“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
First - a short story.
British cycling never won a world medal in 100 years. It was so bad, that bike manufacturers refused to sell bikes to British riders because their poor performance would hurt sales.
The new High Performance director Dave Brailsford adopted a new training philosophy called “aggregation of marginal gains." His theory was - if you can break down cycling to its elements and measure and improve each piece by 1%, you'll see a significant increase in performance when these pieces are combined.
They made adjustments to their training and equipment, measured the results to see if they were improving (or not) and continued to tweak their strategy. During the 10 years they implemented this strategy, the British cycling team earned 178 world championships and 66 Olympic gold medals. This is known as the most successful run in cycling history.
An ordinary team of athletes, through minor adjustments, measurement and improvements, went from the worst in the world to the best in the world.
What gets measured, gets improved.
For martial arts, these 15 attributes make up a good fighter:
- Combinations/Follow Up
- Distance control
- Pressure Capacity
Which of these attributes do you currently measure?
In this post, we describe three physical data points (reaction time, power and stamina) and why they are important in combat sports. Knowing these numbers can give the coach and athlete an advantage over their competitors. Now you can tell before a competition if the results of your training are helping your physical capabilities. If you are below your baseline reaction time, stamina and power leading up to a competition, you can adjust your strategy.
Reaction time - Milliseconds (MS)
Reaction is how fast an athlete is able to respond to a stimulus. Reaction time is extremely important for combat sports, since the quicker you respond the more likely your strike will connect and score.
2020 Armor measures reaction time by flashing lights on our chest guard. You must hit the chest guard or headgear as fast as you can. The time between the stimulus (the flashing lights) and your strike is your reaction time. Proxy tests for reaction, such as “blazepods,” which require an athlete to kick the air based on a stimulus, does not account for the applied movements of striking a target and recovering from that movement to strike again - which is essential in martial arts.
By keeping track of the reaction time of various techniques, the coach and athlete can adjust their training to improve the speed of specific techniques, increase chance of scoring and create a more well rounded player who can adapt to any fighting situation.
For example, in the 2020 Armor “Coach View” mobile app, you can tag specific techniques to measure their reaction time. The athlete would do a reaction time training session and tag the session as “Left Side, Back Leg, Attack, Round House." By tagging the training sessions, you can track trends over time and see if that specific technique is improving, plateauing or decreasing overall. Based on the results (which the app clearly shows) coach and athlete can adjust their training.
Power- Joules (J)
In martial arts, power is the combination of strength and speed in a technique applied to an opponent. In order to be powerful, one must be strong, have good balance and coordination and have control over each and every movement.
2020 Armor measures power in Joules (a unit of measurement for energy) when a strike is applied to the vest or headgear. The harder your strike, the higher the power, or Joules. A coach and athlete can increase their power by having the right combination of strength, speed, balance and coordination.
Proxy tests for power such as one rep max squats or vertical jumps do not account for the technique and movement of a strike in martial arts. This shortfall leaves them lacking in accuracy.
By keeping track of the power of various techniques, the coach and athlete can adjust their training to increase the power of specific techniques and increase the chance of scoring points.
For example, in the “Coach View” on the 2020 Armor mobile app, you can tag specific techniques to measure their power. The athlete would then do a power training session, using the vest, head gear and mobile app, and tag the session as “Right Side, Back Leg, Counter, Back Kick."
By tagging the training sessions, you can track trends over time and see if each specific technique is improving, plateauing or decreasing overall. Based on the results (which the app clearly shows), coach and athlete can adjust their training. It is important to note that when measuring power, you must measure both the vest and headgear on the same mount for accurate results. For example, the power of a kick for a vest tied on a BOB versus a round wavemaster bag will be different because those two bags have different physical properties and density.
Stamina - Joules per 10 seconds (J/10s)
Stamina is power sustained over time. If you hit the same amount of power in the start of the first round as you do at the end of the third round - you have great stamina. The better your stamina, the higher chances of winning.
2020 Armor measures your stamina in energy (Joules) delivered in 10 second intervals, as exchanges in combat sports are typically 6-8 seconds in duration. The harder and more frequently you strike the vest or headgear, the more Joules/10 seconds gets transferred into the system - A.K.A. the more stamina an athlete has.
Stamina in sport is traditionally measured via VO2 max on a treadmill. VO2 max is a great proxy, but due to the complexity and cost of measurement, it's not practical and we don't get enough data points to adjust our training. The fact that a martial arts match varies greatly from running on a treadmill also introduces other inaccuracies.
By studying which moments an athlete's stamina spikes or decreases, we can create adequate strategies for physical training and day-of competition routines to yield a higher chance of winning.
For example, if we see the peak Joules/10s for an athlete occurs during the second half of every round for three rounds, we can say that the athlete is a “late starter” and performs better after getting some comfort in the ring. The coach can devise a strategy to help the athlete start earlier and complete a much longer warm up during competition day to increase their chances of winning.
Conversely, perhaps the athlete is the opposite - they start strong but the J/10s is always trailing at the end of the rounds. This would indicate that their stamina levels are not up to par.
Now you know exactly why reaction time, power and stamina are important for combat sports! Once you start collecting the data, you will start seeing patterns emerge over time. Once you see the patterns, you can make better decisions and win more matches.
Enjoy the fight.