That’s probably the first thing an average martial artist will learn when he (or she) in the first lesson; a punch.
I know it was one of the first thing I was taught when I started learning Kung Fu. I can’t remember exactly how good or bad my punch was during that time, but most likely it wasn’t any good.
Now, more that 10 (25) years later, I still think my punch isn’t any good. 10 years later, and still punching is my problem? Maybe there are some people who think that is very strange and surprising, but the experienced and serious martial artist should know what is going on here.
Of course I did learn many other things in those 10 years; countless movements, blocking techniques, stances and different ways to attack a person. And all those movements can be led back to a simple punch; improve your punch and your whole style will improve.
A simple punch? Punching isn’t so simple. In fact in a way it becomes more and more difficult. Why? Because there are so many different ways to punch.
By a punch, I mean every attack in a straight line with a fist. The first basic punch is executed with shoulders in a line, and a cork-screw style punch. Copying the person who is teaching you is the best thing you can do at that time. After that you are on your own, and a whole new world opens up to you. Other can only give comments and advise, but you have to do it yourself.
So you want power in your punch, so you try to use a lot of muscle power. The end result usually is a slow moving push-punch, which doesn’t do a lot of harm but will cost you a lot of energy.
Try using weight; the result will be that your body will follow your fist; picture yourself a tired, heavy weight boxer who misses his punch in the last round (12th) and is running after his fist trying to keep up with it.
Okay, let’s try speed. That sounds good. How can you make your fists fast? Not by using a lot of muscular strength, but rather by relaxing the parts of your body that would other wise slow you down.
So now you’re faster, but your punches are ‘empty’; no damage after impact. Another problem…
At the end of your punch, that is when you should use power. At that time there should be a small explosion happening; right at the moment you make contact. You can’t let your fist continue moving; it has to stop somewhere, sometime. Right? Find out where and when. Found it? Then you have an explosive punch.
Focus. That’s interesting as well. What are you punching at? At a person or at his (her) upper body? Or maybe at his head? At his face? At his nose or cheek? Or maybe that freckle on his cheek? Let’s choose the last one. But choosing is not enough; if you are punching you have to focus all your energy, spiritually and mentally on that tiny little spot which is your target. During that short timeframe there should be only one thing on your mind. You really have to WANT to hit it; if not, why bother? Your mind has to be strong to do this one time, let alone repeatedly.
Ever noticed that your fist is wobbling, when practicing punches in the air? Not enough focus. You have to imagine a target in front of you.
Aggressiveness; you need it to create a devastating attack. Maybe aggressive is not the correct word, but is stands for the willpower to destroy. But it needs to be backed by a calm mind, which is in total control the whole time. If not, it is just like an attack by a street fighter who doesn’t care about damaging his own body. First control your own body before you want to control somebody else’s.
Now you’re fast with aggressiveness; but your training partner (or enemy) always seems to know when you’re about punch him. You are telegraphing your punches. Yet again a new dimension to punching. If your adversary is a professional and you telegraph your punches (or any other movement) he will start moving at the same time as you, but will make contact first. When you are making useless movements, like moving your fist 3 mm backward because you feel like it makes your punch stronger, he will put his fist in your face.
Let’s imagine that you are thirsty. And that there is a glass of water in front of you. What do you do? You pick up the glass of water. Voila! There’s your punch.
What did you just do? Did you move your hand backward after you decided to pick up the glass of water? I guess you didn’t. I think you started perfectly motionless and when straight for the glass. Try doing the same thing when punching.
So you want to hit somebody when your fist? Do you think your fist, you hand is a weapon? It’s not; it is in fact living tissue; flesh, tendons and a lot of lose bones. Not a weapon! Make a weapon out of it. If you don’t, and you use an unconditioned fist to attack a person you’re bound to damage yourself instead of your adversary.
A well conditioned palm makes a heavy fist. A heavy fist will change the way you punch drastically; almost like starting over again.
Feel your punch flowing, where does the power come from? Stand firmly on the floor, move your bodyweight and hips, focus, breath well, search for balance, fluidity, speed, awareness and 1000 other things I know nothing of….
Just a punch.