Sunday, August 14, 2005

A general guideline to executing strikes and blocks with power without damage to skeletal joints

Allow me to boast a little.

I’ve learned the Taekwando 6th-dan pattern in its entirety. Just as a reference, 5th-dan black belt holders are referred to as ‘Master’. No, I’m nowhere near number six; I’m still loitering at the first rung after 4 years.

[Truncated: uninteresting bit about how I enjoy pattern routines]

A general guideline to executing strikes and blocks with power without damage to skeletal joints. Also a general guide to producing strikes that generate an impressive ‘foop’ sound as seen in fung fu films.

Many beginning practitioners face a problem when attempting to exert force when punching air. Say one is attempting to execute a demonstration punch. If great force is used to drive the fist outwards, it will naturally by moving at high speeds.

At the end of the arm’s reach, the fist will be suddenly stopped by constraints in the skeletal joints. One major shock load occurs in the elbows- when a fist is hurled outwards, the elbow joint unfolds rapidly while rising upwards. At the limit of extension, the elbow can no longer unfold further- it’s straightened to it’s maximum and will bend no more. Unfortunately, the upper and fore arms are still moving rapidly with a general upward direction. The elbow’s constraint causes a severe shock load that stops all motion.

This repeated shock load will be painfully felt if one performs repeated punching drills without sufficient care.

The way to circumvent this impact stopping is to use your muscles to retard the movements just before the punch comes to the limit of extension. Try a very quick strike, where upon impact you withdraw the fist from the impact surface. Notice the muscles drawing the limb backwards. We are interested in using this set of muscles.

Instead of drawing the fist backward as in the previous case, we now want to stop the fist just a slight bit before the impact site. The same muscles will need to tense up abruptly at the stopping point.

The magnificent ‘foop’ sound that appears to convey an impression of forceful execution is generated when stopping the fist. Of course, a proper uniform of sufficiently thick material is necessary. To generate the noise, one would need to execute a very fast strike, and decelerate it very abruptly using the aforementioned muscles. Attempting to use the skeletal joint constraints to do the same will only result in serious injury.