How fast are you?
How quick do you need to be?
You do not have to be the fastest that you can be. You only need to be quicker than your current opponent. Speed is relative.
Types of speed
Perception speed or intuitive recognition. The speed at which you perceive an imminent attack. It may be increased by repeatedly exposing yourself to situations that require instant analysis, such as free sparring.
- Visual Perception. This is your ability to spot small body movements and behaviors or expressions that indicate intentions (telegraphing), spot openings, and track movements.
- Tactile Perception. This is your ability to use touch to detect movements or imminent movements. For this to work, you must be in contact with the opponent. I once played Judo with a blind black belt who would detect your intentions and tell you what you were planning to do before you even did it.
- Auditory Perception. This is your ability to hear critical things, such as breathing, shuffling, steps, grunts related to pain, etc., that may help you react to an attack.
Reaction speed. The speed at which you react to an identified threat. You react quicker to expected attacks, such as when sparing you know what types of kicks to expect due to practice and the sparing rules. In unexpected attacks, such as in self-defense situations, you do not know what the attack may be but you do know the attack is meant to harm you, so this limits the choices of attacks.
Execution speed. The speed of your technique, such how quickly and accurately can you fire a side kick. This is the one most students focus upon.
Range speed. The speed at which you are able to close or retreat. This involves the movement of the body as unit, not the individual techniques.
Recovery speed. The speed at which you recover after executing and attack. This includes re-cambering a kick and re-assumption of a stable stance.
Adaptation Speed.The speed at which you are able to adapt to changing situations, fighting styles, injuries, etc. Changes must sometimes be made during the execution of technique or movement. You must be able to control, change the direction, change the target, or stop techniques instantly.
Ways to build speed
Traditionally, speed training consists of repeating a movement until it is ingrained in the muscle and becomes automatic. Focusing upon increasing your overall physical speed by doing such things as sprints, or high rep/low weight training. Build strength to increase the explosiveness of your attacks.
Some other ways to build speed are:
- Kiai. Many athletes hold their breath while exerting themselves to magnify their strength, through pneumomuscular reflex of intra-abdominal pressure. For quickness, you must exhale during movements. The optimal performance zone is at the end of exhalation, so your exhale should begin in time to end at the moment of impact. However, you should not visibly inhale before an attack; any experienced fighter will know that you are attacking.
- The kiai has been used in the martial arts for centuries. All warriors use a "spirit shout" when they attack, even modern day warriors such as the Marines. Even street fighters use a spirit shout but their shouts tend to be obscene. When you kiai, you must exhale.
- Practice. Conventional wisdom says that to be quick, you must practice doing techniques as quickly as possible. However, practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. To be quick, you must perform techniques slowly and perfectly. Speed depends on effectiveness and efficiency of movement. To increase your effectiveness and efficiency, you (or others) must be able to see what you are doing wrong. When you only perform techniques quickly, problems cannot be seen and corrected and thus they get practiced until they are imbedded in your movements. Practice techniques slowly, concentrating on making them perfect. Quickness will be the result.
- Move more. The more parts of the body involved in a movement, the more power, the more speed, and the less energy expended. This does not mean using extraneous movements, it means relaxing the body so all the parts move freely to the desired end.
- Balance. If your opponent is slightly off balance, he/she cannot react as quickly, thus giving you the speed advantage. Try to maneuver your opponent so he/she is off balance, and then attack.
- Slowing too soon. Sometimes students start a technique quickly and then it slows before completion. This may be because of focusing too soon, being unsure of the ending body position, not knowing which muscles to use and in what order to use them, or improper breathing.
- Focusing too soon. Focusing too soon is a common problem. Strong students want to be powerful at the moment of impact so, in anticipation of the impact, they tighten too soon (especially the upper body). To correct this you must perform the technique with no power, and focus AFTER you have completed the motion. Practice the technique with no intention of focusing, just some speed and good form, and, after you finish, tighten sequentially. For example, with a punch, tighten the abdomen and legs first, the drawing arm, and the technique arm last.
- Body position. If your end position is unstable, even minimally so, your body may try to protect itself from injury by easing up. The movement of impact should not be a sudden stop for the body; it should "flow" into the target. To test this, step into a powerful fore fist punch. At the moment of completion, hold the position for a second and then relax. If you find yourself "settling" on the relaxation, then you are stopping the body too soon and not focusing. Practice until the body is completely settled at the moment of impact.
- Muscle use. Another common problem is over-tightening the small muscles around the joints. You usually notice this as small cramps around the hip joint or pain in the back. Power should flow through the joints without tensing them. The small muscles only tense at the moment of impact and then they immediately relax. To correct this, relax the body until impact, then tense the body, and immediately relax again..
- Breathing. Taking too big of a breath takes time and slows you down or you may be holding your breath, which tenses the body too soon.
- Hamper opponent's speed. If you do things to decrease an opponent's speed, you are in effect increasing your relative speed. If you train to fight while constantly circling your opponent, your effective speed will increase if your opponent is slowed due to having to keep turning constantly to face you.