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by William Holland
The object of a fight is to hit your opponent before he can hit you. Easier said than done. Martial arts instructors can teach you how to improve your timing, balance, mobility and endurance, but how in the world can they teach you how to hit faster than your opponent? Speed is an inherent quality, and difficult, if not impossible, to teach. Or is it? In Bruce Lee's fighting method jeet kune do, the development of speed is not only addressed, it is dissected and approached in a variety of ways. Types of Speed In jeet kune do, speed training is broken down into five phases, each of which can be developed independently or as part of a whole. They are:
Perception speed. When fighting, martial artists must constantly sense and respond to various stimuli. Mastering the ability to perceive the subtleties in an opponent's movements, is he attacking, retreating, punching or kicking? is the first phase of speed training. Simply seeing the opponent's movements is not enough. You must learn to hear, feel and smell the opponent's intentions. Perception speed is defined as the time it takes you to mentally register the opponent's intentions once you first sense his offensive or defensive stimulus. To increase your speed of perception, it is important to maintain an attitude of "emptiness," or what Bruce Lee called "no-mindedness." You must learn not to concentrate too much on details. Look at nothing, but sense everything. According to Lee, "A concentrated mind is not an attentive mind, but a mind that is in the state of awareness can concentrate. Awareness is never exclusive, it includes everything. A mind must be wide open to function freely in thought."
Mental/decision speed. Once you have sensed the opponent's intention, you must decide how to respond. Do you evade, block, parry, jam, intercept or counter his attack? Your decision speed is determined by the length of time it takes you to sense the opponent's stimulus and select an appropriate response. Your ultimate goal is to be able to respond quickly and instinctively.
Initiation speed. The time that it takes to transfer your decision to punch from the brain to your fist, and actually begin the punch, is your initiation speed. You must condition yourself to relay the opponent's stimulus to your brain, and then to your striking or defending limbs as quickly as possible. The slightest hesitation can mean the difference between hitting, or being hit by, the opponent.
Performance speed. Once your response decision has been converted into an initial movement, the time it takes you to get from point "A" to point "B" is your performance or "raw" speed. You can have the quickest perception, decision and initiation speed in a fight, but if your fist travels like a salmon swimming upstream, your chances of scoring on the opponent are minimal.
By maintaining an economic fighting structure. Like the saying goes. the quickest distance between two points is a straight line. Whether attacking from long or close range. you must remain relaxed during all movements. you can make a reflexive adjustment. Keep your shoulders relaxed and chin tucked safely downward. Subtle adjustments in stance. mind in combat. Muscular tension acts as a brake and causes friction during movement. If you need to close the gap to reach the opponent. yet ready. like the rest of your body. with the elbows aligned with the body's centerline and maintaining a springloaded energy. Your hands. yet still provide stability. your initial strike should explode toward the target like a missile. Just as it is important to maintain a relaxed. directness and economy of motion. The JKD fighter should be able to . or shifts in weight all read like a billboard to a seasoned opponent. For maximum speed and efficiency. Your feet should be placed almost directly under your shoulders to allow for quick foot movement. explode into the target with great energy and penetration.• Alteration speed. Experienced fighters. yet be coiled and explosive. you have a strong chance of getting hit. • Economy of motion. and still score on your opponent. Lee defined alteration speed as "the ability to change direction midstream. how do you go about developing maximum levels of speed in each classification? For some fighters. but with great speed and directness. If you are already within hitting range. The only time your muscles should tighten while striking is the instant they impact the target. and does not need to chamber the strike prior to delivering it. Your strike should glide effortlessly. correct the error. If you possess good alteration speed. however. are compact yet loose. Others. however. ready to release or explode like a sprinter coming out of the starting blocks. Following are some of the factors to consider when training for speed: • Compact structure. however. your rear foot must push off the ground explosively. Speed Requirement Now that you are familiar with the various types of speed. If you freeze up in such situations. Your rear heel should be raised so it can react like a coiled spring. You should be devoid of unnecessary muscle tension. • Relaxation. Most novice fighters have a tendency to try too hard and rely on force or muscle in delivering a blow. speed is an inherent quality. You should feel loose and relaxed. Jeet kune do emphasizes simplicity. The JKD stylist eliminates any cocking. yet still hit like greased lightning. yet springy and ready. there is always the potential to make an unwise decision or dangerous mistake. he is always ready and coiled. must train extremely hard and overcome many physical obstacles in order to improve their reaction time. generally learn to avoid this problem and rely on method over muscle. Your fighting stance should be one which enables you to both attack and defend with minimal preparation or repositioning. tensing of the muscles. Technique #2 • Explosiveness." In the ever-changing conditions of a fight. Lee believed proper posture was a key element in the execution of sound offensive and defensive techniques. These individuals don't work on developing their speed. your initial explosiveness is crucial. loading or repositioning of the striking limb prior to delivery of the technique. ready yet relaxed. Upon impact. thereby reducing the speed and power of your strikes. so too should your body be relaxed and devoid of excess tension. changes in breathing. The jeet kune do practitioner strives to eliminate any clue as to his next move. Your hands should be held in close to the body.
The JKD fighter practices these quick. and balanced muscle development help streamline your physique and provide maximum speed in your movements. weaving. You should train for any circumstance. running and stretching. Or. They will yell. loose and springy. you must train specifically to achieve maximum speed in your combat movements. feet. stomp. your speed potential will still be limited if you do not have proper muscle tone. the partner places the pads at various positions which coincide with the primary targets of the human body. evasion speed. Preliminary motions are eliminated as the jeet kune do stylist achieves maximum power in his techniques with a minimum amount of movement." As the jeet kune do practitioner executes the choice-reaction moves. As Lee said. attacking and defending speed. head. and shortrange blows such as hooks. bang their heads against a wall. A sense of speed should envelop him. Excessive fat or muscle will slow your strikes. knees. Kicking and distancing skills. Many times. Reaction drills utilize a training partner who presents you with various targets to strike. Using focus gloves or a striking shield to protect himself.initiate an attack from wherever his weapons happen to be at the moment he senses an opening in his opponent's defense. At infighting range. Reaction drills can be conducted at long range to allow you to develop footwork. "Your strike should be felt before it is seen. Technique #3 • Choice-reaction freeze drill.nations. and expand to a larger variety as you become comfortable with the drills. Although conditioning drills can develop the fast-twitch nerves and muscles needed for speed. You must focus on developing hand speed. you can work on short-range kicks. the JKD stylist freezes his body and limbs exactly where they happen to be. punches. • Tone. compact movements by utilizing a partner exercise known as the "choice-reaction freeze drill. The partner . lead-side and rear-side speed. which prevents you from anticipating a target's placement. • Attitude. elbows and shoulders during combat." At that moment. aerobic training. Athletes who rely on speed for success must also find a "mental groove" for maximum performance. uppercuts. and elbow and knee strikes. the difference between success and failure in combat is attitude. anything to pump themselves up and get their adrenaline flowing. They include: • Reaction drills. The opponent is forced to acknowledge such stimuli and must decide what to react to and what to ignore. and counter-fighting speed. the jeet kune do stylist is taught to make subtle motions with his hands. speed in combi. To confuse his opponent and slow his foe's reaction time. foot speed. if your partner holds the targets at medium range. A fighter must feel fast. Many athletes go through a ritual known as "psyching up" prior to competition. Your partner can add to the degree of difficulty by varying the striking angles and tempo. bobbing. head butts. mobility. Speed training must be conducted consistently and diligently. Speed should flow off of his fingertips and out of his pores. Choose a minimal number of targets at first. • Conditioning." Speed Training Drills The jeet kune do stylist has a variety of training drills to choose from that will help him improve his fighting speed. counterattack speed. etc. you can practice slipping. Although speed can be an indirect by-product of weigh/lifting. his partner will occasionally call out "stop" or "freeze. Proper nutrition.
while the other partner positions himself where he can hit the glove without any preliminary footwork. This drill is similar to the backhand speed test. economy of motion. The idea is to look at nothing. the offensive fighter can attempt to strike from longer range. who initially holds his rear hand in the center of his chest. The objective of the offensive fighter is to execute a backhand strike to his opponent's temple. The offensive fighter attempts to hit the glove before his partner can move it out of the way. Technique #4 • Focus glove speed tests. strive to hit first with the most. • No-mind/peripheral-vision drill. decision and initiation speed. The offensive fighter should attempt to sense his opponent's weaknesses by examining his muscle tension. hip or foot. the principles of speed training can enhance a fighter's performance. One of the key areas to consider in developing combat speed is the concept of responding without looking or thinking. • Cross-speed test. but it helps his partner learn to sense an opponent's telegraphing movements. The drill not only helps the offensive fighter eliminate telegraphing movements prior to his strike. Lee emphasized maintaining good peripheral vision and stressed not concentrating too hard on one area or movement by the opponent. • Backhand speed test Protective head gear and light gloves are recommended for this drill. One partner holds a focus glove in a predetermined position. and movements. but see and sense everything. A good place to start when trying to enhance these speeds would be the visual process. . can only move the pad upon sensing his opponent's initial move. the offensive fighter must learn to begin the punch at the fist. rather than leading with his shoulder. The jeet kune do fighter then strikes the target with his best available weapon. who remains stationary. which enables partners to work simultaneously on speed enhancement. There are three types of speed related to this concept: perception. This is another drill that allows both partners to train simultaneously on their combat speed. Each fighter holds his lead hand below waist level. *** Regardless of whether they are applied on the streets or in a competitive arena. while the defensive fighter is developing speed in his rear-hand parry.then presents the practitioner with a target at any level or angle. breathing patterns. The partners begin the exercise in unmatched fighting stances about arm's length apart. One fighter develops offensive speed as the other hones his defensive speed. meanwhile. Both partners should try to maintain the basic speed qualities of relaxation. The key is to keep your movements simple and direct. The defensive fighter. focus on method rather than muscle and. The glove holder. giving you equal peripheral vision to both sides of his body. To add to the degree of difficulty. So as not to telegraph his movement. To perform the exercise. Eliminate unnecessary movement and energy. the partners face off in matching stances at a distance of about six-to-12 inches further than arm's reach.fensive fighter. etc. attempts to deflect the blow by raising his lead hand. the offensive fighter is developing speed for a straight cross to the opponent's head. The de. most importantly. attempts to parry the cross before it lands. From a normal guard position. One approach is to look toward the center of the opponent. In this case. the offensive fighter delivers a rear cross to the opponent's temple. however.