The Need for Speed!

Speed is one of the most important attributes for any martial artist, whether it be for a recreational Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylist, a professional MMA fighter, or an amateur Muay Thai fighter.  The faster that you can execute a move or a combination, the less reaction time that your opponent has, and the more likely that your move or combination will be successful.  In the magician's world, a magician like David Copperfield will say that the secret to executing any magic trick is to utilize the fact that "the hand is quicker than the eye."  In the fighting world, the saying is "the punch that you don't see is the one that knocks you out."  If you can execute a move or combination more quickly than your opponent can defend, then you will naturally have the upper hand.

So how do you improve your speed?   

1) Make sure that you have proper and excellent technique.  If you have excellent technique, your speed will naturally increase (relative to having improper technique).  So your first step to increasing your speed is to make sure you have proper technique.  Every little detail matters.  Please ask your favorite Evolve instructor to breakdown all the little details of a given technique.  Take notes and try to remember it when you practice.   

2) Incorporate speed drills into your training.  Instead of simply drilling arm bars, try to drill the arm bars with a clock.  In other words, try to see how many arm bars you can execute in 2 minutes.  Keep track of it and try your best to improve your numbers over time.  Of course, you must already have excellent and proper technique before you try to incorporate speed drills.  If you cannot kick properly, then you should not be focusing on kicking speed drills.  However, assuming that you have excellent technique, then the next step to increasing your speed is to incorporate speed drills.  Speed drills are basically drilling your techniques at maximum speed with a clock.  Over time, you will find yourself getting faster and faster as your body becomes accustomed to a move.  Your natural competitive drive will help you get faster if you keep track of your numbers.   

3) Focus on fast twitch muscles.  Martial arts requires a combination of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles.  To increase your speed and explosiveness, you will need to focus on your fast twitch muscles.  Plyometric training has proven to be the best way to develop fast twitch muscle fibers.  The idea is to practice movements in the same tempo that mimic the actual usage of your martial art.  The FightShape Program at Evolve MMA is a great example of plyometric exercises to help develop your speed and explosiveness.  For more details on plyometric exercises, please ask your favorite FightShape instructor at Evolve MMA. 

Fast twitch fibers:  These muscle fibers can contract very quickly and are responsible for the "explosiveness" of an athlete.  Unfortunately, these fibers use up a lot of oxygen and are quite inefficient.  100m Olympic sprinters focus on developing their fast twitch muscles.

Slow twitch fibers:  These muscle fibers contract slowly and are responsible for the "endurance" of an athlete.  These muscles are efficient at using oxygen and also minimize lactic acid build-up.  Marathon runners focus a lot on developing their slow twitch muscles.

Hybrid fibers:  These muscles are a combination of the two.

4) Utilize reflex drills.  Counter attacks and defense in martial arts is simply a matter of reflex.  The faster your reflexes are, the faster you will be when you defend and when you counter attack.  In order to improve your reflexes, you must inherit pattern recognition.  Pattern recognition is simply the ability to read patterns BEFORE a move is executed on you by your opponent.  For example, in a Muay Thai sparring session, watch for clues on how a person moves his/her body before he/she tries to throw a kick.  If you can spot the "signals" before the kick is thrown, then your ability to react will be faster.  Professional Muay Thai fighters never wait for a kick to be thrown before they react.  They react to the "signals" before the kick is thrown.  This pattern recognition is what separates amateur and professional fighters.  At the highest level, reflexes are what separate the World Champions from the rest.  An example of a pattern recognition drill would be holding pads for your partner.  When you hold pads for your partner, try to watch for "signals" before they throw a kick.  Do they drop their left hand first before they kick?  Do they make an ugly face before they throw a punch?   These small clues will help you dramatically in your defense and counter attacking game.  Once you identify patterns, the next step is to improve your reflex to that pattern.  Find a partner and have him/her kick you lightly as you try to defend or counterattack.  Then have your partner increase the speed.  See if you can improve the time it takes for you to react.  All these principles are applicable for BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, and everything else taught at Evolve MMA.

In conclusion, speed is something that can be developed.  It is a very powerful attribute in martial arts.  It is often what separates World Champions from the rest.  Look at UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.  He executes his offensive moves faster than most people.  However, his reflexes are also faster than most people too.  So his speed and elusiveness are his most terrifying attributes.  And you can bet that Anderson Silva works on his speed and reflexes A LOT.  If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to your favorite Evolve MMA instructor on how to increase your speed and reflexes.

As the legend Muhammad Ali used to say all the time, "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts®.  Achieve Greatness Within™.