Over recent years there has been a common theme among martial arts and self defence instructors. This is what I refer to as 'flashy moves'.
This has come about because martial artists are under constant pressure to gain new students so that they can earn a living. This 'flashy' promotional style has changed over the ages. We have been subjected to the famous demonstrations of 'breaking' skills where martial artists demonstrate the breaking of boards, bricks and even ice to showcase their power.
Following on from that we have had a wave of pressure point specialists that have gone far beyond reality to now even claim to be able to knock out a person out without actual touching them!
And now we have entered a different era, the era of speed!
A did a trawl of you tube the other day and discovered that speed certainly sells. Numerous styles and systems have placed a heavy focus on throwing punches, kicks and grapple attacks as fast as possible. Hammer fists, hooks and kicks are thrown as fast as possible, often with blurring hand speed. I have to agree it looks very impressive to both the live audience and the camera.
But lets dig a little deeper behind the showmanship. In any real self defence or full contact martial arts event such as boxing or MMA, power is a major factor. Now when I say power I do not mean the same definition of power as is referred to by sport scientists. I am talking about the actual power that a strike on target is delivered with. My personal definition of power stirking is as follows:
A power strike is a strike with a body part that is delivered with as much force that is required for that situation so that the strike lands with the maximum amount of force that could be generated by the person in that situation.
Well that is quite a moutful but lets examine this closely. Firstly a strike must be delivered with a body part, your head, fist, foot, shin etc. But the key factor here is for the situation.
We may find ourselves in various situations such as sitting down, in a vehicle, in a phone box, held from behind, in a ring against the cage, on our knees and many more. Power striking can be achieved from any position. In addition it is different for every person. A small female may not have the available size or muscle to develop a good short range punch when compared with a large man. That is just the nature of muscles.
However there is a big difference between just throwing a strike quickly and throwing it quickly but with power. This key difference cannot be seen by a camera or a crowd. Some martial artists are still working as illusionists. Slapping the pad so it creates a massive 'whacking' sound. Having a very compliant training partner who goes over easily when holding the pads for the coach and of course the student who winces in pain when a technique is displayed on him.
Such tricks are well known and well used. However why pretend to yourself? Why support the illusion? In my opinion you should be able to feel the power. Your coach should let you hold the pads for them and let everyone 'feel' the technique. All done in a responsible manner.
Another key aspect of my definition is that the strike must land with force. This has been a key element of many martial arts and certainly boxing has this as part of its scoring matrix. It is all well and good hitting the pad with blurring hand speed but just what effect will this have on an opponent? Will it stun them, will it make them angry and will it stop them from hurting me or beating me?
These are questions you should be asking whenever you are taught any technique. Just what are the goals of the technique!
The final aspect of the definition is the situation. It is easy to use a strike that sees you smash your forearm into the opponents forearm to block a strike when in the gym, But lets just ask ourselves how will we feel in the actual situation? Under the pressure of facing a potential life changing attack we feel adrenaline! We know this and you will also feel it when competing in any sport martial art as well. Adrenaline effects all sorts of things but mainly our fine motor skills. As a result our targeting and eyesight can become seriously compromised. Can we actually land the technique under serious pressure?
So I ask you to challenge the current usage of speed as a selling tool and remember that there is no substitute for power. If a strike does not have power we can not expect it to be useful. So don't just punch or strike, strike with serious power.
To finish I have just one tip that can help you to generate more power. It is a tip that has worked for me over the years. The tip is simple. When striking a pad or bag, aim to punch through the equipment. Have this in mind every time you strike and get used to it. Your strikes may slow down at first whilst your body gets used to the change in focus, however the speed will return.
Speed is useless if that is all it is. You need to hit hard and fast! Make power striking a part of your training and practise from every possible situation you can think of. Be it short punches, hook punches, elbows or anything else!