23 Unorthodox Two-Person Karate Exercises

Sometimes it just goes blank.

You’re standing there, ready to do a warm-up for the whole class, but it’s totally empty inside your head. You’re out of ideas! When the old masters said “empty your mind” they obviously weren’t thinking about these types of situations!

I know, I’ve been there too.

It’s a horrible feeling.

Of course, you could always do the same old usual running around, knuckle push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks and so on, but anybody can do that! That’s passé. In a competitive world like ours, you need to be a little more creative if you want to get somewhere.

After all, that 1400 g lump of meat inside your head isn’t for decoration.

But still, sometimes our brain just seems to stand still.

And it’s in times like these that we could use some help. Imagine if there was some sort of database that you could access. A free database with thousands of functional exercises tailored for martial arts – so that you could just go in there and pick a few when you feel a little “dried out”? That would be great, right?!

So, please let me know when you’ve made such a database.

In the meantime, I’ve successfully tricked two of my loyal colleagues, sempai Jesper and sempai Vincent into showing you a couple of pretty functional (not to mention fun!) two-person exercises, in the photos below. Believe me when I say that these guys will do anything (anything!) for some Karate cookies, so I actually managed to get them to show a whopping 23 exercises!

Nice, huh?

But… before you scroll down and (hopefully) get some fresh ideas for your classes, be aware of one thing. These two-person exercises are not for everyone. Your usual ultra-orthodox-one-punch-kill Karate class would probably frown upon some of these exercises, since they all rely on the principle that Karate is a martial art which works exceptionally well within grappling range.

Gripping, flipping, rolling, throwing, breaking, shaking… “it’s all there baby!”.

At least I believe it should be.

So, with that being said, if you feel somewhat open-minded about what a ‘traditional’ warm-up should look like, and don’t mind a little violent intimacy, here we go:

1. The Drunken Centipede

Explanation: Grab each others ankles, and simply roll sideways. Try to maintain a stable core.

2. The Brutal Bench

Explanation: The pictures pretty much say it all. Using the knuckles is preferred (elbows pointing back).

3. Sumos Gone Wild

Explanation: Squat down, jump around, and try to push your opponent over (only touching hands). If your knees hurt, do it in shiko dachi, without jumping.

4. The Fork Truck Flip

Explanation: Place your arms on your friend’s belly, flip over (landing silently) and crawl under. Lather, rinse and repeat.

5. The Wooden Dummy

Explanation: Be straight like a log. Tense your whole body. Do it slowly with control. Up and down again.

6. The Crazy Frog Dance

Explanation: Hook your arms together and sit down, 90 degrees angle. Spin around in a circle a few times, then change direction. Without bouncing up.

7. The Pregnant Panda

Explanation: Move forward on all four with your partner hanging like a backpack on your front. Notice that your knees should be in the air, legs as straight as possible. Your partner must hold tightly!

8. Spankathon

Explanation: Hold each others hands. You may not release this grip. Now, with your free hand, try to spank your opponent. If this feels inappropriate, just touch each other on the back instead. This is a wild one!

9. Scissors of Death

Explanation: The person on the floor opens and closes his/her legs, while the other jumps in and out, nonstop. Start slowly to learn the rhythm, and then build up speed.

10. Hanging Kama Sutra Sit-Ups

Explanation: Hook your legs firmly around your friend. Do sit-ups. Add some punches in the stomach if you want to be more macho.

11. The Human Snake Push-Ups

Explanation: Try to remain straight at all times. Do a couple and then switch places.

12. Neck Rodeo

Explanation: As the name implies, this is not for everyone. Actually, most of these exercises are pretty dangerous when I think about it, so be careful! Anyway, the goal here is to break your opponents balance by moving him around (holding his neck), while he tries to stand straight. No cheap knees to the groin, okay?

13. Magical Standup

Explanation: Push against each others backs, and stand up. Sit down immediately. And don’t use your hands! The faster you are, the harder it is.

14. Alternating Super Push-Ups

Explanation: You stand facing each other, both in push-up position. One lowers himself down, so that the other can step up on his back (with his hands). Do a push-up with your partner on your back, and come down. Your partner steps off, then you change. Alternate until somebody gives up.

15. Climbing Mount Karate

Explanation: Climb up on your friend’s back, and then climb around him/her. Without touching the floor!

16. Okinawan Bench Press

Explanation: Involves basically every muscle. Triceps, biceps, shoulders, breast, back, stomach, you name it. If it’s too hard, the person on top can be on his/her knees instead.

17. Hikite Mania

Explanation: Cross your arms and pull, alternating left and right arm. Rotate your upper body. Feel free to let your heel lift off the floor if you feel pain in your knees or anything. Try to relax, and gradually build up speed.

18. The Nasty Feet Kisser

Explanation: The goal is to kiss your feet, without bending your legs!

19. “Hiding-The-Corpse” Squat

Explanation: Your opponent tries to make himself/herself ‘heavy’, and you squat up and down, standing behind.

20. Hypnotizing Feet

Explanation: With your legs in the air (preferably straight) do circles around each others feet (open and close your legs in a circular fashion). Change direction after a while.

21. The Concrete Backpack

Explanation: With your friend on your back, lie down, and (here’s the hard part) stand up again.

22. Back Breaker Sip-Ups

Explanation: Hook your feet inside your friend’s thighs, and slowly lean back. Try to go below 90 degrees. Then slooowly go back up.

23. The Face Plant

Explanation: Assume push-up position, facing each other. Now try to pull your opponents arm from under him/her. Back must be held straight!

And that’s it.

That was the last one for now.

Let me know how (if?) they worked out!


  • Diego Romero
    you know, that stuff will get you thrown in prison in some places =D i think i've done one of those drills before (one of the easier ones :p)
  • isaac
    This is verry interesting,I have done of them and I think this help me
  • Batman
    Done the face plant one before, in a field as well, so really got dirt on my face. Would like totry the hide the body squats, they look fun. Most of the others look kinda scary. I look forward to trying them :p
  • Nick
    those would be cool if your partner was female ;)
  • I knew some of them already, others I plan to test in our dojo ASAP (i.e. in September when we restart the classes).
  • Espiga san
    ...Funny, we´ll try some of the exercises this afternoon; "The concrete backpack" it seems to be ...dying in the concrete... Nice job anyway!!!
  • Bart Scovill
    Oh my poor students. Can't wait to try some of these out. Thanks for the illustrations.
  • Sam Moledzki
    Hello Jesse san, Just tried to order the Karate Code from Amazon.ca and they don't know if they will be getting anymore copies in stock according to the note posted. Are you planning on having more copies available in Canada through Amazon.ca? Best regards, Sam Moledzki
  • Gerry
    I just took my first BJJ class this past Saturday and we did "#15. Climbing Mount Karate" as part of the warm ups. Very difficult! I was able to stand while someone attempted to climb around me, but I couldn't climb around them. We also did variations of pulling each other across the floor by the gi & belt, which was great for cardio and core strenghening.
  • For our school annual day we had a girls dance in this they did the tenth one without the situp of course and they started swinging them, everyone was like Ooohh
  • Graziela
    We once did the faceplant during our training, but I don't know if my sensei is reading your blog(if yes, hi gerald-sensei from lower saxony). I was really bad at it, so I fell on my face a lot. We did that during judo-practise to learn to shift your weight during grappling/fighting on the ground - but during a fight, you do that with your legs. I did that exercise with an ex-classmate and friend of mine, who is an orange belt and does judo longer than me and did that exercise more often. But it is so much fun! But I think for groups with some weaker students, those exercises are too hard(Some of the adults in my class can't even do a full push-up with the nose touching the ground, but can neither do that), but if you have some really muscular and strong students, these are good and maybe funny to do

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