I was in Junior High-School when the Navy guy at my friends out imparted some fighting tactics to me. You see he was a black belt in Tang So Do Karate and was trying to impress us kids for some reason (and after ingesting a couple of beers). I was playing the what if game with him.
I asked him what would he do If I tried to punch him. He said, “I would chop your arm – breaking it and then chop your neck!” Wow I thought… Then I asked what about if I tried to kick you? He said, “I would chop your leg – breaking it and then I would punch your ribs – also breaking them.”
I asked him how he could break my arms, legs, or ribs and he simply said he would punch through the target. I had heard of punching through the target from my Okinawan karate instructor as he was teaching the moves. The idea was instead of aiming at the proximal (or close – on top target) one would aim 6 inches deep into whatever you were aiming at.
In this post I am going to discuss what punching through a target really is and why it is not used much today. Lets take a quick look at a video that shows some of the mechanics of how to surface punch a target.
Looking at this video the part they got right was to rotate as one is throwing a reverse or counter punch. Actually they got more wrong than right. First off if you are not worried about getting hit back we can suspend disbelief and not cover as one is throwing the punch. The video guy kind of torqued half way but stopped short and just twisted the upper body some.
What I would have liked to see is a 180 degree torque and let the rear shoulder loosen up and get some extension and then instead of aiming at the surface of the gut – aiming six to eight inches through the target!
Why adjust the aim of the target? Well as one example when I was young and dumb – I used to break boards and about anything else that was challenging when I was a teen. I quickly learned that if I aimed at the surface of the board – it did not break. One had to aim through the target if one was going to have any chance at breaking it. Let the inertia of the hand or foot overwhelm the target and do maximum damage!
Remember we are still suspending disbelief and the guy is able to do this full torque while relaxing and punching through the target. What happens if you miss? Well let me say that you are hanging out to dry. You might as well paste a sign to your forehead that says – Free Shot!
What I mean to say is you will be exposed, off balance and unable to recover for a second… more than enough time for your opponent to launch an effective counter.
So here is the deal. Lets say you have to cover up. Why would you take a chance at throwing such a bone crushing punch if it might go south? Because it is a fight ender! If you hit a guy in the ribs – you are breaking a few ribs. If you hit him in the bread basket – he is rolling around in the dust for a while.
So to describe how to set this up – here is what I used to do. I would spar a bit with a guy and try to get a sense of his timing – when he would come in at me or how he transitioned stances and such. I would start to get a feel when I could take a chance.
One of my favorite moves was to either do a lung punch with initial movement (meaning if he was in range – he was getting hit before he could react) or take a half step back and launch an overextended counter punch as he was coming in. Either case he was eating my fist. The only question if I timed it right was how hard was I going to hit him.
Well here is where I have a confession. I use to train with a couple of beers in me. You see I have it on good authority that a couple of beers will not change the shape you are in and they do loosen you up. I mean if you want to punch past your target – you will have no tense muscles to contend with and your punches will be very hard indeed!
Unfortunately I have had the experience of breaking someones bones in a fight that I will not go into the specifics of because is serves no purpose. To this day, I wish I had not had to be in that fight but I will say that absolutely punching through the target while totally relaxed and torquing 180 degrees leads to a very fast and powerful punch!!!!
So lets talk specifics of targeting. If you are aiming at the groin with a snap kick and you are fighting for your life. Throw your relaxed snap kick aiming through the groin and into the abdomen. That will break – separate the bones and cartilage around the pubis area and render your opponent unable to walk.
If you are kicking a leg – don’t aim for the leg but rather the other side of the leg… that will have the effect of breaking or severely bruising the leg and make the opponent unable to stand. You will have to relax and throw the kick properly… just aim through.
If you are trying to throw a powerful punch or kick it might not work. This is because most people equate tension with power. I think it is because in order to life a heavy object – one has to tense. But in kicking or punching the opposite is true. If you tense up your punch or kick is slower and therefore weaker. Even if you punch through the target tense – you are not going to do much damage and become an easy counter target.
Relaxing while fighting has other benefits such as increasing ones stamina. I used to fight all of my students and many peers by totally relaxing and only increasing the effort at the moment of impact.
So power punching is not really a myth but many people do not understand it does not have anything to do with power per se but rather technique. Just having a good power punch or power kick in your arsenal with not help your fighting unless you land it but you have to have other stills of course too.
I will end with an example of how I was able to win a match with a power punch in the 1980’s. I was lined up against this big guy in National City and was trying to impress some kids but after looking at this guy taking 10 minutes to wrap his hand and the guns he had – I was beginning to think I was going to have some egg on my face.
Well anyway I was a fighter and one thing you can say about most successful fighters – they don’t care so much about the other guy – the only thing that matters is what they can do in the ring. This guy came at me and I worked some angles at first to feel him out. After a minute he was transitioning stances (a queue for me to attack while he was vulnerable) and I threw a very relaxed inverted lunge punch from just inside the critical distance.
The result was I connected threw his bread basket and my fist must have penetrated a couple of inches into his stomach briefly and I felt him buckle before I saw it. He fell to the floor and could not get up for several minutes. I won the match as this was the old days – one could not get disqualified for a body shot.
One question you may have is why don’t we see more power kicks and punches in kick boxing and MMA today? Well I would guess that answer is the fighters that make it into that arena are very highly conditioned athletes and do not want to go off balance for an instance when they know the other guy will take full advantage if they miss. The end up fighting more of a defensive fight and don’t cut loose until they have the upper hand. One does see some follow through power punches karate style that seem to come out of left field… they are fun to watch when they happen.
So throwing very hard punches is not about how strong and powerful one is but rather if one had the relaxation, torque and extension to pull it off (and punching through the target). Power punching is how an old guy like me could stand up to a bunch of thugs in a fight. I’m older now (53) and I know I have maybe two minutes I could go toe to toe with anyone before I peter out. The thing I would depend on is I know how to relax and take guys out easily with some fighting strategy and the street thugs probably don’t. Anyway I don’t intend on giving them a chance if I can help it and I will even use the ever mythical Power Punch!