It hardly takes much convincing to conclude that having blinding speed of punches or bone-cracking power in kicks are the most desirable assets for Martial Artists to possess.
Remember Miyamoto Musashi stated in his famous text "A Book of Five Rings" that one ultimate goal of the warrior is to learn to end the fight with a single blow! That's exactly where speed and power come in!
The idea is to make them as specific as possible so as to achieve the most applicable results. In this article we will attempt to explore some of the best methods available to get those results.
Economy Of Motion.
Basically the more you practice your particular techniques, the more your nervous system becomes familiar and you naturally get faster. It's a really good idea to use mirrors because you can self-coach, so to say, and strip away wasted movements as well as learn to utilize power centers (like the hips and legs).
For example you can immediately make your punch twice as powerful by springing off the slightly bent legs when you execute. Think of your body akin to a coiled up snake about to strike!
Sounds simple but when you start thinking you are fast you will actually start moving faster. Get over any preconceived mental limitations you may have. The other aspect of this notion is to keep the thought of speed on the forefront of your mind.
As you train to do those skills you wish to be faster and stronger at make a conscious effort to do them with your best speed and power efforts!
Time yourself. Count down how many strikes or roundhouses you can land on a target or heavy bag in a 10 second period. Seek to improve your numbers every session.
Over Speed Methods
(A.K.A. Forcing faster muscle memory)!
The abridged version goes like this: You have an innate speed at which muscles can fire off and move any given limb. Factors like motor unit recruitment, neural efficiency/capacity, and strength ratios effect this.
What we are going to do is teach the nervous system to coordinate movement and build muscle memory at faster speeds!
To speed up punches, wrap a tubular resistance band or even bungee cord around your wrists and anchor the other end or have a partner stretch it out. Now release and throw the arm into motion with the added speed. Relax the opposing muscles to avoid any "braking" effects.
The same procedure can be performed on kicks by binding the band to the foot. 10-20 reps 2 times a week will be enough to develop noticeable results.
Specific Drills To Build Power.
Much can be done with a simple medicine ball and even bodyweight outside of what you are already familiar with. Here are some to get started on:
Power Absorption Exercises:
How the theory works is that you can't create more power than you can absorb. So it only makes sense to start here before we start "jumping" into plyometrics!
For upper body power, drop push-ups are king! Assume a position upright but on your knees with both arms at chest level slightly more than shoulder width apart bend approximately 90º. Now drop to your hands without hesitation and forcefully contract when the hands touch the floor as to limit the amount of arm bend.
The higher the "drop" the more force is absorbed, thus the more power potential to develop. The same concept is easily adapted to the lower body by doing drops from a 4'-5' surface landing in a 1/4 squat.
For pulling power, hold yourself at the top of a pull up position and fall to "catch" yourself about 1/2 through the pull ups range of motion. You'll find after performing as little as 10 reps each you'll be plenty sore! It's a good idea to work these 4-8 weeks, 2 times a week before progressing to the next phase.
Plyometric Kung Fu
Okay to begin lets start with punching/pushing power.
Clapping push-ups work great but I feel the need to mention that the idea is to "bounce" off of each rep. Not just get the clap in! In fact, forget the clap; just repetitively hop off the floor from this position. It's the fast reaction off the landing that matters so focus on that.
One idea that will work well on the legs is to depth jump right into a kick. Particularly a jump-kick!
Now these are good starters... ready to leave elementary into High School?
Get a partner and medicine ball (start with light ball, please!). Have him throw it (throw, not toss) at you.
The first step is to rebound it as soon as it touches your hands. Next level of progress is to actually strike the oncoming ball out of the air with a chop, punch, palm, and even any various kicks you desire to build power onto.
This drill works some serious plyo-power into your martial arts! Start with a light 3 lb. ball and complete slow throws while gradually working up to faster throws and heavier balls. Obviously the further you are able to displace the ball/target the more power you have gained (like a baseball batter).
Kind of works as a measuring device as well. For you solo practitioners get a bouncy type med-ball and react off the rebound of a wall throw. Please exercise caution as this last one is a lot more difficult than it sounds and takes some serious getting used to.
The great thing is you can build accuracy at the same time you get faster and more powerful techniques. Lastly plyometrics like these are intense, so only work out with them 2 times a week.