Welcome to the latest installment in our series of insights from industry experts. Today, we're excited to share our conversation with Phil White, a highly regarded physiotherapist from AD PT Physio.
In our discussion, we delved into how to optimize reflex times in martial arts and the best exercises to achieve this.
We break down the challenge into two key elements. Firstly, to enhance reflexes, it's essential to engage in activities that actively promote reflexes. This necessitates an element of unpredictability in your practice. Drawing parallels from boxing, White suggests incorporating exercises where the movements aren't predictable. Yes, having a swinging ball is great, but it's also essential to engage in real-time, interactive exercises with another individual.
To this end, the role of sparring is underscored. Sparring can teach you a lot about reflexes and the application of strategic movements. One profound lesson is learning to differentiate between evading an attack and optimally positioning yourself for a counter-strike. This decision-making capacity, according to White, is what separates good fighters from the rest.
We emphasize the importance of understanding when to take the front foot and when to step back. In a match, two people constantly on the front foot result in a slugfest. Conversely, two defensive fighters yield a stalemate. The ability to discern your position and act accordingly is a skill that's honed through practice.
We also accentuate the importance of training your reflexes and building explosiveness. To achieve this, the training must be periodized and must incorporate elements of explosive movement. Slow, conscious kicks and punches have their place, but without explosive, full-speed movements, your ability to react quickly and powerfully won't develop.
Diving deeper into the realm of reflexes and reactions, it's important to note that the human body is capable of two types of movements – reflex action and conscious action. Reflexes are involuntary, instantaneous reactions to sensory inputs that bypass conscious brain processing. Conversely, conscious actions are driven by the brain, which means they can be progressively overloaded and trained to become faster, more precise, and eventually automated through repeated practice.
Developing skill, therefore, is a matter of frequency and progressive training. As you repetitively train certain movements, they become automated, reducing cognitive load and allowing for more conscious thought to be applied to specific actions.
This is the reason why skilled fighters appear relaxed and in control, while novices often seem panicked and overwhelmed.
In conclusion, developing reflexes for martial arts is a nuanced process, incorporating multiple elements. It's not just about fast reactions but also about developing the right skills, understanding positioning, and knowing when to attack and when to defend. With the right training regimen, you can hone these abilities over time, giving you an edge in your martial arts journey.Curious to know more? Listen to the full episode of the Sound of Movement podcast for a deep dive into this fascinating topic with Phil White.