Train Physical Skills to be Ready for Anything – Like an URBAN NINJA

By on February 15, 2024

Training physical skills is an overlooked aspect of physical training. What’s the point being strong and explosive if you don’t know how to channel that physicality into anything dynamic? Why be strong if you can’t do anything with that strength. 

skills training

While squatting will help you run a bit faster, it won’t be any use if you don’t know how to run. And far more of those gains will come from actual running. 

Continually learning new skills teaches you greater body awareness. It keeps you in a plastic, learning state. And it makes your training fun and challenging. It’s a concept that the movement training crowd understand well, especially the likes of Ido Portal.

But whereas they focus on largely calisthenics-based movements that combine body control on the ground or on rings… I think we can go further. Specifically, I think we should incorporate movements and abilities from different training disciplines – that draw on different traits like endurance, explosiveness, agility, and strength. 

This is what will allow us to move dynamically across any terrain. And to be useful in a variety of different scenarios. And it will teach you to tap into different physical capacities. 

While any number of movements could go on a list like this, I’ve included here what I think are an interesting selection that will help you learn a lot about your body.

The nerdy part of me (the main part…) likes to think of this as “urban ninja training.” What skills could help you be more formidable if the world turned bad? If those cyberpunk dystopias came to pass?

In an age of surveillance and cyber warfare, physically passing messages would be the best way to communicate. Climbing across rooftops and dropping down into a roll would be key. Quick movement and body awareness, too.

I love playing games like Deus Ex or Cyberpunk 2077 and maxing out my strength, jump height, and running speed. These skills let me move through the environment in new ways, circumventing challenges and getting the drop on enemies. And it speaks to a core reason that I love to train: more ability, gives you greater freedom. 

And, in keeping with this approach, we’re also going to be looking at training the mind as well as the body.

The following skills will turn you into an urban ninja, and will unlock all kinds of performance you hadn’t previously explored. If you’ve built a good base of fitness, it’s time to start using and experimenting with it!

The Skills

Breakfall/PK Roll

The break fall is a movement from martial arts that is crucial for safe practice and a great asset in itself, too. The ability to safely land after a trip could save you from a serious injury and also allows you to practice other high level movements, safely. It also looks extremely cool.


The handstand is a movement that opens up so many other movements – turning your body into a portable gym. Simply learning the handstand also represents a journey – it teaches you the importance of core stability, shoulder strength and mobility, scapula control, proprioception, and so much more. Plus, it looks awesome.

Clean Handstand


The crawl is a fundamental movement we learn as babies but stop doing once we learn to walk. This is a mistake. Crawling is a brilliant exercise that not only has practical benefit – for moving stealthily or even balancing along beams – but that also develops core strength and contralateral body control.

One of the hardest things my daughter is currently struggling with when it comes to learning to swim, is figuring out how to coordinate her arms and legs simultaneously. Crawls are how you learn that.


Sprinting is a fundamental movement that everyone who is able bodied should be capable of. It’s also a fantastic exercise that’s highly anabolic. AND it builds huge amounts of explosiveness. Of course, it’s another movement that is actually highly useful in the real world and which could very well save your life.

Sprint Training

Cross Punch

The cross punch is perhaps the most important punch for boxers. It’s also widely used in martial arts and MMA.

Do you need a powerful cross if you’re not a violent person? There’s always the chance you might need to resort to violence. But, more than that, it’s about simply being able to develop a large amount of power from your body. Learning to relax and contract your muscles with the right timing, learning to tap into that rotational power, throwing your hips and shoulders into the movement… it’s once again an incredible education.


Roundhouse Kick

Similarly, the roundhouse kick is something of the “default” kick for many martial artists. It’s capable of delivering massive power, and it teaches a bunch of skills – from creating torque, to turning over the hip, to balancing on one leg. It creates more hip mobility, more balance, and greater body control and awareness. And it’s essential for any martial artist.

Climb Up

The climb up is how a parkour athlete mounts a wall. Notably, this isn’t by resting their forearms on the top and dragging themselves up! That method is slow, awkward, and scuffs up your arms. Instead, you want to latch onto the top with your hands and then push yourself straight up as though you were doing a muscle-up. 

Cilmb up

This movement is clearly a useful one if you ever need to evade capture, chase down a bad guy… or just get over a wall to get your ball back. You can build up to it with muscle ups, but also the “tactical pull up.”

For more on how to do this one, check out my Batman workout video from 2022.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is an exercise but, perhaps mores than many other options on this list, it’s also a skill To perform the perfect kettlebell swing, you need to be able to hinge the hips letting the kettlebell guide the movement, relax the body as the weight floats in the air, powerfully contract at the right moment to thrust it into the air – creating the “double pulse” that we see in martial arts. You also need to retract the shoulder blades, keep the kettlebell close to your centre of gravity, etc.

The benefits this provides are huge. You will build incredible grip strength, powerful glutes, and an explosive triple extension. That latter part is what makes the kettlebell swing so effective at increasing running speed and jump height – and why so many coaches and athletes proclaim it to have the “What the Hell” effect.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the de-facto kettlebell movement – the one that will serve as the gateway into the world of kettlebell training. And kettlebell training is one of the most important tools for developing real toughness; strength between those linear positions. 

Rope Climb

Like the climb-up, the rope climb is another movement that’s ideal for developing pulling strength. Again, this will build your upper body ready for real movement and traversal. Of course, there’s a chance you might need to actually climb a rope someday. But, beyond that, this same skill will translate to a number of different climbing activities and generally develop excellent pulling strength.


Finally, juggling is an activity that develops more of your mental muscles. You’ll improve your peripheral vision, your ability to multitask, your hand-eye-coordination, and more. This is a totally different type of fitness but it certainly translates to real-world activities. 


For the urban ninjas out there, this will improve your reflexes, your proprioception, and your ability to deal with multiple assailants. For everyone else: it can improve your road safety, your performance in sports, and your general dexterity. It’s a cool skill and it’s well worth it.


This is far from a comprehensive list. There are many other skills you could spend time developing – whether those be swimming, throwing, kicking, dance moves, chess, flips… the list goes on and on. 

The point is simply to start adding some kind of skill training to your repertoire. You can even use these kinds of movements to build an entire, balanced program. Just do something for pulling (rope climbing or climb up), something for pushing (crawling or punching), something for the legs (sprinting), a hip hinge (kettlebell swings), something rotational (punching…). Or, of course, you can combine this with your regular training to become more dynamic and well-rounded.

You won’t build as much muscle this way. You won’t get massive, or super strong. But you’ll be much more dynamic, explosive, controlled, and formidable… like an urban ninja. I think that’s even cooler. 

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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