The Mental Component of Reaction Time

I thought I would talk about reaction time in this week’s post. Currently I’m down in Key West, Florida and I don’t have access to a computer to write this post. Therefore, due to the time required to write a short post on a phone, this post will be shorter than normal. Reaction time, in the case of martial arts, is the time it takes from the instant a technique is executed by an opponent until the counter technique (block or strike) has been fully executed. Total reaction time is made up of two parts: mental reaction time and physical reaction time. Mental reaction time is the amount of time between the moment the opponent executes a technique and the moment our physical response starts. Physical reaction time is the amount of time between the moment the physical response starts and the moment the physical technique has been fully executed. Most martial artists are constantly striving to reduce their total reaction time by shortening their physical reaction time. They do this by working on individual techniques to make them faster and more efficient. Some of them even work on executing the technique in a more relaxed state. Both of these practices will reduce physical reaction time. There are lots of practices that are commonly taught in typical classes that will also help reduce physical reaction time.

What I would like to focus on in this post is the mental reaction time. What happens during this phase of the reaction is: your subconsciously perceive a technique that has been executed by your opponent. This information then passes on to the conscious mind (the thinking mind). Then the thinking mind needs to decide what to do. Once all the possibilities have been weighed and a decision has been made, the command to move is then sent out to the muscular system of the body. So how do you improve (shorten) this time? There are two primary ways. The first way is to practice the counter for a technique over and over again. For example, if you always practice the same counter to a knife hand strike, over and over and over your subconscious will respond to the technique (stimulus) without passing it on to the conscious mind. This only works when there is only one response to the technique and it has been practiced extensively. The problem is that sometimes the practiced response might not be the best technique for the counter. However, the mental response is substantially reduced if the conscious mind step is eliminated.

The other way of shortening the response time is simply to meditate. The more someone meditates the easier it is for that person to switch their mind our of beta waves and into alpha waves. Once that has been achieved, response time is substantially reduced and unlike the previous method, this allows for the mind to pick an appropriate response to the technique. In other words, even though Master Shaffer might not like to hear this, meditate!

Something to think about…

by Master Sean Pearson

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Throughout his career, in an effort to become a truly well-rounded martial artist in both practice and philosophy, Master Pearson has studied a wide variety of martial arts: Taekwondo, Kali, Kyudo, Iaido, Aikido, Judo, Jodo, Bando and Tai Chi. He holds dan rankings in six of these arts and master ranks in three of them. To this same end he has studied and achieved national recognition as a wilderness survival instructor, a certified hypnotherapist, and a lecturer in Neuro Linguistic Psychology.

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