How to Develop Speedy Entries into Martial Arts Techniques

How to Train Speed of Entry for Martial Arts TechniquesThere are a lot of great reasons for wanting to train speed of entry of martial arts techniques. Your initial reaction in a self-defense situation is vital to determining the outcome of the altercation. The first contact you make has the potential to completely turn the tables on your attacker, and vice versa, if you’re caught off guard and take a bad hit right off the top, it’s a lot more difficult to recover effectively. Speedy entry into techniques is equally important in the competitive martial arts arena. The faster you move into a technique, whether it’s a strike, throw/takedown or submission, the more likely you catch your opponent off-guard. Speedy entry, of course, is only one factor among many, but it is an important one.

For smaller stature people like me, the speed of entry and application of techniques helps make the best use our natural agility, and advantage we have over many larger/stronger attackers or opponents. Regardless of size, speed of entry helps the defender make better use of the element of surprise. It helps you stay one step ahead of your attacker or opponent, making it harder to mount a defense, whether through the use of strength or technique. There are lots of benefits to improving speed of entry, so below are a few tips for effectively applying and training this concept.

Paying Attention to Body Cues

The body often gives away the intent of the attacker, whether in a self-defense scenario or in a competitive context. In a self-defense scenario, before a heightened situation has escalated to violence, look for pre-fight cues, like physical signs of adrenalization, readying to move, eye cues, hand movement, etc. Read a full list in Chris Olson Sensei’s article, Danger Cues You Can See to Prepare You for Self-Defense. In a competitive context, look for tells.

Opponents often do little things right before or as they enter into a move. They might shift their weight a certain way, favour a certain combination of moves, adjust their guard, etc. If you can see a tell and act on it before your opponent has fully entered their technique you can start your entry into the technique earlier. While this technically does not make you physically faster, it does give the appearance of speed because your reaction time is faster, getting you into the right place to do your technique faster. More on this concept in the next point.

Right Place, Right Time

Being fast is more about doing more in less time than it is about training your body to physically move faster. The body can only move so fast, even if you put in the hours to train it. Being in a position where less movement is required to block strike, throw, etc gives the illusion of being faster, without actually being faster. You’re just reducing the reaction time and movement required to do it.

Keeping your hands up in a good guard, for example, makes it easier to block a fast punch. From a self-defense point of view, they should be high enough that you can more easily block your head, close enough to your centreline that you can more easily block your face, but still low enough that you can use your elbows/forearms to block strikes to your body. You can also use this concept in response to a charging attacker. Rather than backing away from a charge, evade by moving on an angle just enough so you can be in a better position to redirect their energy or do your own counter attack, whether by using a sprawl or some sort of counter strike. More on this concept in the next point.

Martial Arts Multi-Tasking

Combining movements is another way you can effect your attacker faster without physically moving faster. For example, if someone is throwing a punch at you, you have two choices to keep from being hit. Move your head, block, or both. Whichever you choose, whether you’re ducking/slipping or blocking, do so in a way that moves you closer so that you can also counter-attack. Of course, if you can move back and still be in range to strike, that can be a viable option too. MMA fighter Lyoto Machida is a great example of a person who uses this concept very effectively, as seen in the video below.

Practicing Entry without Follow-through

Judo practitioners often practice uchi-komi, which is simply the repetitive practice of a throw’s entry to improve technique and speed. The idea is that the entry, if done quickly and with proper balance-breaking, is vital to proper execution of the throw. This concept can be applied to the a variety of other types of techniques, like strikes, or joint locks.

If practicing a block and strike combo for sparring or self-defense, you can do so without following through and hitting a target that could injure your partner. This is fairly commonly understood. But if you’re working on speed, you need to be able to train with even less follow-through than when you train at slower speeds to prevent accidental contact that could be dangerous to your partner. As you become more adept at controlling your speed, you can increase the follow-through gradually and still train safely, as long as your training partner knows what to expect. Sometimes less experienced students will be startled by the speed and react in an unexpected way to their own detriment.

To apply this concept to locks, you simply stop the lock at the point that you affect structure and balance but without causing pain. This should be done with techniques with which you are already very well familiar, and with a familiar training partner for whom you already know where their limits are. Adding the extra twist that causes pain is the easy part. The entry to the lock, in which you affect balance and structure, is the harder, more technical part of the lock, made even more challenging by doing it quickly. So by repeated practicing this way, you’ll learn to get into the lock faster with good technique thereby improving your overall effectiveness in the application of the lock. And by not following through, you spare your training partner’s joints throughout the training process.

These are just a few ideas on training speed of entry into martial arts techniques. Have you done any training specifically on this concept? If so, how has it helped you in your development as a martial artist? Please share in the comments.

Comments (4)

4 thoughts on “How to Develop Speedy Entries into Martial Arts Techniques

  1. The formula for proficiency is quite simple: analyze a specific technique, isolate it, practice it over and over again and then (and only then) try putting it into practice in freeflow exercises and sparring. It’s really not difficult come to think of it but it does take a lot of time, effort and a strong will to sustain training.

    The lack of frequent training time for most people is the reason why it’s best to focus on only a few, simple and proven techniques that are near universally applicable: it’s far better to actually master a handful of techniques than knowing hundreds but only superficially. If someone asks me to advise them I’d probably recommend boxing for at least a few months then maybe branch out into other arts since imo boxing (proper use of the hands for striking and defending punches) is a great base to build on. Good boxing skills and decent conditioning go a long way in winning fights, whether it be in the ring or on the street.

    • Frequency of effective training is such an important factor. I say effective training because if you practice a thing 1000 times wrong, then you have a worse problem. Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. But if you don’t practice regularly, you don’t even get a chance to try to get it right.

      • Obviously competency and quality of teaching was implied, I’d never train under someone whom I knew to be incompetent.

        Normally if you have a good teacher who actually knows the technique and knows how to execute it in the most effective and efficient manner, is capable of explaining it properly and takes the time to check on his students and correct mistakes then that shouldn’t be a problem.

        You’re right of course but given that I do have a good teacher I don’t have to worry about it. He trains a lot himself and spends a lot of time analyzing techniques and asking questions whenever he can, plus he takes the time to explain the finer points to us (sometimes providing too much information at a time but that is another matter) so all in all I think I (and the others of course) are pretty lucky with him as our sensei/sifu/guru.

        Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time on hand defences (one partner continously attacks, the other defends and so on) and it’s really paying off: the earlier you detect a threat the faster your reaction will be and if you gradually build up he speed and constantly vary the attacks you’ll improve rather quickly.

        The problem of lack of (formal) training time can be partially solved by solo training at home to reinforce basic motions but of course this will only take you so far. Practicing in front of a mirror would be ideal since it allows you to spot mistakes.

        • Oh of course, I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t have good instruction. It was more for people out there who maybe have practiced something for a long time without improvement, frustrated at the results.

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