Training in traditional martial arts simultaneously trains you on several different levels. Not properly understanding this can lead to confusion and trying to apply a given technique in an inappropriate manner. So first of all, lets look at the different levels at which any technique actually trains you: Continue reading “The Different Levels Of Traditional Martial Arts Training” »
Some of the newer and more reality based martial arts which emphasise real self protection (as opposed to sport) such as Krav Maga and Systema argue that the strength of their system is that they emphasise principles of movement rather than techniques. They argue that most of the older Oriental martial arts by contrast put the emphasis the other way round, on techniques more than principles. They argue that this makes their arts better for learning self defence more quickly and effectively. Continue reading “Techniques As A “Shorthand” For Learning Principles” »
I have done a very similar video to this before about maximising the thrust in the reverse punch (gyaka zuki). This time however, I wanted to take it a bit further by adding a sliding step, which is a very useful and powerful technique from both competition and self protection points of views. It moves the body weight forward further and even more rapidly giving a lot of acceleration, impact and covers distance in a very deceptive manner. Continue reading “Reverse Punch With Sliding Step” »
“Kime” is a Japanese word, roughly translated as “focus”. It is where Karate derives it’s power from at the point of impact of a punching or striking technique. But how well is it understood? Continue reading “Karate Kime (Focus) & Tension At The End Of The Technique” »
Following on from (and inter-related with) Part 1, we are now going to look at body alignments, in particular with legs and stance. Continue reading “Martial Arts Training With Joint Injuries (Part 2)” »
Having suffered with joint injuries myself, especially to the knee, I know how frustrating it can be and the limiting impact it can have on your training.
I have found some very minor adjustments in training which have helped me to cope with the knee problems that I have suffered with. I don’t claim that this will work for everybody or that it will be a wonder-cure, I just want to share what has helped me and hope that it will help others too. Continue reading “Martial Arts Training With Joint Injuries (Part 1)” »
Diaphragmatic breathing is used in many traditional martial arts, but I don’t think that all martial artists completely realise the full extent of how important this really is. It actually helps us on a number of different levels.
But first though for anybody new to martial arts (or this concept) lets have a look at what diaphragmatic breathing actually is. Continue reading “Diaphragmatic Breathing In Martial Arts” »
In many martial arts we are taught that on the climax of our technique we should “sink” into our stance. I will admit that if my knees are sore, I sometimes find this quite difficult to do.
But firstly, why do we do it? “Sinking” at the climax of out technique is a way improving our skeletal structure and helping us for form an immovable “root” to the ground, thus enabling us to more efficiently absorb the reaction energy to any impact from our blows. Continue reading ““Sinking” In Your Stance At The End Of A Technique” »
The “corkscrew” punch where we rotate the fist at the end of the punch is unique to Oriental martial arts.
Twisting the fist is something that we all know about and take for granted. And why shouldn’t we, we’ve been doing it since our very first class in Karate/Tae Kwon Do/most styles of Kung Fu . The reason that I write about it here, is because I believe that it is something that though deeply ingrained into us, is still not done quite right by a good many people.
It may sound a bit strange to question something so basic, but bare with me. Although many will be doing what I describe below, a good many others will not be.
Why not? Because people will rotate the fist to get it into it’s correct finishing position, but not think about how the rest of the arm is moving to get it there!
It would be more correct to say that you should “twist your forearm”. The fist is actually incapable of rotating on its own, it is only capable of moving up and down in a waving/hinged motion when isolated from any other arm movement.
Try this little exercise. Perform any linear punch, then just freeze for a second with the arm in the extended punch position (no snap back). Now keep check if the crease of your elbow joint (where it folds) is pointing upwards or inwards. If you are not sure, then being very careful not to move the upper arm at all, bend the elbow. It the fist rises up then the crease of the elbow joint is facing up. If the fist moves inward (parallel to the floor) then the crease of the elbow is pointing inwards.
So why should you care about that?
Like the fist, the elbow is incapable of rotating itself, it is a hinge joint rather than a ball joint. From the starting position with the fist at the hip, the crease of the elbow joint points forward. As the arm is extended forward (without rotating), the elbow crease should end up pointing upwards.
For the elbow to rotate (so that the elbow crease points inward), you actually have to rotate the arm in the shoulder socket. To be a bit more technical, you rotate the humerus bone in the ball socket at the shoulder.
This is something that you shouldn’t be doing. Firstly it is an unnecessary movement of the shoulder joint and as we progress, we should be looking to take out all unnecessary movements. Secondly, it creates a small jarring feeling at the elbow, so it is not good for the long term health of either shoulder or elbow joint.
Furthermore, it’s a less efficient punching technique, so it is less effective if you really need it.
Try standing in front of a mirror with you arm and shoulders exposed. Now extend your arm in front of you and towards the mirror. Don’t worry about making a fist or any technique, just relax. Now rotate the whole arm several times at the shoulder joint. You will notice when you look closely that upper arm actually moves very slightly away from the body when you rotate the arm so that the elbow crease points inwards rather than upwards. Linear techniques are based on having the body weight behind them, so anything that takes the strike sideways away from the body will weaken that technique.
Granted, this is a very slight outward movement, but as you get more advanced, so it become more about fine detail.
It also effects your muscular alignments too. The shoulder and lateral muscles (underneath the arm pits) act as shock absorbers and maintain the body structure when you strike a target and receive a reaction force from the impact. Rotating the humerus outward in the shoulder socket slightly stretches those muscles making them less efficient at absorbing that reaction force.
Furthermore, when you punch, you use your triceps to extend your arm. The triceps work more efficiently with the crease of the elbow facing upwards. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who does weight training, or look up “triceps curls” on Youtube.
The bones of the forearm (the ulna and radius) are much smaller and they can rotate around each other. There is not a big ball in socket rotation required as with rotating the humerus in the shoulder socket.
If you are not used to doing it this way, it may feel awkward at first and you may not be able to fully rotate the fist all the way over. Stick with it, your forearm muscles will become more flexible and it will become easier. You’ll find when you get used to it that the whole punch is much smoother than when you rotate the shoulder joint.
There is an argument that the bone alignment is weaker when the ulna and radius are rotated about each other. However, the idea when punching is that you actually make contact with the target before rotating the forearm (when the fist is still palm up). So the point of impact is when these bones are still in a strong alignment. You only rotate the forearm after contact has been made so that the rotational energy is added to forward impact to the punch, giving it a very penetrating “corkscrew effect”.
This forearm rotation comes into many other techniques too, such as at the very end of Soto Uke (Outside Block), Uchi Uke (Inside Block) and others. With these blocks, the rotation of the fist at the end of the technique cannot be supported by the rotation of the shoulder joint because of the arm being bent and the elbow joint being lower than the fist. Practicing for maximum forearm rotation in the punches will help maximise the forearm rotation in these other techniques too, making them more powerful, even with smaller movements. It helps to give a small “whip” on the the end of these other techniques.
OK, this is mainly from a Karate perspective, but does also apply to some other styles too. If you’re not a Karateka but sometime compete with them, then it might help you to understand some of the mechanics of our techniques too.
The content in the video below is in fairness nothing new, it’s just honing a fine detail which may help some to understand the mechanics of a reverse punch (gyaka zuki) that little bit better.
For those who teach, it may just give another way for you to explain to your students the mechanics of the movement that you’ve been trying to get them to understand.
I talk a lot on this website about practicality and bunkai, but you still need to have good technique or the practicality and bunkai won’t work very well.
It might be immodest of me, but I consider one of my strengths to be an ability to break techniques down into fine detail and sometimes to re-frame details to help people to understand that little bit better. I might of course be deluding myself so I’ll let you be the best judge of that. If however you agree and find this video useful, then please pass this link on to you club mates and martial arts friends. I hope you enjoy it: