Fight Faster: Develop Second Nature Reflexes

For fast-paced sports it is important to make quick decisions so you can respond with the best appropriate action. This may be more important in boxing and combat sports than any other. An opportunity for a clean punch comes and goes quickly so a short response time for a fighter can mean the difference between a shot that lands and one that glances off. And that goes double for when it’s you who is the target.

In combat sports every 100th of a second counts.
Eliminate the “think time”
of a nervous rookie
and develop the fight reflexes of a relaxed pro.

So reaction time, simply, is a measure of how long it takes for an individual to react and respond to a stimulus. A stoplight turns red, which triggers a response for you to apply the brake. While the car needs time and space to complete the stop, the lag time before you actually decide to step on the brake could mean the difference between ending up in the middle of an intersection or stopping short of disaster.

An individual’s reaction time is predetermined largely by genetics, but will continue to develop as the person matures. A child who takes part in lots of sports and video games will naturally develop a sharper reaction time compared to one who reads and plays with dolls.

Men tend to have a slight edge over women in quickness of response. The difference may be due to muscle density or least have some correlation to muscle - interestingly, there seems to be no difference between men's and women's muscle contraction time. It may also have something to do with the male propensity to take part in sports earlier and in greater numbers than females. The upside is that while men’s reaction times seem to improve only up until they reach their thirties, women’s reaction times continue improving well into their thirties. 

There is a limit to how much you can speed up your response rate. Various reports suggest you may be able to shave around 15% off with general training and specific practice. How do you practice? Well, if you want to develop faster response to a thrown punch, just have someone throw punches at you so you learn to react and respond quicker. Think of how a baseball pitcher winds up to throw a pitch. There’s a buildup and when you can quickly recognize the motions and gestures you can begin to prepare your reaction sooner. In other words, if you’re trying to improve specific responses, it’s not just about the reaction itself, but also recognizing the cues and learning the optimal responses so that the reaction becomes more second nature.

The best methods for training response time involve working with a partner. We think it makes the most sense to use functional drills that simulate the action of a fight against an opponent.

  1. Get a friend and work the focus mitts. A pre-planned routine with mitts is a great warm-up for muscles, but doesn’t do much for training reaction time, so use the mitts as targets that intermittently appear and disappear so the fighter needs to focus and react. Don’t forget to use the mitts to simulate a thrown punch now and then as well.
  2. Do some technical sparring. While this is a slower drill, it can help the fighter keep focus, recognize when their opponent is about to do something and learn what responses work best to counter.
  3. Do some real sparring. Practice makes perfect and the best way to practice fighting is to actually fight. Relax and respond to train your mind and body to work together like a machine!

It is interesting to note that the ideal attitude for optimal reaction time may not be in a zone of hyper-focus as you might think, but instead to be relaxed in a state of medium focus. So in a fight you’re attentive to your opponent, but not thinking specifically about the next punch. This is why it pays to practice reading an opponent and make it become more of a second nature response.

In sports every 100th of a second counts. With proper and substantial training you can limit the time lapse between stimuli and response. The ultimate goal would be to get where you’re responding almost subconsciously; to eliminate the “think time” of a nervous rookie and develop the fight reflexes of a relaxed pro.

Posted on October 22, 2014 .