Is Your Karate Punch Powerful?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, Self-defense
10 Jan 2016

5 Responses to “Is Your Karate Punch Powerful?”

  1. Matt Klein Says:

    Good points about relaxing the muscles to achieve full power John. What I learned from boxing was footwork, punching from a high hand position instead of from the waist, and head movement, which I feel contribute to the boxer’s effectiveness inside. Chaining punches together was also something that makes it effective. I can see why Lee studied it and incorporated it into his way.

    Also, their sparring is more full-on, and takes a while to get used to. That said, I agree the reverse punch is very powerful and size makes no difference, except to the extent mass times speed equals power, so the heavier guy all things being equal will have more knockout power.

  2. Toby Massell Says:

    Hey John great info like usual. Your knowledge, skill and insight in fighting and self defense is rivaled by few.

    I also agree 100% with you on brick braking. I trained for about 3 years in a system that put too much into brick breaking only to find out that it was all but worthless in fighting. This became apparent when I joined with you guys at Tracy’s and AKKA some 35+ years ago.

    I also leaned early in my career that velocity = power. Simple physics, the faster something is traveling the harder it hits.
    So I based my early years on speed training and precision striking. I also trained boxing in the 70s.

    I trained probably 5 years with you John and everybody that came to the El Cajon studio from Dick’s. Open sparing with other styles was great training too. Then I think I trained about 2 years or so with David Hays. Then moved on to train with the rest of the top fighters at Dick’s AKKA.

    I trained hard with the point fighting tactics from AKKA and Joe Lewis advanced fighting tactics and of course the Kenpo self defense system, which IMO really sharpens up your shills for precision striking. However, I only trained about 3 years in actual tournament point fighting.

    I found this to be counter productive to reality fighting. Mainly because of the hitting soft, stopping and resetting after someone gets a point.
    While that kind of training is good for explosive speed, initial movement, bridging the gap, critical distance, timing, broken rhythm etc. it installs bad habits for reality fighting and street defense.
    So I focused on semi contact training, continuous fighting, kickboxing and power training and of course Kenpo Jui-jitsu, as this was my main concern for street survival. Obviously because of being small and living in the ghettos of southern Cali.

    So I agree with you 100% on proper execution of technique,(body position and moment of contact etc.) being one key factor in delivery of power. Speed is also a key factor. The key to speed is being relaxed. We wont go into detail right now about all the other benefits are in being relaxed.

    Back in the late 80s training with AKKA I was probably 125 lbs and the guys at AKKA told me I hit like a middle weight and that I was as fast as Bruce Lee. Don’t know how accurate that was but you guys all say the same thing.

    So I also agree with you John, weight and strength account for about 10% of power. The rest comes from proper execution of technique and speed. You and I are both living prof of that fact.

    I’m a little heavier now by 10,maybe 15 lbs.

    I started training Joe Lewis full fighting system a few years ago and that improved my power even more. Joe Lewis certainly did a lot of things right when it came to reality fighting. Training with Bruce lee was probably another one of those things he did right. He even said Bruce hit like a heavy weight. Bruce was 5’6″ and 135 lbs so.

    Kickboxing, mixing the power of boxing with Karate definitely takes power striking beyond the level of traditional Karate and boxing.

    But let’s take a look at modern MMA stand up fighting tactics.
    They got rid of anything in Karate, Boxing and Kickboxing that simply doesn’t have a lot of power, or as much power as what they are doing now.
    They refined the science of striking and kicking, physics, etc. and took it to a whole new level.

    I’ve been training these techniques for almost a year now with Larry McCraw and I can attest to the amount of power that can be delivered with these techniques. I’m hitting so much harder than I hit in the best of my years. You guys all tell me I haven’t lost any speed. I think you guys just don’t remember how fast I was. Because I’m sure I’m slower now at 60 years old.

    So even though I’ve slowed down in my old age, with these MMA techniques I hit and kick harder than I did 25 years ago and even harder than what I learned in Joe Lewis full fighting system in the last few years.

    Some of the Karate and point fighting techniques that we all know, I will never use in a reality survival situation. I’ll save those fore friendly sparring matches.

    I’m sure 5 or 10 years from now they may refined striking power even further.


  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Matt, thanks for opining. Fully agree different tatics have their advantages… I love combining footwork with striking.

    Toby, thanks for your thoughts. There is really a lot on this subject and hard to put in all in one article. While I don’t like MMA striped down techniques as much as I do Karate – they are both effective.

    For me point karate taught me how to hit without being hit back… I’ve survived a lot of street/bar fights. So I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on some points.

    Thanks guys for your thoughts!

  4. Dr. J Says:

    Great article, John! I always look forward to reading your thoughts on the martial arts.

    “The bigger they are, the harder they hit,” was likely my first credo in my karate training :-) I suppose now, I might add, “If you can get them to miss or hit them first, it doesn’t matter.”

    I feel I have learned to hit harder with all my training, not so different than Toby’s background. I continually practice on punching with power against a bag to gauge if I am doing it the best I can. With a moving target, it’s harder to stay relaxed until just before the moment of hitting as the dynamic nature of fighting affects where the target will be. I probably tense a little early or even late because of that. Joe Lewis said a pulled punch is stronger than a pushed punch. What do you think about that?

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Dr. J! Yep Joe’s observation I agree with because that would show that push/pull motion that is so important in karate.

    Boxing hands are really good if there are no feet or your are inside fighting (where I don’t like to say long).

    Karate hands are really good at bridging the gap (exploding in and out) but not so great at trading toe to toe blows like boxing.

    One thing I recall Joe saying in a seminar once was you guys are winning at tournaments but what are the scores? Now that you are winning – you should concentrate on hitting without getting hit back. A great fighter not only gets the point but also does not allow a point on him.

    Thanks for commenting Dr J!