I recently re-watched the Affliction fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Tim Silvia. I’ve posted it here so you can see it for context (and so I don’t ruin it for people who haven’t seen it).
The first time I saw it, I was amazed by the brutal efficiency with which Emelianenko struck down and finished Silvia. While Silvia stopped it by tapping out, ultimately, the beginning of the end was the heavy handed hits Emelianenko dished out prior to taking Silvia to the ground. They didn’t look like much but there was something about the strikes that just cleaned Silvia’s clock. If you watch more of Emelianenko’s fights, you’ll notice that this is one of the cornerstones of Emelianenko fighting form. He is a “heavy-handed” hitter.
One day, while watching UFC with some of my trainers and training partners, I asked, “What does it take to get heavy hands?” The general consensus was that you can’t develop it, you’re just born with it. I found this difficult to accept as an answer. There surely had to be something about the physics that makes it happen, which to me means that it can be developed on some level.
Later, when I was training on the pads with Louis, he told me in his direct manner of speaking, “You wanted to know about gettin’ heavy hands? Well, babe, you got em’. They’re not there every single time you hit, but when you’re on, you can feel it in the way you smack the pads.” Louis went on to point out the sound and feel that showed when I was hitting in a “heavy-handed” way as we worked.
From what I can tell of the feeling of those hits is that hitting heavy-handed is more about having just the right distance when you strike someone so that you get maximum power transfer from your strikes. If you’re working the pads, you can immediately feel the loss of power when you strike from too close or too far. But when you’ve got it right, you can feel a significant increase in power. The reason why people tend to think of being heavy-handed as a natural ability is that it’s difficult to actually see the difference between the perfect distance and slightly off the perfect distance. Also, some people just naturally have a better sense of distance than others.
Of course, having good punching form that starts from a solidly balanced stance, uses the hip, and twists the fist counts for something too, but without the perfect distance the power that is is generated from good form is completely lost.