How fast is fast? It might not be as fast as one would think. What I mean is that there are different factors that affect speed and the perception of speed. There are many athletes that have the genetic gift of natural speed. There are also a lot of training techniques that can enhance the speed of anyone. Within the context of athletic speed, it is not an isolated action. It is an action and a series of processes that precede said action. Ted Weimann, in his book “Warrior Speed”, identifies six phases of action. They are perception, neurological relay, analysis, decision, neurological relay again, and action. (p.11)
Perceptive speed is the length of time that it takes one to detect an action and / or reaction. Professional fighters such as Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida have exceptional perceptive speed. They are able to detect an attack initiation very quickly. This enables them to react before their opponent can complete the attack. During the perception phase, a fighter senses an action, commonly called a telegraph. It can be in the form of a stance change, a momentary tensing before action, upper body gestures, facial expressions, or as with grappling, a weight adjustment. For example, you are stuck in someone’s side control. They will most likely have to shift their weight in ordered to attempt a submission. You initiate a sweep, at the precise moment you perceive a weight shift. The faster you perceive the weight shift, the faster your sweep will seem.
This is where drilling comes into play. Identify a situation that you would like to capitalize on and increase your speed. Start drilling in slow motion. Focus on your training partner and look / feel for telegraphing actions that indicate the initiation of an action. Note how your training partner’s weight shifts. Note possible facial expressions that may precede the action. Note a sudden tension in your opponent’s body prior to the action. Start your counter as soon as you perceive the telegraph. As you begin to detect and initiate your counter sooner, ask your opponent to slowly increase the speed. Because different people have different tells, you will need to drill with multiple people. This is just one example of perception / reaction training. There are many more ways to develop one’s perception speed. Factors that affect perception include, but are not limited to fatigue, health, emotional state, and your confidence level. Factors that affect overall speed are limitless, and definitely worth exploring.
Disclaimer note: One should always consult a professional and not rely on the musings of a crazy little blogger nobody such as myself.
Weimann, Ted. Warrior Speed. Hartford: Turtle Press, 2000