Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 2 • Yin ☯ Yang of Speed vs. Timing

In combat sports, it is often stated:

“Timing beats Speed”

In combat training, good technique is often confused with speed. To understand good fighting technique it’s important to divide speed into three parts:

1. Reaction time (how fast the body reacts to an attack)

2. The execution (or the time a technique begins till it ends), and

3. The pure speed that a fighter’s muscles and physique possess to execute an attack.

All students begin by learning how to minimize their reaction time to attacking and defending, by not wasting movements. Learning good techniques addresses 1. and 2. above and can take a dedicated fighter years to master. Advanced stages of fighting techniques entail “timing”:

  • Learn to read your opponent: Their movements, the techniques they use, the style they use. Do they telegraph their movements? Meaning, a little foot shuffle before kicking? Do they twitch before punching? Do they hold their breath before exerting energy? Do they load up on their punching, otherwise known as “cocking the gun”?Telegraphing can take on many forms – listening to the opponent’s breathing, watching them tense their muscles, observing needless movement before executing a strike. All of these signals giveaway an attack. Keep a poker face, and don’t give away your next move. The ability of a fighter to “explode” into an attack with minimal movement, no telegraphing, makes them faster.
  • Learn to anticipate the movements of your opponent: Which movements or attacks do they consistently repeat? How can you exploit those repetitive movements? Repetition is good in training, but not good in sparring. In fighting, repetition leads to well-versed opponents using an opponent’s repetition to their disadvantage.

Does good technique make a fighter faster? To a certain extent – Yes. But speed is about reaction time and getting a fist or foot from their home position (in guard position), to the attack position (fully extended and connecting with the target). This is the third aspect mentioned above, and age, talent and athleticism play key roles.

I teach students to attack with explosiveness and surprise, as if they are catching a fly. Catching flies requires relaxing, exhaling, and then reacting without thinking. The fastest fighters learn to move without thinking because they have practiced the move thousands of times. When a fighter needs to think of their next move, their reaction time for their brain to tell their fist or foot to move will take time – especially in front of an experienced fighter who has the experience and muscle memory to execute the same move.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

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