengthen your ankles considerably.

Next, work on strengthening and stretching the calves by doing toe raises. Try alternating five fast and five slow toe raises, moving from a fully relaxed and stretched bottom position up to a fully tensed and locked-out top.

There is plenty more we could do for our lower legs, but let’s hold off on actually jumping until we have a chance to build a strength/mobility platform in the rest of our legs and hips.

Dynamic Swing Stretching

Commonly known as swing kicks, this kind of stretching conditions the nervous system to relax residual tension in the muscles being “stretched.” However, rather than actually elongating the muscle fibers, we are actually reducing the “braking” mechanism that protects us from ripping our limbs off when we move. Our bodies allow stronger muscles to relax more thoroughly, so don’t worry about reducing that reflex – you will be fine.

You should be doing these early on in every workout anyway (after you are warm, before you are tired), but anyone serious about jump practice needs to do dynamic leg stretches in all directions everyday.

Start from a shallow range of motion and gradually build up to full range over the course of five to ten repetitions. Then switch legs. Do several sets back and forth until the full range of motion is achieved easily. Practice swings with the leg slightly bent and fully extended. Make sure to hit every direction: to the front, to the back, to the side with toes up, to the side with toes down, around clockwise in front, around counterclockwise in front, around clockwise to the side, around counterclockwise to the side.

This sounds like a lot of leg swinging everyday, and it is, but the payoff is well worth it. Your dynamic flexibility will have dramatic effects on your jumping ability, and neglecting any range of motion will set you up for injury. So plug these into your daily routine wherever you can, but don’t neglect to do them everyday.

Isometric Stretching

Isometric stretching is stretching a muscle under tension (that’s not technically accurate, but it’s a good enough definition for our purposes here). These stretches don’t require much motion, if any. They work on relaxing the “stretched” muscles by a nervous reflex that loosens the antagonist of a contracting muscle. It’s not important for you to understand the nervous mechanism at work – just do the exercises properly and you will see improvements in strength and mobility. Plug these stretches in during your cool-down.

Seiza Back Bend
This is my favorite leg stretch by far. I think it is used in yoga, but I have no idea what it is called, so I’ve always refered to it as the seiza back bend, since that’s what it does. It’s great for the quadriceps and hip flexors because it strengthens and stretches at the same time.

Begin sitting in seiza with your back straight. Lift your hips form your heels and push them forward. At the same time, inhale and lean backwards, relaxing your spine and looking for the floor behind you. Stop short of losing your balance, but try to lean as far as possible while still pushing the hips forward. Hold this position for a few seconds while alternately contracting and relaxing your thigh muscles a few times. Then, exhale from your abdomen and pull yourself back forward. Repeat several times.

Doing this stretch a few times daily will add an inch to your jump in short order, guaranteed. It will also help to increase mobility in your thoratic spine.

Eji Stretch
This is another great thigh/flexor stretch, but it works each leg separately. Begin in ejidachi, with your knee on the ground. Shift your weight slightly forward, so that you can lift your rear foot by bending at the knee. Grab the foot with the opposite hand. While steadying yourself with your free hand on the floor, lean forward and push your hips toward to ground. At the same time, attempt to straighten the back leg against the hand that holds it. Push and relax several times before returning to the original position.

This stretch will allow you to seriously increase the flexibility of your psoas, or hip flexors. Since these muscles don’t get elongated too often in everyday walking-around, they tend to be very tight in cultures where the people spend a lot time sitting in chairs. Since the hip flexors are the antagonist for the hip extensors (which are the prime movers for jumping), we need them to be especially capable of relaxing in demand. This is probably the most important stretch for improving your raw jump power because it allows you to get the most out of your posterior chain strength.

Fudodachi Squeeze / Side Leg Stretch
It is not enough to work each leg in a forward/backward direction only. We have to address adduction and abduction strength and flexibility if we hope to use our jumps in three dimensions. For most people, the weakest link when it comes to leg strength is the inner thigh. This is why we so often hear of groin pulls and and are so impressed by people who can do splits.

Splits actually have very little to do with the length of the muscle fibers. The central nervous system has a mechanism that inhibits any movement away from the center in two directions at once. Spreading the legs as in a a split goes against the body’s hardwired reflexes. However, since we know that the nervous system will allow more relaxation (and thus, more mobility) in stronger muscles, we can improve our outward leg mobility by building our inward strength.

To build strength and mobility in the inner thighs, I use a combination of a squeeze and stretch. First, stand in fudodachi and bend the knees to a comfortable height. Being careful not to put too much stress on the knees (eg. Stop if you feel pain), grip the floor with your feet and squeeze your inner thighs as if you are pulling your legs together. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then release for several repetitions. Practice this stretch at various depths.

After you have done that, it’s a good time to do some relaxed stretching of the inner thigh muscles as well. Keeping your legs apart sideways, bend one knee while straightening the other until you feel a stretch in the outstretched leg. I think everyone knows this stretch. Remember to keep the bottom foot flat on the floor and the toes of the straight leg pointing up. Do both sides.

And that’s all the dedicated flexibility work we really need to do for jumping right now, though later i’ll write a few words on the importance of upper body mobility as well. Just remember, mobility is going to be every bit as important to your jump skills as leg strength. Before we move on to strength training, there is one more foundation drill I want to mention – the four corner balance drill.

4CBD

Check this link and start practicing the basic version of this drill today. As the article says, this will improve your balance and leg strength. Since it’s unilateral, it also works on all the stabilizers, including the abduction and adduction mentioned above. I love this drill. Do it a few times each day, and watch amazing things happen to your overall coordination and agility. Your jumps will get higher and more controlled. Let’s not even get into the benefits to your kicking…

Basics! Basics!

Most people who are trying to improve their jumps go straight to the squats and depth jumps without building a foundation. Doing so will get you injured. These high-power strength exercises take a toll on the body, and if you don’t have the mobility to perform then safely, you will develop dangerous strength imbalances that will lead to various injuries, such as the chronic ailments that many training veterans are always talking about – phantom aches, stiff backs, shoulder impingements, etc. More often than not, these injuries are not caused by acute trauma, but by consistently unbalanced training that ignores mobility in favor of power.

Make a point to include in your jump work exercises that will ensure the sustainability of your program. Balance, flexibility, and range of motion are good things to have anyway, so don’t slack on the foundational exercises. I am not exaggerating when I say that the above exercises will give you a great deal more mileage in your program than all the popular plyometric drills in the world. That said, having this foundation will allow you to get the most out of plyometric training performed later on.

So now, let’s look at ways to build strength and speed for jumping.

Sprints

Sprints are one of the best exercises for jumps that most people never think of. What do running fast and jumping high have in common? Plenty. Just look at the Olympic track and field athletes – often a single player will participate in many events. Jumps and sprints are both power movements, and athletes who have a great time in the 40 meter tend to also have astounding vertical leaps.

I recommend practicing three kinds of sprints in short (about 10 to 20 meters) distances for jumping. First, just run a fast as possible in a straight line. You know, sprint. Rest a minute and sprint back. Repeat several times and call it a day. Don’t overdo sprints because they can wear you out really quickly. Remember, we’re doing them as a strength exercise here – not for cardio. Just do a few each practice, focussing on putting maximum power into each stride.

After you have gotten the hang of sprinting you can work on hill sprints. First, we go uphill. This will build muscle in your legs by working against gravity. It will help build speed by pushing explosively against the ground. Behind Negishi Sensei’s house, there is an incline which rises at a 60ish degree angle for about 100 meters. When I’m feeling ambitious, I spend about ten minutes running as far as I can up that incline until traction and gravity are no longer on my side, and I begin sliding back down. Once at the bottom, I rest a minute and go again. Five or six trips is enough to give my legs in that special “warm, fuzzy” feeling.

When you have mastered uphill sprints, you can try doing downhill sprints. A word of caution: don’t use a steep hill for downhill sprints; you will probably hurt yourself. For these, find a nice, smooth 15-or-so% grade. Then just run. You will find that gravity accelerates you faster than you would normally be able to run. I tend to do longer sprints downhill because it gives me enough room to really stretch out my stride. By allowing gravity to help you overcome your “max” speed, you are actually retraining your nervous system. Just as your apparent “flexibility” is governed by protective mechanisms, the timing of your muscle firing also falls into patterns for increased efficiency. This drill can trick the nervous system into speeding up the firing pattern for leg extension.

These three sprints are not to be ignored. You will do them, and you will learn to love them. Even if you hate running as I do, you will quickly recognize that these drills are wonderful strength exercises. You won’t think of them as running so much because you can keep the distances very short. Just remember that these are full-body intense power movements, so you will certainly require extra recovery after a practice in which you perform more than a few sets of sprints. Listening to your body’s signals and knowing when to rest will keep you progressing for longer.

Are we ever going to actually jump?

So we have finally gotten to the jumps. I bet you were wondering if we ever would. Well, you can rest assured that we have arrived. Sort of. The initial jumping drills are still developmental, and we will interject some power training before we get into the serious jumps. However, these first few jump drills will help you build coordination and agility that will help you use the thick muscles you get from heavy squats and plyometrics later on. Not to say that these drills won’t increase your strength in their own right.

Ankle Jumps

Remember, we are building our jump from the foundation – ground, up. Our first jumping drill is going to be the ankle jump, so named because the ankle is the only joint allowed to move in this drill. Lock you knees, hold your arms by your sides, and bounce repeatedly on the balls of the feet for as many reps in 30 seconds as possible. While airborne, pull your toes toward your shins before extending the ankles again upon meeting the ground. Drop two or three sets of these into your warm-up.

You will find that this drill works the calves, but by raising the toes on each rep, we also hit the dorsi-flexors a bit. The dorsi-flesors are the antagonist to the calves. Remember what I told you about antagonist muscles? Failure to work them will prevent you from getting maximum power out of your agonists. Since the calves are responsible for that last push off the ground, having strong dorsi-flesxors is going to be important in developing the jumping power we need.

Piston Jumps

This is another exercise that works agonist/antagonist pairs. In the piston, you try to “jump” without moving your head or torso. Essentially, you are going to stand in place and pump your knees up and down as fast as you can. Pull them up to your chest, and then drive your feet into the floor. This should be very fast. Try doing sets of ten repetitions with a good bit of rest in between.

This drill is all about speed. You may build some core strength by lifting the knees explosively, but this is more a matter of training the posterior chain to extend as quickly as possible. By lifting the knees I the same fashion, you are training the contractive speed necessary for backflips and the like. Since this is a speed exercise, you need to do it early in the workout to avoid training the nervous system to work most efficiently at less-than-optimal speed. It’s also just damn hard to do many of these when you’re already tired.

Log Jumps

It’s usually best to learn this drill by finding some sort of line on the floor about ten to fifteen feet long. What you want to do is jump side to side over the line while moving forward. Then do the same thing moving backward. You can look at the line to start, but eventually, you want to keep your line of sight above the horizon. Go up and back as many times as you feel like.

A line on the floor? That’s so easy! What’s that going to do? The reason we start with a line is that almost everyone who tries this exercise over an obstacle of any size cheats. You can say “don’t cheat!” all day and night, but most people are going to do it anyway. Maybe it was those “I love what you do for me” Toyota commercials in the 80s, or maybe it’s from learning to jump rope in grade school, but most people who try this drill will attempt their jumps by lifting their heels ass-ward.

This kind of jump will get you knocked on your ass in a combat environment (actually, you would be lucky to land on something that soft – your face is more likely). Of course we all know that cheerleader jumps are useless for our purposes, so let’s train ourselves not to do them anymore. Start this drill with a line. Focus on lifting at the knee, even though you don’t have to lift very far. After you groove this, tie a rope a few inches off the ground and do it again, still remembering to jump with the knees, not the heels. If you can do this properly at about knee-height, you have my permission to find a more substantial obstacle.

If you are near a woodsy area, you can usually find a fallen tree trunk to jump over. These are great because they offer the added challenge of uneven terrain. If you are an unfortunate city-dweller, you may be able to find a park or playground with some kind of balance-beam-like contraption to use (but good playgrounds are getting hard to find lately because they’re too “dangerous”). If you can’t find anything that’ll work, just use an office-sized trash can and do your jumps in place.

The important point here is that you jump from side to side and do so by lifting your knees. Try to spend as little time on the ground as possible, and for the love of god, no erroneous mini-hops between jumps. You must jump once, and only once, per side per repetition. The pre-bounds will defeat a lot of the benefit of this exercise, so start off with something small and build up gradually.

When you feel like this is in danger of starting to get comfortable for you, try doing front and back jumps over obstacles as well. Just remember to use something small at first, and build up. Jumping backwards over an obstacle has some psychological impediments that may take some work to overcome, but it’ll be worth the effort to do so.

These three jump drills are pre-requisite to high-intensity power training for jumps. Getting these skills will give you the coordination to use the power you develop with the next few exercises.

Bodyweight Strength Training

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to build strength with bodyweight exercises before rushing to the weight room. I know pro athletes spend hours pumping iron every week, but we have to prepare our bodies to utilize these exercises with some lower-intensity work first. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be lifting weights, but I’m not going to tell you to do so without laying the proper ground work first. To really reach our potential jump, we are going to have to spend plenty of time in the gym, but that time is not now.

Squats

squat down as low as your flexibility will allow while keeping your feet flat on the floor. This is actually very difficult for most people. It may help you at first to hold onto some object in front of you so you can squat all the way down without losing your balance. You may also have success holding a ten-pound plate in front of your body as you squat. Once you have built your balance and flexibility, you can drop the crutches and start to squat for speed.

Breathe out when you squat down and relax to allow your body to fill with air when you rise. Try to do these rapidly in sets of twenty or more. Really pump them out, breathing naturally as you do. Swing your arms if it feels good, but remember to keep your heels down. This recruits more of the muscles that you will need to jump higher.

Stairs

Climbing stairs is one of the best exercises for jumping forward out of kamae. Stairs isolate one leg and require a forward pull while pushing up. This is exactly the motion you will use when jumping forward off of a single leg.

Practice variations: one step, two steps, three steps, hopping on both legs, hopping on alternate legs, stepping sideways, stepping while turning, stepping backwards, stepping down backwards. Be creative with your stair work, because if you don’t they can get really boring really fast. For most people, I would caution against the rabbit hops up and down stairs that Bryan and I used to do, but if your knees can take it, it might not kill you to do some once every few weeks or so.

Lunges

if you don’t have a monstrous set of uneven stairs stretching halfway up a mountain at your disposal, you can still get the benefits of stair climbing on flat ground. Practice lunges. Keep your body upright as you step forward and back on alternating legs. Push away form the ground to return to your original position. Also practice stepping forward out of the lunge, so that you end up doing a funny sort of long, deep walk.

So when do we hit the gym?

Now. To everything there is a season, and this is weight room season. This is where most jump training programs will have you start, but it’s nearing the end of my article. Building strength is pretty universal, so I’ll let you look into some other resources for details. If you have done the developmental drills I’ve outlined so far, you will have no problem translating the strength you gain in the gym to your jump. So what follows are my general recommendations for jump strength work.

General Suggestions:
Use free weights, respect any weight you lift, lift the heaviest weights you can, find someone to teach you the proper form of any exercise you do.

When you get started with any of these exercises, please make sure you can find someone to help you. Experiment with various weights. Have a good spotter. Ask a coach to correct your form. Mistakes with heavy weights can cripple you. So why don’t I recommend using machines? Because they can cripple you too, and they don’t offer near the benefits of free weights for strength development (on average – there are always exceptions).

Squats

The first basic weight exercise everyone ever learns is the squat. There is good reason for this, and I’m not going to waste our time trying to convince you that squats are important. Just take my word if you don’t already believe it.

You want to work up to the point that you can do several repetitions with a bar that weighs 1.5 times your body weight. You should be doing these slowly for now, spending a few seconds to extend and a few seconds to lower the bar each time. You don’t need to squat 500 pounds, but aim for a good three-rep max of twice your weight on the bar.

Also, please squat through your full range of motion. That’s why we did the bodyweight squats – to prepare you with the requisite mobility. Don’t be lured into doing half or quarter squats with heavier weight; It’s much better to squat lighter and drop all the way down.

Jump Squats

Now that you’ve built up to that impressive-looking load with all those plates on the bar, I want you to take most of them off. After you’ve built your raw strength, we need to work on explosive strength, and we will do this with jump squats.

Start out with an empty bar. You may want to use a pad or towel on the bar to cushion your shoulders and neck. You will begin your squat technique as almost before, but this time, when you extend, drive up and through the bar. Push off the ground while exhaling forcefully.then bend your knees and absorb the force before slowly lowering the weight to the starting position.

You can gradually build your weight back up as you get used to these. You won’t be able to do many repetitions of jump squats with much weight, but they are a great exercise to have in your routine, even if you only do one or two sets.

Stiff-leg Deadlifts

Learn how to do stiff-leg deadlifts, which may be the best exercise for developing posterior chain power. As with the squat, find someone to teach you how to do this exercise. Do it right, and you will see the rewards.

Power Snatches

Power snatches are my favorite “traditional” lift. They are a variation on the Olympic snatch lift. Basically, you grab the bar with a wide grip, take a deep breath, and snap the bar overhead as quickly as possible. Teaching you how to do this movement is beyond the scope of this article, but it is one you need to learn.

Power snatches develop explosive power in every muscle on the back side of your body. They also build the core and shoulder stabilizers and contribute to your ability to translate general bodily power into a specific force production. If I had to choose one weight exercise I could do to meet most of my needs, this would be it. It works almost everything in one simple step, pure economy.

For most of Spring 2006, I kept a bar with about 75% of my bodyweight sitting in my living room. Every morning and every evening, I would do five sets of five repetitions of power snatches with about three minutes of rest in between. I ate like a sumo wrestler and packed on muscle for about three months.

These weight room exercises will take you far in your ability to generate power. Combined with the skill and mobility drills, they will give you everything you need for great jumps. However, it is important to seek quality instruction when learning these moves, as they can be dangerous when performed incorrectly. Keep in mind that it doesn’t really matter how much you can squat – just so long as it increases over time.

Uh, Plyometrics anyone?

Finally, here they are – the depth jumps you’ve been waiting on me to tell you to do. Yes, you should be doing depth jumps to build your reactive strength and increase your jump height. However, most people rush into these high-intensity drills before their bodies can handle the frequency required to see good benefits. Well, if you have done most of the things I’ve mentioned thus far, you are ready for some real plyometric work (even though some of the other exercises I’ve mentioned have had plyometric components, they were described in such a way as to make them work as skill exercises rather that reactive strength work).

Preparation for Depth Jumps

Before we can bound, we have to absorb. This is a plyometric force-absorption drill. Stand one a platform or box. Step off. Practice landing as smoothly and soundlessly as possible. Gradually increase the height form which you step. Although it won’t seem like it at first, this drill is putting heavy strain on the large muscles in your legs. Rest well. After you have built up your absorption over a couple of weeks, you may be ready to do some depth jumps.

So here’s the depth jump primer:

Stand on a raised platform or box, starting with something only a few inches high. Step off. At the moment of contact with the ground, immediately jump as high as possible. The goal is absolute minimum contact time on the ground. If you try to get cute and start with a box that is too high for you, you will defeat the purpose of the exercise.

You can gradually increase the height of the box or platform, but in general, you aren’t going to get much out of anything much higher than your knees, and definitely nothing as high as your hips. Remember – don’t get cute. You will think you look very cool doing depth jumps off your balcony, but you will invariably be spending too much time in contact with the ground to get anything out of the exercise. If you think depth jumps from an eight-inch platform are too easy, double your sets. It’s that simple.

There are a few advanced protocols for these exercises that I won’t discuss here because I think that people tend to rush to the advanced versions of any exercise you teach them, and I know I’ve cautioned against this several times in this article already. I honestly feel what I’ve written here is well beyond the needs of most Taido students. If you are looking for the slam dunk, more advanced plyometrics may help, but the protocols outlined thus far are more than sufficient to get you to the point that you can jump over a chest-height kick in jissen.

Scrawny With He-Man Legs

And thus ends the leg exercise portion of our program. Of course, I’m only listing exercises here that directly impact your jumping ability, so you have to remember to work out the rest of your body as well. The above was mostly leg-work, but I’m going to include some points below for working the rest of your body to add height and spring to your jump.

Don’t neglect your core

Firstly, you have to have a strong core. Everyone knows this, so I’m not going to try and persuade you.

In general, your core strength will be addressed by many of the leg exercises above. For example the deadlifts and squats will give you a lot of work in your abdominal/low-back region. The mobility drills will also help you here, in particular the piston jumps and the 4CBD. Also remember that keeping good mobility in this area is important for your overall health.

Arms

Your arms add a lot more to your jump than most people would assume. A powerful arm swing is a vital ingredient in a high vertical. Though in Taido, we need to try to keep our hands in a position that will allow us to protect ourselves, we still need to develop this swing for developmental purposes.

Since the arm swing is a ballistic motion, all the curls, bench presses, and lateral extensions in the world will do little for our jumps. We need to be working our arms’ ability to move at high speed. Good ballistic arm exercises are plenty, but usually involve some sort of weight, better yet, projectile.

Shot-puts are great in general, but pushing power isn’t really what we are looking for here. Get a medicine ball (you should really have one of these anyway). The most jump-specific med-ball exercise is to squat down and grab the ball with both hands between your feet. In one motion, push with your legs while throwing the ball as hard as possible over and behind your head. Experiment with other variations.

You can also use dumbbells for swings (just not indoors), and if you have access to kettlebells or clubbells, you should have no problem coming up with exercises that will help you develop the speed and power of your arm swing.

Control and Coordination

Being able to jump requires more than simple strength and mobility – it requires that you be able to get the right amount of strength moving in the right direction at the right time. This means agility and coordination. By working on these, you will improve your ability to control your jump.

Back to Multi-Jumps

Multi-jumps are the best way to work on your jump control. We did one version earlier with the side-to-side log jumps. You can get creative now and practice series of jumps while changing directions, turning, moving onto or over obstacles, etc. The more variations you practice, the more varied your preparation will be. Remember to include single-leg variations too.

Eyes and Head

Your eyes and inner-ear are your guidance systems. To develop your ability to jump where you want to go, you will have to work on using them both. Practice multi-jumping drills with visual markers, such as tape on the floor or cracks in the sidewalk – whatever you can find to look at while you jump. This will help you establish aerial control relative to a visual reference.

It also helps to sometime try some “blind” work. Since this can be dangerous, I’m not going to recommend you do rabbit hops down stairs while blindfolded, or anything like that. What I will suggest is, after building your visual cues, trying some of the same drills as above without looking. Especially attempt to jump to an object without looking. When you land, see if you are anywhere near where you thought you would be. Also try closing your eyes and jumping with a 180-degree rotation. 360. 270. How accurately can you hit your goal?

Avoiding Over-training

As I mentioned in a couple of places above, jumps and jump-related exercises tend to require full-body explosive power generation. If you do not take care to give your body plenty of recovery (including ample sleep and nutrition), you are asking for an injury. Please take my advice on this. No matter how seductive the lure of a one-meter vertical leap, you must train gradually and intelligently. You may achieve your goals without taking the proper precautions, but you will pay the price for it later, I promise.

I recommend a weekly full-body massage and hot baths with epsom salts twice a week to anyone working seriously to improve their jumps. All athletes should also be doing regular mobility exercises and stretches such as those listed near the beginning of this article, and I recommend yoga or tai chi as a complement to any high-intensity training. This will help offset and release residual muscular and emotional tension from training. If you take good care of yourself, you can train more and continue to improve for longer.

When in doubt, sit it out. If you don’t feel it, don’t do it. If your body is recovering well, you should look forward to each workout because you will be seeing the improvements. If you don’t absolutely want to push yourself each session, you are not prepared for the work that increasing your capabilities demands. You should not be training if you are fatigued, whether physically or mentally. While there are advanced training protocols in which this state is desired, they will only work for those who have done the required platform building. Mental toughness training is the last step in any cycle.

Using It

If you have practiced these exercises enough to make significant improvement, you will see a good deal of carryover into your jump height and coordination. However, remember that having a great jump doesn’t necessarily mean you can use it. You will have to practice drills for applying your jump to Taido movements. Work with a partner and get creative. Start with the basics, like hienzuki over shajogeri, and work up to more difficult applications and aerial movements.

Learning to use your jump for moving in all six directions while executing Taido techniques will take a lot of work, but if you follow at least a few of the recommendations in this article, you will find that you have the jump foundation to do anything you want to do.