Rob Pincus

Athleticism vs. Fitness

Rob Pincus
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Duration:   2  mins

What is the difference between athleticism and fitness, and what does that difference mean for students of personal defense, especially those who are not in prime physical condition?

Defining the Terms

PDN has put out a lot of information stressing the importance of fitness and helping people integrate fitness concepts and ideas into their self-defense training.

But we haven’t really defined the difference between athleticism and fitness. Fighting is an athletic endeavor and students in firearms courses should move athletically while on the range. Hearing this may demoralize students who feel they are not physically fit and may even scare off potential students from taking firearms training courses.


Fitness is the raw material each person has to work with: your strength, coordination, power, speed, and dexterity. If you could be faster, stronger, thinner — these relate to your fitness. And they can’t be changed during, for example, a one-day pistol class.

What instructors can help you do is be as athletic as possible using your raw materials.


Athleticism is how you use your fitness. If a firearms instructor says you need to be athletic when training (and fighting), he doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be more fit. What he means is you must use your level of strength, coordination, power, speed and dexterity to the best of your ability.

Firearms instructors don’t expect a 65-year-old who has had a knee replacement to perform the same way as a 30-year-old armed professional who’s used to carrying 40 pounds of gear. Those two people look very different in how they move on the range, but they can both move athletically.

Moving athletically means putting energy and effort into moving. Your movements are not lazy, static or complacent. And if you are on the lower end of fitness, you don’t use that as an excuse to train unrealistically.

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