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"Coaching The SKU Way!" Official SKU Coaching Resource

First Published Aug 2013   Issue 52    SKU Quarterly Magazine

Speed Comparison

by Derick Kirkham

Speed Comparison

People often misuse the word speed in a generic catch all form in a sporting context; they use it when referring to the time that one takes to respond to an external stimuli, ones reaction time; they could equally be referring to ones reflex action time; they could be referring to the time taken to come to a decision; they could also mean the time taken to deliver a technique from its start to its finish. The latter is the most commonly used definition of speed, however, lines do tend to get blurred between all of the above examples and speed sometimes gets confused with velocity.


The understanding of the concept of force was an essential part to the development of both mechanics and physics. A force is accepted to be a push or pull that is experienced by a mass when it is accelerated.

Force = Mass x Acceleration which is Newton's second law of motion.


Power in physics can be expressed in terms of an applied force. Power = Force x Velocity

A powerful karate-ka is both strong and fast. But a strong and fast karate-ka may not always possess the refined quality of correct technique, good form. However, if a karate-ka who displays correct form and delivers their technique with maximum speed, then they will be displaying their true potentiality through the delivery of a powerful technique.


Velocity is the rate at which an object changes its position. The direction in which the object travels is a key factor in its measurement. Think of a Karate-ka practicing in isolation, the two technique sequence from bassai dai, where they move rapidly one step forward with shuto uke and then immediately one step backward with shuto uke. Despite the flurry of motion that this sequence generates, because it always returns the performer back to their original starting position, it is treated by its physics definition that there has been no change to its original position and therefore would return a measurement of zero velocity.

Velocity = Displacement / Time


Speed is how fast an object is moving. Speed = Distance / Time


Correct Technique + Speed = Power

This is a karate refined definition of power and therefore, its associated formula relies upon the following conditions to be true; that (correct technique CT) is equal to a technique that aims to be and does deliver a technique that is, a: executed with the minimum of disruptive effect to the performer and b: has the minimal negative effect on the performers stance, posture, balance, stability and composure; while it has, c: the maximum destructive effect on the recipient of the technique. CT should exploit to its advantage all of the mechanical principles that apply to the movement of the human body, and harness the laws of physics in a smooth and efficient manner to generate the maximum amount of destructive force that the individual performer is capable of generating, in return for the minimum amount of exerted effort.

It is obvious that the common denominator in all of the related equations is the element of speed, so let's compare the following examples of speed.

Units of Measurement used

FPS Feet Per Second,
MPH Miles Per Hour,
MPS Meters per Second,
Secs Seconds,
MLS MilliSeconds,
Mach MachSpeed.

Pro Boxer punch 1
30 FPS 20.45 MPH

Nakayama data straight punch 2
23.43 FPS 15.98 MPH 7.1 MPS

Nakayama data lunge punch 2
41.71 FPS 28.44 MPH 12.64 MPS

Fastest recorded karate punch to reach a target 3 feet away 3
64.53 FPS 44 MPH 460 MLS 0.46 SECS

Martial arts kick mawashigeri 4
145 FPS 99 MPH Capoeira
199.5 FPS 136 MPH Tae Kwon Do

Martial arts kick maegeri 4, 5
102 FPS 70 MPH Karate 4
134.9 FPS 92 MPH Karate 5

Neuro signal transmission speed 5
388.7 FPS 265 MPH 80 MLS 0.08 SECS

Speed of a blink 5
400 MLS 0.4 SECS

Normal human reflex to register the audible cue of a gunshot 6
300 MLS 0.3 SECS

Speed of sound 7
1126 FPS 768 MPH 1 MACH

Usain Bolt speed at the 60 to 80 meter stage of the Beijing 2008 Olympic 100 meters final was recorded 8
40.2 FPS 27.44 MPH 10.15228 MPS

Usain Bolts' reaction time at the 2008 Beijing Olympic 100 meter final 8
165 MLS 0.165 SECS

Reaction times of the other seven finalists 8
133 MLS 0.133 SECS
134 MLS 0.134 SECS
142 MLS 0.142 SECS
145 MLS 0.145 SECS
147 MLS 0.147 SECS
165 MLS 0.165 SECS
169 MLS 0.169 SECS

Cheetah 4
110 FPS 75 MPH
Horse 4
80.2 FPS 54.7 MPH
Tiger 4
72.9 FPS 49.7 MPH

Fastest recorded karate punch to reach a target 3 feet away 3
64.53 FPS 44 MPH

Greyhound 4
57.9 FPS 39.5 MPH

Nakayama data lunge punch 2
41.712 FPS 28.44 MPH

Diamond back rattle snake strike 4
15 FPS 10.23 MPH

Pistol fast draw shooting is the fastest known recorded human physical activity. Bob Munden to draw, cock, shoot & hit a target as a self-starter (not as a response test) has been recorded at 9, 10
20 MLS 0.02 SECS

The fastest reaction time of an exponent of pistol fast draw 9, 10
145 MLS 0.145 SECS

Bullet from hand pistol travels at 10
308 FPS 210 MPH

Arrow travels at 10
250 FPS 170.45 MPH

Honda Formula One car in the Mojave desert clocked 11
376.58 FPS 256.765 MPH

Fighter jet 12
3226.7 FPS 2200 MPH 3.2 Mach

Fastball in baseball is thrown 13
139.3 FPS 95 MPH

Reaction time of a pro baseball player 13
110 MLS 0.11 SECS

Reaction time of a pro ice hockey player Olaf Kolzig 13
100 MLS 0.10 SECS

Average reaction time of a non-athlete 14
215 MLS 0.215 SECS

Average reaction time of Karate-ka 14
138 MLS 0.138 SECS

Fastest a human being can react 8
100 MLS 0.10 SECS


1 ESPN Sport Science
2 Nakayama, M. (1976) : Dynamic Karate. Tokyo : Kodansha.
3 ESPN Sport Science
4 National Geographic Fight Science
5 ESPN Sport Science
6 ESPN Sport Science
7 ESPN Sport Science
8 ABC Science of Olympic Gold
9 ESPN Sport Science
10 ESPN Sport Science
12 Wikipaedia
13 ESPN Sport Science
14 Kirkham, D . (2012) "Study of values of Sambon Kumite" Shotokan Karate Union Quarterly Magazine, Issue 46
15 FSN Sports Science

Good Luck and Good Practice.