The Benefits of Martial Arts for Football


Since day one I have encouraged Football players to wrestle and vice versa. In the mid 90s, Coach Nis from Edison High School told me that he had a wrestler who took 4th in the Region tournament his sophomore and junior year. Back then, 4th place did NOT qualify you for the state tournament.

Coach Nis told this wrestler to go out for the Football team his Senior year because he felt the wrestler was lacking grit and toughness. Coach Nis knew that tackling and hitting as well as getting hit would make this wrestler tougher and meaner. It did! Senior year, that wrestler finally qualified for the states. It's been 25+ years since that conversation so I honestly don't recall how that kid did at the state tournament but the point being, this wrestler overcame the obstacles needed to get to the state tournament.

Today, we see "sports training" facilities with all the bells and whistles promoting "Football Specific" training, done with endless pad drills. These Football players don't want to join the high school wrestling team and in turn, they miss out on the benefits of being immersed in training from joining the wrestling team or learning Muay Thai or Judo.

Below are 5 takeaways I got from Ben Creamer as we exchanged text messages back and forth as I continue to get Football players and Coaches to understand why they should be joining the wrestling team.

To quote Ben Creamer during our text messages:

“A wide receiver or a quarterback can throw or catch all year round. But offensive line and defensive line, outside of practice and games, they have limited opportunities to actually work the art of combat — the martial art of the pass rush, if you will. Hitting a dummy doesn’t do it, unless Frankenstein is trying to block you.”

Ben responded to my questions / comments as we messaged back and forth and I questioned why Football players opt OUT of joining the wrestling team and instead go to places that predominantly only hit pads and miss out on the power of combat sports training:

"I 100% agree. Violent precision. There are too many good things to come out of martial arts without even mentioning how closely it’s related to football.

1. How to strike (and breathe)

2. How to stay focused under fatigue

3. Hand-eye coordination

4. Bully-proof (from getting bullied or being the bully)

5. Understanding ranges of combat (time and space)

6. I could go on and on

Especially if you can get into a dojo/school that teaches wrestling & grappling arts as well"

The smartest Football players and Coaches from decades ago were bringing in martial artists to learn hand fighting and various styles of martial arts. I recall seeing Martin Rooney doing this in the early 2000s with NFL players. This style of training coupled with mental benefits of engaging in martial arts gives the football players a tremendous physical and mental edge. These benefits do NOT come from only hitting pads as Ben stated earlier.


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Ben Creamer is a Judo black belt and has worked with The Bengals, pro boxers and now U of Washington Football Sports Science. 

The bottom line is that for high school athletes, you have wrestling and football opportunities under your roof. The convenience factor must be taken advantage of. When a Football player is worried about "not lifting" in season, you must understand that wrestling in and of itself is lifting, you are lifting another man's body.

My high school wrestling team comes to the weight room 3 x week in season and off season. The emotional obstacle is what Football players need to overcome. They fear trying something new which is all the more reason to get involved with wrestling. It will build confidence AND better (superior) Football skills.

More from Ben Creamer:

 I try to get our lineman to think of themselves as martial artists. It’s not 70 snaps. It’s 70 :05 second rounds with :20-:30 rest b/w. Championship fights have 12 3:00 rounds with 1:00 b/w. All the more reason to sharpen your weapons for battle.

On the flip side of encouraging Football players to wrestle, I encourage wrestlers to play Football. I believe if I did this myself, I would have been tougher, meaner and much stronger. Lifting with the Football team will push you to train for greater strength and power. I was missing strength and power as a wrestler because I trained on my own.

In high school, I recommend both sports.

If you're a Football Coach, get your lineman wrestling. If you're a wrestling coach, get your wrestlers to play football. For those who are highly motivated, find a local martial arts school for Muay Thai or Boxing or Judo training. You can Thank me later!

Live The Code 365,


The Underground Strength Coach Cert

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