Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Fast and The Furious

At some point, the practitioner should appropriate a method of training dedicated to developing speed; speed should take precedence over power. Atemi (strikes delivered to vital or specialized targets) were created to down formidable adversaries quickly, so the aspect of power here becomes moot. Being "The Fastest Draw in The West" had nothing to do with the size of the revolver, and provides a good analogy for this particular aspect of the martial arts. Blinding fast techniques can get past your opponents reflexes. A "hit and run" artist is one who can score points with strikes, and quickly move out of fighting range (ma-ai) before being countered. So speed can enhance both offensive and defensive strategies.

Speed is relative. What if you're matched up with someone who is faster? A common lament of trainees is that they can't seem to dodge strikes in time. A good way to circumvent your opponent's quickness is to watch for clues. In boxing, they say your adversary "telegraphs" an intention to hit. Looking for the ol' wind up will give you time to either get out of the way or block and counter. A drop in stance or some other sudden movement, no matter how subtle, can be signs.

Trying too hard to be fast all the time will interfere with your poise, rhythm, and timing; this can cause you to tire and slow down. Never sacrifice proper form for the sake of speed. Speed should come as the natural result of dedicated training over a period of time.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any preferred exercises for developing speed?

5:32 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

For me, it's padwork. I like this method in lieu of sparring, because your trainer gives you immediate feedback and can tailor the speed of the pads/focus mitts to match yours. Developing burst-speed capacity means working the fast-twitch muscle fibers, so be careful to not lean towards routines that favor endurance exclusively (the key is balance). A stretching regimen and remaining relaxed throughout your movements are also important.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Miss Chris said...

Wow! This post is nearly word for word what was worked on in my daughter's sparring class yesterday!

11:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is something that is essential in TKD too, so I'm glad you brought it up, as it's something I struggle with in sparring myself. I'm usually up against people half (or even more than half) my age, who, due to their youth, can be fast than old lady me. At the same time, you want power in some cases with various kicks and punches to be able to make points off your opponent. The trick is finding that balance between speed and power, which I admit I haven't found that. And what you said about learning to read clues...that is something I'm still trying to figure out, and I've been told it takes a while, so I just have to be patient and keep observing.

Another example of where it's more a matter of speed than power that I can think of is board breaking. I don't know if there are requirements in various forms of karate in order to promote, but in my form of TKD, you get to a certain level, and if you can't break, you don't promote up. I've been learning in the last year that it's not the power necessarily that you put behind the executed punch or kick, but rather the speed behind it. Case in point is my sidekick break. It's taken me a year to figure out that it's not the speed and power in the setup, but more the speed in the execution of the kick. Yesterday, a teen student had the form of her palm heel break right, but not the speed. Once she was told to speed up her punch, BAM! The board finally broke. So when it comes to speed, I hear 'ya!

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to know it comes with TIME. I need to get to the point where I'm not thinking so much about what I'm going to do and then I'll be able to speed up.

I tried to comment on your previous post but it didn't show up for some reason. I wanted to ask you if carrying around an almost 1 year old counts as weight training? If it does, I'm golden. ;-)

7:51 AM  
Blogger Mathieu said...

I recently sparred with Sensei and got a taste of what speed could be.

Those mawashi came in just too fast. Like, little move, feet in face. Ouch.


I need to work more...

11:03 AM  
Blogger Rick Matz said...

... and the foundation of speed is relaxation. In the Yiquan training I do, relaxation is the foundation. If you can't relax, you can't do anything else well.

10:06 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

I hadn't thought about it, but I can see how speed is an important component of a successful break. I've heard of it being a requirement for rank in the Korean styles. I can imagine how it could be a source of frustration (not to mention injury) when the breaking attempt fails.
Black Belt Mama:
Not only does carrying around a 1-year-old count as weight training, but exceeds it, and should be regarded as an event unto itself!

6:29 PM  
Blogger Becky G said...

I can relate to the old lady comment. I am also twice or more the age of nearly every student in my dojo. Once you've passed 40, your body starts slowing down whether you want it to or not.

Once thing I've had to overcome in sparring is the tendency to look my opponent in the eye. I find that by watching the center of his chest, I am better able to read his moves.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Mir said...

Our body has an interior "limit" of how fast it will allow itself to go. I've read that you can convince your body that it can move faster by running down a hill. Many runners use this method to help their body become aware of it's latent abilities.

10:17 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

One thing I've had to overcome in sparring is the tendency to look my opponent in the eye.

Good idea. When fighting remain focused, but set your gaze broadly.
I'm going to assume that you mean that runners visualize running down a hill to gain actual speed. Many abilities that are latent in people quite often result from self imposed limitations.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Mir said...

Nope.. I mean that they actually will physically run down a hill as fast as they can over and over again.

At least that is what I've read in Runners Magazine, and my daughter experienced in her track and field training.

11:16 AM  

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