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Whip Speed Limit

Not long ago, I was a guest instructor at my friend's Shotokan Dojo. I brought my second and third sons and a young girl (one of my best students). They are 21, 16 and 14, respectively. My sons are 6 feet and 5 feet 10 inches tall, and the young girl is about 5 feet tall. The point is that they were different ages and builds.

As an experiment, I had the three of them stand in a horizontal line and throw gedan uke's on my command. I told them to move as quickly as possible. Each of them has very good koshi body dynamics.

Despite their different ages and builds, there was no appreciable difference in their speeds. Their whipping motions were almost identical. Actually, the only difference I noticed was that my third son was delaying before initiating his technique. Perhaps the other two were just quicker off the command.

My point is that there seems to be a natural limit to speed using whiplike mechanics. Whiplike movement are much faster than conventional forms of movement. However, once whip mechanics are learned, speed does not continue to increase appreciably.

It does become possible to throw techniques with little or no "wind up", thus giving the illusion of faster movement. But actually, the whip movement is at the same speed -- the distance is just shorter.

I would theorize that anyone using whip mechanics in any style or art would face a natural speed limit. Even whips, although fast, do not move infinitely faster and faster. There is a natural limit.

One day I was practicing kumite with my Sensei at my home. We were doing the Chinese "slapping hand" form of practice. He started out at medium speed and I could keep up with him. He gradually increased his speed and I kept up (because I had practiced this form of kumite since high school). I was feeling pretty confident and good (a sure sign that something bad was going to happen).

Then I accidentally ran into one of his hands. It almost knocked me off my feet. He was going fast and I was going at about the same speed. However, my movements were light. His entire body weight was behind each of his movements. I should add that I am taller and heavier than my Sensei.

That's the real difference. While speed has certain limits, the amount of power behind the technique can be increased with practice. My sensei has fast and heavy hands. I'm still working on that -- a slap than can knock you off your feet.


Charles C. Goodin