Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Power generation is one of the big mysteries. It seems that every time I get a handle on it, feel confident that I can explain what makes a hard hit hard, how to wallop somebody good, some joker comes along and shows me an entirely new way to hit hard. Over the years I've worked on hip rotation; hip snap; whip action; dead hand; drop step; cresting wave; crashing wave; bone conduction... many others. Some blend, some don't. Some compound, and when you strike with a whip/rotation/snap/drop/wave it will break ribs through armor without effort.

There's a lot there and it just occured to me today that it may be simpler than I think.

What if there are three basic things that can effect power delivery and all this confusion has been seeing too many things and thinking it is one? This might be confusing. Try to keep up.

What if there is only Power Generation, Power Stealing and Power Conservation?

Power Generation is what you can do with your muscles- push, pull, lift, twist. That's it. You cannot generate any more power in a strike than you can press on a barbell. (Physics, of course, intrudes: smaller weight at faster speed can be more powerful, but...) These are the systems that emphasize hip action for a punch or fast whipping action in the hands. It's good to maximize, but by itself is limited.

Power Stealing is making use of energy in the universe that you are not supplying. The wave actions and drop steps use gravity to put far more power in a strike than muscle can alone. A physically weak specimen who knows how to use sudden changes in weight and elevation can put far more energy into a strike than a muscular man can produce. Muscle produces energy, the other steals it. You can also increase power in your punch with timing- using the threat's motion and momentum to add velocity to your attack. If you throw a good hook while he is stepping into it, he receives all the power you generated and adds the power inherent in his own movement... like a head-on collision versus a stationary object.

You could include environmental fighting in this- I've often said I'd rather make a Bad Guy flinch into a door jamb than hit him with my fist, but that's a little off topic. Damage, but not neccessarily an increase in your power.

Power Conservation is structure. If I hit you with a steak, it's a wet slap. If I hit you with a bone it might even penetrate flesh. Muscle is just meat. Left to it's own devices, it flops. Bone is rigid. Rigid things transmit force better (more efficiently, less waste) than floppy things. The human body is composed of lots of bones and those bones are connected by joints and those joints are controlled by muscle.

Remember that for every force there is an equal and opposite reaction? Every time you fist goes out, the same amount of energy goes into the earth through your base (we've actually tried fighting in deep water- without the grounding, force is bled away as each strike pushes you back or starts you spinning). If the body in between the striking fist and the ground is rigid (not the same as stiff) the power conservation approaches perfection. If the body in between (this is you, the striker, not the target that we are discussing) has poor structure, energy bleeds away through each of the joints and muscles that are improperly aligned. This is why some very strong men (bench press monsters) hit so weakly.

The styles that focus on Power Conservation get called "internal" and some of the good instructors will explain that you are using bone and tendon instead of muscle.

No style uses just one, and I'm not sure of anyone who has taken any of these as far as they can go. This may not even be a good model- but I think it will help me analyze new ways as they come up.

There's a vibrating contact strike that usually gets explained using very mystical language. You place your hand on the threat's ribs (usually floating ribs to injure, upper chest to demo) and, without moving your arm or tensing muscles, send a shock wave into him. What is going on physically is a slight rise in your center of gravity that is allowed to fall (the distance can be so small as to be almost imperceptible). The weight, the energy is allowed to fall and bounce up through the contact with the ground (which must be the heels) down the bones into the contact hand. It is essentially stealing a very small amount of power and then transmitting it through very good structure. With bad structure, you get nothing at all and wind up pushing with muscle. Different feel.



  1. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Raise your hand shoulder height in front of you. Relax it so it is not tense, but keep it up. Now let the shoulder joint release open so the hand goes forward but the back stays in the same place.

    This 'release' can happen in every / any joint and if all the joints in the narrow line from your heel to your hand are released smoothly and quickly, a large amount of perceived power can be felt.

    Since it is not muscle based, it is called internal power. Very effective but very hard to learn to use as all the joints involved must be opened, stretched and then release learned.

    sothey tell me, anyway...

  2. Anonymous10:03 AM


    That is an excellent, concise description of "internal" power. Thank you.


  3. Dammit, Ted, that's what I mean. Something else to work on now.

    When you get a chance, can you check my structure? It feels to me like my joints, shoulders especially, are naturally in the 'open' state. Would I have to collapse them to release?

  4. I think the internal power thing is exactly what the "aunkai" of minoru akuzawa is all about. Nothing magical about it, yet very powerfull. He developed a series of excercises to learn to use this internal power. My new thing to work on. :-)

  5. @Rory re Ted's description:
    Once joints are free (open), they can compress and release freely, like a spring. It is enough to think (imagine) "compress/release" to activate chain. Pulse bounces off earth.

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  7. Ymar Sakar12:53 PM

    This the no inch punch you are referring to at the end, Rory.


    It is essentially a very internal form of the one inch punch (done by Bruce Lee in a very external fashion).

    It can also be considered "fajing" or power projection/expression.

    The reason why the power "penetrates" is because it is constant. There's a long duration of contact time. For most people, long duration means "weak punch" because their muscles are only powerful at a certain extension and time. Too long and they waste the power by dribbling it out.

    The way the structure of the no inch punch is generated and crafted, means exactly as you said. It uses structure to generate and conserve power, so that a little bit turns "on" and stays on and depresses the ribs and after depressing the ribs, keeps on going more and more inside until the person either moves away or is injured. Used with the full body moving into the strike and concentrated into a square inch of the body, this can definitely destroy a person's internals. Even if they have excellent physical conditioning, even Shaolin iron shirt level.