Resistance is Futile
To increase speed we create conditions in the dojo where speed is essential: kumite is one way, speed drills on a bag or on hand-held focus targets are another, two-person choreographed contact drills, with accelerating pace, are another.
We can also do speed work in kata. Using kata and other solo drills – times when we can focus on our own body – we can detect and remove obstacles to speed.
There are two main ways to do this.
Elimnate Resistance within Personal Weapons
One is to eliminate residual tension in opposing muscles. We mentally scan the body for tension, detect it, and release it. One place where we may find it is in the flexors of the arms and legs. The residual tension there resists the extension of the limb – slowing the punch or kick or other arm or leg technique.
Noticing it is easy. Being loose when executing a whipping, ballistic punch or kick – not holding tension in the flexors until the instant of impact – multiplies the power of the technique, immediately.
To make that a habit, and to avoid the tension creeping back into the muscles while you are continuing to practice, it is good to take a long enough pause between the moves to mentally scan for tension and then release it. As you get used to moving without holding tension, we can speed up the sequences of techniques, and not tighten up again.
Eliminate Resistance in Maintaining Body Architecture
Aside from tension in our arms and legs which reduces the effectiveness of our body weapons, we might hold tension in the lats and traps. It’s good to check to see if you your shoulders are rising up. This can reduce the speed, power and stability – of your arm techniques, so it is good to check if your shoulders are rising, and get them back in place.
A third place to look for residual tension is in the lower abdomen, at the hara. Most people hold tension there because it feels “strong.” Sometimes people pull their stomach in by habit. If they do then their spine is not stacked tall and vertical. Instead, they lean a little bit forward over their center. That adds unnecessary effort, stiffness in the movement and off-balances the body whether still or moving, as the spine is always canted forward when stationary, and slightly off-axis when moving and turning.
During kata practice it is easy to remind yourself to stand tall, stack your spine, send your breath deep into the hara under the knot of your belt, and release the tension there.
With good vertical posture this habit is easy to build and beneficial for generating power and for maintaining effortless balance. Then it is no problem to put these good habits into kumite, partner drills, or in a more pressured situation.
When the body is loose, we can maximize our speed by using ballistic technique instead of a thrusting, pushing or leverage technique.
Mass x Acceleration = Force
For generating force acceleration is the variable we can control. The mass of our fist or foot or arm or leg is pretty much fixed. Although there are many factors that contribute to speed and to effectiveness of our techniques – eliminating resistance in the limbs and trunk are keys to increasing acceleration.
People sometimes hold tension in the body because subjectively it “feels” strong. There is definitely a time to be tense – at the point of contact of a technique, or in naihanchi for example. But for speed in striking techniques eliminating resistance is necessary.
Post Copyright © 2021 Jeffrey M. Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Values of the Martial Arts available in paperback and Amazon Kindle edition.
Photo Copyright © 2021 Tarleton Brooks