The quality of speed can be broken down into two main categories. They are Reaction speed and movement speed. Each of these types of speed can be broken down into many minor variations such as visual awareness, alteration speed, footwork speed, hand trapping speed, etc. However, these are subcategories of either: 1- speed of your motor reaction; or 2- speed of your movement. It is also very diverse. A fighter may have fast hand motions butt slow footwork. Likewise, another may have slower reaction speed but compensates for it with faster perceptual speed. Thus to say an individual is fast and another slow is an oversimplified generalization. A lot of one’s speed is also inherent. However, various aspects of speed can be increased in everyone to some degree. Let’s take a look at each type of speed in-depth.
Movement speed can be defined as the ability to generate bodily movements in the shortest possible time – be it a simple movement or a complex movement. Motor speed can be a deciding factor in one’s fighting abilities.
Some of the prerequisites are:
Mobility of Nervous Processes – Fine-tuned neuromuscular skill and abilities.
Power Performance - The ability to explode from one’s neutral position.
Muscle Flexibility and Elasticity – Necessary for full range of motion and to cut down muscular resistance which can slow a movement.
Proper Focus of One’s Attention.
Many factors other than basic speed abilities also condition movement speed. These are such things as strength, endurance, coordination, technical skill, etc.
Any punching or kicking movement is basically a ballistic motion (like a bullet). On the way to it’s target the weapon is being acted on by inertia. Even as your arm or leg is extending on it’s way outward the antagonistic muscles are preparing to fire and slow the movement to stop it in order to prevent you from injuring yourself. If it doesn’t then you may end up hyperextending the joint. Even so you must keep the antagonistic muscles as relaxed as possible to truly "explode" a punch. In this case, the more powerful the explosion of your initial movement is, the faster the punch or kick will travel.
Reaction speed, like movement speed, is also conditioned by other factors. These include proper focus and concentration on the subject to be responded to; fatigue (physical or mental); awareness (visual, aural, tactile), etc. It can also be divided into: 1- simple motor reaction; and 2- complex motor reactions. A simple motor reaction may be all that is required against a single attacking motion, whereas a complex one may be necessary against a combination attacking motion.
Most of the reactions prevalent in the martial arts are complex in that, due to constant and sudden changes in situations or actions, the martial artist has to select from several possible actions the one adequate to the situation.
Power is the ability to exert strength quickly. In fact, in Europe it is often referred to as speed-strength. The primary key is to develop the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time. The initial concentric contraction of the prime mover is literally an "explosion" within the muscle and incorporation of all the body parts to impact maximum torque (proper body mechanics).
As an example, when the hook punch lands we want the entire body behind it to maximize the power; thus the term "hitting with the whole body" and not merely the arm or leg. Russian studies have proven that approximately one third of the power in a punch comes from the feet and the lower body, one third comes from the waist, and one third comes from the shoulder and arm.
To express power while moving forward we need to make sure that the punch (or kick) lands just a fraction of a second before our lead foot touches the ground, allowing the person’s total weight to be projected into the opponent instead of downward into the floor.
Endurance can be defined as the capacity to resist fatigue. High levels of endurance facilitate the mastery of a lot of hard work during training and allow high quality movement and perfect solutions to both technical and tactical problems for the entire training session. There is an old saying that "when endurance goes out the window everything else usually follows." Well-developed endurance abilities are also important for a quick recovery following a hard workout.
There are various types of endurance as well, such as strength-endurance and speed-endurance, basic endurance and specific-endurance. In training, the so-called basic endurance is the functional base for all the other various kinds of endurance. It is during this basic endurance training that one’s personality traits such as self-discipline and willpower are developed. Motivation and willingness to take pain are two psychological elements involved in such training.
Coordination is the quality, which enables the martial artist to integrate all the powers, and capacities he has into the effective doing of an act. It is the ability to move and organize yourself around your own physical body. Coordination abilities differ from technical skills in that they exist as prerequisites for subsequent motor actions.
Seven coordinative abilities can be differentiated by their characteristics, and while all seven are fundamental to martial arts as a whole they may appear in quite different values in each person.
These abilities are:
Combinatory Ability – The ability to coordinate parts of body movements and single movements with one another in relation to a total movement of the body towards a given action. In contests between individuals where there is confrontation with a moving opponent, numerous complicated and rapid adjustments are necessary (combining lower body action with
Orientation – Knowing where you are at any given moment. It is the ability to analyze and change the position and movement of the body in space and at the same time relate to the area in which the action is taking place (a boxing ring, for instance)
Differential Ability – The ability to achieve a high degree of accuracy and fine adjustment of separate body movements and mechanical phases of a total body movement. This is related to the perfecting and stabilizing of technical skills and their actual application in bouts between individuals where there is a high precision in various situations despite the actions of opponents. Agility would be included in this category. Agility is the ability to exercise a fine coordination of the movements of various parts of the body as well as the ability to relax the muscles which produces a conscious tuning of the muscle tone.
Balance – The ability to maintain the whole body in dynamic equilibrium.
Reactive Ability (Good Reactions) – The ability to initiate quickly and to perform rapid and well-directed actions following a signal.
Adaptive Ability – The ability to modify a sequence of actions to new conditions, or observing anticipated changes in the situation, or to continue the sequence in another way.
Rhythmic Sense – The ability to observe the characteristic uniform recurrence of a beat within measured movement.
Precision can be defined as accuracy in a particular movement or projection of force. It means being able to place your weapon of attack exactly on the desired location. It is one thing to have the ability to hit a stationary target precisely, but much more difficult to place that hit perfectly on a target that is not only moving but also trying to score on you.
As it is a fine skill, precision work should be practiced when you are freshest for the maximum benefit. It can be trained simultaneously with speed work, for it is better to concentrate on speed and accuracy first before working the same action with speed and power.
Balance is the quality of achieving an inner relationship between all the points of your body. It is an active state, constantly going on and continually shifting. Thus the balance you seek is dynamic balance, or balance in motion, nor in stillness (stances). Sometimes it is even possible to use a momentary loss of balance to facilitate faster movement.