Speed is a necessary attribute in combat. Many practitioners seek to be faster but they do so just by executing fast movement. Although this indirectly helps, it is not the most efficient way to build speed when it comes to combat.
If you want to run faster it's just as simple as going out and running faster for two reasons:
1. You already know how to run. (a few corrections in stride may shave a fraction of a second here and there but that only concerns elite athletes)
2. You run all by yourself.
Combat is much more complex and there are other people involved that are actively and directly trying to interfere with your combative movement.
Practicing fast combative movement by yourself only improves one kind of speed, I call it Execution Speed. This is the speed from the start to the end of a combative movement.
You can improve Execution Speed using three main methods, each of these methods have several modes but we will only cover the main methods in this article. Mono Structural, Short Explosive Set, Shadow Fighting.
In the Mono Structural method you pick an individual skill, let's say a jab, for example, and you repeat it several times consciously trying to go faster in each repetition.
In the Short Explosive Set method you select a short predetermined series (2-6) of movements that logically fit together and execute them in combination at increasing rates of speed.
In Shadow Fighting you execute improvised series of movements as fast as you can. I have written on the subject of improvisation before so scroll down to my previous articles to get more on the subject. For this article I will just remind you that you cannot improvise in a vacuum with skill you don't own. Well, I guess you can but it will be useless :-)
Leave Behind Childish Things
I have seen countless trainers out there that utilize balls, sticks and a plethora of other toys in complex drills for combatives that involve catching throwing and dodging the same while attempting to execute some combative movement or another. In theory these drills seem useful but the reality is that repeating these drills will only get you better at executing the drill and there is very little bleed over into combat speed. Balls and sticks do not move like humans period. There are more efficient ways to train.
Playing With Pals... Sloooooww Doooowwn!
The next facets of speed development require human training partners. Ironically these training methods require that both parties slow down significantly in order to reap the benefits and in the end, become faster. Perception Speed, Transition Speed, Correction Speed
Perception Speed is the speed at which we can detect an attack's initiation and determine is path and potential target. The best way to improve our perception speed is to have a partner execute slow, and I mean Matrix slo-mo slow, attacks that connect with their intended target and actually slowly displace the mass of said target.
This can be done in a manner that replicates our solo training methods, minus the speed of course. Our partner can launch Single Attacks, Short Combinations, or can Improvise a continuous flow of attacks.
The goal here is to allow our brain to "record" as much information and nuance of the attack movement as possible in order to recall the same later at increased speeds.
Transition Speed is the speed with which we change from one tactic to another once we are engaging an opponent. To improve this speed we reverse our process described above. There are two methods Linear and Non Linear.
In the Linear method we use our tactics against our opponent (slowly as described above) and he feigns a "success reaction"; that is he acts as if the blow had a desired effect of producing damage and pain, and changes his positions accordingly. This act changes the location of the next target forcing the "good guy" to make adjustments before the next follow on tactic.
In the Non Linear method the reaction movement does not have to follow an expected pattern, the bad guy may change the position of his body as he wishes and does not have to follow a specific pain or impact response pattern.
Correction Speed is the speed from which we recover from "failure". To practice this we use our partner again in slow motion but this time he is allowed to intercept or avoid our tactics. From our less successful tactic we immediately re-orient and move elsewhere.
The Trick Of The Trade
In order to make the above drills useful and successful there are a few rules that must be adhered to:
1. Move as slowly as possible Slower = Better which will eventually lead to faster.
2. Always make contact and displace the mass of intended target.
3. Keep bad guy and good guy movement realistic and within the realm of physics (no "smart" punches that change trajectory after launch and continue to follow the target when it moves)
4. Move as slowly as possible :-) yes I said it again!
Moving fast in training although necessary, is sometimes overrated. There are many benefits to slow motion training and one of them is that you will become faster!