Bigger means you can hit harder? Think again!
Power is something that, regardless of style, we often speak of. Most styles have their own way of generating power, whether through hip twists, or up/down sine motions.
There are two things that I believe most people agree upon when it comes to generating power. The first being to have a solid base, good balance and good footwork are key in generating power. Throwing hard does nothing if all you do is overbalance, or throw yourself right into a counter attack. The second being mass or size. Most of us just seem to naturally feel like the bigger the person, the harder they are capable of hitting.
In my time as a martial artist I have found that this just isn’t true, look on a scientific level. This I have tested for years, being hit many times by big people and very tiny people. I’ll take getting hit by the big ones any day. On one level, the larger the surface area that hits the target, the more spread out the impact, the less pain inflicted. Get hit hard with good technique by someone with a small contact area, now we are talking some serious pain!
If you are a smaller person (like me) and are concerned that you could never generate the power the “big boys” have, then think again.
Let’s look at the math of what it takes to generate power (kinetic energy). The equation for formulating how much power or energy something can transmit is power is equal to the mass of the object, multiplied by its velocity squared, divided by 2. Maybe you are a little rusty on your math. That is okay, what that equates to is that power generated does rely on mass, but two thirds of the equation relies on velocity (explosive speed). So even if you don’t have the mass if you can generate the speed, you can generate immense power. Not to mention the importance of speed, rhythm, and timing in every aspect of fighting and life in general.
This is the reason I am a huge fan of plyometic workouts over more traditional weight lifting for example is the fast twitch development. Not only are they great for cardio as well as strength, but the main focus is on speed with proper technique. If you are a larger person take note that working towards being fast will help you generate much more power. So smaller people do not be intimidated. Anyone can be hurt if the situation absolutely demands it with no other way. Larger people do not underestimate, especially women, whom many seem to have a natural affinity for muscle speed, I have learned no matter how much I train, the ladies will always whip me!
Accuracy and timing are far more important anyway.
That being said, as I have spoken about in blogs before, its not generally about how hard you hit, but rather how accurate you are, and the knowledge you have of the human body and target areas. With this knowledge even speed becomes less important as immaculate timing comes from years of training.
So how do you get the most out of your speed/timing? Most beginners have one main problem when they first start, TOO TENSE. Sure you want to throw your muscle strength into what you do, but that doesn’t mean keeping your muscles tense at all times. That is only going to wear you out FAST. A relaxed body is a relaxed mind, which focuses better and processes faster. Relaxed muscles are also more responsive and faster in their travel from point A to point B, MUCH faster.
If you are someone who is tense all the time, learning to stay loose and relaxed until the moment you are struck or you impact another can nearly double your speed, if you don’t believe it, try it. The muscles should only tense hard at the moment of impact and then release. This moment is often referred to as the focus point of the strike or Kime, which causes a pop in the end of the technique.
It takes time! Don’t think you will understand these principles in just a few months. Most only begin to understand after a couple of years.
If staying loose is hard for you the best advice I can give is to be mindful of it, and practice it. Whether in sparring, or my personal favorite, practice it in kata. I talk with my students about all the movements between the movements. If you are not at the moment of impact for a strike or a block, try to be totally relaxed except for the muscles involved in the motion. In our system our white belt form has 24 movements that represent 24 hours of the day, or in a nutshell, balance, much like the yin yang symbol. So practice that balance in your form of when to be relaxed and when to be tense. Because it is important to be tense, at the KEY MOMENTS. Otherwise you are wasting energy, and tiring yourself for no reason.
Relaxation is the key to speed and to patience,
Patience is the key to mastery,
In taking things slowly and step by step,
we can turn the circles we usually run,
Into lines that we casually walk.
“If I don’t look busy its because I did it right the first time.” Unknown