It’s not that hard to learn how to learn the basic mechanics of a strike, whether it’s a punch, elbow strike or knee kick. (I’ll leave out kicks like side kick, roundhouse, and any other kick that requires you to develop a good sense of balance for them to be effective.)
That is why strikes are emphasized in the core curriculum of my style of Jiu-jitsu. Many of them can be learned and applied quickly because the basic mechanics of most of our strikes only require gross motor skills to apply them.
That being said, fine motor skills can be learned and applied to strikes to improve their effectiveness for long term development in the martial arts. In my last post, I talked about strike targeting (in relation to nerve motor/ pressure points) as a fine motor skill. In this post, I’ll discuss “snap” as a fine motor striking skill that also improves strike effectiveness.
Many moons ago, I trained in Shotokan Karate. I trained in it for a few years, long enough to earn my brown belt. While Karate is not as complementary to my style of Jiu-jitsu as a striking art as say boxing, I did none the less take away some very useful concepts that I still apply to my training now. One of these is the concept of snap.
To use “snap”, you keep your body relaxed throughout range of motion of a strike, then tensing your body and/or twisting your striking surface right at the moment of impact. This can greatly increase the power of your strikes.
Think of your body like a whip. Your striking surface, whichever one you’re using, is the end of the whip, your hips & legs are the handle, and your rest of your body in between is the length. You start your movement from the handle and, because the length of the whip is supple, the energy transfers all the way down the length as the handle continues its movement. Then, at the decisive moment, the handle sharply changes direction, an additional burst of energy shoots through the whip culminating at the end, resulting in a powerful “crack.”
Here’s a video showing whip cracking to help illustrate:
With the case of a punch, for example, you initiate the strike from the legs and hips (the handle), thrusting your fist out toward your target. You keep the rest of your body relaxed (the length of the whip) and then at the moment of impact, you twist your fist (the end of the whip) into the target while you tense your body. This takes the kinetic energy you have generated from your relaxed body and localizes it into your strike.
Here’s a good visual explanation on these mechanics that was provided on the TV series, the Human Weapon:
By focusing doing additional focus on fine motor striking skills like targeting and snap, you can vastly improve the effectiveness of your strikes over the long term (and this can be a very long term indeed!). But, of course, the long term development of the martial arts is what makes it so interesting. Or at least it does for me anyway. Plus, being a smaller person, I need every advantage I can get should I need to actually put strikes into practice in a self-defense siuation.