Does Speed Matter In Self-Defence?



It is easy to be seduced by power.

And for good reason, if you hit hard, then self-defence is a lot easier.

But in self-defence, there is another key ingredient….speed.

And in this article, we will look at speed in self-defence and how to develop speed.

But the speed you need to develop is not what you think, trust me, read on, and  you will be surprised.


Speed v Power

I have known people who hit fast, move fast and are like greased lightning.

I have also known people who hit like a tank, can punch holes in walls and are stronger than an ox.

Which is better?

Most people would say a mixture is best, to be in the middle and have a balance yet when it comes to body size we are genetically hindered.

Some are naturally fast, small and slight in build yet others are built like skyscrapers.

Sure we can go to the gym and train hard, but we can only do so much.

So what would be best?

The answer is neither.

You see the real skill is not how fast you can punch, but how fast you can strike compared to the reaction of the opponent.


The Head Start

Have you ever seen an athletics race? No one can have a head start, can they?

They have a starting pistol, and if anyone ‘jumps the gun’ they are all reset into position.

Because head starts matter.

The person that starts anything first is more likely to get to the finishing line, and this is key in self-defence.

It is not the person who strikes first that wins; it is the person that lands with a destructive shot first that is most likely to emerge the victor.

And so we have been fed a myth, the myth that pre-emptive strikes are the best way forward. It is a myth that DL is exposing through training.


A Basic Drill Of Speed

How fast can you cover up?

The basic drill is this, have your partner with the pads on and let them try and hit you as hard as they can, and as fast as they can.

Your job is to cover up with a shape used by Defence Lab.

Take any shape you want and have your partner build up slowly and eventually move up a gear until you can block the strike at full speed and power.

Trust me you will be able to do this quite quickly.

When you reach the ability to be able to cover up and protect yourself against a hard and fast strike you have turned a milestone.

Suddenly you no longer have to ‘beat them to the punch’.

This takes the pressure off you and was always a key part of my self-defence skills.

As a policeman with my background in Defence Lab I was able to speak to aggressive people confidently.

I knew that if they did try and strike me, I could ‘shape up’ and watch their power strikes fail.

This allowed me to speak without ‘fear’ and be firm in my approach, even with people known for extreme violence.


Mental Speed Is Far More Important Than Physical

We started this article with a  question, is speed important for self-defence?

The answer is of course yes.

And of course, if you can increase your speed on a physical level through training (I will give you some ideas later), it will always be of benefit.

However, it is your mental speed that matters most.

Being able to spot the motion of attack quickly.

Here is another drill:

Stand with your training partner as if you were both talking in a bar.

One of you closes your eyes.

The other is going to be the attacker.

The instructor will shout start, and the attacker will move in super slow motion. They will begin the motion to attack you with a strike.

Every few seconds the instructor shouts freeze.

The other person opens their eyes and looks at the body position, the muscle movement of the attacker’s arm and how their body is changing shape.

You then close your eyes again, and this whole process is repeated until the strike lands (at super slow motion and no power).

It is a freeze frame drill.

The goal is to get you to understand how the body changes before an attack and allow you to catch those motions as early as possible.

And so over time, your mental speed will improve in relation to the ability to spotting physical attacks.


How To Increase Your Physical Speed

Ok so while mental speed is far more important, we still can maximise our physical speed.

Here are some ways that I use.


The Paper Grab:

Take a piece of paper and hold it above your head, then drop it and try and catch it before it hits the floor.


The Squash Ball

Buy a squash ball and throw it up into the air. Then catch it in the same hand.

As you get better, throw it at a smaller height to put pressure on your speed.

Clapping Press Ups

They need no introduction but can you do a press up with a clap? What about 2 claps?



Speed is an incredibly important part of self-defence, but not all of us are built for speed.

We need to play to our strengths.

That being said, we clearly can train to improve on what speed we have got.

However, it is mental speed that we can train yet rarely we do.

How fast is your reaction time to violence?

If you can increase this, then you have just changed the odds in your favour.


Thanks for reading