Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Martial Art Speed - The How

Guro Dan Inosanto's techniques are legendary for their speed
Original Sources: www.allaboutmartialarts.com www.aerospaceweb.org 

n the last post (March 14, 2015), I touched on the importance of speed’s mental aspect. Today, I’d like to present a few ideas about the physical side of speed.

Moving a technique from A to B as fast as possible is a goal of many martial artists. Yet, the way we arrive at that level of speed doesn’t always involve just punching or kicking fast.

Tai Chi, for example, is very much about learning to relax first…while building sound and credible technique in a slow and methodical manner. In fact all martial arts follow the same strategy: first learn the proper mechanics of technique then follow up with speed and power.

My Jiu Jitsu instructor, Shihan Ron Forrester, the Father of Canadian Jiu Jitsu, stressed understanding the biomechanics of each technique far ahead of any rapid execution yet his competitive teams won the world championships a record five times. 

There’s the popular joke that runs something like this: “I saw two Tai Chi guys fighting in the street but I couldn’t stick around long enough to see a punch land.”

Cute but not true. A well-known instructor who doubted the efficacy of a Tai Chi strike found himself against a wall…after he regained consciousness.  The strike arrived special delivery via a Hong Kong Tai Chi fighter.

Karate, Taekwondo, Savate…every system can boast practitioners slick with speed. It’s not the system but the quality of the individual’s training that counts.

Throws, locks, takedowns...can all be done at high speed
Source: www.punchkickchoke.com

The following are some of my personal suggestions for building speed whatever the system.

1.   As I mentioned in the first post – clear your mind. Don’t want speed. Let speed be.

2.   When concentrating on one particular technique, start by standing very close to the target. Why? – when applying any technique, everything moves at once…legs and main body core, hips, fist or kick. The distance must be covered by the entire body. When starting out, it's easier to accomplish this from close in.

3.   Don’t stiffen up before executing your technique. Relax.

4.   For a punch or any open hand strike, become infinitely aware of the tips of your fingers. Just before striking, they should be feathery soft and light to the touch.

If a kick is involved, be as aware of the tips of your toes or the sides of your foot as a puncher is of her or his fingertips. In fact a good warm up for speed in a front roundhouse kick is to very lightly tap the floor with your big toe while loosening and relaxing the entire leg up to the core of the body.

If your intention is to imbue a throw with speed, stand very close to your practise partner and execute portions of the throw – or the entire throw – with the speed of a little “twitch”. Please remember, the entire body is involved in that twitch. Be careful though, that twitch can snap an opponent’s limbs in the space of a second  if done too directly.

Wing Chun Master Samuel Kwok merges speed with tactile sensitivity
Source: philosophadam.wordpress.com

5.   Each technique isn’t necessarily the same; an arm break coming in from the side, for example, may require a tiny snap of the hips to avoid the heavy, circuitous movements of large muscle groups and large joints. Thoroughly know and feel your technique. Technique has to be in a zone beyond thought, a zone of pure movement.

6.   Some Kung Fu practitioners refer to a fast movement as “a spark from a fire” or “scared power”. As you practise, you’ll actually develop signature qualities in your own speed. For example, the slap-punch combination Bruce Lee used at the start of Enter the Dragon, carries a recognizable sound when done with speed. In a line of practitioners, you can instantly recognize the correct sound among a host of muffled slaps. The sound stands apart. The technique has reached a point where speed and iron hand become one.

7.   Never practise to the point of feeling depleted of energy. That’s like too much ”fa jin” in Tai Chi. In all martial arts, if you constantly practise full speed and power your body will peak and the quality of your technique actually begins to slide. Train wisely. Perform two or three fast movements, then replenish yourself through breathing and Chi Kung. Don’t fall into a mental rut of trying constantly for speed. You’ll achieve the exact opposite.

8.  Again, don’t look for speed only in the physical sense; meditate, do Chi Kung as well. The key to speed is through the mind.

As I’ve said before, age is no barrier to speed. Relax, relax, relax. Allow the mind to flow, and your speed will develop well into your nineties!

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