T Nation

Powerful MA/Fighting Techniques

I decided to post here because of an ongoing conversation a few of us have been having on a different thread. And also because I trained in a completely new style last Monday (Washin Ryu), and when talking to the sensei about my observations of their style and his about my own (Isshin Ryu), we seemed to have agreed to disagree about where and how we derive our power for a punch.

I’ve trained in Isshin Ryu for 17 years, and it’s a typical Okinawan style (basically an aggressive defensive style), but my instruction blended in different Chinese and Japanese styles as well (Wing Chun, Bojutsu, etc).

When I punch in Isshin Ryu, I punch with a vertical fist straight out to the solar plexus. But that’s only my upper body. My lower body is in a “dragon walking stance.” We base it off of Pa Kua Chang’s Wutang gung fu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baguazhang).

As I punch, my rear leg pushes my hip and then my whole body reacts in a sling-shot-esque matter.

It sounds weird, but I’ve done damage with it. And for a belt test, I used the drive mentioned above with a spear hand to break boards.

Boards don’t hit back.

The source of power in punching isn’t really up for debate, at least according to Sir Isaac Newton. It’s derived from mass traveling through space at a given speed.

Looking at things from a “style vs style” standpoint always winds up in dispute as people tend to become emotionally attached to styles and thus don’t like to think that their style might be “wrong”. Instead it’s best to look at punching power from a biomechanics/kinesiology/physics standpoint as that is a neutral and objective perspective.

So, in order to generate maximal momentum/kinetic energy (I’ve heard both definitions used), we need to maximize 3 variables

  1. Mass transfer- you need to get as much of the body mass moving into the punch as possible
  2. Speed/velocity/acceleration- slow speed + high mass transfer= push, high speed + high mass transfer= punch/impact
  3. Bracing- Newton’s third law states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This means that when you generate force forwards, there is an equal amount of force in the opposite direction that must be braced against (or else the fighter/puncher will be pushed backwards and the target will not experience the full energy of the punch). This has to do with maximizing leverage/bone structure alignment on impact and through the target

If any of these factors are not maximized/optimized, the punch will not generate maximal force.

A true full power punch should send a heavy bag flying through the air (regardless of which hand it’s thrown with), a partner holding a kick shield flying backwards several feet (if holding the pad on their chest) while also knocking the wind out of them, and should not even be capable of being caught with a focus mitt (unless there is a BIG difference in terms of weight and/or strength between the pad holder and puncher), or drop/KO most opponents (there are some freakish monsters out there though, so nothing is a guarantee in all cases).

That said, it’s not very often that one will ever get the chance/need to throw a full power punch in a fight, especially in the ring. Still, if one knows how to truly maximize punching power, then the mechanics can be utilized (albeit in an abbreviated fashion) in your regular punching as well.

its all about structure and bringing that kinetic energy through the power line, I practice JKD, when we throw the straight lead it has the body completely in place as a power line behind it, similar to a fencer but with no sword… http://youtu.be/E8iiCu_EIe0

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

Looking at things from a “style vs style” standpoint always winds up in dispute as people tend to become emotionally attached to styles and thus don’t like to think that their style might be “wrong”. Instead it’s best to look at punching power from a biomechanics/kinesiology/physics standpoint as that is a neutral and objective perspective.

[/quote]

Ain’t that the truth.

I just find it curious and interesting because there is that dispute. When I drive my hips, my rear heel is coming off the ground. But in other styles, the rear foot stays relatively unmoved.

Through proper training, we can derive the power we need for a strike. I had it explained to me multiple times for my style and that’s why I asked: I’ve heard similar versions my entire training career (so pretty much my entire life), that I wanna see what other have to say. It’s like the punching. I never heard any other theory other than using the top two knuckles to punch, so when you brought up using the bottom ones I was taken aback by it.

[quote]Seachel_25 wrote:

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

Looking at things from a “style vs style” standpoint always winds up in dispute as people tend to become emotionally attached to styles and thus don’t like to think that their style might be “wrong”. Instead it’s best to look at punching power from a biomechanics/kinesiology/physics standpoint as that is a neutral and objective perspective.

[/quote]

Ain’t that the truth.

I just find it curious and interesting because there is that dispute. When I drive my hips, my rear heel is coming off the ground. But in other styles, the rear foot stays relatively unmoved.

Through proper training, we can derive the power we need for a strike. I had it explained to me multiple times for my style and that’s why I asked: I’ve heard similar versions my entire training career (so pretty much my entire life), that I wanna see what other have to say. It’s like the punching. I never heard any other theory other than using the top two knuckles to punch, so when you brought up using the bottom ones I was taken aback by it.[/quote]

Like I said, the emotional attachment to styles gets in the way of objective critique. We are all humans and we are all governed by the laws of physics, therefore there is a “best” punching technique in terms of generating power that is not dependent on style, nationality, age, or gender. Bruce Lee knew this and studied human movement, human performance, and looked around for the best power punchers that he could and used that knowledge to maximize his punching power. Rich Ryan has done the same thing with his Dynamic Combat Method and IMO has the best (meaning most easily internalized, most easily to teach to others, and devastatingly effective) method of developing/teaching maximal punching power that I have ever seen. Boxing as a system would be the most readily available and effective punching art though (which isn’t surprising since punching is essentially all that boxers do).

In spite of what I said about styles before though, and at the risk of sounding like an elitist hypocrite, I’ve honestly gotta say that I have yet to see any Traditional Martial Art really teach power punching optimally. But admittedly I haven’t trained in them all, nor have I trained with all TMA instructors, so I’m not saying that none do. That also doesn’t mean that their punches don’t have any power; just that in all cases that I’ve seen/trained with, it could be better with the right coaching. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but it’s an honest observation and I’m ultimately willing to hurt some feelings if it means that even one person goes out and learns how to punch harder and possibly uses it to effectively defend themselves.

In regards to striking with the middle, ring, and pinky knuckles rather than the pointer and middle finger knuckles, the argument is that the middle and ring metacarpals are the only two that can perfectly line up with the Radius and Unla bones. If for instance you get into a push up position in your fists and try supporting yourself on your first two knuckles vs on your bottom 3 knuckles you’ll find that the wrists feel more stable on the bottom 3 knuckles. This is the fist structure that Wing Chun Gong Fu utilizes, as do JKD, Dynamic Combat, and other arts who have Wing Chun lineage/heritage. Boxers like Jack Dempsey and kick boxers like Joe Lewis also preferred this method.

Of course the trade off is that the pinky and ring metacarpals are generally smaller and less durable than the pointer and middle metacarpals (like we already mentioned). So one has to determine what method works better for them, what the conditions they are likely to use them in (will the hands be wrapped/taped thus unifying the bones of the hand and further protected by padded gloves, or will they be unwrapped and and ungloved). Then just develop that weapon to it’s maximum potential.

^ Dempsey also made the point that the pinky is the end point of the powerline from the shoulder. I feel personally that striking with the top two knuckles compromises the stability of the wrist and would lead to injury if done repeatedly as part of a sport that required a lot of striking. I also had someone who learned aikido tell me (aggressively in a bar) that he struck with the top two knuckles, that all boxers and bareknuckle prizefighters had got it wrong, and that an aikido practitioner would smash a boxer in a fist fight as a result. Walked away from that one before he was tempted to try and prove it.

Also, if Joe Lewis hit with the bottom three knuckles, that more or less ends the debate.

[quote]LondonBoxer123 wrote:
Also, if Joe Lewis hit with the bottom three knuckles, that more or less ends the debate. [/quote]

I think that about sums it up.

Having punched with the bottom three knuckles in Whin Chun and the top two boxing, I can say that they both have their time and place. I don’t get to worked up about what is connecting with my opponent so long as my fist is tight, my technique drives the punch through properly and he gets a black eye. When I strike in gloves, I don’t visualise any specific knuckles making contact. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just plant the fist as accurately as possible and underneath my wraps, it would probably look like I was striking with just my bust up middle knuckle. But it’s the whole face of my fist really.

While i agree one hundred percent with Sento’s physics of a strike, i would also like to add that ‘efficiency of energy transfer’ or coordinating all that speed/mass into a single point at the same point in time is also of paramount importance.

For example 2 men could put the same amount of energy (force + speed) into using a whip, but the one who uses it with the right coordination can generate tremendous force at a single point, and the other could be almost as useless as a man trying to swing at a baseball with a rope. Similarly, 2 men throwing a baseball with the same amount of energy input, one could throw a 100mph fastball, and the other might only throw 60, or could conceivably dislocate his shoulder and the ball goes no where!

Not that this is news to any of you, but can’t stress enough the importance of proper coordination (practice), or transfer of energy through the kinetic chain to the point of striking. This is why the best seem to be able to generate so much power with so little effort, and without getting tired > less wasted energy.

[quote]zenontheterrible wrote:
While i agree one hundred percent with Sento’s physics of a strike, i would also like to add that ‘efficiency of energy transfer’ or coordinating all that speed/mass into a single point at the same point in time is also of paramount importance.

For example 2 men could put the same amount of energy (force + speed) into using a whip, but the one who uses it with the right coordination can generate tremendous force at a single point, and the other could be almost as useless as a man trying to swing at a baseball with a rope. Similarly, 2 men throwing a baseball with the same amount of energy input, one could throw a 100mph fastball, and the other might only throw 60, or could conceivably dislocate his shoulder and the ball goes no where!

Not that this is news to any of you, but can’t stress enough the importance of proper coordination (practice), or transfer of energy through the kinetic chain to the point of striking. This is why the best seem to be able to generate so much power with so little effort, and without getting tired > less wasted energy. [/quote]

Absolutely. There are a lot of moving parts during a punch (especially a maximum power punch), and they all have to move at the right time, in the correct direction, and wind up in the right place in order to maximize the amount of the force generated that actually gets transferred to the target.

[quote]LondonBoxer123 wrote:
^ Dempsey also made the point that the pinky is the end point of the powerline from the shoulder. I feel personally that striking with the top two knuckles compromises the stability of the wrist and would lead to injury if done repeatedly as part of a sport that required a lot of striking. I also had someone who learned aikido tell me (aggressively in a bar) that he struck with the top two knuckles, that all boxers and bareknuckle prizefighters had got it wrong, and that an aikido practitioner would smash a boxer in a fist fight as a result. Walked away from that one before he was tempted to try and prove it. [/quote]

I tend to agree with punching with the bottom three knuckles if maximal power is the goal, and yeah Joe doing so obviously influenced my opinion on the subject. That said, I generally prefer to use the first two knuckles when jabbing as it provides for slightly more reach (which most of us can appreciate) and since most jabs aren’t power punches, there is enough stability in the wrist for the job if proper wrist alignment is adopted.

I agree with Pidgeon though that as long as it’s a tight fist and my knuckles land on the target, that’s the most important thing.

[quote]Pigeonkak wrote:
Having punched with the bottom three knuckles in Whin Chun and the top two boxing, I can say that they both have their time and place. I don’t get to worked up about what is connecting with my opponent so long as my fist is tight, my technique drives the punch through properly and he gets a black eye. When I strike in gloves, I don’t visualise any specific knuckles making contact. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just plant the fist as accurately as possible and underneath my wraps, it would probably look like I was striking with just my bust up middle knuckle. But it’s the whole face of my fist really.[/quote]

Agreed. Having broken one knuckle and mashed up a couple others - all in different spots - I can say that you land the punch when you can land it. If you can pick which knuckles you’re hitting with, you must be fighting a corpse, because where I come from people’s heads move.

The worst break I ever had was my middle right knuckle though. So don’t think that just cause you’re making contact with the “right” knuckles, you’re safe from breaking your hands… cause you’re not.

And I agree with Sento. I’ve seen a lot of TMAs, and the more I see the more disgusted I am with them. But the one thing that pissed me off the most is that they never even taught you how to punch right - the never make use of the foot pivot, they don’t concentrate on turning the whole body into the punch, and they never, never, NEVER tell you to relax and snap the punch like a boxer does.

They may strike with a reasonable amount of force, but their techniques are mostly just inherently flawed if you’re looking for power punching.