by Thomas Kurz
This article is about causes of errors in punching and about my favorite exercise for teaching and testing the correct form of the basic punch (karate punch, tkd punch, etc.).
In the previous article on punching errors, I wrote about fixing errors of the arm movements only. There are more errors in poorly taught martial artists’ punches: wrong wrist alignment, elbows out, shoulders up, excessive tension, and poor hip action are the most common.
The causes of those errors are:
1. Poor example–from fake instructors.
2. False belief that kicks are so superior to punches that one may neglect punching practice.
The second cause compounds the first one–those aspiring “martial artists” don’t work with punching equipment (bags, balls, etc.) enough to acquire good form.
The end result, which I have seen at my clinics and workouts, was (and still is) that the vast majority of people who came to learn kicking didn’t know how to punch. How do these people expect to set up their kicks, or mix them in combinations with punches (and how have they obtained their rather dark belts)?
I have seen too many matches, mostly of taekwondo players and some point fighters, in various tournaments and championships, in which opponents moved as if their arms were injured. They hardly used them at all. It is as if they didn’t know that good punches set up kicks by creating openings in an opponent’s defense. At the same time, punching combinations “pull” kicks and give them more power–I show this on the Clinic on Stretching and Kicking DVD.
Before learning kicks, you must master several other techniques that are lead-up skills for the kicks. The movement habits as well as strength and muscular endurance acquired while drilling these lead-up skills will make learning all kicks easy and protect you from injuries. For example, mastering the straight punch instills the habit of rotating and counterrotating the hips and shoulders. This generates power in kicks. Also, people who have not mastered straight punches put their arms in weird, unsafe positions when kicking–they open themselves up to easy attacks and counters. But that is not news to those who have read my article “High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Great Height and Power in the Roundhouse Kicks.”
The short movie above shows my favorite exercise for teaching and testing the correct form of the karate punch. All competent karate and kung-fu instructors know this exercise and can perform it well. Punching out a candle’s flame requires correct coordination of all movements of the punch, flowing from the toes to the knuckles.
There are many exercises for learning and perfecting punches, but this one is my favorite–fun and of utmost effectiveness.
Sometimes I have to teach someone who doesn’t get the form and the flow well enough to safely begin punching out the candle. In such cases I have them do slow-motion punches while holding a Thera-Band (it may be done with a bungee cord instead). Punching with such resistance gives them the sense of driving from their toes, through the hip and shoulder to the final snap. This exercise also keeps them from letting their elbows fly out to the sides–a common error of people taught by incompetent instructors.
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum.