Martial Arts Speed

Have you ever heard of a motor engram? Motor engrams are your ticket to the awesome movement speed you've always wanted. Notice I said, "movement speed," not "speed." As I said in The Book of Speed for Martial Artists: "There is much more to speed than just moving fast." But, moving fast is vitally important to effective speed and it's what everyone wants.

Most martial artists believe that movement speed is only earned through reps and sweat. For the most part, that's true. But, if you really want to get the job done, you need a few more ingredients. Science can give us the recipe for making those reps, and that sweat, much more effective.

Science tells us that all movement is based on reflexes. When you were born, reflexes were all you had. That's why someone had to stick your pacifier in your mouth for you. Learning to pop it into your mouth yourself required your brain to learn how to organize and utilize those reflexes. In fact, all complex movement is the result of our thinking brains learning to organize and control reflexes. The result is a bunch of memories in your head that tell your body how to move.



When we are first learning to move (like your first day in the dojo) it's our conscious minds that are doing the work. Things happen slowly, and we are clumsy and inaccurate. There is no memory of how to move in the specific ways we are being asked to, and we are required to think and rethink what we're doing. Over time, the memories of these movements become so strong that the knowledge becomes nearly hardwired.

fsathletics.com

Consider reaching for a doorknob. Do you have to think about using a doorknob? Do you take a couple of practice attempts? Do you measure your distance? No. You do it with zero thought. Your conscious mind has been bypassed and the memory takes care of the motion all by itself. That is a motor engram (aka muscle memory), and that's the level you want your martial art skills to reach. A motor engram is a motion that your brain fires off without the conscious mind being involved. That is what makes it incredibly fast.

Developing motor engrams happens over time and through lots of those reps we talked about earlier. However, it's not just reps. Scientists who study human movement tell us that developing a motor engram requires those reps to be precise and at the power and speed with which you intend to use them. You're building a dedicated memory in your brain, so you don't need anything involved that doesn't pertain to that memory. You develop fast movement by doing what you intend to do.

Many martial artists believe that their skills are enhanced by adding variables such as an unstable surface. Science tested that and found that you will indeed become better at performing on the unstable surface – however, those skills don't translate to a stable surface. That's because you developed motor engrams not suited to the task.

Pick a single breadwinner technique. Put in a couple of hundred reps per training session as precisely as possible for the next few months. Fire it at the speed and power that you intend to use it and deliver it from a practical and solid stance. As much as possible, don't think about it consciously. Just let it fire. Over time you will find that your technique is firing all by itself and that's as fast as you will ever be.

Black Belt Magazine has a storied history that dates back all the way to 1961, making 2021 the 60th Anniversary of the world's leading magazine of martial arts. To celebrate six decades of legendary martial arts coverage, take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through some of the most influential covers ever published. From the creators of martial art styles, to karate tournament heroes, to superstars on the silver screen, and everything in between, the iconic covers of Black Belt Magazine act as a time capsule for so many important moments and figures in martial arts history. Keep reading to view the full list of these classic issues.

Keep Reading Show less
Daily Guardian

Brandon "The Truth" Vera has run roughshod over the ONE Championship heavyweight division since his arrival. With knockouts in each of his performances in the division, Vera has taken the mantle and led the charge as the ONE Heavyweight World Champion.

On Saturday, May 15, at ONE: Dangal, a new challenger arises in "Singh" Arjan Bhullar.

Bhullar made a statement in his ONE debut against Mauro Cerilli, and now he'll get an opportunity at the gold in the main event of ONE's latest entry of their exciting 2021 campaign.

The American Kickboxing Academy athlete is a talented grappler. He is a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and has enjoyed success since transitioning into mixed martial arts. However, a World Championship has eluded him thus far, and it keeps pushing him each day in the gym.

But Vera will not go quietly.

Keep Reading Show less

Thursday night's Professional Fighters League show from Atlantic City was a mixed bag of results as Olympic champion and defending PFL titleholder Kayla Harrison made quick work of her opponent while former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum suffered a controversial loss in his PFL debut. The two-time judo gold medalist did what she does in her women's lightweight bout getting a quick takedown against Mariana Morais, moving into mount and unleashing punches until the referee stopped the fight a minute and a half in.

Werdum looked on a similar trajectory against heavyweight foe Renan Ferreira gaining the early takedown and slowly advancing position. But as he attempted to pass from half-guard into mount, Ferreira reversed him, though Werdum was able to slip into a triangle choke from the bottom appearing to make Ferreira tap. Referee Keith Peterson failed to see it, however.

Keep Reading Show less