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Martial Arts: Speed VS Power

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The argument about which is more important for martial arts; speed or power, is one that has gone on for centuries. It is an argument that has created very different martial arts styles. Some like Tae Kwon Do rely on speed while other forms of karate put a lot of emphasis on physical strength. Other styles style like Aikido and Judo rely mostly on technique as the primary concern while speed and power play different roles depending on which specific schools you attend.

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Of course many of the most popular martial arts and kung fu movies are so impressive due to the incredible speed at which stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li and fight and move. Visiting most Tae Kwon Do schools will also present you with various twig insect looking instructors who seem to be starving themselves in order to be lighter and faster, while classes are definitely centered on agility and speed not strength.

However in the real world, being fast without having any power is not effective. If you hit your opponent a million times but do not hurt them or stop them it is futile. However, being fast is never a bad thing. Being in shape both in terms of being flexible and having low body fat can help you perform far better in class, but will also mean being better on the street. When it comes to reactions and striking combos, practice and time in class is the only way to really improve and maintain great speed.

Power and strength definitely have their role, not only in the street, but certainly in the UFC octagon and in your martial arts training as well. Bruce Lee even began weight training to improve his power and physique towards the end of his career. Certainly power means the ability to finish the fight quickly and stop your opponent or be able to fend off others if facing multiple attackers.
Would you rather just be fast and be able to hit an opponent 100 times in a row, but neither stopping or really hurting them, or would you rather be able to knock anyone out with one punch, BOOM, lights out? Obviously most would choose the latter. The only problem is when you can’t get in a great knockout blow and you have to hang in there till you can. Clearly the best solution is somewhere in the middle, train to be as fast as you can but also spend time in the gym or lifting weight at home in order to build up impressive striking power, no matter what your instructor says.




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Category | Training

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Le Hung Says:

    I’m gonna have to disagree about the whole power thing. First, let me say this, if you’re fast, but your fist is not strong enough, then the opponent won’t fall. But, on the contrary, if you’re only strong, not fast, then you’ll be knocked down by your opponent, which means he can kick you in your groin, hit you in the kidney, hit you in your weak spot without needing the power. The Asians are fast, and that helps the Asians like me and the other Asian guys a thousand times, so don’t say that you’ll choose power. No, i’ll choose speed, ’cause speed also means power, meanwhile power only means slow-ass, too damn slow! In the real fight, especially street fight, you can’t be slow, you must be fast so you can grab everything in the street to hit your opponent, even the garbage can!

  2. Le Hung Says:

    And sure, Bruce Lee did train physical power, that’s power, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t train “chi”, which is more important than the power, is the power from inside your body, is the biological electricity that you cannot create by training in the gym, you’ll have to meditate a lot, feel the power inside your body, not training like some European moron only know about power. In the real fight, speed is always an advantage, necessary advantage, and more important than power. Power is nothing without speed. The Europeans rely too damn much on weapons, so when it comes to the hand to hand combat, or more likely, Kung Fu, they fight like shit. The Europeans are only strong with the weapons, without the weapons, they are shit! I saw the Europeans fight with their fact about the power, and i can say this:”I’m sorry guys, but that’s a lot of crap!”. There’s a fact like this, in three seconds, one asian guy can throw out three hits, which is both strong and powerful, and one European guy can only throw one hit, it is strong, but not enough, and also too damn slow, which can be seen and avoidable! That’s the fact. If you don’t believe me, tell an European guy who learns Wing Chun to hit the wooden dummy or the iron dummy to know exactly how long it takes for them to finish the 116 dummy, and how long it takes for the asian guys to finish it, remember to count every second, especially the damamge if in the real fight, you know, if the asians are faster, and thrust you Europeans dumb-ass in the eyes!

  3. thacker Says:

    Hi Le,
    First of all thank you for ideas and comments. I do agree with your assessment that speed can mean power. However, I have seen some very quick fighters who just have no power behind their strikes. I believe this is because they are only using their arms for punches and their legs for kicking. For example, with punching most of the power comes from your core and the twisting that happens. When watching one of the most devastating punchers of all time like Mike Tyson he is even getting power from his feet and calves. This is where true power comes from. These quick guys could punch all day and not be able to knock someone out. In MMA they might be a good points fighter but would never be feared by their opponents in throwing that single knock out punch. However, on the reverse I have seen some very small quick Korean instructors that have massive power in their strikes. These guys could lay out a heavyweight UFC fighter. So, they know the power of leverage in their striking power.
    Thanks!

  4. Le Hung Says:

    You’re wrong. If you can punch quick, it also means that you’re gonna have to train how to punch hard as well. Do you believe that if you’re quick enough, you only need one finger to defeat your opponent? I saw many things in fighting too, ’cause i learned it myself, especially i learn Wing Chun, and i have to punch the other in a very short distance, quick, but still have a strong punch to knock that guy out! First, arcoding to what i trained, you’ll have to punch quick, but is not strong enough. Then, you’re gonna have to double, triple, quaruple the speed to increse the power. Speed is the key thing here. Even the strong guys need speed and power at the same time to punch somebody when they take too many hits, especially the strong and fast hits. When you train speed, you also train power. But when you train power, there is no speed. I learned that myself. I even got hit when i only know about power. I broke my back so bad when i take the hits to knock my opponent down! Shit that was painful that day! No offense to your idea, you’re right about the whole power thing, but speed is the key thing

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