There are two basic ways to deal with an opponent who is faster than you, this could be in Traditional Karate, Sports Karate, Taekwondo and even Kickboxing:

  • Improve your own speed
  • Make him work harder to reach you.

Note that a lot of very good fighters aren’t quick because they’ve focused on the second alternative.

Make distance the first priority. Do not fight your opponent up close if you can avoid it. Force him to continually advance and retreat as he moves. This gives you time to decipher what he is doing, so you can counter or defend. Be as sneaky as possible. Let him think that you are always going to back up. After a few times, your opponent will not expect much from you, and that’s precisely when you should explode forward and short-circuit whatever he has planned.

Beating a faster opponent requires timing.  Here Stephanie Rosales explain a Taekwondo technique to counter kicks, especially against taller opponents.

When it comes to building your own speed, remember that in the martial arts- STRENGTH and SPEED are very opposite. As a result, most really strong guys aren’t very fast. They are not known for their endurance, either, because of the lactic acid their muscles produce interferes with the infusion of oxygenated blood into their tissue.

A superior strategy involves developing your muscle’s ability to quickly move from a relaxed state to a contracted state. If you rely on muscle strength alone, you’ll be exhausted much sooner. I’ve found that a quick fighter will beat a strong fighter most of the time because he moves fast enough to avoid a good shot from the strong guy. Simply put- “If you don’t move, you’ll get hit.”

If you are a point fighter, power means nothing.

The game is about scoring. The strong fighter has to realize that it’s just a game. Once he realizes this, his muscles will relax a bit and he’ll become quicker. In speed game, you develop a certain amount of power,. But in the power game, you don’t necessarily have speed.

“Another important tip is to not work in straight lines, work different angles at a distance to accommodate his speed. If you move straight back or straight forward you will get tangled and scored upon.” Justin Barra, Black Belt.

Karate Techniques

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Peter A Soto is a Black Belt with more than 20 years of experience, athlete, teacher and webmaster. Based in the city of San Diego, California.