Thursday, January 26, 2006

Speed Punching

Another Black Belt Magazine article I reviewed.

The payoff:

First the science. At one time or another, you’ve probably had someone explain the physics of hitting hard. In short, increasing your speed is more important than increasing the mass of your fist. Technically, it’s stated by a simple equation:


In English, kinetic energy equals one half mass times velocity squared. In simpler terms, the energy of your moving fist and arm increases if the weight of your fist increases, but it jumps even more if your fist moves more quickly.

Therefore, if you increase the mass of your hand by 10 percent, you get a straight 10-percent increase in kinetic energy. However, if you increase your hand speed by the same amount, you get a 21-percent increase in kinetic energy. Obviously, hitting with greater speed pays off with slightly more than twice the kinetic energy.

Specific Tips on the heavy bag:

  • Relax. Don’t tense up when you punch. Don’t strain. As boxers say, "Don’t flex, punch." Just relax and let your fists fly.
    "Speed is a relaxed muscle contracting very quickly," says Black Belt Hall of Fame member Bill Wallace. "The problem is that most people anticipate the action they’re about to perform and tense the muscles they’re going to use. What happens then is they’re trying to move an already contracted muscle. They now have the antagonistic and agonistic muscles working against each other, and this hurts their speed." You can avoid that by staying relaxed.
  • Don’t give away your speed advantage by telegraphing. One of the easiest ways to teach yourself not to telegraph is to be sure you’re moving your striking body part before you move anything else. If you want to throw a punch, your hand must move first. (Note that doing this will also force you to relax.)
  • Bring it back fast. Don’t just speed up your outbound movement; accelerate the retrieval as well.

In combinations:

  • A great way to accelerate your punches involves overlapping the movements of a combination you happen to favor. If you’re familiar with the computer concept of "pipelining," you know that overlapping can speed up a set of actions that are supposed to be executed sequentially.

In sparring:

  • If you fire your punch from an obscured position, you’ve increased the "perceived" speed of your technique.
  • One proven method involves edging toward your opponent, then leaning back slightly so you’re actually closer than you appear before you drop your lead hand. From that position, you can execute a straight lead-arm strike to the jaw as you lean forward. The combination of suddenly leaning forward—and in so doing, showing your opponent how close you actually are since the placement of your feet means most of the gap has been closed in advance—while delivering a strike that comes from below his field of vision and most likely from a position that’s at least partially hidden by his guard will enable you to hit him before he knows what’s happening.

And these interesting ideas:

  • Blitzing while you jog is a great way to increase your speed. When you’re out for your morning run, break your gait by suddenly performing blitzing footwork—in other words, shooting your lead foot back as you cross-step with your rear foot and "fall" forward.
  • Another drill for speed hitting is the partner coin drop. Have a classmate release a coin while you try to catch it in midair, put it on his open palm and quickly snatch it away. It works because it develops your hand speed while forcing you to react as soon as your partner acts.
  • A quick way to increase your explosiveness, which is a very practical form of speed for martial artists, is to do push-ups starting from the down position. Thrust your arms out as quickly as you can. Aim to propel your body so high that your hands leave the floor. Fringe benefit: You’ll add strength to your arm muscles, too.

And this final tip:

Smooth Is Fast
Philadelphia’s Steve Maxwell, a four-time world jujutsu champion, offers a scientific explanation of the way the human body builds speed in techniques: "Smooth is fast. It takes considerable repetition of a skill movement at slower speeds until the technique is embodied in the nervous system. Once that happens, the application becomes faster and faster.
"I teach my students speed by first teaching them to execute the movement slowly. It’s only after many repetitions that full-speed execution is practiced. Later, timing and precision are added, which make the techniques even faster. Speed is built through execution of takedowns, throws, sweeps and finishing holds exactly as [they] would be applied in combat or competition. Speed is specific to the skill to which it is applied."

No comments: