The Essence of Speed | Perceptual Speed

Speed, when most of us refer to it, is related to how quickly something moves from point A to point B.  It is always impressive to witness someone with blinding speed, strike their opponent time and again, as if he were standing still.  Wishing to acquire that ability, many of us give up along the way.  We assume that we are not genetically designed to move that fast.  Even though, genetics do have an effect on physical speed, they are definitely not the only factor.  Speed is not purely hereditary; it is possible to learn and enhance it.
In order to increase speed, it is necessary to identify the different types.

Generally, there are five types of speed:

  • Perceptual Speed
  • Mental Speed
  • Initiation Speed
  • Performance Speed
  • Alteration Speed

In this series of articles we will look at each of these different types of speed that can be developed, starting with Perceptual Speed and it’s role in your Jeet Kune Do training.

Perceptual Speed

Perceptual Speed is just as it sounds.  It is measurement of how quickly you recognize the need to move (i.e. kick, block, etc.).  For example, the measurement of perceptual speed starts when your opponent drops their guard and expires when you have noticed the hole in their defense.
Drills used to increase perceptual speed should require random recognition.  This can be a little difficult when training alone.  You will need a partner or some other separate, uncontrollable object.  There are a few, very simple exercises that you can do that do not even require a change of clothes or a workout.

Next time you find yourself sitting at a stoplight, watch closely and attempt to step on the gas as soon as the light turns green.  Pay attention to how long it felt like it took to recognize and try it again at the next light.  After a few, you should feel some improvement.  Be careful not to cheat by watching the lights from opposing traffic or to step too hard on the gas and find yourself receiving a speeding ticket from your friendly neighborhood police officer.
Another example would be to watch people in a public place.  Look for someone that is randomly repeating the same behavior.  For example, sitting at the bus station, you see a man reading a book and turning the pages intermittently.  Without being impolite and staring at him, pay attention to when he turns the page.  As soon as you recognize it, make a sound (or just breath out so the people next to you don’t think you’re crazy.)  After a chapter or two, you should notice that you are able to react faster with each page.

In the studio, there are an infinite number of drills that can help.  One that is a good warm up is called the “Ugh” exercise.  Have a training partner stand in front of you and instruct them to move randomly in a designated manner (i.e. throw a punch towards you.).  As soon as they do, make the “Ugh” sound (or whatever sound you like).  Have them continue without a pattern and try to shorten the time between their action and your reaction.

With some imagination, I am sure you can come up with your own drills to enhance perceptual speed.  The only criterion is that you avoid patterns and rhythmic actions.


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About Mike Gittleson

Mike Gittleson is a long-time student of the martial arts and a certified Jeet Kune Do instructor under Sifu Ted Wong.

One Response to “The Essence of Speed | Perceptual Speed”

  1. I liked you Ideas on how to improve peceptual speed the one about the green light really works

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