Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

1inchpunch 1024x576 Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

Speed, Distance and Timing – The Essence of Martial Arts

Timing

An interesting article was published by the Daily Mail last year, looking at the Bruce Lee’s one inch punch and how it was possible for him to catapult grown men across the room from only an inch away. At first, people believed it was Lee’s superhuman fitness and conditioning, as well as correct technique that allowed him to produce such power in so short a distance, but new studies reveal it may actually have be his brain structure that accounts for it.

The study found black belts are able to punch incredibly hard, but this is not necessarily due to muscular strength, but more timing of the muscle movements produced by the brain. Effective punching came from the synchronization of the wrists and shoulders more than muscular strength alone, and this was determined by the brain structure. As Dr Ed Roberts, who ran the study states:

“We think that ability might be related to fine-tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum, allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.”

Martial arts novices were not able to synchronise their punching power through the whole body, with punches being based on muscular arm strength. As a result, the punches were not as quick, hard or effective, arguably showing that timing and coordination is essential to any martial artists training. Without correct timing, strikes or blocks will not be half as effective, relying simply on muscular strength. The full article can be found here.

speed JKD Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

Distance

In addition to timing, I would argue that distance is a major factor in relation to effective martial arts training. Traditional martial arts use the concept of ma-ai (distance) in all their techniques to effectively employ technique, whether this is striking such as in Karate, or locks and throws as in Judo or Aikido. In MMA, distance is judged through sparring and being able to judge whether to strike from standing or on the ground, or go for the takedown, closing the gap to allow the match to be taken to the ground. In terms of self defence, Geoff Thompson’s idea of The Fence shows the effective manipulation of distance before an altercation occurs, as well as Tony Davis and Matt Frost from the Combat Resource Centre¬†explaining how going toe to toe with someone in terms of distance is not always a great idea, especially when dealing with multiple attackers. Links to their Home Study Self Defence course can be found on my homepage, as well as on my post on the Combat Resource Centre here

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Tony Davis from the Combat Resource Centre

Speed

Speed is obviously essential to effective martial arts training, whether this be traditional martial arts, MMA or self defence. The opponent who is slower, sometimes regardless of technique, is always at a disadvantage as movements can be read and predicted, allowing the faster martial artist to effectively control distance. They can then close the gap when needed to deliver strikes or a takedown, or move out of range to avoid attacks. This concept is best shown by the Ghost method of fighting, developed by Phil Norman which emphasises being elusive through speed, and controlling distance through constant movement, delivering fast, effective striking and avoiding being hit.

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Ghost Fighting with Phil Norman

Speed, distance and timing and essential skills for the martial artist to learn, whether aims are self defence, fitness, traditional martial arts or sport fighting such as MMA. They all interlink as well, with speed allowing you to control the distance and timing of your opponent, shown in Ghost training. The correct distance allows you to be fast, moving in and out of the pocket, delivering strikes or takedowns with good timing for effectiveness, and the correct timing allows speed, power and control of distance.


Martial Arts Fitness and Agility

mma workout Martial Arts Fitness and Agility

Fitness and Agility for the Martial Artist

What is needed to be a good martial artist? Is it the ability to deliver a one punch knockout? A thorough knowledge of all techniques in your chosen art? How about a bad-ass Bruce Lee yell to strike fear into the hearts of any would be attackers? These may all be important factors, yet in my opinion, fitness, and in particular flexibility, agility and coordination, are the bench marks for a solid martial artist.

Martial artists need to be fit for purpose. Bodybuilders lift the heaviest weights possible so that they can tear the muscles in order for them to be built up bigger and stronger. While I admire this dedication to training, it has its limits for the martial artist, due to the fact that if they were to become massively stacked and ripped with muscles, their agility would suffer and they would no longer be fit for purpose. A certain amount of muscle mass is needed for the martial arts without a doubt, but this should be lean muscle so as to still be quick, nimble and agile.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bodybuilder. No doubt dedicated and an excellent example, but limited if he were a martial artist

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Bruce Lee’s physique was functionally fit for his discipline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result of this, time spent at the gym lifting heavy weights in order to build muscle has its limits in terms of martial arts. Other methods of training are preferable in my opinion. Kettlebell training delivers a full range of motion in its movements, building lean muscle and increasing cardiovascular endurance, while also stripping away body fat. Gymnastics also offer great training, again building lean muscle and reducing fat, while also building general fitness, flexibility, agility and coordination. This can be shown in the training of welterweight UFC champion Georges St Pierre, who regularly uses gymnastics as an addition to his mixed martial arts training.

Flexibility, as well as being useful in certain martial arts such as Taekwondo for kicking skill, can also help reduce the chances of injury for any athlete due to the muscles and surrounding tissue being more pliable. This allows greater movement in the body, reducing the chances of torn muscles and other such injuries. Yoga and pilates can be excellent for this, improving flexibility, as well as developing the core muscle groups needed for martial arts in addition to regulating the breathing.

Agility and coordination are perhaps the most important attributes for the martial artist in my opinion. If you are not agile, you are slow, making it easier to be attacked both in terms of practical self defence, and also traditional training. If you are not coordinated, you will find it difficult to employ power in your punches or kicks, due to the fact your body isn’t working as one unit. The punch will always come from the arm, not the hip and so power will be restricted. As already said, gymnastics are great for both agility and coordination as well as building functional muscle. Other exercises such as ladder runs can improve speed and agility, as well as cardiovascular fitness

Fitness is a personal thing. Some people wish to develop their muscles, getting them as big as possible such as in the case of bodybuilders. Others wish to focus more on cardiovascular training, paying little thought to weight training such as marathon runners. Martial artists should, in my opinion, focus on both. The well rounded martial artist should be agile and flexible with lean muscle in order to produce power when needed. As such, training in a multitude of arts can be useful. To supplement regular martial arts training, gymnastics could be done to focus on coordination and lean muscle gains or ladder run drills could be performed to focus on agility and cardiovascular endurance. This kind of training will lead to the more developed and well rounded martial artist.