How hard can you punch? Many schools of impact-focused martial art and fighting ways train students in punching against the air. This develops a set of skills that may not transfer too well when we want to punch someone’s jaw! The air offers virtually no resistance to the punch and we learn to make a conscious effort to stop, or ‘focus’ the technique to avoid causing elbow injury. This focus formats the technique in a very special way that, as I said, may not lend itself to delivering an effective punch to a real person. How hard can you really punch some-one? Have you tested your punch – because that is what this article is about – performing a reality check.
First though, I want to make it clear that 1 am not criticising any style or method. I’m simply suggesting you add an extra dimension to your existing practice by performing a reality check on what you are learning in the privacy of your own garage/basement/garden. You will need a punch bag or an impact pad to test your punch – either one will do, though I personally recommend the punching bag because it lets you land several quick punches on widely spaced targets (stomach and jaw, for example) whereas the impact pad is really only good for single-shot punches. It’s always better, don’t you agree, to have a few fast follow-ups ready to launch? Though the bag may be better than an impact pad in many respects, there’s one thing the bag doesn’t do – and it’s a very important thing – it doesn’t move unexpectedly.
The punch bag should weigh maybe 2()()lbs and be filled with something that gives the same recoil as a person. Polystyrene pellets may work.
Attach a bungee elastic to the bottom to slop the bag from swinging wildly as you hit it (because people don’t!). Stand at a good distance in front of the bag and take up your fighting stance – whatever that may be in your style – and begin with a leading hand jab (snap-punch if you like!). Do it the way you’ve taught in class and see how hard you jolt the bag. Would il break an opponent’s jaw? Did it hurt your wrist/fist?
Fist/wrist alignment doesn’t matter when you punch the air but punch a heavy bag in the wrong way and it’s Sprain City!
OK, so you hit the bag with your jab. Were you impressed with your impact development? No? Then try the following slight changes:
Slide your lead foot forwards a couple of inches as you snap punch. This injects moving body weight (’kinetic energy’ to the scientists). Time your jab so you connect with the bag as you are moving. Don’t slide/stop/jab. Experiment! At what stage during the slide are you hitting hardest? Next: pull your guard fist back as you snap punch, so your shoulders rotate behind the punch – but don’t pull il back too far because you don’t want your chin to stick out! Combine the pull-back with the slide and the punching action to maximise your impact. Check how the angle of your shoulder affects the range of your punch. Turning your punching shoulder behind the punch extends its range but turning too far makes you vulnerable to an arm-trap. You need always to be able to pull a trapped fist back strongly.
Add a slight forward lean to the slide/shoulder movement. This adds the weight of your upper body to the jab but as always, don’t overdo it!
The object is to hit the opponent hard without exposing your head to a counter punch. So don’t lean in too far! Get a friend to spot you as you slam those jabs in. Breathe out as you punch – grunt or shout if you want. Does it help when you breathe out in that way? You know how you sometimes grunt when you lift a heavy weight? This comes from down in the diaphragm and indicates you are using a sudden and powerful muscle action. The grunt doesn’t cause the muscular action – it’s a consequence of it. Same with the punch! You hear the boxer grunt as their punch hits home because they are using a lot of body power. You hear the same from the tennis player.
Practise the snap punch while experimenting with range. We’ve already looked at extending the range of the jab. Now see how close you can get to the target and still do the business. You may find you have to completely change your punching action to do this -relying on more shoulder/body lean and a much greater acceleration of the punching fist. Reality Check means seeing how truly effective your punch is over a variety of ranges – because you will certainly experience these ranges in the fight-situation.
Now use those same principles with reverse punch. Use hip and shoulder action in sequence. Use that slide in and perhaps a little lean – but always while guarding your own jaw. Do you find yourself grunting as you hit the bag? If yes, then you are developing impact power. Typically you will launch the reverse punch as you are pulling back the jab. The reverse punch (’cross’) is the Magnum 44 of punches – the fist travelling a longer distance and employing even more hip action, and using pull back of the jab to help drive it. This is the ‘two’ part of the ‘old one-two’ so beloved of fighters the world over.
He may be able to slip the jab, but anticipate and aim the cross correctly and it’s lights out for him! The cross has to follow a split second after the jab. Leave il any longer and he’ll treat the one/two as two separate punches. Overwhelm his defences by jabbing to his jaw and reverse-punching to his solar plexus or rib cage, with no interval between the two. Move around the bag throwing punches in quick succession. Lean to the left and the right, as though slipping his punches but always aiming to hit the bag hard enough to elicit the grunt that tells you are punching hard.
Let me know how you make out and next month we’ll do the same with kicks.