Power Punching; Is This a Myth?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, kick boxing, Self-defense
15 Jan 2011

16 Responses to “Power Punching; Is This a Myth?”

  1. Martial Arts News – 1.16.11 | Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] Zimmer takes on the power punch. In this post I am going to discuss what punching through a target really is and why it is not used […]

  2. Matt Klein Says:

    Thought-provoking post John. It is amazing how many schools still teach the “chamber the other hand on the hip” mentality. I mean, what are you protecting there? And how long does it take to get that hand up to your face if the other guy counters?

    Great point about penetrating the target. That is crucial if you want to get any power behind your punches. I really like to lead with the backfist as it causes the opponent to bring hands up, leading the breadbasket wide open for the reverse punch.

    Love your comment about having a few beers beforehand. Is that what they mean by “punch-drunk”?
    Matt Klein recently posted..Just Start Drawing- Kids Karate Sensei Becomes White Belt Again–Part TwoMy Profile

  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Matt,

    I started out in karate learning the low horse stances with chambered punches along with formal types of step fighting. Later I transitioned to studio sparring, point fighting, boxing and then kick boxing. Each type of contest had its +’s and -‘s but the low horse – chambered punches gave me a good foundation for everything else.

    Having said that I think knowing how to throw a series of punches with the high-chambered, push-pull action of punches (kind of like Machida does) is still useful to a point. The takeaway I still use is with my inverted lunge punch… was one of my specialties.

    One cannot do this all of the time or you would be left hanging out there with your ribs exposed so waiting for the opportune moment is a good thing. :)

    Totally with you on penetration. The thing I see being missed even if penetration is covered is relaxation to allow the full extension possible before tensing up… a point many have never learned how to do.

    Back when I was a good high kicker – I learn from Lap Napoleon how to relax my hip while throwing the wheel kick from the back leg to get an extra few inches so I would kick some people that thought they were out of range.

    Backfist/jab – reverse punch was always one of my favorites. :)

    Yep – punch drunk and not afraid to use it… err I mean the punch. I learned the hard way there is a point of diminishing returns. :)

  4. Anthony Wagner Says:

    My instructor would always tell me to relax and fight. I never knew what it meant until him and i sparred. Yes, he demolished me. The reality is my strikes got faster when i just relaxed and let my body mechanics do the work.

    Great post..

  5. Jon Law Says:

    The balance between overextending and being off balance and punching with sufficient penetration has to be mastered otherwise some of the problems you cite will occur.

    There is also the need to make the punch withdrawl rapid. One of the unfortunate effects of trad karate training is to end up holding the punch out in space, which is related to the attack role of ippon kumite and the like, this isn’t good.

    Rapid retraction, emphasising the pull rather than push, greatly enhances the punch, ‘leaving’ the force applied in the target. Of course, if this retraction occurs before full force has been achieved it is more akin to points fighting contact, with the force left being limited.

    However, if full force is reached and the fist is accelerating at contact and penetration then everything is good. Rapid retraction will leave the force in the body of the opponent.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Anthony,

    The same thing happened to me. I never knew how much effort was wasted in nervous energy until I did learn to relax.

    Hi Jon,

    I’m totally with you on getting it out and back quickly.

    While I’ve not focused so much on the retraction per se – it is very important to NOT lock out the punch because you are exposing yourself as well as having a lost opportunity for subsequent strikes.

    What I used to concentrate on was the relaxed full extension until the moment of impact and full return as fast as I could with out cutting the extension short.

    Thanks for clarifying this because traditionalists might not realize the importance of the rapid return.

  7. Matt Klein Says:

    The quick recoil is key for point sparring as well. It makes the punch look twice as fast.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Kids Martial Arts Classes- Your Child’s First DayMy Profile

  8. Matt Says:

    In classical Okinawan karate the hand on the hip was used as an element of tuite. When the hand is extended it intercepts a punch with slight body shift (tai sabaki), and then pulls the attacking arm inward in order to off balance the opponent. The hikite (withdrawing hand) also rotates palm up which rotates the opponent’s arm, further causing off-balance and revealing interior vital points.

    At the same time this hikite action is happening the practitioner is striking with the opposing hand.

    In kata this dual motion is often followed up by a “block” which is in actuality the next logical place to strike in quick succession.
    Matt recently posted..Guest Post- The Birth of Sai from the Mists of MythologyMy Profile

  9. Dr. J Says:

    No question technique rules! Besides with karate, I learned this from playing tennis with 5’3” inch woman on the Florida national championship team who could hit the ball twice as hard as I could!

  10. TheMartialArtsReporter Says:

    Hey John,
    “Low horse stance and chambered punches” brings back memories of almost long forgotten times.
    I agree with everybody who noticed the advantage of being relaxed and just letting your body (mechanics) do the job.
    What really boggled my mind and took my punching abilities
    to the next level (again years ago!) was punching through
    the target in Jeet Kune Do classes. I was dumb-founded.
    Great post. Enjoy the journey!
    TheMartialArtsReporter recently posted..UFC 126 Or Curitiba Vs Rio De JaneiroMy Profile

  11. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Matt @ Ikigai, I did study Okinawan karate for a brief time and I remember the attention to stance transitions as well as some breathing exercises. Thanks for adding insight for the multi uses of the push – pull action. As happens so many times each system has a little different way of doing something that adds value to the overall move.

    Hey Dr J! That must of been some tennis game to watch. I have and do pay attention to technique as I need every edge I can get. :)

    Hi Tiger, I remember getting into the advance hands of Lima Lama so many years ago only to have the Master on a visit admonish us for neglecting our basics. As I recall we did not have a solid foundation before doing the more advanced stuff and it showed.

    I too cannot remember the last time in sparring I chambered my hands but I still practice it in punching drills in my very low horse stance. To the untrained eye that looks useless but it has done me well over the years. I’ll give one example.

    Back when I was on the door – a guy ordered talls instead of doubles and got mad at the bartender when the drinks were weak. He started getting unruly and I had to pick him up and give him the bums rush out the back door. I thought I was done with him.

    As I was walking back towards the door (about 20 feet from the back door where I left the guy) I heard one of my friends warn me he was attacking. I spun around and saw the swing with the empty drinks being thrown at me.

    I had little time to react so I ducked my head in a forward stance while throwing double inward blocks. The two glasses shattered on my forearms but I was ok. I charged and quickly dispatched the guy after I got a hold of him.

    That is one example how ones training can take over in a pinch. Great observations Tiger and yes changing the focus can make all of the difference. :)

  12. Devin Says:

    The problem with a full twist punch, or 180 degree punch, is that it is naturally a weak punch to use. The two bones in your arm cross each other, making it easier for your wrist to bend (the harder you it). Thus, this is how people can break their wrists by punching something with full force. Boxers use exercise methods to strengthen their wrists, so this will not happen.

    A full twist punch was taught in Japan to elementary children, so they would not hurt each other in practice. In reality a 3/4 twist punch is more dangerous, because it allows for a smaller (sharper) part of your fist to impact the target. This is why martial arts works better for smaller people. Because you have smaller and sharper finger, joints, knuckles…etc. to attack an opponent.

    However, if you punch with a 3/4 twist (not a full 180 degree) your bones in your arm are naturally aligned, making it much harder to hurt yourself by hitting something full force. Thus eliminating the need for boxers to do wrist exercises. (if only they knew!)

    There is good in every style of karate, you just need to know how to interpret it. It is like reading a book that is of a foreign language. The more about that language you know, the easier it is to translate. I cringe at most of the garbage that “teaches people martial arts from home” via the television.

    BE WARNED! A full twist punch WILL greatly increase your chances of injury to yourself!

  13. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Devin,

    This is the first I’ve ever heard about the twisting causing injury and I’m not inclined to agree.

    Firstly let me say that in formal karate – chambering one hand while striking with the other create a twisting, push-pull action greatly increasing the power of the punch. This coupled with twisting the body and stepping (or rather landing) at the point of impact has the effect of transitioning the entire weight of one’s body into a couple square inches of the two largest knuckles of the striking fist (hopefully tightened and properly aligned).

    I don’t know anyone how would argue that is realistic in a real fight as covering with body movement is far more effective than blocking and formal punches… but that is where we came from in martial arts.

    I don’t agree that twisting is problematic unless one attempts to do the twist late. Then I would agree there are too many forces going different directions at the same times and the fist and forearm is in flux – easier to injure ones self.

    Having said all of this – I agree that one would not do a full twist in a real fight for the reasons I mentioned.

    Let me know if I’m missing something here and thanks for your comment.

  14. Ryan Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article! I am really interested in the topic of punching through the target. I can see how it works.

  15. Al Hernandez Says:

    John, Great Post, (As Always!!!) Manny Thanks, Hi To Sly, Sharon And Others!!! PS. Wrote Reveiw/Todds Studio, Please Veiw/Comment, Thanks Al

  16. P Corn Says:

    Great information about the power punch. I’ve just started using some of the techniques associated with the power punch. I would recommend. Keep up the good infomration.