Punching Power in a Martial Art
Punching Power - Learn the different elements of the punch so you can become a power puncher
Punching is a weapon like any other weapon which a martial art needs to “decide” whether or not is useful for its purposes( To understand the theory behind any martial art)
If so, it will become part of the technical arsenal.
What is the power of a strike?
The power of a strike can be calculated according to [m×v²]\2( To learn more about the energy of motionM – Mass – the weight of the object moving.V – Velocity – the speed at which the object is moving.As we can see, the V is square, meaning that it has a much bigger influence on the power than the mass.(The fact that they are both divided by 2 is not important to our examination)
The world of striking (punching is not different) can be divided into two main categories:
1. Striking at the target - a “whip” like punch which explodes on the point of impact (Boxing usually has this sort of punch)
2. Striking through the target – a “battering ram” like punch which crushes the point of impact and affects the balance of the structure (Karate usually uses this sort of punch, especially when breaking objects.
Hitting the target is usually faster in adapting to change – If we miss we can continue to the next move faster.
Hitting through the target will usually move/off balance our opponent giving us a bit more defense on impact.
Both are good and can be used according to the needs of the martial art and the fighter.
Punching can also be devided into two main categories:
1. Ballistic hitting – This hit imitates throwing an object – the object being our fist.
2. Body supported hit – This hit is the one commonly used. Like its name its strike is supported by the whole body.
[These strikes can be cleverly looked upon with the help of Newton’s third law of physics – “The power I give is the same I receive but in the opposite direction” ( To read more about Newton's laws of physics...)
So the first hit would be like a stone hitting an object, and will jump off after the hit, where is the second will be supported by our body and will be deflected back into it – therefore the need for proper structure and alignment]
The elements of a power hit
A power hit utilizes the body weight and not just the weight of the arm.In order to achieve this we must set our body in motion we must give it speed, so that it can become the “mass” factor in the equation.
We can therefore withdraw that having a large mass or being heavy; will contribute to the power of the hit.
However, as we saw in the equation, the main factor and the most contributing factor or element to a power hit is the speed factor (that’s why we have feather weights with monstrous or very powerful strikes).
If we need to decide between putting on muscle to gain mass which will make us slower, or training to improve our speed it will be better to choose the second.
How then, can we create speed? Speed to move our body and speed for the arm, which will combine into one explosion when we hit our target.
In researches which examined the contribution of physical elements to the striking power of world class punchers; scientists came to some very interesting conclusions:
There are three main physical elements which affects the power of the hit:
1. Leg power – (power turns into speed) – 39%
2. Rotation power - (power turns into speed) – 36%
3. Arm power – (power turns into speed) - 25%
The leg power is the most important element. When reviewing m×v² we understand that the legs give the speed to the heaviest component of our punch - our body.
Leg power can be divided into two factors:
• The pushing of the feet
• The extension of the legs
Rotation power can be divided into two factors as well:
• Rotation of the hip and waist
• Rotation of the core and especially upper body
There are two technical elements which contribute to the speed and power generated in the hit:
1. The rotation of the upper body is delayed in comparison to the hip and waist in order to utilize the upper body’s rotational muscles and to form a spring or elastic like effect between the hip and the upper body.
The same technical element is used between the extension of the arm and the rotation of the upper body.
2. The turning pivot or the center axe on which we turn is further away as possible from the hit it self. This gives the punch the largest distance possible in order to attain maximum speed. We achieve this in two ways:
• Shifting weight from one leg to another.
• The turning pivot or axe is on the far side of our hit.
* It is important to understand that the hit should be delivered at exactly the same time as the weight is distributed to the forward leg.
The only thing which has a delay between it’s motions is the rotations of the different body parts, (in order to utilize the elastic effect).
All the elements, however, must combine at the same time at the moment of impact, (this is possible because the hands are quicker than the body...).
If one element is delayed on impact than we won't be utilizing our full power potential.
Arm extension – The muscles which extend the arm:
• Muscles which connect the arm to the shoulder and back
• Muscles which connect the arm to the forearm.
The last thing which is vital for a powerful hit is the contraction of all muscles on impact, a fixation of the joints, in order to maintain the structure and to allow as much force as possible to be delivered to what we’re hitting without losing some of it to "breaking points" along our strike –
Newton’s third law of physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - the force we apply to something applies equally back to us but in the opposite direction.
Lack of structure while striking is equivalent to using a partly broken bat to hit a baseball – The stick can break on impact, or just break a bit more; either way the ball will not receive the full power of the strike.
This muscle contraction must be at the last moment to prevent stoppage of speed before impact.
* Ballistic punching (which we examined above) is done without this contraction.
Another element of the strikes ability to withstand the hit is derived from the strength of the bones especially the fist and the little bones within the hand. Much preparation is put so that our fist can endure the power we generate.
Aside from technically performing the strike with a good alignment of the joints and bones, there is another important attribute which we drive from our punching drills:
According to Wolff’s law and other researches which followed, the more pressure we put on a bone the more it increases in weight and density. This provides two major advantages:
1. The bones, even in the hands, are not easily broken (we can see this also as calluses – which are calcium deposits).
2. The bones become heavier – which improves the “Mass” factor in the kinetic equation. Martial artists and especially strikers are known for their heavy hands.
First of all what is torque?
T = r x F
T= torque, r = the distance from the point of pivot also referred to as the moment arm, F= power. For more information about torque
Simply put the further our fist is positioned from our pivot or turning axle the easier it is to influence our core or balance. This is only relevant, however, when the hit has more than a moment of consistency on the object (a “battering ram” like strike).
If the strike is one that explodes on impact – then the torque component is irrelevant.
When examining the rotational component of the strike, we understood that the further away our hitting point is from our pivot the more velocity it gains; the torque component is the balancing part of this feature.
We must find a balanced distance in which our structure can maintain itself, so that maximum force can be delivered without structure break and or our disposition.
Line of striking
Another aspect of the structure is the line of striking and it is specifically connected to Newton’s third law as well
Three main directions –
1. Directing the line to the ground resulting in us getting the support for our hit from it. For a “battering ram” punch it is especially important to use this strike, because we hold the point of impact a bit longer.
This is usually achieved with a more vertical punch and the elbow down. Or as an uppercut punch.
2. Directing the line from up to down, this allows gravity to play a more important role in the strike when delivered at the right moment.
These strikes are common when fighting a shorter opponent, but the technique in delivering it must be a bit different, mainly the bending of the knee on impact to add a downward effect.
Also the hit itself can be thrown as an over head hook, for obtaining the downward motion.
3. Parallel to the ground line of punch. This hit uses the structure itself without added support form ground or gravity, in these strikes the structure must be even stronger then usual and the speed faster so we don’t get pushed or knocked back from our own hits.
All strikes have a certain combination of these lines depending on the vectors or their direction of impact.
3 main methods to train and improve striking power:
• Weight training – training each muscle group with different percentages of body weight and maximum ability. Specialists found that training the three elements gives the best results when exercised separately from one another.
• Technical and coordination training – as we saw above, if there is no coordination between the muscle groups, then their “individual” strength will have little significance. We can train this with wall bags, makiwara, heavy bags, pad work and such…
• Structure training – as we discussed earlier, according to Newton’s third law of physics, we must build our hitting structure in order to withstand the impact of the hit.
This is done through performing high resistance striking – wall bag (but stuffed with clothe rather than corn, for instance) , mikiwara, heavy bag work when it is moving towards our strike, elastic rubber bands and more.
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Elements which affect punching results
Stress – Stress is a mental element ( To learn more about mental training…) which has substantial effects on our physical ability. The more stress we’re under the more adrenaline is pumped into our blood.
When the stress is a result of or transformed into readiness this can give more power to the hit. When the stress is a result of or transformed into fear, this will reduce the power for the body becomes “heavy”.
Timing – The timing and position of “meeting” our opponent –
Is our opponent moving towards us (combines his speed with ours) or away (reduces our overall speed)?
Are we moving backwards (this doesn’t allow us to put our body weight into the hit and reduces the end results of the rotation and arm extension speed because our whole body is moving against the direction of movement), forward (the natural way) or aside (reduces the body speed similarly to moving backwards but allows greater rotation effect to than the backward motion)?
Point of hit – Certain areas are more vulnerable than others – striking the chin has more potential to cause a knock out (more on knockouts in future articles) than hitting the nose. Hitting the kidney can neutralize our opponent more easily than hitting his chest…
Readiness for starting the hit – Most of the time in a fight we do not know exactly when the right time to strike will be, “preventing" us to apply our full potential of power(balance not distributed correctly, improperly turned...)
Readiness for getting hit – If our body can “see” a strike coming it can prepare itself. A moment before we get hit our body contracts it’s muscle to protect its vital and internal organs.
If we can “sneak” our hit without being “detected” (for instance a big parameter hook) we can knockout or neutralize our opponent with less power normally needed.
Conclusions - Changing the maximum power punch to optimal punching power
Power is not everything, and in some cases we will rather give a "softer" punch in order to attain a different advantage.
For instance some punchers rather not delay the rotation of the different elements so they can deliver the punch a moment faster. Or one will prefer to keep the elbow close to the body when hitting, so as to not expose his body for hits.
We must design our strikes to asses our needs – a boxer,for instance, must have strong strikes, more than the street fighter has to have. A famous Wing chun saying is: why run over someone with a truck when a car is enough?!
However, having sufficient power is important for our self confidence and for gaining a mental edge once in a fight. It is not uncommon to raise fear in our opponent after landing a good punch even if it didn’t finish the fight, and if we landed a solid one without good results it is likely that the "mental tables" will turn not to our favor.
The punch is one of the most common weapons in modern day fighting, we must train it well
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