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Terminal Velocity


Give me Acceleration
John Stephenson

Terminal Velocity Give Me Acceleration

When is the best time to strike?
Rhythm and timing in karate and all martial arts in general is a vital
component. The maximal use of the body to generate as much force as is
required is a prerequisite of all martial artists.
We spend many years training in the basic techniques of our art. We complete
single basic movements either on the spot (sono ba) or in motion (ido kihon),
combinations of techniques (renzoku waza), pre-determined partner work with
a variety of defnces, kicks and punches (yakusoku gumite) as well as predetermined movements in fixed geometric patterns (kata or forms) and free
fighting (ji-yu kumite).
We follow our teachers in the age old traditions and pass these traditions on to
our students for future generations to benefit from. We are currently in a
unique position as the age of global technology allows us to Google almost
anything we want and gather information and wisdom more easily than in any
other time in history. This facility was not available to our ancestors in karatedo.
So, I pose the question. When carrying out any technique in our arsenal of
movements, using the maximum efficiency from our bodies, whilst in motion,
when is the best time to strike? Is it at the start of the movement of the
technique? Is it half way through? Three quarters of the way through? Or is it,
as we always tend to practice it, at the end of the movement??
I offer my thoughts.
When we apply techniques on another person we will be exerting a certain
degree of force upon them. But, what is force? The definition of force is
strength or energy as an attribute of physical action or movement. In physics,
a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a certain change,
either concerning its movement, direction, or geometrical construction.
Isaac Newtons second law of motion is that the relationship between an
object's mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. So, in
order to exert this force in a karate technique, we need to move our body and
technique (mass) in a constant rate of change (acceleration).
But what is acceleration? The definition is the increase in the rate or speed of
something, or the rate of change of velocity per unit of time. Therefore,
looking at Newtons law above, we cannot instantly change our mass but what
we can do is change our acceleration.

The Sprinter
Let me make an analogy between the Olympic sprinter Usian Bolt, and
ourselves carrying out a karate technique. At what stage do we achieve
maximum acceleration? At maximum acceleration our mass will produce the
maximum force possible, F=ma.
When discussing the motion of an Olympic sprinter for something like the
hundred meter dash, one often talks about the maximum speed of the
sprinters in the race. However, have you ever wondered what the acceleration
is for one of those sprinters, and how long it takes to reach their maximum
Let us study Usian Bolts world record 100 metre run. He ran 100 metres in
9.58 seconds. To put that in perspective, thats an average speed of 10.43
m/s. However, we all know that that was not his maximum speed during the
It has long been thought that sprinters typically reach their top speed at
around 50-60 meters; Bolt reached his top speed at the distance of 60-80
meters, at which point he was running at the incredible rate of 12.42 m/s
(27.79 mph).
Assuming that he slowed a little bit in the next twenty meters or so, we can
assume that he ran the final forty meters of the race at a somewhat constant
speed of around 12 m/s. Therefore, he took 3.33 seconds on the final forty
meters, meaning that it took him 6.25 seconds to accelerate from 0 to
approximately 28 mph. By using one of our acceleration equations [A = 2(X
final)/(t^2)], we are able to determine that Bolts acceleration, assuming that
it was constant, was an average of 3.072 m/s/s.
So if we break this down. If we say he reached maximum speed at the average
of 60 to 80 meters, which is at 70 meters. This means his maximum
acceleration was achieved at about 70% of the race, not at 100% or the end of
the race.
I Repeat, When is the best time to strike?
Place this information in relation to our karate techniques and karate practice.
When do we most often strike in our training, at the end of our movement, or
at 100%. Look at the above information about maximum acceleration and
therefore maximum force. Where should we strike? Yes, at about of the way
through our movement i.e at about 70%, as this is at our maximum
What have we been doing all these years? The answer is, I think, starting to
slow down.

There is a saying that hindsight is a wonderful thing. I distinctly remember my

sensei Pater Jefford doing techniques, striking and then landing a little time
afterwards. I thought nothing of it at the time, until now. I can see the picture
in my head. He was actually hitting at about of the way through his
movement. He was unwittingly using his maximum acceleration and therefore
applying his maximum force.
Light bulb just illuminated. Ping!!
So now it is down to you.
Go away. Think. Study. Practice.
Apply what you learn and pass this on to your students.