In Martial Arts, you learn that timing is everything. Deliver a punch too late and you'll probably miss your target. Deliver a punch too soon and you'll not be a optimal strength. Block too soon or too late and you'll end up on the receiving end of some blow.
Beyond studying the moves involved, it is critical for a Martial Artist to learn how to time their executions. Perfecting your timing involves many steps and different masteries to achieve optimal success.
As should be obvious, reaction drills are essential to developing the necessary skills for timing. If you don't react, you can't ever be on time to respond.
Reaction drills are relatively easy to setup. Last August, we did a series for San Shou where we used 4 different punches, jab, cross, uppercut, and roundhouse. The leader would then call out the punches in varying combinations and timings. In this way, the group builds reaction timing to a vocal command.
Dummy / punching bag drills
In order to know range, one has to practice their range and be able to know what to time to. The physical impact against a dummy or punching bag (even a real live punching bag) helps the body to understand what impact feels like. Through that understanding, the body builds automatic response in knowing how to deliver a technique with force behind it.
Many Martial Artist that focus on the combat aspects often neglect their forms. This is a grave mistake if they want to perfect their timing. Forms are essentially stories of combat unfolding. The predictable nature of forms allows the artist to focus on developing control over your own body. If you study the Internal arts, you know that energy is neither created or destroyed. It comes from all around us to be delivered into the technique. The most powerful component to generating force is not our muscles but our breathe. Learning how to time your breathing with your movement will result in a far stronger offense or defense.
Sparring of any time, even point sparring, helps to build timing. Many who follow mixed martial arts often dismiss point-sparring because the objective is just to reach the target, not necessarily to deliver the technique. So you learn how to get in close enough to attack but you hold back and that could result in a deadly outcome in real situations.
What sparring does, however, is helps to build your response against an actual person in a safe and controlled environment. The unpredictability of your opponent is what will help bring together all the above training into practice.
It is possible to perfect your timing without focusing on each of the different masteries above. However, if you do spend the time in your training to focus on each area above, you will find perfecting your timing will come easier and be more natural.