If you’ve been teaching karate for any length of time you’ll know that one of the struggles with some students, particularly kids, is to get them to do their technique as fast as possible.

I don’t usually have trouble getting this point across to my youngest students – they’re full of energy and really try hard. And my adults understand the importance. It seems to be the lazy pre teens who can’t be bothered giving their all with each technique.

Often I ask them, “Is the the world’s slowest punch competition?”

Which of course a resounding, “NO!” can be heard but still they refuse to punch at their speed potential.

It frustrates me that they don’t seem to understand why achieving combat speed is so important. I ask them things like, “You know what happens when you practice punching slow?” 

Which they respond with, “You get really good at punching slow.” 

“And if you’re too slow you get what?”, I ask

“Hit!”, they say.

So I know they understand, they just won’t apply.

This used to frustrate me until one day I came up with a solution….

I interrupted our basics and stood directly in front of one of the slower, more lethargic of the group and took my forward stance. I then said, “Let’s see how fast you can punch Robert. On the count I’m going to punch you in the chest as quickly as I can and you’re going to try to punch me as quickly as you can. You’ve got to beat me to the punch, ok?”

At that moment I could see he was a little uncertain about what was about to happen.

So I counted, “Ichi!”, and tagged him in the chest before he’d even gotten his punch away.

I didn’t hit him hard, but I definitely made contact to give him a little “wake up”. At that point he realized a couple of things:

  1. He wasn’t as fast as he thought he was…
  2. He was definitely going to get hit again if he didn’t give his best…

“Ni!”, as I tagged him again. Now he stopped smiling and got himself in the zone.

“San!”, and we struck simultaneously, ai-uchi.

“Good, Robert!”, I applauded him. “That’s more like it.”

“Shi!”, I tagged him again. “C’mon, fast like that last one, pal.”

“Go!”, as he beat me to the punch. “Alright, now we’re getting somewhere!”

The rest of the students in class also picked up their speed. I could tell that they didn’t want to take on the sensei in a speed challenge, nor did they want to get hit, so miraculously they increased their speed to their potential.

Do I still have students who slip back to lazy town? Of course, we all do. But every time this happens, they now know the sensei speed challenge is coming.

No doubt who scored first here!

Of course from this I remembered a simple reaction exercise in which students pair up facing each other in forward stance. Then on my count they’ve got to try to tag their partner first with reverse punch, just like Robert and I did. For each successful punch they receive a point. After 10 punches students compare scores.

Simple really isn’t it… and it’s a good precursor to teaching karate point fighting, where the first to score wins the point.

2 thoughts on “Faster!”

  1. Love this idea! I've done something with my little ones, which makes them compete against each other. They start at the back of the room, and everytime someone does something strong I have them step forward. Eventually the slackers realize they get left behind. The one(s) who reach me first get a prize…a sticker – funny how that's such a big deal, but it works! They don't always get prizes, sometimes they get to pick the game we play at the end or something.


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