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Getting Faster

We all want to be faster.

Imagine you have a car that goes 60 miles per hour. How can you make it go faster? One way would be to make the engine stronger. With more horsepower, the car will go faster. Another way is to eliminate the things that are slowing the car down.

As humans, we can't really get bigger engines. We can get in good condition and make ourselves as strong as possible, but ultimately we will reach a limit. As we age, we will also become slower and weaker.

A good strategy therefore, is to eliminate the things that are slowing us down.

What slows us down in Karate? The first thing is being too tight, stiff or rigid. This sound like an easy thing to eliminate but it actually is surprisingly difficult. Why? Because people want to be fast and strong and they feel that being tight makes them stronger.

Power, at least in Shorin-Ryu, comes primarily from speed. If you can make your fist (or other object) go very fast, and brace it on contact, you will be very powerful. But if you are too tight, you will not be fast enough to generate much power.

The second thing is weight shifting. If you shift your weight while you are striking, the speed of the strike will be limited by the speed of the weight shift. It is better to pre-shift your weight and delay your strike, then strike like a mouse trap closing -- pow!

Another thing that slows us down in decelerating at the point of contact rather than striking through it. Your punch should accelerate through the object, not slow down. Why do people slow down? Mostly because they are clenching their fists (or other body parts). My Sensei often told me that punching and kicking are like stabbing. Try punching with an open hand. It will usually be pretty quick.

In the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, we move in a whiplike manner. Whips are very fast. They are also very pliable (not stiff). If you can move like a whip, you will be pretty fast. But if you move like a heavy club, then...

Another good way to make a strike faster is to make it shorter. A punch that has to travel 20 inches it will be slower than a punch that only has to travel 10 inches, and a punch that only has to travel 1 inch will be faster still. My Sensei often told me to strike from where your hands are -- do not pull them back.

I'm sure that there are many others things that will make a strike faster. My point is that we can't always become faster per se. We can make our strikes faster by making them less slow, by eliminating the things that are slowing us down.


Charles C. Goodin