Over the years I have received a lot of comments, as have the Russian style of Martial Arts in general, about the effectiveness of punching using the power of the arm only.
In Ballistic Striking I cover this in detail, but here is an overview:
In traditional martial arts there is a great emphasis on using the whole body to generate power when striking – you will hear instructors talk about generating power from the ‘ground up’ and transferring the energy from the feet, through the ankles, knees, hips, through the core and into the hands and why not as it makes perfect sense? You will find no argument from me if we are talking about generating maximum power in a strike, provided of course you maximize speed by eliminating tension in the body, but do we need maximum power?
Russian Martial arts were developed for pure combat effectiveness and never for any kind of sport and it is combat that causes the problems. As I always say, combat is a vicious, nasty business and the first priority is survival. Now I am not talking about ‘passive’ survival or cowering on the ground covering our head with our hands, I am talking about survival through attack, looking for opportunities to neutralize and get out of the situation. Combat also brings in the element of unpredictability in attackers, weapons, and the environment, which now creates another issue and that is one of position. In a combat situation it is almost impossible to get ‘into position’ to deliver those powerful strikes that you have worked so hard on in the Dojo.
Look at boxers and MMA fighters and how they prepare in the gym – shadow boxing, bag and pad work and then look at the fight itself and you will see highly technical and capable boxers thrown into all sorts of chaos. Also, these types of fighters will be able to re create that chaos with endless hours of sparring and this is how they hone their technique and prepare for the fight. Remember though, boxing and MMA fights are still sports and governed by rules. Real combat is not.
When you train, put yourself in all sorts of positions – stand on one leg, then the other, lay on the ground, put your back up against a wall and practice your strikes and see how you can generate leverage and power, because in the real world, these are the situations you will find yourself in. Here is another drill you can try to feel the power of just an arm:
Stand up and extend say your right arm out in front of you at shoulder level, make a fist with your thumb pointing to the sky. Keep some tension in the wrist only to absorb the strike, but keep your forearm, bicep, tricep and shoulder muscles relaxed. Now simply let your arm drop to your side allowing gravity to do so – put absolutely no effort into this. Now find a partner or place some kind of padding on a solid table at waist height. If you have a partner and some boxing style hand mitts have your partner hold a pad in one hand facing the sky at waist height. Now allow your arm to drop again hitting the pad and it is essential at this stage not to use any effort and simply feel the force and get feedback from your partner if you have one. Even at this stage you will feel that this downward ‘strike’ is powerful. Now we can look at ways of ‘assisting’ the drop to generate more power, but still remaining relaxed and allowing the mass of the arm and fist to do the work – we know from our physics lessons (if you stayed awake) that Force = Mass x Acceleration, so we have to accelerate the mass to produce more force. Next, get into the same starting position and allow your elbow to drop first, leaving the fist lagging behind and you will generate even more power – add a small, relaxed drop of the waist hips and knees to lag the elbow and then the fist and you will see just how much force can be generated by such a simple movement. This is a key strike in Russian Martial Arts and has many applications and considerable damage can be caused by just the first drill alone, so be very careful if you practice this with and on a partner.
Now we also have to generate strikes that are not assisted by gravity, so here is where you have to experiment to find the motion, but follow the rules – keep relaxed and just enough tension to absorb the impact and you can find this by working with pads and bags and work up to it slowly to avoid injury and you will gradually feel the power!