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Speed is important when sparring. Not only do you want to be quick; you also want to be able to control speed so you can change the tempo of the fight to confuse your opponents.

Speed advantages

  • Your attack gets there quicker so the opponent's block is ineffective.
  • Your attacking limb gets back quicker so:
  • Grabs are minimized.
  • You can quickly fire another technique.
  • You can block a counterattack.
  • You can return to a closed, in balance guard position quicker.
  • You will not have to absorb the rebounding pressure wave after making contact.

Factors that influence speed

  • Training.
  • You should train to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. 
  • Find what it is in your posture that tells an opponent you are coming in and eliminate it.
  • Train for maximum acceleration and velocity to help achieve maximum power.
  • Use sequential muscle activation and sequential bodyweight shifts to increase speed.
  • Keep moving. A body at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by a force and it takes a large force applied for a long time to move a large mass. A body in motion tends to remain in motion but it only takes a small force applied over a short time to change its direction.
  • The speed of motion is directly proportional to the force that produced the motion; therefore, the stronger you are the faster you are. However, muscles that are merely bigger without an increase in strength will be slower since they have greater mass.
  • The shortest distance between two points is a straight line so linear techniques are faster than circular ones.


To be quick, you must be relaxed. Try this:
  • Get into your sparring stance and guard position.
  • Face a bag or an opponent.
  • Move around some and then pretend you are facing a tough opponent who attacks with powerful combinations.
  • Fire a few quick hand combinations.
  • Now freeze, do not move or relax anything.
  • Now, only relax your arms and let them drop to a hanging position. ONLY relax your arms, do not move or relax anything else.
  • Now, without moving, analyze your body. How is your posture? Is your body, neck, etc. turned or twisted? How are the muscles in your neck and shoulders, are they tense? Are your back, abdominal, and leg muscles tense?
  • Now relax and return to your normal posture. How much do you have to relax and move for you to regain a normal posture?
If you were relaxed in your sparring stance, practically nothing would have had to be relaxed for you to regain your normal posture. You may have had to shift your body some and stand more upright, but not much else.

Now try this:
  • Get into your sparring stance and guard position again.
  • Move around some and then pretend you are facing a tough opponent who attacks with powerful combinations.
  • Now stop, relax your entire body, and let your arms relax and drop to a hanging position.
  • Now raise your arms back to the guard position, but don’t just hold them there; pretend they are falling and all you are doing is preventing them from falling. You are not holding your arms up; you are just not letting them fall.
  • Now move around again while thinking about staying relaxed and fire a few quick hand combinations.
  • Notice how much quicker your hands move.
Some effects of staying relaxed other than your hands being quicker are that you will move your body quicker, your and thus will not tire as quickly.

Types of speed

  • Perceptual. This involves quickness in perceiving an incoming attack or an opening for your attack. Vision is the primary sense used, but the other senses may also be used, such as the opponent making an unconscious noise before an attack.
  • Mental. This is the rapid ability to select the correct attack, block, movement, or fighting strategy, and, if necessary, make changes to them.
  • Movement. This is the ability to quickly move the arms, legs, or body, and change their direction, or stop their movement.

Things that hinder speed

  • Emotions. Fear, anger, or even happiness may distract you, which will slow your speed. For maximum speed, train to have neutral emotions.
  • Fatigue. Running out of energy or the tiring of muscles will slow your speed. Train for endurance.
  • Lack of training. Techniques will be quicker if they are performed properly. Train for the perfection of technique and movement and you will be quicker.
  • Lack of concentration. Worrying about something or thinking about something besides sparring will slow you down. Learn to reject all unneeded thoughts.
  • Too fat. Extra weight will slow your speed. Eat properly and lose weight.
  • Weak muscles. Weak muscles will slow your speed. Train for strength to increase your speed.
  • Big muscles. Big muscles have more mass and move slower. Train for strength, not size, to increase your speed.


Rhythm is closely related to speed. If you are out of sync with your movements, your opponent's movements, or the rhythm of the fight, your attacks and blocks will be slow.
  • Internal rhythms. You may control your internal rhythms to conserve energy.
  • Pulse. Usually, in combat, there is no problem with the heart beating too slowly it will naturally speed up. Calm your thoughts to slow the heart.
  • Respiration rate.  Heavy breathing saps energy and slows your movements. Learn deep breathing techniques and breath control to make your breathing more efficient.
  • Movements. When you move, you move to an internal rhythm. If this rhythm is in sync with the situation at hand, you will be able to react more quickly than if you were not in sync.
  • External rhythms. You may not have any control over some external rhythms, but you still may use them to your advantage. Putting yourself in sync with your opponent's rhythm or trying to change it may give you an advantage.
  • Move with your opponent's attacks, blocks, or movements rather than against them.
  • Stay in sync with the fight itself. Don’t be moving too slowly in a fast-paced fight, or vice versa.
  • Surrounding sounds, such as music, announcement, machinery, etc., may be distracting. Slow, calming background music is not conducive to fast movements. Learn to shut out external rhythms.

Speed changes

The speed of sparring changes at various times during a match. Most times a match is evenly paced, with spurts of intense speed. The speed of your attacks should coincide with your interpretation of your opponent's physical and mental state. One way to read the opponent's physical and mental state is through his or her breathing. When he or she is gasping or breathing heavily, speed up the attacks.

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