4 Strategies to Improve your Speed and Timing

An effective striker is one who has incredible distance management, speed, and timing.  It is of little use to execute a perfect punch or kick if you are too far away from your opponent.  To land your strikes, you need to be able to close the distance between yourself and your opponent.  However, speed is not the only factor that will help you land your attack. While it is great to be quick, it is not essential.

The key to effective fighting is to manage your opponent’s perception of your movement, and in turn, to read your opponent’s movements effectively.  When we move, we give away information about our position and what kind of attack we are going to launch.  If your opponent reads this correctly, you may be in for some trouble.  Conversely, if your perception is on point, you will be able to respond in the most appropriate manner enabling you to take control of the fight.

So, lets look at 4 strategies that you can incorporate into your fighting to help you improve your speed and timing.


Do not telegraph your movements

So, how can we appear to be faster than we actually are?  The only way is to minimise the information we give away on our movement and position.  To do this, practice striking from your existing position and stance.  Eradicate as much unnecessary movement as possible such as a windup when punching or jerking your head forward when kicking.  Allow your techniques to flow and use your hip for power instead of just the muscles in your limbs.

Do not telegraph your strikes


Relaxation is key

I still have trouble with this one as my adrenal response kicks in causing me to hold my breath and tighten all my muscles.  This will only inhibit your movement and cause you to fatigue quickly.  So, try to calm your mind.  You may need to reset and relax many times over but make a conscious effort to do so.  Try to maintain a consistent level of breath and breathe deeply into your belly.  This will help you relax and keep your muscles limber and ready to move.  Be relaxed as you initiate your strike and maintain this relaxation as your strike makes its way towards your opponent.  Only tighten on impact.  Relax immediately after impact as well.



The best defence is offence, and the timing of your attack is critical.  In my experience, the most effective attacks occur a split second after your opponent initiates their attack. This is referred to Sen No Sen in Japanese striking Martial Arts where you attack during your opponent’s attack.  You can rely on visual cues for this such as looking for initial movements in the shoulders or hips.  As soon as you detect movement from one of these places, respond with your own attack. 

As you become more experienced, you will also be able to hone your intuition and develop a sense for when you are about to receive an attack.  Anticipating your opponent’s attack and initiating your response early will improve your fighting ability many times over.

sen no sen - attack during opponent attack


Work out the optimal distance for each technique

Each technique, be it a punch, kick, knee, or elbow has an optimal distance.  If you attack from too far away, your opponent will have enough time to react.  If you attack too close to your opponent, your strike may easily be suppressed.  Working out the ideal distance to initiate your attack will increase the likelihood of landing it effectively.

optimal distance


Final Thoughts

Effective striking is achieved through lots of practice and sparring.  Reading your opponent’s movements and managing their perception of yours is key to controlling the fight.  Strive to improve at all the points discussed and you will achieve a significant improvement in your fighting abilities.


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