Ways to Improve Your Fighting Reflexes

In combat sports, defense and counter attacks are essential aspects that require high skill and reflexes. Reflexes are automatic reactions performed by your body as a response to some action. They’re the reactions that take place when you can’t process an action quick enough. For instance, when you trip and fall, you instinctively place your hands between your body and the ground to minimize the impact. This is to protect the more sensitive and vital parts of your body. Combat sports require reflexes for the same purpose; to block or evade quick attacks from the opponent to protect your sensitive body parts like your face, liver, or kidneys.

Although you can block your opponent’s attacks using your arms, enough damage inflicted to them can fracture or even break the arm. It’s not always the best strategy to defend yourself this way. To avoid this dilemma, martial artists use increased reflexes and movement to their advantage. This movement is the combination of footwork and head movement.

But how do reflexes play a part in this movement?

Blows to the head can result in a knockout. To prevent that, athletes protect their head using sways and ducks. But ducking punches on conscious reactions is impossible to do. That’s where improved reflexes come to play. Athletes train themselves to avoid these attacks using their reflexes. When their opponent attacks their head, instead of guarding their face with their arms, athletes sway their heads out of the way of the blow without thinking.

Every being is born with reflexes but have different reflexive capabilities. So, the question comes to mind; can reflexes be improved and how? Despite being unlearned behaviors, reflexes can be improved through many training drills and even through special diets. In this article, we’ll be discussing a plethora of ways to improve your reflexes, improving your defensive and offensive capabilities in any fight.

Trained Reflexes

Flinching, ducking, or performing any sort of panic movements or attacks can occur as your reaction to an action towards you. This is when your reflexes are not conditioned through training. Having trained reflexes can benefit you in any fight, whether it’s a professional match, during sparring or even in self-defense. Trained and conditioned reflexes can provide you the assets of skilled defense and effective counter attacking.

As you train to perfect your reflexive abilities, your mind is effectively being educated on how to counter your opponents attacks within a split second. Instead of panicking and making mistakes in your movements or counters, you develop the ability to react appropriately to moves thrown at you. Your brain projects what you practiced during your reflex training drills by countering every blow from the opponent.

Ways To Improve Your Reflexes

Developing reflexes can greatly benefit you in any combat sports. Reacting appropriately to a fast attack or even combination of attacks can evolve your defense. Aside from strength and speed, athletes focus on improving their reflexive capabilities. Fighting reflexes can be improved by practicing drills, diet and even through having a healthy lifestyle. Following are the 20 ways you can improve your fight reflexes.

Have a Tyrosine Heavy Diet

A tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid used to develop several brain chemicals. According to research, having a tyrosine-heavy diet greatly improves reflexes. Tyrosine can be found in foods such as eggs, nuts, milk, meat, soybean, salmon, spinach, and cheese. Starting a diet containing tyrosine can build up better reflexes and enhance their situational awareness and general outlook on the environment.

Double End Bag

A double end bag is a type of speed ball used to train your reflexes and punching speed. It consists of an inflatable ball connected by highly elastic cords on both ends. The tension in these cords can be adjusted according to your needs. Typically, the cord is loosened up so it can rebound back and forth, allowing you practice your head movement. It is an effective way to train your reflexes, hand to eye coordination, and punching speed alongside burning fat.

Ample Sleep

An ample sleep is proven to enhance your reflexes by a great margin. Providing yourself with a proper sleep calms your mind and refreshes the body. A well rested body immensely improves your reflexes, allowing you to react to situational awareness appropriately. Athletes are recommended to rest their body and mind by sleeping properly before their fights. This sleep improves their reflexes and decision-making skills while also helping in maintaining concentration.

Playing Video Games

Although most video games do not provide you with any physical exercise, they can train your mind to make quick decisions and improve your reflexes.  It is shown by numerous studies that video games improve hand eye coordination, critical thinking, situational analysis and on the spot decision-making. All these benefits of gaming translate to an all-round improvement of reflexes. A gamer not only receives quality leisure time but also relaxes his mind while doing so. This is very critical in a fight like situation in which such abilities really can flip tables on the adversary.

Cobra Bag

You can train your reflexes by practicing you punches and movement on a cobra bag. It’s a reflex bag consisting of a ball attached to a spring. The heigh of the bag can be adjusted according to your requirements. To prevent the bag from toppling over, it is provided with a stable suction cup base. When the ball is punched, the spring rebounds it back towards you. This allows you to counter the motion of the ball by punching it again or train bobbing and weaving. The harder you punch, the faster the ball retaliates, providing you with improved agility and reflexes.

Playing Sports

Certain sports that require your quick reactions are effective in improving reflexive abilities. Sports like table tennis, badminton, soccer and even dodgeball keep you on your toes and require you to be vigilant. Not only are sports entertaining, but they also burn calories while improving your reflexes. Study shows that the people that indulge in these sports display better reflexes in situations than those who don’t participate in any sports at all.

Boxing paddles

Another effective drill used by athletes is to practice using boxing paddles. These are handheld pad-like sticks used by a trainer or coach. They’re light weight and provide a firm grip to the trainer, making them easier to use. Trainers place the paddles in front of the athletes to deliver a combination of speedy punches. To train reflex however, they are thrown towards the athletes during the combination of punches for them to duck. Boxing paddles are a great way to improve speed, agility, and accuracy all while developing reflexes.


Having a relaxed and calm mind provides clarity while also boosting reflexes. Performing yoga, Zen or just simple meditation can help in calming the mind, cooling the body, and tranquilizing the soul. It is recommended by professionals to do 20 minutes of yoga to calm your mind and soul. This provides a better outlook on any situation. A relaxed mind is a key factor of improving your reaction time.


Having a friendly spar in a sport such as boxing, karate, Jiu jitsu or taekwondo not only develops muscle memory, gradually improves your moves but also improves reflexes which will prove a great deal helpful in a real fight or an unexpected situation. Sparring with a partner provides more understanding of an actual fight. It helps you to understand your weaknesses and strengths while improving your reactions to your opponent’s attacks.

Slip punching bag

While shadow boxing does not play a part in improving reflexes, doing so while dodging a slip punching bag can. A slip bag is a hand sized punching bag attached to a string, allowing it to move freely with a pendulum-like motion. The trainer can practice head and stepping movement to dodging the bag as they shadowbox. This helps in enhancing reflexes and agility alongside burning fat from the constant movement.

Practice in Slow Motion

To etch a certain action as a reflex into the muscle memory requires practicing a said action consistently and repeatedly in slow motion. Doing so ingrains that certain action as a reflex in the muscle memory of the body. In the situation which requires the desired reflex, the body will instantly perform the said action as the reflex which proves valuable in a fight like situation.

Focus Pads

Combat sports are not always about brute strength. An athlete aspiring to be skilled in their sport is required to work on their speed and reaction time. Pad workouts are reliable and popular in improving your reflexes, agility, speed, and hand-eye coordination effectively. Trainers use focus mitts and pads as a part of pad training drills. These pads are made to fit the trainer’s hand within it, providing grip to it. They’re slightly curved to catch punches thrown at them and are used for intense training sessions. To challenge your reaction speed, your partner can demand different fighting combinations during training sessions.

Boxing Sticks

Boxing sticks are handheld sticks with foam padded exterior at one end. Like boxing paddles, the trainee strikes the foamed end of these sticks held by the coach. Due to its linear shape and smaller width, punching them requires more accuracy. The coach can even attack the trainee with these sticks to improve their dodging reflexes. Some boxing sticks have a strap to provide more grip to the holder.

Coin Catch

For someone on a budget, practicing using coins to improve reflexes can be very effective. Place the coin on the back of your hand and throw it in the air. Then catch the coin before it falls on the ground. You can perform this drill with any number of coins. To raise the difficulty and improve reflexes faster, you can increase the number of coins for you to catch.

Elastic Head Ball

You can attach a tennis ball to a band worn on the head with an elastic string. This can allow you to continuously punch the ball with randomized movement of the ball. The elastic string pulls the ball back to you, allowing you to punch it again. This drill improves your reaction speed, timing, and accuracy.


Every human being has been equipped by the nature of reflexes. Athletes from combat sports utilize this ability to defend against the attacks of their opponents and counter them accordingly. Sways, ducks, and appropriately timed counter hits require an athlete to have sharp reflexes.

Although reflexes are natural and exist in every human being, we can improve them. This can be done by practicing different techniques and training drills. Boxers and MMA fighters practice to improve their reflexes on a regular basis. There is even certain equipment designed for the sole purpose of developing one’s reflexes like the cobra reflex bag or the boxing paddles.