Speed 1 – pushing, pulling and the big bang!


A recent post over on Marks Training called illusion of speed has got me thinking. It’s all very well saying that to become quicker you need to create an illusion of speed by blocking and striking simultaneously or whatever it may be. That provides us with an example of what to do but not how to achieve it. If you train in Karate’s Ippon Kumite you may soon be blocking and striking simultaneously in response to an Oi Suki, lunge punch attack. This is great but the timing is not representative of a real fight. The point is the ‘what’ is achieved but because the methodology used to achieve it is flawed the outcome is also flawed.

To be fair to the blog cited, the author does elaborate on the ‘how’ of achieving speed development elsewhere. He describes some methods of improving speed and provides a drill called “red line” which has worked well for him. Personally, I’ve never been fast, that is until I started training with Steve Morris, who has managed to improve my speed immensely. While I’m not exactly Usain Bolt or anything, at 42 I am now quicker than I have ever been, both in technique and on my feet. It may sound ridiculous but there you have it.

The first thing that got me moving quicker was pulling punches instead of pushing them. Now this doesn’t mean stopping them before hitting the target, rather it refers to concentrating on the pulling action of the returning limb rather than the actual striking limb. Well at least that’s a way of noticing the difference. It’s such a simple thing, but if you have a tendency of pushing out your strikes to the target by simply replacing the pushing action with a pulling action, punch speed increases. If you rep out your fastest strikes for a few seconds and then change the emphasis you’ll see the difference, try it. The improvement is instant! It also better allows the throwing of the body when whipping in a punch.

It may take a little while to ingrain the pulling action but you will feel and see the difference. Another way to improve speed is to work on explosive movement. By definition explosive is fast! Morris gets you to access the startle reflex as a way of understanding what explosive/fast is. That may sound daft but I believe part of the problem I had was, not truly knowing what quick actually was. The image that stuck with me was of the deer grazing in the wood as the hunter approaches. He makes a noise which startles the deer, which jumps and runs off in one explosive action.

When demonstrating this Morris will get you to ‘jump’ as if a big bang has gone off, then you simply adapt the movement, as the deer does. Again this is simple. You can even say BANG, which helps, but it really has to be


rather than a mumbled half-hearted effort of a bang! The verbalisation leads and reinforces the action but thats another story.

5 thoughts on “Speed 1 – pushing, pulling and the big bang!

  1. I think we’ve got all the facilities to be fast. It’s about understanding how the reflex patterns of the body work and being able to exploit those facilities.

    It’s always a challenge to try to get this information across and a lot of times people have preconceptions that get in the way. If people can’t understand the mechanisms at play (which are quite complex) then I use analogy, such as the gun.

    The deer incident was a defining moment for me. And what I saw was the deer drop momentarily before it sprang off. That then explained to me the eccentric contraction. There is this sudden withdrawal before an explosion.

    Once you know it’s there and you look for it, it’s obvious.

  2. Hi Jon

    Found yer blog! Toru Takamizawa (who had incredible speed) taught me this as (out of 10) 3 forward 7 back. For rapid body positioning, “know where you finish and just go directly there”…. a man truly before his time.

    Keep writing!

    Steve (R)

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    SM – The image of the deer really struck a chord with me as I did once see a startled deer run off. I was running in the Marcle Hills with my then karate teacher and some others. I was so amazed to see the deer grazing in a field I shouted out “Look a deer!”, startled it and it was off. I’d never seen a real wild deer before, they had seen them a lot of course.

    SR – ah I see 3/10 push, 7/10 pull. Switching to that sort of emphasis makes a huge difference.

  4. Pingback: Speed 2 – Timing, part one « EPIC martial arts Blog

  5. Hi, Thanks for the link to my article.

    I would just like to say a couple of things regarding the simultaneous defend and strike.

    Firstly, the article was intended for combat sport fighters, something I should have included. In a sporting event fighters circle each other throwing jabs, feints etc, EXPECTING and WAITING for an attack. Becuase of this it is much easier to defend and strike simultaneously. (with much practise of course) Examples include, when an opponant kicks, the defender quickly steps in, covers and sweeps the supporting leg to take them down, or as soon as the opponant jabs, the defender sidesteps whilst simultaneously covering and jabbing back. Just a couple examples of where this is used in sport.

    For the street however, becuase street fighting is such an unexpected event (most of the time) one MAY not have the time to do this. Although not stated on this article, many other times throughout the site it is stated that there is never a garuntee of anything working, but simply hope that it MIGHT work, which is better than nothing.

    The simultaneous defend and strike, although yec, sometimes may not work will provide some benefits through training it such as awareness and timing enhancment, which can then be used for other areas.

    Great site by the way, some very interesting articles.

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