How to Use Your Whole Body to Improve Martial Arts Technique

One of the things that is very much appreciated by students of the martial arts is how regular training not only makes you good at the martial art you’re studying, it also has a way of making people better at other physical pursuits. One aspect of this comes from the way martial arts helps you to integrate your entire body into your movements for maximum power and efficiency. Whether you’re throwing a punch, applying a joint lock, batting a baseball or throwing a football, there are three things you can do to help integrate your entire body.

1. Initiate Movement from the Hip. When you initiate any techniques with hip rotation, it allows you to coordinate the power of your lower and upper body for more efficient, more powerful movements. When throwing a punch, for example, if you initiate the punch with the rotation of your hips, it allows you to engage the muscles of your leg, core, upper back and shoulder muscles. When you start your movement from the hips, all the muscle energy of these body parts can be coordinated. The energy then travels up through the body and materializing into your punch, much like a whip. See The Difference between Fine and Gross Motor Striking Skills Part 2 for details.

2. Stay Loose. For your body to be used like a whip, it must be loose and supple. Think of how a whip works. It flexes all the way up the length of the whip so the energy can travel through and explode out the end. If there is any stiffness in the whip at any point, the energy would stop dead at that point. This is also true of the body. If you’re throwing a punch, and you’re stiff in the shoulders, for example, it won’t matter how well you use your hips. The energy would get caught up within the stiffness of the shoulders, preventing you from using your whole body. You must therefore stay relaxed and loose so the energy can travel.

3. Breathe Strategically. Your breath is a good way to both focus your movements and relax your body. By initiating your breath from deep within your core from the diaphragm or from the Hara/Tanden area, it helps you maximize the use of your core muscles. Breathing out also helps release tension in the body, allowing energy to flow freely. You can do all this by timing your breath with your punch, initiating your breath as your engage your hips and completing your breath as you make contact.

By using these 3 principles effectively, you’ll see a big difference in how much power you can generate and how much more effortless it will feel. These principles can also be used to improve joint locks, breakfalls and throws, though it’s easier to describe when it comes to strikes.

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