Power Punching: Bending the Bow

One analogy used in martial arts concerns bow’s within the body. I first heard of this from Steve Rowe at Shikon then later Steve Morris. I didn’t find it all helpful initially but now I love this analogy and, importantly, it’s useful in getting the body to generate power ‘naturally’.

Steve Morris blogged about bows in the article ‘loading against the curve’, referring to the construction of a reflex bow. While this helped I still didn’t quite get it at first, but now I do. If you imagine a springy branch that once pulled, wants to ‘ping’ back to it’s originally shape, that’s like a standard Western bow. The reflex bow, in contrast, has increased ‘spring’. This is due to it’s construction from a c-shaped piece of wood bent back on itself, i.e. against the c-shape. This greatly increases the tension and so power of the bow when firing arrows. Therefore, the bows in the body need to be bent against tension in order to generate great power. If a bow is bent ‘loosely’ power is diminished.

During a striking action, a bent ‘body bow’, such as the one across the shoulders, helps increase the loading of the strike. Muscle stretch at the shoulder activates the elastic component of the muscle providing potential energy. Tension at the shoulder joint augments this potential energy allowing greater force to be exerted when this energy is released. If the muscle stretch at the shoulder is soft/loose the resulting strike is comparable to the Western bow rather than the reflex bow. You have to play with this concept to get it. As an aside, the tension referred to here should not be confused with the dynamic tension that you often see used in the performance of sanchin kata. The striking action is NOT stiff!

It follows then, if we combine more than one bow we get a cumulative effect. This is something we have been working on in our club. We ‘created’ a strike we called the Superfrau which is like a close-in version of a Superman punch, which bends the bow of the back. We got a lot out of this. Then we added the bend of the shoulder bow, thus utilising two bows in one strike. It’s some hit!

 Power Punching: Bending the Bow

Bows bending!

The analogy of bows bending to fire shots works well once you get your head round it. So long as tension is maintained in the bow, power strike after power strike can be fired. I think of the body being charged, through tension, ready to fire. The image of the wrestler jumping from the corner of the ring onto his opponent illustrates the charged image I have. Chest protruding, arms splayed ready to explode inward! Although it should be present in something as mundane as the Goju kata’s sanchin and tensho.

The bow analogy can be used as a model allowing us to harness natural body resources to produce powerful strikes. These resources can be manipulated to find further ways of implementing power in strikes. It’s all good.

Originally posted 2009-02-20 02:34:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

12 thoughts on “Power Punching: Bending the Bow

  1. And not just power but also speed, the way we were ‘linking’ movements on half beats was great. Looking forward to getting a better grip on these things.

  2. I believe using analogies like this when training is essential to improving what you have practiced and repeated perhaps millions of times over the years.

    The thought about the bow in your punching practice sounds very effective. I also can imagine this similar tension building up from the ground in the execution of throws. Building up pounds and pounds of pressure and then suddenly snapping through the technique like you’ve just released an arrow, your whole body is no more than one, two-meter organic bow.
    Ryan Robinson recently posted..Legal Self Defense Weapons

  3. Jon- interesting stuff, thanks.
    Have you ever looked at Erle Montaigue’s Taiji vids [loads on YouTube, can recommend a couple if you're interested]?
    Lots of interesting stuff on body dynamics/’whiplash’ effect etc. etc.

  4. HI Nick

    Never looked at anything from Earl Montaigue at all, only ever read an interview with him in MA mag many years ago, would definitely be interested in having a look. Any recommendations greatly appreciated. Thanks Nick ;)

  5. Hi Jon,
    An interesting (some would say controversial) bloke- died earlier this year, sadly.

    He made 100′s of videos- starting back in the VHS days- so difficult to pick a couple but here are some dealing with short range power/body mechanics of Taiji punching




    Hope you find them interesting

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