“I’m so fast, that last night I turned off the light switch in my bedroom, and was in bed before the room was dark.”- Muhammad Ali.
I think that I speak for most readers and athletes, when I say that speed is the most important and sough out attribute of them all. Countless times I have heard coaches say that speed is essentially power.
Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather Jr., and many other big names in boxing history claimed their fame with the use of their lighting fast hand speed.
When Ali said that he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, the quote became an instant classic.
His movements were indeed smooth yet quick, and his punches came out of nowhere with surprising speed and accuracy. His ability to impress with his quickness, won him millions of fans!
While most people can explain what they think speed is and how to recognize it, almost no one, including boxing trainers and speed coaches, can answer why and how it comes about.
Recently I was very fortunate to interview an incredibly knowledgeable speed coach Remi Korchemny. Remi’s understanding of physiology, anatomy, and in-depth chemistry, makes him a walking encyclopedia on all that bring about and improves speed.
While I called Remi with intention to discuss speed as it related to boxing, I got much more than that; I was given an explanation of what speed is in the most scientifically detailed way I have ever heard it being discussed.
Before taking a stab at becoming a trainer, Remi worked as a mechanical engineer in the former Soviet Union. He then had success in helping with speed coaching in the Olympics. In 1975 Remi immigrated to New York and continued in his trade, training high school kids.
Later, he was invited to work for Stanford University in California, which he took advantage of and relocated. After a little while, Remi was hired by the U.S. Army, after which he took the leap into opening his own private business.
Remi has trained and in some cases is still coaching a whole stable of past and current famous athletes, including Nonito Donaire Jr., Andre Ward, and Karim Mayfield. Feel free to visit his website for more information: http://www.speedwithremi.com/Home.html
“I am a sous chef. The coach is the head chef. I only prepare the ingredients, the chef then cooks them.” – Remi Korchemny
I hope you enjoy this interview and gain extra knowledge from a man who knows all there is to know about speed.
VS: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with speed training.
RK: I train people to move and run faster for as long as I remember myself being a coach. I have a degree in exercise physiology. While I have a degree in human physiology, my dissertation was in exercises and regime recovery during preparation for speed activities.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be running track, but in every sport you have to move fast. Some sports demand that you demonstrate speed through fatigue: like tennis, boxing, basketball. Other sports demand speed and explosion, but they have more rest and recovery.
While studying, I wanted to know what stress is, and how it affects body metabolism and the nervous system. I also wanted to understand how recovery processes happen between exercises in short, long, and consecutive sessions.
VS: If you had to give the word "speed" your own definition, how would you define it?
RK: Very simple: to deliver your body from point A to point B as soon as possible.
VS: How important is speed in a contact sport such as boxing? Compared to other attributes?
RK: It’s very important to move fast, but it’s more important to reverse your efforts. This kind of activity requires a lot of reversibility.
You have to punch, retreat, go again and finish your job, or just defend yourself. I can compare boxing to tennis; in tennis you also have to move in every direction, and essentially, punch.
VS: How does speed compliment other attributes, such as coordination and power? Do speed and power go hand in hand?
RK: One of the main components of power and speed is muscle strength. The stronger the muscle, the easier it is to move against, and overcome resistance.
Another thing is the strength of the nervous processes: the ability to send very high intensity stimulants to the muscles, and have the muscles respond to the stimulants with adequate strength of contractions.
In reality, power is speed of strength. In order to be a better athlete, you always need to have powerful motion that comes through the delivery of your efforts.
Basically, it’s called explosive power. You have to overcome inertia. I always train the ability to reverse efforts, which brings on another definition: elastic strength.
Which attribute do you think is the most important one in boxing?
This may be a bit complicated. Not too many people know about speed and physiology; they have knowledge about how to deliver skills, but not too many people in any sport know how our body reacts and responds to stress.
It’s just like in nutrition: they tell you to eat this and that, but in reality our body doesn’t know the difference between brands and even items that we eat, it only recognizes the chemicals that make up food.
Our body understands proteins, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins. The body’s job is to send proper enzymes to digest those nutrients. The same goes for sports: our muscles don’t recognize the name of the sport, but only the activity itself.
When I approach boxers and other athletes, I only try to accommodate the request of the neuromuscular system to the request of the sport.
VS: How much of speed is genetics vs. what can acquired or learned?
RK: Speed is very genetic. Fast twitch muscles are very genetic. You can improve any person; you can make the slowest person do something faster then he ever did before, but you can’t make a chicken salad out of beef.
Sometimes people cannot do fast movements for a long time, but with training they develop sprint endurance. Still, the majority of athletes do self selection, selecting the sport that they can do better in.
They pick the sport where they can naturally demonstrate better abilities. The core of my training program consists of two main items: reversal ability and elastic strength. I try to match the activity by time, and develop their metabolism respective to boxing rounds.
Back in the day, they used to do a lot of running, miles and miles, but this only develops general endurance. This can also develop bad knees, shin splints, and a lot of problems that can slow athletes down.
I train them to endure fast bursts of efforts, continuously. In other words, from the point of metabolism, we have lactate metabolism that participates in supporting fast movements. I try to develop a lot of lactate power, or ability to tolerate lactic acid while executing fast movements.
VS: What boxers have you worked with, and how developed are they in the speed department?
RK: Nonito Donaire Jr. and Andre Ward. I know Andre from age of 14 or 15. We always trained together in the same facility in Castro Valley. I always tried to convince his coach Virgil to make Andre run 400 meters.
He is not the fastest guy, but he has great ability to tolerate lactic acid, and develop lactate capacity and endurance. When I worked with him, I tried to utilize his abilities.
VS: What about Nonito Donaire Jr.?
RK: Nonito is much quicker but he is lighter. He had to do much more work to develop the same ability to tolerate lactic acid as compared to Andre. He knew that training will give him a lot of body contamination.
After all, lactic acid and hydrogen free radicals accumulate during training, and affect the whole body system, as they are poison. Basically, I train people’s bodies to tolerate poison.