Worldwide there is a wide variety of martial arts, each with its own purpose and intent. However they all share one common goal, to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself. This is a common goal but there are many different ways to achieve this goal. Whether it is one strike or one victory, using the opponent’s weight against them, or a little bit of both, there are many martial arts to choose from. As with every martial art has its own history and goals.
The history of martial arts around the world is very complex. Martial arts has been made from scenarios. Many people have had to defend themselves at one time and have developed fighting techniques for that purpose. Some martial arts was also developed for military purpose. However, many techniques have been rendered obsolete of the years, and new techniques and strategies have been put in place. Many of these strategies include defending against modern weaponry instead of swords. Now a days, it is more likely to be attacked by a gun or a knife then by hand.
Many martial arts use the term “one strike, one victory.” This term means that the fight should end after one blow. Many fights don’t last more than a few punches, so you have to strike fast and be powerful. Without power in martial arts, some of it can be rendered ineffective. Defending yourself for example, by being powerful and knowing how to generate that power, you can be more effective in a harmful situation. Being effective at increase power is a skill that takes time to develop. Not all of us have a great mass that we can contribute to power generation. There are many other ways we can increase our power output to a massive blow. Some of these items include sine wave, speed, mass, and kinetic chaining. To further understand how these create power, we must go into further detail and learn how they generate power, and how we can implant them in our techniques. We also need to know ways to train the certain muscles in our body to accommodate and increase our power output.
Power generation in martial arts is a combination of strength, speed, and explosiveness. It is generated by releasing maximum force with maximum speed. Without both speed and strength, the power output will decrease. By using your strength in combination with speed, you take advantage of the force created by the muscles in combination with the momentum created by speed. All of this power is derived from muscular ability. Throughout the human body, there are over 400 muscles that can be broken down into two different classes: smooth and striated. Smooth muscles are the muscles that preform involuntary functions of the body, such as digestion and circulation. Striated muscles are ones that can be voluntarily contracted, such as groups of muscle in both the arms and legs. These striated muscles are the source for power.
There is three ways to describe power in martial arts.
1. Explosive power- Explosive power is the ability to exert maximum force in one or multiple dynamic acts. Example.) Breaking a board with a punch.
2. Static Power- Static Power is the maximum force a person can exert during a short period of time.
3. Dynamic Power- Dynamic Power is the ability to exert muscular force repeatedly or continuously over time.
Striated muscles are made up of two types of fibers; slow and fast twitch. Slow twitch fibers are designed for an activity that must be sustained over long periods of time. An example of this would be long distance running. These fibers have a higher capacity for aerobic energy production and can remain active for a long time, while producing small amounts of lactic acid. This important because lactic acid builds up in our muscle tissue which causes fatigue. Lower levels of lactic acid means for more capacity for work. People that have a high percentage of these slow twitch fibers excel in endurance activities.
On the other hand is the people of have a high percentage of fast twitch fibers. These people excel at explosive strength activities. Fast twitch fibers have a high capacity for anaerobic energy production. This allows them to generate intense power and speed of contraction. This intensive work causes faster buildup of lactic acid, and in return, causes the person to fatigue more quickly.
“Based on this, the answer to developing power seems obvious – increase the percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers in your body. Unfortunately, this is not possible. The ratio of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers is determined early in life and cannot be markedly changed. Studies have shown that distance runners have high percentages of slow twitch fibers and sprinters have high percentages of fast twitch fibers. Yet it has been concluded that the activity in which they participate is not responsible for this phenomenon. Instead, it is believed that distance runners take up endurance sports because they naturally excel in this area. In the same respect, others are naturally fast and gravitate toward the speed and power oriented sports in which they excel.”
“Although you cannot change the ratio of muscle fibers, you can improve what you have. In the average person, slow and fast twitch muscle fibers are generally intermingled, with a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers present. Through training, you can improve the metabolic efficiency of either type of muscle fiber. By training for explosive strength you stress the fast twitch muscle fibers repeatedly, causing them to become stimulated and teaching them to work more efficiently.” Power Training for Martial Arts. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2015.
Besides knowing and understanding what kind of muscles we have, we also have to understand how they work. There are two basic ways force can be generated and controlled. The contraction of the muscle is determined by the types of muscle fibers that are present and the firing rate of the neurons within the muscle.
The first step is our bodies have to decide which type of muscle fibers to use. The chosen contraction of a muscle begins with the enrollment of the smallest unit of the slow twitch muscles. This muscle fiber group has the lowest response threshold, most resistant to fatigue and uses the least amount of tension. As muscle tension increases, more units are required from the fast twitch fibers. As the tension rises more, now fewer motor units are required because the large fast twitch units contain more plentiful and more powerful muscle fibers. However, because these fibers generate the most tension in the muscle, they fatigue more quickly and require more recovery time. This can be seen in a practical application of the difference in muscle fatigue when you’re walking or sprinting. For example, if you sprint a mile, versus walking a mile. In each, you are using the same basic muscle groups over the same distance. However, very few people can sprint that far. Walking requires less tension in the muscles and ultimately relies on the low threshold, low tension motor units. On the other hand, sprinting requires maximum muscle tension in nearly every stride. The muscle fibers ability to produce maximum tension repeatedly over long periods of time is poor and we tire quickly.
Besides the amount and type of muscle fibers recruited, the muscle tension and the speed of contraction is determined by the rate at which the skeleton motor neurons stimulate muscle fibers. The more frequently that neurons are fired, the more tension that is produced in the muscle. At its peak tension, the neuron is firing so rapidly that the muscle fiber is unable to relax from one stimulation to the next. This results in the generation of maximum force. However, how can we improve and train our muscles to help us gain more strength. Strength can be increased by repeatedly stressing target muscles over time. There are three common ways of generating the required stress: isotonic, isometric, and isokinetic exercise. Our normal muscle movement would be considered isotonic. One muscle lengthens while the other muscle contracts in complementary pairs. An example of isotonic movement is weight training. As you lift a weight and then return it to its original position, your muscle just lengthened and contracted alternately through the full range of motion.
A good way to try and understand isometric exercise is to imagine trying to lift something that does not move. No matter how hard you try, it remains motionless. The muscular response you experience when applying force against an immovable object, is called isometric contraction. One muscle in use lengthens and the opposing muscle is prevented from contracting. We might understand how muscles work now, but we have to apply our knowledge into our movement. We now need to learn the factors put into power generation.
Firstly, perhaps the most important factor, is speed. Speed is one aspect that we need to generate power. Everything can be related to speed, that faster you are the more power you can put out. Speed is a combination of reaction time and movement time. Reaction time is the time it takes you to respond to a stimulus (such has a punch being thrown at you). Movement time is the time it takes preforming the actual movement (preforming a punch). Without speed, very little force can be generated.
F=MA, is the mathematical formula for how to generate a force. Where F is force, M is mass and A is acceleration. To have a speed, therefore means you have an acceleration. The faster the acceleration, the more mass and momentum you’ve created, therefore increasing power output. However, if you don’t have a lot of mass you can still generate loads of power with acceleration. Think about a bullet, superlight, yet extremely fast and powerful. Speed is not just physical, it’s also a mental factor. The more work you put into being fast, the faster you will be. When trying to be fast, whether running or throwing a punch, think fast. Think of fast things, get your mind into it. However, not all factors are mental.
Mass is another key factor that will aid in the increasing of power output. As Force is equal to mass times acceleration, combining mass with acceleration will generate massive amount of force. Mass can be generated in multiple ways. By throwing your body mass into the technique, and by rotating the hips. By rotating the hips we also get a form of kinetic chaining, unleashing power throughout our body till it reaches its target. Mass is also in the equation F=MA. M, being mass. By throwing your mass into your technique, along with being powerful can make an extreme amount of force.
Pendulum Power: “Be in the sway of Divine Power.”
A pendulum can be seen as a dynamic control of energy. More accurately, it is a predictable flow of energy. It is a synthesis of material and motion. It synergizes objects with energy. In some martial arts, such as karate, the flow of one motion leads to the flow of the other. Much like a pendulum. Practicing the flow of one motion co-operating with the flow of another bodily motion, can produce tremendous power. This is referred to as the Yin-Yang concept in eastern cultures.
Gravity Power: “Let it Fall.”
Gravity power and relaxed power are separate but can often be tied together. When somebody attacks you for example, the most common reaction is to fightback. However, sometimes the most effective it to drop and fall. Often times, the tighter someone holds you, the susceptible they are to a surprise action. If you drop, they won’t expect it and you are set up for rapid retaliatory movement. The means of this is to let gravity work with you in combining efforts to be more effective. By combing the efforts of muscular motion and gravity, they can work together to increase both mass and speed. Dynamic movements can be generated by allowing downward movements to be fueled by gravity’s natural power. Let it fall.
This downward motion, working with gravity is defined as sine wave. It is known as a rise and fall action to aid in power increase. In math, it is known as a sinusoid. A mathematical curve used to describe a smooth and repetitive oscillation. This effect is named after the function of sine, of which it is the graph. This occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other mathematical fields. The sine wave is an important part of physics. This is because it retains its wave shape when it is added to another sine wave of the same frequency, arbitrary phase, and magnitude. This is the only periodic waveform that consists of this property.
Despite all this confusing mathematical equations and such, this pattern occurs more often in nature then some of us realize. These occurrences include ocean waves, earthquake waves, sounds waves, and light waves. The human ear can recognize single sine waves as a clear sound because sine waves are a representation of one single frequency with no harmonics. The most pure sine waves are created when a human whistles, a crystal glass set to vibrate by running a wet finger around its rim, and the sound made by tuning a fork.
Now that we know about the mathematical version of sine wave, we can use this information to help show us how it is used in martial arts. The sine wave motion is a movement unique to the ITF Chang Hon-style Taekwon-Do. This concept got its name from the mathematical version of sine wave. The intent of this technique in taekwondo is to maximize one’s power by raising and lowering the body during the technique. This gives the Sine wave style a very “bouncy” appearance and feel. This certain approach augments the relax and tense power principle of taekwondo. The basic motion of sine wave is described as down-up-down. In other words, the downward motion is usually first followed by the upward motion, finishing with another downward motion. The picture below shows an exaggerated version of how sine wave is supposed to be performed. The exaggeration is just to make it clearer to the learner, in practice many schools teach that the motion should be slight, and not exaggerated.
A simple version on how to preform sine wave is as follows. Firstly is the relax stage, try to start from a relaxed position, this will require you to slightly but naturally bend our limbs. You should be lower than before. Secondly is the fall, possibly one of the easiest ways to get as much body mass as possible is to merely “drop” your body. So momentarily drop, letting your technique fall into your opponent, with all your mass behind it. However, maintaining control of your balancing is key during this process. A good Taekwon-Do practitioner knows how to “ride the wave” and will fall and push. Alternately, while getting as much body mass behind each technique as possible. Sine wave motion is not just used for dropping the body weight, but at a more advanced level, it is about accelerating the body mass in the direction of the technique.
The inspiration of sine wave is said to be when General Hong Hi Choi was on a boat and started thinking about the waves down up down motion. This inspiration is according to Grand Master LU, who had trained and traveled with General Choi for many years. Other people suggest it was just made to differentiate ITF Taekwon-Do with WTF Taekwon-Do.
In taekwondo, there is considered five variations of the down-up-down sine wave motion. All of these variations are related to the movement, combination, and speed of the techniques used.
These motions are most commonly seen in the ITF patterns (tul).
• Normal motion (1-1-1) – one full sine wave is completed during each breath. First pattern used in, Chon-Ji.
• Continuous motion (2-2-1) two sine waves during a single breath, as part of two or more consecutive movements. This is first seen and used in Dan-Gun.
• Fast motion (2-2-2) two movements that are performed consecutively in a fast speed, with two sine waves and two breaths, as in Do-San
• Connection Motion (2-1-1) two movements are performed in one sine wave and one breath. As seen in Yul-Guk.
• Slow Motion (1-1-1) – During slow motion the movement is performed slowly, but according to the theory of power, there is a slight acceleration at the end of the movement. This motion is one slow move, one sine wave, and one breath.
These five motions all influence sine wave, of which there are three variations,
1. Full sine wave
2. 2/3 sine wave
3. 1/3 sine wave
Only in normal motion, continuous motion, and slow motion there is a full down-up-down sine wave.
* Fast motion consists of a 2/3 sine wave, as there is only an upward and downward movement. An example would be in Do-San when a front snap kick is performed followed by two fast motion punches.
* In connecting motion, there is a 1/3 sine wave, as there is only a downward movement. An example would be from Yul-Gok when the punch follows movements 16-17 and 19-20.
However, sine wave is not just for the martial artist. Many other sports use it as a way to increase power output. Sine wave motion also appears in other sports such as baseball and shot put. Baseball pitchers throw their body weight down and forward. This is the sine wave motion, going from a higher position to a low position. The other thing you may notice is how he uses kinetic chaining, which is also known as sequential motion. This is usually described as hip rotation. The pitcher torques his body, starting with his legs, followed by the hips, through the spine and shoulders, and last whipping through the arm. The momentum of each section of the body contributes to the momentum of the next section. The final result is a lot of momentum build up that is released in a force of power.
However, the martial arts practitioner needs to subdue such an exaggerated motion because it exposes you at various moments throughout the motion, and may compromise posture and leaves you somewhat unbalanced. When the Taekwon-Do practitioner is taught in patterns to keep the back heel flat at the end of a technique and to square the shoulders, it is in fact to ensure better posture and to keep the rebound energy from not unbalancing the performer.
When looking at the field event of shot put, and looking how Randy Barnes performs, you will notice the same two power generating principles are evident. Randy Barnes “is widely considered to have the most effortless and efficient technique EVER.” Throughout the movement is both sine wave and kinetic chaining. As seen in the picture below, his body movement goes down up then down. This is very similar to Taekwon-Do sine wave when we punch. However, from here he is now pushing the iron ball upward at an angle, se he now needs to thrust is body up again. Throughout the whole technique, Barnes moves his body down-up-down-up.
In Taekwon-Do there aren’t any hand strikes that require us to do two rotations like Randy Barnes does with shot put. But, we do have a spinning back fist strike that requires a single rotation. The two principles of dropping your raised body mass into your technique, and using sequential motion or kinetic chaining are present in various sports that are concerned with speed and power generation.
Now that we have learned about sine wave, we must learn about kinetic chaining. The above to examples of a baseball player, and shot put master, both use kinetic chaining. One may ask, what is it? It is a whip-like or coiled spring action that is a rather effective method of producing power. This principle is seen in many martial arts including taekwondo. The following letter is to merely remind you about this important power generation method. Bruce Lee describes this following method as follows:
“The whip like or coiled-spring action of the human body in its striking (throwing) movement-pattern is a remarkable phenomenon. The movement of the body may start with a push of the toes, continue with a straightening of the knees and the trunk, add the shoulder rotation, the upper arm swing, and culminate in a forearm, wrist and finger snap. The timing is such that each segment adds its speed to that of the others. The shortened lever principle is used to accentuate many of the particular speeds of this uncoil or whip. The rotation of each segment around its particular join-fulcrum is made at high speed for that particular part; but each segment rate is accelerated tremendously because it rotates around a fulcrum already highly accelerated.” (Quotes from Bruce Lee’s “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”.)
Although it is not described in the same manner as the ITF Encyclopedia it his however suggested in some of the following principles.
“. . .It is very important that you should not unleash all your strength at the beginning but gradually. . . . . .One is to concentrate every muscle of the body, particularly the bigger muscles around the hip and abdomen (which theoretically are slower than the smaller muscles of the other parts of the body) towards the appropriate tool to be used at the proper time. . . . . .This is the reason why the hip and abdomen is jerked slightly before the hands and feet in any action. . . . . .Thus the hip rotates in the same direction as that of the attacking or blocking tool. . . . . .To bring the action of [everything] into one singe coordinated action. . . . . .once the movement is in motion it should not be stopped before reaching the target. . .”
The whole purpose of this method is to generate maximum speed and acceleration using this uncoiling method. Bruce Lee describes how to get the most acceleration using this method
“In throwing a ball, all the accumulated speeds of the body are present at the elbow when the forearm snaps over its fast-moving elbow-fulcrum. . . An important aspect of this multiple action of acceleration is the introduction of each segment movement as late as possible in order to take full advantage of the peak acceleration of its fulcrum. The arm is kept so far behind that the chest muscles pulling against it are tensed and stretched. The final wrist snap is postponed until the last instant before release or, in striking, before contact. In football, the punter puts the last snap into his knee and foot as, or a shade after, he makes contact with the ball. It is this last moment acceleration that is meant by ‘block through the man’ in football or ‘punch through the man’ in boxing. The principle is to preserve the maximum acceleration up to the last instant of contact. Regardless of distance, the final phase of a movement should be the fastest. Maintaining this increasing acceleration as long as there is contact is sound. . .”
A typical ITF Taekwon-Do fundamental punch works with similar kinetic chaining principles. Before the rotation of the shoulders, it is proceeded by the turning of the hip, which in turn is part of a greater leg motion initiated by the knee spring. Although the process is not as clearly described in the ITF Encyclopedia, the basic principles are embedded in the Theory of Power, and the Training Secrets, as well as other passages located in the Encyclopedia. Such principles include, “All movements must begin with a backward motion with very few exceptions.” As well as “To create sine wave during the movement by utilizing the knee spring.” Another one that ties together kinetic chaining is “To bring the action of eyes, hands, feet and breath into one single coordinated action.”
Many sports use kinetic chaining to increase force and speed, however, in terms of Taekwon-Do, it is most similar to that of Tai-Chi. In terms of power generation, it is closer to Tai-Chi than Japanese karate. Historically, Taekwon-Do’s movements were very linear, which came from its Shotokan Karate roots. Many old Taekwondo styles still resemble the Shotokan Karate roots, but over time many schools have developed a new method. The current ITF focuses a lot on relaxation and various circular motions. “For instance, when punching in Taekwon-Do the arm is not pulled to the hip, momentarily resting there, and then thrust again straight to the target. Instead, the arm is pulled back, but instead of stopping it does a small elliptical motion before thrusting out to the target.” ITF taekwondo is now more in common, with the internal style Chinese martial arts and their concept of “fa jin.” When looking at a video of Tai-Chi Ch’uan Master Chen Xiaowang demonstrating “fa jin,” one may notice the alternation between the relaxation and sudden acceleration. This is known as “fa jin” in internal and soft style Chinese martial arts. This type of relaxation transferring into an explosive finish using kinetic chaining is in fact very similar to that of Taekwon-Do.
The following illustration shows us levels of relative muscular tension during a fajin strike.
The white portions of the body show only background muscle movement, such as that required to stand up. The power is generated by firing successive muscle groups, starting with the rear foot and pushing up from the rear heel through each muscle. Additionally, by adding acceleration through each successive muscle or group of muscles. The red areas show the body parts where the momentum is currently being accelerated and the orange through to yellow sections show the body settling back to a lower level of tension such as that necessary to brace against the impact. The fighter should not rise up as their power pushes through their body, rather they should sink lower and compress to brace the strike. The whole process should happen in a fraction of a second. A key aspect to take notice of is how the whole body returns to its background levels once the power has been released so that the fighter may return to a state whereby they are equally ready to move any portion of her body.
The evidence is overwhelming, there ae many types of ways to generate power, not only in taekwondo and martial arts, but other sports as well. Kinetic chaining, speed, mass, sine wave motion all contributes to the generation of power and force. By inputting these factors into your techniques, can make your power output more explosive. Power generation in ITF Taekwon-Do basically comes down to this. “Accelerate as much body mass as possible in the direction of the technique, with emphasis on strong exhalation, and without compromising your balance and posture.”
Hunter Allen (16), began his Takwon-do career at the age of 7, under Head Instructor Mr. Howes (VI) and Mrs. Howes (V) at Lightning Family Martial Arts in Calgary, Canada. In the past 9 years, Hunter has excelled in the dojang’s Demo Class, Sparring Class and recently graduated from the LFMA Instructor’s Course. Hunter has served 2 years in Canada’s Air Cadets, where he competed in Biathlon and won Top Marksmanship and Survival Team awards. Hunter has maintained Honour Roll Status in his years of training and was recently awarded LFMA Black Belt of the year. Hunter has competed within Canada and the USA and consistently medals at competitions.
Hunter is a popular member within is club, where his other family members also train, and is on his way to becoming a mentor to younger belts. Hunter is a mature, young man who enjoys teaching, training and mentoring other Martial Artists. He is a perfect example of how Taekwon-do taught in a professional dojang, is beneficial to a person’s development and growth
Shotokan Karate Principles of Power –