Is this common Kung Fu myth slowing you down and robbing you of power?

A common myth in the martial arts is that you should tense at the moment of impact.

Like any good myth it’s based on fact:

kinetic energy (KE) equals one half mass times velocity squared (KE=1/2m x v²)

This formula shows that we need to increase speed and mass to get more power.

So the strategy is to do everything you can to get your fist moving as fast as possible then right at the moment of impact you tense your entire body. The theory is that by tensing your whole body you are now striking with your entire mass instead of the mass of your fist or arm.

In practice this will only get you so far.

If you have major alignment errors, then you can use tension to limit the amount of power you lose at the joints.

However, this tension puts a limit on how much power you can get into your strike and it can cause injury.

Here’s how it works:

Alignment errors separate the body limiting how much mass you can get into your strike.

If your shoulder is not aligned properly, then you can’t get the mass of your body engaged and only your arm mass will be in the strike.

Tension also separates the body, but not as much.

So by tensing the shoulder you’ll get more mass engaged (but still a fraction of what it could be.)

This tension causes some major problems:

  1. It slows you down. You are freezing everything for an instant. This limits your momentum (part of why it limits your power.) It also means that your next strike comes on instant later. It may not seem like much, but in a life and death situation every instant counts and these stops add up quick. An opponent who doesn’t make this error can quickly be several steps ahead while using less effort than you.
  1. In addition to the long term health effects of tension, anytime you focus force on part of the body that is misaligned you increase the risk of injury. Tension can reduce this risk in the short term (unless the force is great enough to overcome the tension.) However, it also serves to focus the force on the tense area.

In the example above, if you tense your shoulder during every strike to compensate for the alignment error, eventually you will develop a bad shoulder.

We see this a lot.

The most common issues are bad backs, shoulders & knees from years of using tension to compensate for poor alignment while playing a sport, doing physical labor or training.

The solution is simple.

Work on your body mechanics!

Good alignment means less power is lost at the joints. You can stay relaxed, engage more body mass and you can move faster.

Not only can you move faster and hit harder, you are much less prone to short and long term injury.

To learn more about the body mechanics of speed (without sacrificing power) go check out the new Speed Striking DVD.

Wednesday is the last day it’s on sale.

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