The 5 Key-Stones of Training Periodization!

Periodization Models Have 2 Things in Common

All the Periodization models have created champions, in Sports history!!

They have different time frames and progression structures… But we can identify 2 things that all of them have:

  1. Regular Training Variation – 1st Key-Stone
  2. High-Intensity Periods – 2nd Key-Stone

We already talked about Training Variation but let’s see more arguments in its favor!

When you look at scientific studies that compare several Periodization models you see that more varied training interventions have greater or at least the same results as more “static” and repetitive programs.

Individuals subjectively perceive less effort during the training sessions, even though they have the same or greater results than groups that practice with more traditional and repeated Periodization strategies.

That effect is even greater in women… And this is very, very important, if you want to motivate more girls and women to Karate!
Increased Variability/Variation is less stressful to the Neuromuscular System than traditional training formats.

Wait a minute!!

Science is showing us that greater Strength gains, for example, can be achieved by training methods perceived as less exhausting?!?

It also shows us that varied training may be an “easier” method to increase Strength gains when compared to traditional training?!?

Yes, that’s right!!

Your Karateka will also be very happy and motivated to know that! I truly believe your Dojo will grow in the number of students when you dedicate your time planning training sessions like Science teaches you…

The main explanation for this is that Karatekas who are less exhausted can be able to perform sets and exercises with greater neuromuscular activation and technical quality.

But don’t confuse “less exhausting perception” with “less training stimulus” or “laziest training programs”!!

The secret is the way you organize each training session, each week, each month…

Regarding High-Intensity Periods we are talking about all training dimensions: Physical, Technical, Tactical, and Psychological!

You should plan periods that include maximal stimulus for each of these dimensions. Sometimes, you can isolate each training area, and other times you can integrate them in the same period.

These High-Intensity Periods are all intercalated with moderate or low-intensity periods.

But so you can manage Training Variation and Intensity with success, you need a third Key Stone.

The Third Key-Stone is Evaluation/Assessment

In Karate we are totally familiarized with evaluation, right?

That’s the way we use to see if our students are learning and improving their skills!

With Karate students that don’t follow an athlete’s pathway you can make some strategies as simple as these:

SUGGESTION 1 – You can add some Physical Tests in your Belt Exams. So you can evaluate if your Training Periodization is giving your Karatekas the results you want, in terms of Power, Speed, Flexibility, and so on. With the proper test battery, you can understand where you need to intervene so your Karate students can improve their Kata and Kumite.

SUGGESTION 2 – You can make the same thing we propose in Suggestion 1, but outside the Grading Test. You can include a test battery on each of your classes with regularity. In Karate Science Academy we propose you 4 times a year. Every 3 months you dedicate 1 or 2 training sessions to assess your Karatekas’ progression.

You’ll be able to see two very positive things:

1.First of all, your “laziest” students will have an extra motivation to put more energy in physical training because the majority of us increase motivation when we have measurable goals to reach. That’s why the mobile apps we use for measuring our running performances are such a huge success!

2. Second, the evaluation sessions are very motivating for your students – no matter their age! And they break the routine.

With children or with Karatekas that train 2 or 3 times per week just for leisure, these suggestions are great and allow you to make some generic and important adaptations in your training plans!

You must know where you’re going! Stop training your students at sight and with the so popular training methods called “lucky-guessing” or “my -Masters-do-it-like-this”…

But when we talk about Karate Athletes, those who want to achieve their highest potential, you must plan their Evaluation much more often!


Because you must be always adapting your training sessions to the results, readiness, and fatigue levels of your athletes! As regularly as possible…

You Can Forget the Classic Periodization Model!!!

Don’t understand me wrong!

We all have to be thankful for Matveyev’s work because he was the first to awaken the Sports’ World to the importance of Training Planning and Variability!

(Matveyev wasn’t really the first author that dedicated his time to these questions – Kotov, Grantyn, Ozolin, Pinkala, and Letunov were the first ones -, but he was the first to spread a systematic model of Periodization in a time where Sports Science was starting to develop).

Matveyev’s Classic Periodization model has great merit…

It launched the baseline for modern training planning!!

Allowed the development of more Periodization models and made professional trainers think about the best ways of training their athletes and students.

But why do I say you can forget Classic Periodization? Because Classic Periodization is also effective for athletic performance’s improvement…

Well, let’s see the characteristics of Classic Periodization.

Classic Periodization divides a long-term training period called the macrocycle (which typically involves six months to one year but may be up to four years, such as with Olympic athletes)…

Macrocycles are divided into smaller phases called mesocycles (usually lasting several weeks to months)…

Mesocycles are subdivided into weekly microcycles.

The training progress along the macrocycle evolves from low intensity + high volume to high intensity + low volume.

Remember what we talked about Training Variation vs Training Monotony?!?

Well, Training Variation must be applied not only in exercise structure but also in training stimulus…

You don’t need to submit your Karate students or athletes to long periods of high-volume training at the beginning of the season and then pass to almost exclusively high-intensity weeks!!

Science shows us that you can manage Variability since the beginning, in all training dimensions…

So why don’t you use a Periodization model that has greater effects on your athletes’ motivation?!?

Flexibility is the 4th Key-Stone of Training Periodization!

Kiely (2012) compares training planning with a map…

When you are training a Kumite or Kata athlete you are moving through unknown territory.

Remember that each athlete is different from the other: biologically, psychologically, historically, etc. Each one of your athletes is a different territory!

You want a map that gives you certainty and control, right?

But when you use a map from a different land (aka Karate athletes) it will be inaccurate!!

What you need to do is to have Flexibility in your Training Periodization!


All Karate instructors have Expectations and Goals for their athletes (they also have it for themselves).

For example, you have the Goal that some of your athletes win a medal in the next National Championships. Then you plan their training with the Expectation that it will be effective for achieving that Goal.

But how do you know if your Expectations will lead your athletes to that Goal?!?

You have two possible ways:

o You can wait for the National Championship and discover, in the end, that your training plan worked or didn’t worked. After that, you will adapt the Training Periodization for the next year!


o You can make several intermediate evaluations until you get your athletes to the National Championship.

Those evaluations can be made weekly or monthly. You must see how much time you have until the National Championship.

You can evaluate physical fitness – Speed, Power, Flexibility. You can evaluate Technical ability. You can evaluate Decision-Making timing and accuracy in Kumite.

You can organize inside-your-Dojo evaluation sessions and also take your Karate athletes to intermediate tournaments to evaluate their performance in a real context. To achieve this purpose, you can also organize training meetings with other schools and athletes.

After seeing the two hypotheses which of them do you think would be better?

I totally defend the second version.


Because will allow you to adapt the training process through the way. You can adapt your Training Periodization to your athletes’ level of fatigue, readiness, out-of-Karate life, etc.

This will allow your athletes to be physical and physiological better prepared when National Championships arrive.

If you choose the first way, you will be like a blind trying to reach the end of the map!

You look to the point you want to achieve, you cover your eyes with a blindfold, and make a mental scheme of the best path to get there… And your success will be dependent on luck!! Your athletes don’t deserve that, right???

With the second Evaluation strategy, you will look at the goal, you will make a previous observation of the road to get there, you will even prepare a plan.

But you will be able to see all the obstacles along the way. That will allow you to run when you can run, to slow down when you need to slow down, or to jump when you have to jump…

Of course, you will begin a Training Periodization plan… Based on evidence-based principles and protocols.

But you must have the Flexibility to adapt it through the way, through the weeks of training!!

You cannot stick to a pre-plan no matter what’s happening around your athletes!!!

In the case of your recreational Karate students, you won’t be able to make such a detailed adaptation. But you can adapt training plans periodically as I proposed earlier in this article!

Don’t train your students without a plan and don’t get stuck on what you prepared at the beginning of the season…

Nutrition must be as personalized as possible…

Medicine must be as personalized as possible…

Karate, Sports, and Exercise must follow the same principle, don’t you think?

If you retain and use the 5 Key-Stones and the 3 Dimensions of Flexible Periodization you will be well ahead of most of Karate Sensei and Sports Coaches in the world!!

The 5 Key-Stones of Periodization are:

  1. Training Variation
  2. High-Intensity Periods
  3. Evaluation / Monitoring
  4. Flexibility
  5. Volume

The 3 Dimensions of Flexible Periodization are:

a) Goals

b) Expectations

c) Outcomes / Results

The 5th KeyS-Stone of Periodization is Volume of Training

Please, don’t you ever forget this…


More than how you organize your training. More than how repetitive or varied are your Karate sessions. More than the type of Periodization model you use.

How do you measure Volume?

Volume is influenced by the following factors:

o Number of Sets
o Number of Repetitions
o Training Load
o Duration of Training Sessions
o Frequency – number of sessions per week
o Time – how much time an exercise last
o Distance – how much distance your students cover in an exercise

For example, if you have a 3-Month Periodization structure that dedicates 1 month to Maximal Strength, 1 month to Strength-Speed, and 1 month to Speed-Strength, it’s irrelevant if you dedicate an entire month to each skill or if you split the same Volume of training per week: for example, cycles of 1 week for each skill, repeated until you end the 3-Month Periodization.

The exception of this is when you really want to focus on a shorter-term goal… Let’s suppose you have a Kumite athlete you want to increase is body-weight so he/she’s not one of the lightest on a given weight-category… And you want to achieve it in 3 months: you’ll have to focus more time in Muscle Gain.

Memorize the 5 Key-Stones of Training Periodization for Karate

You have 5 Key Stones that you much have in mind when you are planning your Karate sessions:

  1. Training Variation / Variability
  2. High-Intensity Periods
  3. Evaluation/Assessment
  4. Flexibility
  5. Volume

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