LOMA Writings

Getting Good at Martial Arts F.A.S.T.

If you want to get good at martial arts fast, you need to develop four key attributes: form, accuracy, speed, and timing. These are the essential components that make up a successful martial artist, and they all build on one another. To help you remember these attributes, use the acronym F.A.S.T. Let's dive into how you can use F.A.S.T. to become a better martial artist.


“Form Follows Function.”

Form is the foundation of any martial art. It's the proper alignment of your body, the way you hold your fists, the way you position your feet, and the way you move. It's what makes a crescent kick look like a crescent kick and not a roundhouse kick. Form is critical to ensure that you can generate power and deliver your techniques accurately and efficiently. Without good form, you can't execute techniques effectively, and you're more prone to injury.

To develop your form, start by practicing the fundamental techniques. Line drills, forms, bar work, and mirror practice are where we can slow down, concentrate, and clean up our form. Once you have the fundamentals down, start to work on more complex techniques. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect. Don't rush through your movements. Take the time to practice them slowly and focus on your form. Over time, your body will develop muscle memory, and you'll be able to execute techniques without thinking.


“Aim small, miss small.”

Once you've developed good form, you need to focus on accuracy. Accuracy means hitting your target with precision and consistency. Without accuracy, your techniques won't be effective in real-life situations.

To develop your accuracy, start by practicing your techniques on a stationary target, such as a punching bag or a focus mitt. Focus on hitting your target in the same spot every time. Once you're consistent on a stationary target it's time to try it on a human body. Partner practice is excellent for this as we're aiming for vital spots without hitting them, or just touching lightly if we're doing hogu drills. Next, incorporate movement drills, inserting footwork before your punches and kicks so that you can reach the target, or evade an attack in such a way that sets you up perfectly for the counter. In this case, the target is stationary and we're moving. This training fine-tunes our distance judgment. All of this is trained without losing the form of the technique that we worked on initially. Finally comes freestyle paddle and mitt drills, where the target is moving and we're moving. 


“The firstest with the mostest is the bestest.”

Speed is the ability to execute techniques quickly. It's an essential attribute in martial arts because it allows you to deliver your techniques before your opponent can react. However, speed without accuracy and proper form is useless. It's essential to develop accuracy and form before working on speed.

To develop your speed, remember to stay loose, without being floppy. Flash paddle drills, where the holder flashes the paddle out, are great for this. Also, our “at the races” drill, where we wait for an audio cue and try to be the first to hit the target, develops single technique speed. “Toki-Chagi” drills are very good for multi-technique speed, where we try to throw as many techniques as we can in a short period of time. This makes individual techniques faster as well. Finally, predetermined combinations trained in the above ways will allow techniques to flow together smoothly, and smooth equals fast. 


At the right moment, an ounce can move a ton.

Timing is the ability to execute techniques at the right moment. It is the pinnacle skill of martial arts. A moment too early or too late is the same as missing in accuracy. 

Ironically, patience is needed here. There's a saying that “The beginner throws 10 techniques and lands one --  the advanced student throws one and lands one.”  It means that the advanced student has the patience to wait for the right moment and the speed to insert his technique at that moment. Having firm defense and footwork keeps us in the fight until the perfect moment where we can throw the perfect shot. 

To develop your timing, hogu drills with a partner are perfect. Have your partner simulate attacks, and practice countering them. This will help you develop the ability to time your techniques accurately. There's a brief moment right after your opponent attacks, but before they start their second shot where you can insert your counter. The culmination of this is Offensive Countering, where you insert your shot as they are coming in to land theirs. It's a devastating force multiplier, as it can double your power because they're running into your technique. Also, people rarely devote defensive energy if they think they're about to score, so they’re most often the most open at the moment of their committed attack.

Remembering this acronym and using it to guide your practice will get you good fast. Prioritize form first, then accuracy, then speed, and finally timing. Take the time to practice each attribute carefully and focus on perfecting your technique. With hard work and dedication, you'll become a skilled martial artist in no time.