Tactile Reflexes

Tactile reflexes involve the ability to quickly react to the stimulus of touch. It is the attribute referred to as “sensitivity” in martial arts. 

Ninety-five percent of all street fights and MMA bouts will end up in the close distance and/or grappling range. In this range, it is not likely that you will “see” the attack coming. With tactile reflexes, you will not need to see where your hands are in relation to your adversary—because you will “feel” your position in relation to your opponent.

With practice, you will learn to instantly feel what the opponent is attempting to do by quickly reading the direction of his body force. Using this awareness, you can take the opponent’s energy and do one of three things:

1. Dissolve the energy (by evading and/or slipping).

2. Redirect the energy (by blocking or parrying).

3. Crash the energy (by stop-hitting or countering).

To make maximum use of your tactile reflexes, it is imperative that you stay relaxed when you come into contact with the opponent. It is through relaxation that you will find speed and explosiveness in your actions.

Tactile reflexes are usually highly developed in people who study such arts as Judo, Jujitsu, Dumog, Wrestling, Aikido, Wing Chun, and Muay Thai. To maximize your tactile reflexes: you should train in martial arts that emphasize close-range fighting.

Sensitivity Drills

There are many drills that you can use to develop your tactile reflexes. However, be careful not to get caught up in the drill itself. The drills are only a means to an end. Your purpose is to develop superior tactile reflexes that will enable you to easily dominate an opponent in the closer fighting ranges.

 You will do best to find a partner who is familiar with the drills of martial arts that specialize in the in-fighting, close-quarter, trapping, clinching, and grappling ranges. The drills you choose are important, but the effort you put into each drill is just as important.

Secret: To get better results from any sensitivity drill, try it blindfolded. This forces you to heighten your sense of touch, which will lead to rapid improvement in your tactile reflexes.

The following are basic drills for developing tactile sensitivity.

Single Hand Sensitivity Drill

Take your fighting position. Have your training partner do the same. Now, you should both extend your lead fighting hands until they are touching at the wrist (like two swords that are crossed). Place your rear hand behind your back.               

Now, both of you should close your eyes.  Relax. Try to feel each other’s energy for a while.  The primary goal is to stay in contact with your partner’s hand.

Have your partner try to disengage (leave) your hand and strike your torso. If you are relaxed and aware of your partner’s energy, you should not be struck. You should successfully “stick” to your partner’s hand and prevent him or her from striking you. Resume starting positions and begin again. Remember to keep your eyes closed.

As your tactile reflexes improve, you can move closer and closer to the opponent with this drill.

Double Hand Sensitivity Drill

Take a fighting position. Engage both of your partners’ hands with both of your hands. Relax. Now try to quickly, but lightly, strike your partner by leaving or tying up his or her hands. Your partner should attempt to do the same. Remember to not strain. Relaxation is the key to speed.

Blind Grappling

Start off with both you and your partner blindfolded. Now engage each other from a starting wrestling or judo position until you can both feel each other’s arms and torso.

Try to take your partner down by feeling his or her energy and seizing the perfect moment when your partner is pushing or pulling in the wrong direction. This requires an acute awareness.

In competition or self-defense, you have only a split second to feel the energy as your partner gets closer. At long range, you should be relaxed and patient while waiting to attack. But as the gap closes, you should become instantaneously more focused, explosive, and relentless in your attack.

Speed Training Tip

The key to maximizing an attribute rapidly is to isolate the attribute, and force it to adapt to consistently increasing demands. After doing these drills with your eyes closed or blindfolded, you will notice that your awareness is heightened when reverting back to doing drills with your eyes open.