Agility Training

Speed Quicknes and Agility Training - Learn about these physical attributes, how to gain them and how they will help you become a better martial artist...

Agility training – agility, quickness, speed (AQS) and on the other hand reaction time, are 2 elements which are part of our physical training in a martial art

In the physical training article we examined the agility element of a martial art and the different characteristics of it varying from the needs of different martial arts.

We will begin by understanding and defining the meaning of each element and the difference between them.

* This is not a Webster’s Dictionary definition, but rather that of experienced martial artists coming from different language backgrounds (Warriors Project) – so as long as we can understand the essence of what is said and avoid “vocabulary semantics” we’re going to be o.k.…

Reaction time – The ability to respond to something… Fast!

As martial artists we need to react to stimulations fast. If someone tries to strike us, our ability to avoid, counter, block or offer any other response is determined first of all by our ability to pick up on the stimulation.

Relaying on our senses - seeing, hearing, feeling, equilibrium, pain and so on – their and our ability to pick up quickly on the stimulation, in many ways, is determined by our level of awareness and concentration which are part of the mental training process.

After our senses do their “job” the time for initiating the response will be determined by our reaction speed.

In other words the time it takes our brain to absorb the stimulation, make a decision, and send the electronic signal or pulse telling our body what to do.

Agility, quickness and speed (AQS) are mainly what will determine the quality of execution of the brains decision, and many times if our response (whether we made the right decision or not) will be successful – this element has two aspects –

1. The time it takes our body to perform the task it has been “asked” to do – raise the hand, kick, side step, joint lock, roll over…

2. The time it takes us to perform 2 or more separate actions – For instance – the time it takes us to throw 2 punches or the time it takes us to step twice or three times back…


We’re in a night club, and someone tries to break a beer bottle on our head. We see it coming from our side vision (senses, awareness level and concentration) we “tell” our body to step aside (reaction speed), it took us half a second to reach or side step position (the first kind of AQS), after he missed we “decide” to strike back with two punches. The first punch we deliver (the first kind of AQS) the second punch (the second kind of AQS).

In this article we will examine agility training (which includes quickness and speed training as well) and the way for improving it.


Agility is our ability to change position of ourselves and or parts of our body in a quick, fast and accurate manner.

As we examined above it is our ability to ”carry out” our minds command in the exact manner in which it wants, so it doesn’t necessarily have to fast (In Tai Chi, for instance, our agility is not measured by pure speed of change but rather by the ability to adhere to our opponent).

This ability is dependent mostly on our muscular system, and therefore the emphasis during “pure” agility training is on the muscles.

Martial art speed, quickness and agility training

As examined in the physical training article in the martial arts it is not necessary to be agile in all the body parts and motion possibilities. Due to the fact that any physical element including agility takes time to build and train we must decide on the characteristic of our agility. This is done in the theory of any martial art.

In most cases in the martial arts the agility training means training explosive power.

Explosive power can be trained in many ways.

Explosive power for agility training

The main method of developing explosive power is to build exercises which train the exact same movement, or as close as possible (geometrical wise), we want to improve and develop - and then add additional weight to that motion and movement.

Keep in mind that the weight shouldn’t be too heavy as to substantially limit our ability to perform the action fast.

The 1RM method

1RM (Rep Max) is the maximum weight we can move for the full motion range of specific action, one time.

For example imagine before we execute a punch our hand is connected to a weight lifting machine. The weights are connected so that they provide resistance only in the direction opposite to our punch. 1RM would be the maximum weight that our hand could punch, with the weights connected, one time.

Another example; imagine that weights are put on our ankles. If we want to check our 1RM for side stepping, it would be the maximum weight we can perform a single side step with.

Researches show that there are 2 ways to train our AQS using this method:

• Repetitions of 30%-50% of 1RM. 30% if the main emphasis is on doing the movement quickly, 50% if the main emphasis is on doing it with power.

• Repeating as fast as we can 70%-90% of 1RM. However when using this kind of load, we must make sure we practice our techniques in full speed without the weights even more frequently than with the first option, so that we don’t lose our AQS.

In both cases the agility training should be done full speed until the initial speed can not be kept, in which case we stop. A normal and legitimate resting period between repetitions is 4 minutes (during this time we can practice something else which does not use the muscles).

Example for agility training with 1RM:

Let’s say we want to work on our back step – We calculate our 1RM for this motion by putting weights on our ankles or by holding weights close to our chest or by putting a heavy back pack (weight on the ankles is the best because it avoids putting weight on other body part which are not involved in the real motion…).

If our 1RM was 100 kilos (200 pounds), we now need to understand and decide if its speed we want in this motion or power. Usually when stepping back we want to do it as fast as we can and not as powerful as possible (we want to move out of the way…).

So in this case we put 30% of the weight (30 kilos) on our ankles (15 on each leg) and step back as fast as we can (after each step we reach a full stop and then continue to the next back step).

When we can’t keep up the pace we started out with we stop for 4 minutes, during which we can train our hands AQS, or any thing else which does not involve using our back stepping leg muscles..

We can repeat between 4 -10 times this agility training exercise.

*Note that using these exercises can train both kinds of AQS, which we talked about earlier on

For more free drills and tips join our

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Plyometrics is a method of agility training which started in the 1920s’, as a training method for athletics athletes, and developed in the Soviet Union of the 1960s’for all competition sports including the martial arts.

Just like the 1RM method it two develops the muscles by putting a heavier weight on their normal action.

However there are two major differences between the two:

• Plyometrics in some cases, involves utilizing a reflex called “ myotatic reflex” (stretch reflex) which reacts to a sudden stimulation of the tendon (just like when the doctor uses his hammer to tap on our ligament and cause our shin to snap up…(the tendon wouldn’t react in this manner if it was a gentle or slow tap).

• This brings us to the second difference which is the amount of weight pressure needed to train – A LOT! – plyometrics uses eccentric weight pressures not only to put more stress on the muscles, but also to initiate the “myotatic reflex”.


1. Leaping from a meter off the ground and straight after landing performing our front step forward – in this exercise our body needs to push not only our body weight but the weight of it falling from a meter high. Further more because this is done with suddenness the “myotatic reflex” is also activated.

2. Jumping push ups, which try to push up as soon the hands touch the ground after the last push, are also plyometric and they are good for improving punching AQS and power.

For more free drills and tips join our

Warriors Project – Drills and Tips E-zine

Note - Any weight training, and agility training is no different, should “make” us consult with a professional be it a fitness instructor a martial art instructor or teacher or a doctor. Due to the extreme pressures which are applied in plyometrics on the body, it is even more important to consult before starting these trainings.

Tips for plyometric training:

• Rest period between each set 1-3 minutes. Transitioning between sets require 3-5 minutes rest.

• A plyometric drill or exercise starts at the beginning of training after a thorough warm up (no static stretching before plyometrics – it may lead to injury).

• Always assume less of your real ability in plyometrics.

• Make sure everything you use for these drills are stable, not slippery and won’t slip.

Conclusions for martial art agility training

In the martial arts agility is an important factor, however what needs to be agile and in what way is determined in theory behind the martial art.

In general we can say that in the majority of martial arts the AQS which is needed is short and explosive. Our ability to change motion, movement and direction is one of the most important attributes we need our body to supply.

The way in which we achieve and maintain the agility needed is “decided” upon in the martial art training system

Most martial art systems build their AQS as a combination of different exercises which do not isolate completely the agility training.

Meaning that when we practice getting out of a joint lock by quickly rolling over or overturning our opponent, we train our agility as well as training the correct timing, reaction time, mental focus and so on…

Nevertheless it is advised, at least every once in a while, to exercise a motion or movement which we need to be done with extreme AQS and train it in an “isolated” manner. This will not only “leap frog” that specific motion but also add color to our training.

Learn more about Stamina in the Martial arts

Learn more about Flexibility in the Martial Arts

Physical Training in the Martial Arts

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