In the unpredictable realm of martial arts and combat sports, how well you react could mean life or death. In other words, it could determine whether you stay on your feet or get knocked out, whether you submit an opponent or get submitted. For some fighters, having great reflexes comes naturally but that doesn’t mean it can’t be developed through various methods.
Want to obtain extraordinary reflexes? Here are Evolve Daily’s 5 Ways To Develop Lightning Reaction Time for Martial Arts:
1) Condition yourself to keep a clear head
Let’s start off with arguably the most important factor to having good reflexes and reaction time: a clear head. Whether it’s martial arts, driving a car, or playing basketball, keeping a relaxed, clear mind will allow you to react appropriately, sometimes without even having to think!
Panicking or overly focusing will hinder your ability to see strikes coming or to be able to spot open opportunities for submissions. If you remain calm with a clear head, everything that happens in front of you will start to move slower, allowing you to avoid, defend or capitalize when the opportunity to arises.
To condition yourself to keep a clear head, work on your breathing and learn to relax as you perform any of the exercises listed below or during your regular training sessions. Soon, you’ll find yourself calm, composed, and reacting to everything with ease!
2) Use a reaction ball
Perhaps one of best tools to improve overall reaction time and reflexes is the reaction ball. A reaction ball is a small, six-sided ball that bounces in unpredictable directions when thrown against a flat, solid surface. Through a variety of different exercises with the reaction ball, you will not only improve your reaction time, but your hand-to-eye coordination and quickness in your hands and feet as well.
To start out, here are some simple reaction ball exercises you can do:
The Drop & Catch – Start off by holding the ball at your waist level. Release the ball, allow it to bounce only once, and catch it. As you improve, start increasing the height in which you drop the ball from. You can also put some force behind it by throwing it to increase the difficulty.
The Wall Toss – Standing about 6-10 feet away from a flat, solid wall, throw the ball with an underhand grip against the wall. Allow it to bounce once and then try to catch it using one or both hands. As you get better, increase the pace and throw the ball back against the wall immediately after you’ve caught it. You can also add constant movement in your striking stance to work on your footwork as well.
3) Action/Reaction Combination Drilling
For striking-based martial arts, reactive pad or mitt work is one of the most useful and straightforward ways to develop your reaction time. For striking, good reaction time is mainly needed for two aspects of your game: defending, and counterattacking. The pad or mitt holders can simulate any attack at any point of time they choose. The unpredictable moment and angle in which the simulated attacks are thrown at you will train your ability to see shots coming and react. Simply start off by asking your pad or mitt holder to attack as and when he or she pleases with any single strike. During the session, learn to react to the strikes by defending them and resetting immediately, or executing a counterattack after. To increase the difficulty, simply have your pad or mitt holder increase the pace or execute a series of strikes and combinations instead of just one.
For grappling arts, the same concept applies. Try out combinations whereby one person does offense and another does defense or counterattacks. For example, for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, do an armbar, triangle choke, and omoplata combination from the guard. Drill the specific sequences from both sides as the attacker and as the defender. Drills create muscle memory and shorten reaction time. Combination drills create pattern recognition and reflex sharpening. When your mind and body process a certain pattern more quickly, the reaction time is cut on how to respond. The same science works from both offense and defense.
4) Colored ball throws
The colored ball throw drill will definitely be the most challenging reaction time exercise you’ll ever get to do. Every color represents a different action you would have to execute. These actions can include dodging, punching, kicking, catching with the right hand, catching with the left hand, catching with both hands, and more.
Start off by facing your partner with your back 2-3 feet away from the wall. Standing approximately 10-15 feet away from you, your partner will start throwing the colored balls at you. Work on recognizing the color quickly and then reacting with the appropriate action. Once you get better, start increasing the pace, add more colors and actions, or both.
5) Slow sparring
Everyone knows that slow sparring is an incredible tool to speed up the development of your fighting skills on the feet or on the mats. Although it is slow in pace and motion, it is one of the most effective ways to improve your reaction time for real situations in the ring, cage, or mats. It gives you time to feel out your opponent, relax, think, and come up with creative responses.
Start off slow sparring by working only on your defense. This way, you can focus purely on reacting to whatever comes your way, whether it is on the feet or on the mats. When you’re satisfied with your reaction and defense response, you can proceed with adding counterattacks in the next round and increase the pace gradually.
Having great reaction time will undoubtedly take your game to your next level. These five ways will help you develop reflexes that will be the backbone of your offense and defense in martial arts.