Improve Your Reflexes with Martial Arts Training

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Studying the martial arts comes with a host of physical benefits, including an improvement in hand-eye coordination and the ability to react quickly in any situation. These benefits are part of the reason that learning a martial art is one of the best ways to master self-defense and learn how to protect yourself.

Self-defense can improve with martial arts reflex training, which involves sparring with other students and internalizing the moves required to combat an attack. This is what you need to know about improving your reflexes with martial arts training.

How Do Martial Arts Classes Improve Reflexes?

Let’s start by reviewing the most important ways that enrolling in a martial arts class can improve your reflexes and thus, your ability to defend yourself.

Repetitive Actions

The way martial arts students begin to improve their reflexes is through repetitive actions. An instructor demonstrates a new punch or kick to students, who then repeat it in slow motion movements that gradually build in speed.

Repetition helps reflexes because it builds muscle memory. When your body remembers a movement, it’s easy to recall it and reduce your reaction time in a real-world situation or in a martial arts competition.

Simple and Complex Reactions

A martial artist begins training by learning simple reactions: when my instructor does A, I do B, and so on. There’s no need to decide what to do because the instructor has outlined the response.

A complex reaction happens when an opponent is involved. Because a martial arts student doesn’t know what the opponent will do, they must react in response to what happens and in accordance with what they’ve learned. This type of reaction is a complex reaction. Both simple and complex reactions can improve reflexes.

Shadowbox Sparring

After drilling new movements, students can practice deflecting attacks from imaginary opponents in something called shadowbox sparring.

Shadowboxing is an intermediate step between practice drills and sparring. It can help students improve their reflexes.


Practice sparring is where martial artists learn how to put what they have learned in their classes to work. Effective sparring requires quick reflexes as fighters simulate a real-world situation. 

Each sparring partner must react to what their training partner does. Every sparring match improves reaction time as the participants evaluate their opponent’s movements and use what they have learned to respond.

Best Martial Arts for Reflexes

As you might expect, some martial arts build good reflexes more quickly than others. Here are some of the best martial arts to build quick reflexes and improve your response times.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is also known as Thai boxing and it’s the national sport of Thailand. Because Muay Thai involves strikes using the hands, elbows, knees, and shins, it requires excellent fitness and fast reflexes because martial artists must combat attacks from multiple levels and locations.


Karate is one of the most popular martial arts because it is a form of unarmed combat that uses various parts of the body. In Karate, defense includes upper, lower, inward, and outward blocks.

Karate students must learn how to block attacks from an opponent using their hands, feet, forearms, elbows, and knees.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga was originally developed for use by the Israeli Army, and it allows some moves that are illegal in other martial arts, including head butting and groin kicks. Unlike Muay Thai and Karate, it also helps students learn how to defend themselves against weapon attacks.

Krav Maga builds excellent reflexes and is ideal for use in real-world situations because of its repetitive drills and flexibility.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art that focuses on the lower body. Students learn a wide variety of kicks and footwork while also using their hands and arms as needed.

Students use their reflexes to gage the height of an incoming attack and learn the best kicks and footwork to avoid the attack and overcome their opponent.

While our focus here has been on building reflexes for self-defense, studying any martial art can help you to improve your reflexes and reduce your reaction time for any unexpected event.


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