Monday, 8 March 2010

Maximum power!

I got to thinking about power in the martial arts over the weekend, or more specifically the application of 'force'.

I am short and - well, 'chunky' would probably be about the kindest way of putting it. My lack of height and extra weight mean that speed has never been my thing. I do find it easy to put on muscle so I've concentrated on that. Pound for pound I'm probably stronger than the average woman, at least in the sense that I can lift heavier weights more often. I've certainly found this useful to a degree in the martial arts, since I know that my weight and musculature means that I can generally hit fairly hard. Given that I can also take a punch, it's one of those times where I can effectively use my weight to my advantage.

However, the ability to generate 'force' or 'power' is more than just about physical strength. There is a young American lady who trains with our krav class. She is significantly taller than me, but judging by her slender build, very much lighter. Despite this, she is the real 'big hitter' in the group.

Why should this be?

First of all, heavy musculature (ie hypertrophy) does not necessarily indicate functional strength or power. Many lightly built athletes are known for their exceptional strength.

It should also be noted that strength and bodyweight are of limited use in delivering powerful strikes if those techniques lack skill. Skill is more than successfully executing the technique in isolation, it also includes recruiting the entire kinetic chain - effectively getting your body 'behind' the technique in order to generate force. Skillful technique also includes speed, timing and appropriate target selection.

Clearly this is something this lady is well on her way to mastering, and I'm still in the process of learning about.


  1. Hi Avril, I'm short (5ft 3) and light (8st 10lb)so I have disadvantages on both fronts! However my punches are pretty hard and getting better! Things that make a difference (you probably know this already): keep both feet firmly on the ground, including the heels - it's amazing how many people let the rear heel lift up as they're punching; twist the whole koshi region as one unit (from just below ribs to top of thighs); concentrate as much on the pullback with non punching arm as on the punch; focus the punch behind the target and twist the fist right at the end of the punch - a lot of people twist to early. The secret to speed is staying relaxed so that your muscles arn't working against you - just tense the arm at the last moment.

    Hope this didn't sound too patronising! I know you've been doing this a lot longer than me. lol.

  2. Hi Sue

    Spot on with all of the comments!

    One of my reasons for staying with the kung fu is that they teach what the Sifu calls the "soft-hard-soft" of punching and kicking, ie relaxed until the moment of impact.

    That said, some styles do advocate the lifting of the rear heel when punching. If I get my distance wrong, I'm inclined to let most of the foot drift up which is not good. I do actually understand the technique - it's about being sufficiently connected to my body in order to execute it!