How To Put The “Whip” Into A Linear Punch

I usually focus on the practical application of techniques on this website, but today I’m actually going to focus on technique itself. I think this one is important, as it can greatly enhance the power of your punches and other strikes.

The Karate masters of old often taught that we should use our body like a “whip”, but this is not always easy to do, especially if you practice a predominantly linear style. In practically all sports, power is generated from the hips, transferred to the shoulders, then to the arms/hands. However, people often struggle to do this in linear styles. I believe that this is because we are often taught that everything finishes together, whereas in most other activities they are taught to move in sequence. I believe that this is partly brought about by the fact that we focus (kime) into one spot, whereas in most other disciplines (including other sports) they move through their target. When a golfer hits the ball, he does not stop there, he moves right through it (as does anybody using any kind of racket or bat to hit something). When somebody throws a ball, they do not stop at the instance of release, they move through that point.

Yet with a linear punch, we stop dead at the point of focus, especially in basic form. Even in freestyle, at the point of focus we strike and retract rather than moving through, and I think this is what causes the problem for so many. Many people end up moving the shoulder and hips together, rather than in sequence like everybody else. The only way we can move shoulder and hip together is by tightening the muscles of our torso and locking them together.

Yet we are always told that we should be as relaxed as possible and that movement comes from the hips . . . . . . . or as some would say, the Hara (Japanese) or Dan Tien (Chinese).

If we are locking the shoulders and hips together, we cannot be completely relaxed. Also, movement cannot be said to come from the hips (Hara/ Dan Tien) as the whole torso moves as one.

If we truly generate the power from the hips and we are truly relaxed in out torso, then the hips should move first, creating a small rotational stretch in our body as the shoulders are left fractionally behind. When stretched, the body naturally wants to return to its original shape, so the shoulders will start to rotate as well, just fractionally behind the hips. However, as we are not actually focusing on our shoulders and the torso is relaxed, there will be a feeling of the shoulder and arm being “thrown” by the hip, rather than having to focus on moving them and extending the arm.

Chinese circular styles seem to achieve this whip like feeling more easily as a circular techniques goes through its target and does not stop at the point of impact (unlike a basic linear punch). Some of the modern day masters talk of a putting in a waveform motion. The Russian martial art, Systema (The System) also talks of a waveform. This is often compared to the standard Karate/TKD punch and advocated as being much more powerful. However, I believe that this is because most people are not really aware of how to put the waveform into their linear technique. Using the method described above and demonstrated in the video below, it is relatively easy to get this waveform (whip) into a linear punch.

I must put in one disclaimer however, and that is that many advanced Karateka/TKD practitioners do this naturally as they learn to relax. However, I don’t think that most of them are actually aware of the mechanics of it, certainly very few will explain it in this manner.

When I’ve shown this before, I’ve had people say that they loved it, but had never seen anything like it in their own club. I believe that I may have “re-framed” things a bit, but everybody should be training this way. By re-framing it I hope to make it clearer; I am not introducing something new here. If this concept is new to you, please give your feedback below on what you think of it. If you have been taught this concept, but this video makes it clearer please tell me. If you think I’m a mad Karate heretic, then say so :)

[Waveform punch]

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14 Responses to How To Put The “Whip” Into A Linear Punch

  1. admin says:

    Hi Antti
    Thank you for the great feedback. I agree about the blocks, I just found it easier to demonstrate it with the punches, especially Choku Zuki (Straight Punch whilst standing upright for the non-karateka). I usually find that using some kind of analogy (golf swing/throwing a ball) makes it easier for people to grasp, I’m honoured that you will be using it in your teaching!

  2. Antti says:

    I found your blog when doing reserach on Kanku Dai and Bassai Dai history as part of my upcoming Sho Dan exam. Then I got carried away and found myself spending hours and hours on your writings. I like it how much we think alike!

    We emphasize the hip movement at our dojo nearly each session. Actually, this is not only the way I teach punching, but I also apply the whipping principle into my blocking training as well.
    Good stuff! Comparing karate techniques to golf swing and throwing a ball will definetly become a part of my routine now :)

    I will get back to my reading now…

  3. admin says:

    Thanks for the comment Dod. Yes I remember the “toy” that Mr Miagy used. It sums it up very well. It also explains why we place emphasis on a straight spine (rather than being “hunched” as in western boxing!)

  4. Dod says:

    I was taught the same thing in my Shotokan classes years ago: foot, hip, shoulders, arms (The idea really did also helped my golf swing).
    But I think we are forgetting the most important teaching of all! …remember the first Karate Kid movie when the old sensei gave him the toy - like a pencil with two strings at the top with weights. They rolled the “pencil” part in your palms and the “arms” whipped round

  5. Jon Law says:

    well there’s only so many ways to skin a cat……..

  6. admin says:

    Hi Paul
    You’re welcome. So many people see the martial arts as being very different to each other; I see most of them as being related. You’ve just helped me to prove that point :)

  7. Paul Linden says:

    Thanks for the kind offer.

    On page 185, I described the straight down strike with a 4 foot staff as follows:
    The elastic sequential movement is more obvious in a shomenuchi with a jo. Start with the jo held over your head. Obviously the legs and hip joints initiate the forward movement of the body in the downward strike. But if the body is soft, there will be a slight time lag. The right leg will step forward, the spinal column will follow, but a fraction of a second behind. Then the arms, and finally the jo. However, the jo will catch up, and that catch up motion will whip the jo forward and down into the strike.

  8. admin says:

    Hi Paul
    To be honest, I didn’t really know how many people in the Karate world would be into it either, as very people explain it like this. I think I’m very lucky with the instruction that I’ve had. That said, I think many people just end up doing it naturally, without even realising it (once they really learn to relax properly).
    If you want to leave a link for your ebook, to share with others, then please feel free. I’m not into blatent advertising, but I don’t mind when it is relevant to the content of this blog :)

  9. Paul Linden says:

    I teach Aikido, and I describe the whipping action (in my e-book Feeling Aikido) as sequential elastic movement. But I’ve never heard anyone else speak about this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  10. Pingback: “How To Put The ‘Whip’ Into A Linear Punch,” by Charlie Wildish

  11. admin says:

    I think most just don’t know!

  12. Jon Law says:

    The question then is, why not?

    And the most obvious answer is, that the majority teaching don’t teach this aspect for some reason, either they don’t know how or just won’t.

    It’s a puzzle really

  13. admin says:

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for the feedback. I agree, I should have mentioned the feet as they initiate the hip movement in the first place.
    I believe that the vast majority of Karate/TKD techniques should be done with a “whip”; but we’re both agreed that it doesn’t always make it through to the teaching.

  14. Jon Law says:

    I think you have hit the nail with this post. So often karate people strike as you explain, in one wooden or robotic movement, which completely fails to apply the elastic properties of muscle.

    As you point out the ‘whipping action’ is achieved through a sequential punching action, I wrote about this a while ago on my blog a while ago. I now teach punching in this manner, hip-shoulder-arm.

    As an aside, you forgot to mention the feet, cos they come first!

    Oddly enough there are whipping actions retained in karate but they just don’t make it into the teaching. In the goju kata saifa there are several whipping actions which, in my experience, never made it past the kata. I mean, we were never taught the whipping action except during training in saifa, it was never transferred into regular punching.

    After training at primal I can now ‘whip’ as much as I like!

    Good post

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