About Featured Expert: As a fighter, Firas Zahabi has won many titles, including Canadian Muay Thai champion. When training as a fighter, he “fell into” the role of MMA coach. “The original trainer had a growing business and didn’t have much time for MMA,” says Zahabi. TriStar has been a martial arts studio since 1991, and today the organization has expanded into 13,500 square feet of modern facilities. Using his extensive experience in training, Zahabi has developed a specific training philosophy and program for MMA. When pressed what separates him from other coaches, Zahabi answers, “Get in there with the guys and go at it…I stay in shape and keep developing along with our fighters. I’m trying to get better each day, too.”
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Coach Dan: Where do you see the crossover of training principles, fitness principles that work for your athletes but also just work for regular guys? What are the things that stay the same?
Firas Zahabi: I’m a big believer in training, every level. I don’t want to be a coach who just trains elite fighters because for me, you lose out. You get out of touch with what really works because at different levels, things change. The rules change, but on the opposite side, you also have the principles stay true. Some principles stay true throughout every level. I say this. I always tell my students this. Success is motivation.
I always tell my students, how did you get fat? If I have a guy who’s telling me coach, I want to get in shape, I got fat. How do I do it? I always ask him how did you get fat? Did you go to a buffet and say hey, I’m going to gain 20 pounds?…No. You didn’t gain weight on purpose. Gaining weight was a secondary by-product. It was a secondary effect….It happened by itself over time. It didn’t happen in one day. It happened over time.
Getting fit is the same way. I gotta do something every day that gets me fit as a by-product. If I’m doing what I enjoy, what I love to do, I will get fit. Doing something. I always ask this one question then. I would say hey, you got this training program man? Yeah. I go can you do it for life? If the answer’s no, I know that guy is going to fail. Or he won’t get success with this method. If somebody tells me hey, I’m on this new diet, I say can you eat like that for life? He says no. I know he’s going to change diet or fail because at the end of the day, even George St. Pierre, at the end of the day, his willpower is going to fade and he needs a break.
CD: You can do things that you have to do for sort of a certain amount of time before you’re just like I’m done with that. If you can work out for 10 years and shake off X number of pounds and then at some point after year 10, you’re like I have hated every minute of this and I’m done. Then you get fat again. Your life span isn’t all that longer and your enjoyment of life isn’t all that longer, then why didn’t you find something that you enjoyed in the first place? How do you advise people on that, Firas?
FZ: You gotta experiment. For me, I love cool moves. I love to experiment with new moves. I like to … Once I learn the move, I want to go try it. I want to spar, I want to roll. For me it’s about exploring the martial arts. I’m a lifer in martial arts, but if I love basketball, I would go shoot hoops every day. If I like hockey…You have to discover different activities that you can’t wait to do. You’re looking forward to do this. If that’s the way you feel about the sport you’re using to get in shape, you will get in shape. If you look at basketball players, they’re in phenomenal shape. Look at the guys on track and field, amazing shape. Wrestling. Every sport you can get in shape. Almost every single sport.
CD: What are the exercises or what are the activities and what regimens and what routines that are naturally motivating that you can actually find a groove with, and do you have the ‘nads’ to explore those to find that? If the answer is no, then you can stop listening to the podcast. If the answer is yes, then you can hang out with us. I like that as a place to start, so that’s a good one.
FZ: You also have to get specific. You gotta…I like jiu jitsu. Okay, great, but how much jiu jitsu can you tolerate? Well I can tolerate two rounds of rolling. The third round is not pleasurable to me. Okay, take the third round off. Take the third round off. Sit one out and hey, with a third round after a one round break be comfortable for you? Yeah I’ll do it. Good. Because if you’re not preparing for a fight … If you’re a fighter, you tell me hey I got a fight booked in two months, I’m going to make you do five rounds. Whether you like it or not, you got your name on the contract. I’m not looking to give you a happy day at the gym, but if you’re looking for fitness and health and well-being, do the amount that’s comfortable for you. Then stop, because your body will crave more once it’s ready.
You gotta also be very careful not to try to be a hero too early on. Some guys are like ‘okay, I gotta get in shape.’ Then they’re motivated and they run for an hour one day. The next week, the whole week they can’t walk. You gotta know that you went too far the other end. In my opinion, it’s about consistency. What can you do to train seven days a week. I don’t care if the seventh day is just a walk. Go take a walk outside, but move your body every single day.
Image credit: Sixty&Me
Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.
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