Power Punching Tips: tai chi and martial arts science

A recent power punching tips post included the same video as this one (see below) and highlighted the use of great science in supporting claims of martial artists. This is in contrast to some of the flashy pseudo science programs you can see on cable channels. Don’t get me wrong some of them are interesting but most are more style over substance than anything else.

Further, some even contain flagrant errors, while they all seem to use flash looking animation to make the point. The animation tends to contain irritating science writing and formulas poping up all over the place, more for effect than anything esle. These programs can be interesting but the science backing them is often, well, incomplete. So the Tai Chi or more accurately Baji Quan master video is a welcome change as this is scientific lab work and much more pleasing.


The recent post only covered one of the findings the video highlights – ground reaction force, but omitted two others

  1. angular momentum to linear = whipping action
  2. impulse, contact time, short contact time = greater force

Power Punching Tips – whipping action

The biomechanics of the motion capture animation (much better than the human weapon effort) clearly illustrate the sequential action starting at the feet, transferring to the hips and then the shoulder before throwing the arm in a linear action. For me the angle from above illustrates the whipping punch action beautifully and so has great value.

Power Punching Tips – impulse
Working from Newtons second law the researchers state that force increases as the time of contact decreases and in this case the master appears to have as little as 25 milli seconds of contact time witht he target.

That is not a lot of contact time! This reminds me of a time when I was first trying to learn this kind of punching. I was used to regular karate push punching at the time and the whole thing was a bit confusing. The difference is that force applied with a push punch moves the target, while the type of punch that the master is doing ensures the force generated is left inside the target. Generally, it is more effective to leave the force inside the opponent, he/she feels it more.

one inch punch bl Power Punching Tips: tai chi and martial arts science

Bruce Lee's One inch punch

I remember being blown away by this at the time but I did manage to learn how to do this type of punch and can now deliver a lot more force to the target, which is great. Rapid relaxation after explosive tension at point of contact with the target is the key. This is one way of applying, certain of the one inch punch princples but should not be confused with the ‘tagging’ punches of semi-contact sport karate or similar.

While the power punching tips contained in this short video are hardly earth shattering they do lend legitimacy to the claims of martial artists such that ground reaction force, transfer of momentum and impulse are important in getting force into your target. It is extremely refreshing to see the use of sophisticated equipment to illustrate these points with greater validity than the majority of the flashy television efforts.

Originally posted 2011-02-25 03:29:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

10 thoughts on “Power Punching Tips: tai chi and martial arts science

  1. Great post. My dad was in the Russian military, and he’s the one who taught me to fight (not as a sport, but purely as self defense) – he always said to try to imagine yourself throwing your fist, so your entire body is involved in the action, not just your body and shoulders.

  2. Karate practitioners train very much the hip movement with “hikite”(using the oposite hand throwing the punch to gain momentum), and also boxers do the same but without putting the opposite hand down, but the principles are very similar. So I think that use of hip and foot to punch is trained in almost every martial art or sport, in some cases punches are not efficent more because modifications to score more easily in point competition than because the basic technique fails.
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  3. Indeed, I’d agree that all martial arts use the hips and feet movement to generate power and you are probably correct that modifications for point scoring competition detracts from power production. However, the devil is in the detail and I feel that a lot of useful detail is missing in the karate interpretations rendering the punches less sophisticated and less powerful. You tend to end up getting less bang for your buck!

  4. Thanks for this article! My sifu also teaches us that breath is an important key factor with effective punching. He teaches us that a natural exhalation must accompany any attack or block, and not to let it lock up in your chest. Otherwise, your chi and your breath will be in a state of frenzy flux.

  5. Breathing is key and is more important than most people realise. The breath can be used to assist the power in a technique, I’ve written a post on that about barking which describes this.

    What on earth is a frenzy flux?

  6. Jon Low , you are right breathing is key but it doesn’t mean that it is all. If you concentrate on you mind thoughts , you can simply or in some extent automatically control your breathing. In short, achieving no mind situation can gives you permanent breathing control. So, don’t only focus on breathing point but to focus on thought wondering.
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