Learning how to improve your reflexes for fighting or martial arts is something you should take very seriously. While factors like technique and skill obviously play a big part in your success, the ability to react quickly is essential.
Having slower reflexes than your opponent gets punished harder in fighting than any other sport. A split second can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Luckily, there are a number of approaches you can take. Some involve training your mind and other focus on the body.
A mix of both will help you do things like dodge, see a punch coming, and strike quicker than ever.
While many spectators view combat-focused sports like MMA or boxing as a show of brute strength, that's not the case. Sure, having impressive muscle strength will do you good in any fight. However, strength is useless if you don't know what to do with it.
Truth is, fighting is all about how athletes react to one another in the heat of combat. Some say that it's a battle of reflexes rather than strength. With every swing, strike, and step that your opponent makes in the ring, you must react accordingly to get the upper hand.
Having solid reflexes is crucial for fighting and martial arts. Not only is fighting a fast-paced sport but it's also unpredictable.
Thus, you have to make split-second decisions based on every piece of stimuli received during a match. Slight delays in your reaction times can mean the difference between getting surprised by a strike and effectively counterattacking. Improving your reflexes can take your skills to the next level and increase the success of your combat techniques.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to improve your reflexes for fighting. There are several training techniques that fighters use to prepare themselves for the ring.
With that said, improving your reflexes isn't just for reacting quickly. It's also about strengthening that mind and body connection to help you react correctly to each move.
Humans are highly sensitive creatures. Thanks to our bevy of senses, it's not hard to react to sudden stimuli. Most people will display the same "flight" response to loud noises or an oncoming fist.
Of course, as a fighter, you have to train your reflexes to react differently. You need to learn how to understand what your opponent is doing, train yourself to process that information quickly, and instinctively respond. All of this has to happen in an instant, making your reflexes one of the most important things you need to develop.
By definition, a reflex is an action performed as a response to a stimulus without conscious thought. It's that knee-jerk reaction to sharp pain, squinting at the sight of an unexpected flash of light, or the flinch to a sudden loud bang. Reflexes occur without ever having to think about making a reaction.
You can't expect your reflexes to improve if you have to think about every single thing you do! Despite the important role your mind plays in contact sports, it's best not to let it get in the way. The first step to improving your reflexes is to learn how to simply keep your head clear.
Regardless of the specific combat sport, the biggest problem that beginners have is overthinking. They worry way too much about their technique and taking all of the right steps. During those early matches, many also go into panic mode and start worrying about every little detail.
Unfortunately, all that worrying will slow down your reflexes significantly. Your mind has to be clear enough to react organically to things you're experiencing. If you're worried about your next step, you could miss open opportunities to strike or overlook those important signs that say a punch is coming.
Learning to "turn your brain off" during a match is no easy task. The first step is to make all of your techniques second-nature. You have to be able to make maneuvers without having to think about your form. That's why fighters spend months or even years training before they even step foot into a ring.
Your techniques should already be bound to muscle memory so that you can truly react on impulse. No amount of analytical thinking will beat pure reflex.
Once you reach that point in your training, you can start to develop habits for keeping your head clear. Focus on your breathing and work to drown out all other distractions apart from your opponent. Before long, you'll be thinking clearly and reacting naturally.
Reaction combination training should be an integral part of your workout routine. It's not enough to just speed up your reflexes. You also need to improve how you react.
Remember, reflexes are involuntary reactions. The trick with any combat-based sport is to have the right reaction to strikes from your opponent.
The best way to improve your skills in this area is with pad or mitt training. While many coaches will use pads and mitts to give fighters a moving target to practice on, not enough athletes are using these training tools to their full potential.
Pad holders should be doing much more than just changing spots every few seconds. Your opponent is going to be moving around the ring at lighting pace and making unpredictable moves at every turn! So, why train without any of those factors in play?
Controlled drills with complex combinations are the way to go. Your training partner or coach can simulate different kinds of attacks. You would then react defensively or execute a counterattack before resetting and repeating the process.
There's no need for your mitt holder to perform a full attack. Seeing the start of a move alone is enough to train your brain to act instinctively. Over time, you can up the ante by increasing the pace and introducing more complex combination moves.
If your sport involves grappling, you can use the same technique to enhance your reaction times.
Those constant unpredictable simulated attacks force you to recognize patterns before they even occur. It strengthens that mind and body connection to improve your reflexes and make your reactions second-nature.
Slow sparring is exactly what it sounds like. It's when fighters perform all of the same techniques they would use in a real fight in slow motion. It might look ridiculous and counterintuitive at first, but it's one of the most effective ways to improve your reflexes.
This is because it gives you the opportunity to feel things out and take everything in. In a real match, things are happening so fast that it's impossible to truly analyze movements and learn what your opponent is doing. It's important to keep your head clear during a fight, but you still need to be able to predict your opponent's moves.
Slow sparring is how skilled fighters learn to do just that. When you slow things down, you can take in all of that sensory information. Those tiny details, such as the power buildup for a jab, can be seen.
You'll be able to study how your opponent moves and get comfortable sharing the ring with another fighter. It gives you time to develop your own strategies and even experiment with new techniques.
The great thing about slow sparring is that, despite the slow-motion movements, your brain learns how to identify those small physical signals that your opponent makes. So, when you're in a real match, you can respond quickly without even giving it a second thought.
Slow sparring can be used with a wide range of techniques. Typically, it's first used with defense training. However, you can easily implement counterattacks once your reaction times improve.
Reaction balls are a unique training tool that has great benefits for all athletes. It's not a tool that's made specifically for boxing or martial arts, but it serves fighters well when it comes to hand-eye coordination and agility.
Essentially, a reaction ball is a large rubber ball with six round knobs. Because it's not a perfect circle like a tennis ball, its movements are unpredictable when it bounces off the floor or wall. You can use this to your advantage to improve your reaction time.
There are many different ways to use a reaction ball. One of the simplest is to just drop it from waist level. After a single bounce, try to catch it. You'll find that the routine is much harder than it sounds.
As you get better at this simple exercise, you can increase the drop height or try to catch the ball with a single hand. You can even start throwing it against a wall to give yourself a greater challenge.
The unpredictable nature of a reaction ball is great for challenging your mind without having to put too much thought behind it. You have to rely solely on your reflexes to catch the ball. Yet, you're also utilizing the training tool to test your stance, footwork, arms, and hand control.
Shadowbox sparring is very similar to slow sparring. However, the difference is that you get to see your opponent's movements in real-time. This can help you learn how to react and improve your reflexes over time.
With traditional shadow boxing, fighters will simulate moves and make strikes in the air. Some will also do this in front of the mirror to monitor form. While this option does have its advantages, it will do nothing to help you with your reflexes. To see improvements, you need to shadowbox with another fighter.
Basically, shadowbox sparring is when two fighters simulate a match without making any real physical contact. It's a great way to prepare for a fight mentally. You don't have to worry about wearing yourself out or treating injuries. Yet, you're training your reaction time.
Just seeing another fighter in front of you can do wonders to help your reflexes. It exposes you to real-life sensory information. Not only can you react to your opponent's movements, but they can react back to pose an even greater challenge. It's the next step up from slow sparring and should be implemented into every fighter's training regime.
If you can't get a real person in front of you, a double-end bag is the next best thing. Double-end bags are small circular punching bags attached to the floor and ceiling with responsive elastic cords.
You'll often see fighters using these bags to test their timing, coordination, and reflexes. Unlike heavy bags, which don't move much at all, double-end bags bounce very quickly. The cords cause the ball to bob and weave, simulating the movements of an opponent.
Of course, there are more limitations with a punching bag. These bags tend to be on the small side and aren't capable of moving around the ring. However, the quick movements of the ball after a strike do challenge your reflexes. It's a moving target that can help you learn how to stay focused and responsive.
For many novice fighters, their first match is always the hardest. The reason for this isn't what you think. It's not just inexperience that makes it difficult but also the surprising response that new fighters have to their opponents when they first step into the ring.
New athletes often go into their first match with all kinds of techniques they want to try out and intense training drilled into their brains. Yet, the moment the match starts, all of that hard works goes away and they spend their time avoiding blows that are getting thrown their way.
This is actually a good thing. It shows that the fighter stayed aware of what was happening during the match and was using their reflexes to avoid getting hit. The trick to turning those impulsive reactions into effective defense or counter moves it to increase your awareness.
A big part of successful fighting, whether it's in an MMA Octagon or the boxing ring, is being able to read your opponent like a book. It's about knowing what they are about to do before they even get a chance to do it. If you rely on seeing a fist or kick to know that a strike is happening, it's already too late.
Every bit of reflex training works to improve your awareness. Remaining calm gives you the ability to stay focused on the sensory information in front of you while combination training and shadowbox sparring teach you to identify the signs of a strike.
Increasing your awareness lets you see those tiny signals that indicate your opponent's next move. You'll be able to see when they rotate their body to build power or pull back their arm to prepare a jab. When you pair your high awareness levels with your fast response times, you can react to every move with swift and efficient action.
Whether that reaction is to defend yourself or strike back, you'll be prepared for whatever comes your way.
There are things you can do as an athlete to improve the performance of your brain. This means faster reflexes for fighting and more success.
How does this work?
Using a tool like Reflexion, athletes can use a mix of drills that stimulate your brain in different ways. These can focus on things like response time, visual accuracy, memory, and more.
This means you’ll have a faster processor between your ears that will help you see punches coming, dodge faster, and improve your reflexes across the board. More and more combat athletes are beginning to use tools like this to gain a competitive advantage.
If you’re interested in learning how you can speed up your brain and become a more dominant fighter, get in touch with us!
Reflexion is not intended to diagnose, treat, or mitigate any disease or condition. It is not intended for use in treating concussions and other brain injuries and has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such uses.