We all know by now—or at least we should—that arm and shoulder strength play a minuscule role in the power of an upper body strike. I’m going to stop here and talk a bit about what exactly is meant by “power.” In classical physics, power is equal to work divided by time. We’re not really interested in how many watts or horsepower a cross generates. We care about damage. It turns out when we talk about striking “power,” what we really mean is impulse. Impulse is equal to force multiplied by time. Because of the impulse-momentum change theorem, to maximize damage, we want to minimize time and maximize force. Force is equal to mass multiplied by the acceleration of that mass. In this article, I will focus on the maximization of acceleration by using a phenomenon known as “kinetic linking.”
Just so we’re on the same page, I’m talking about the acceleration of the mass that is making contact with our opponent—the fist. In the interest of staying on that same page, acceleration is the change in velocity over time. I want my fist to travel to the highest velocity it can, over the shortest amount of time possible. Enter kinetic linking.
It takes energy to drive acceleration. If we can increase the amount of energy driving our fist, we will increase the acceleration of our fist. To increase this energy, we need to make use of as many muscles as possible. This is why we put our entire body into our strikes—not just the nearest muscle group. More muscles = more energy—more energy = more acceleration. The question becomes: how can I efficiently transfer energy from a comparatively far muscle group to the striking point? In order to make full use of the energy being generated, it has to travel to the striking point in a seamless chain reaction—thus the term kinetic linking.
How to Punch Hard
For simplicity, let’s take the example of a cross. If I stand still and just throw my rear fist straight out, it does not move very fast. If I engage my core muscles by rotating my shoulders toward my target just before I extend my arm out, my fist moves much faster. This is where kinetic linking becomes an art—in the transfer of energy from muscle group to muscle group. The ending motion of one muscle group should be the starting motion of the next group. If I move too soon, I lose energy. If I move too late, I lose energy. In the case above where I use my core to rotate my shoulders, as soon as my shoulders face square to my target, I use that energy to shoot my arm forward. You can practice getting a feel for maximized kinetic linking by isolating your cross to your shoulders and arm as in the example above. Practice rotating your shoulders square to your target and firing out your fist precisely as your shoulders square out. This should be a fluid and smooth motion. Pay attention to the sensations in your core, shoulder, and arm muscles as you do this. Watch your fist, and try to pair the sensation you feel with the fastest strikes. Once you get a feel for proper kinetic linking, incorporate the rest of the muscle groups for the cross.
A damage maximized cross starts from the ground and works up. Engage the legs by pushing up off the ground and leaning slightly forward. Next, the hips add power by torquing toward the target. The core follows this rotation toward the target, and the chest and shoulders end square to the target. The arm snaps out in a corkscrew motion utilizing the triceps, forearm, and wrist. Each ending motion is the starting motion for the next link in the chain. Remember to keep all motions smooth and fluid, engaging as many muscles as you can. Use the energy from the previous link to drive and add energy to the following link, all the way to the striking point. By doing so, you will maximize acceleration, which as you will recall, is 50% of force.
Kinetic linking can be used for all strikes. While it is a very important part of striking damage maximization, it is certainly not the whole story. Future articles will cover impulse maximization by maximizing the mass behind strikes, minimizing the time of force delivery, and putting all three together in a combat effective way.
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paguilar on July 13, 2019:
As you have explained it, your punches will be ineffective in a real fight. You will be prone to signaling your intentions. This gives your opponent the upper hand. If it were me, you would be unconscious by the time you twisted your hips or dropped your shoulder. Lol. Otherwise a very scientific approach to a punch. Good writing brother.
Tasos on July 22, 2014:
I disagree with two things written here.Shoulder strength and endurance plays a MAJOR role.And if you stand still and simply throw a right hand using JUST your arm it will actually be faster.
Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on October 03, 2012:
Very good explanation of how to accelerate a technique so that it has power: Correct use of more than just the arm muscles, plus the right timing. Very clear and thorough examination.