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09-23-2008 3:58:13 AM CST

The Role of Tools and Targets in Maximizing Striking Power

Author: Michael Harkess

In a self defence/self protection situation, once conflict becomes physical, you need to get the job done very quickly (within 30 to 60 seconds). The objective of every strike is to incapacitate the opponent. To produce an injury that fundamentally changes the normal functioning of the body. 

To cause such an injury, you have to generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into the target……you have to maximize your striking power.

There are four elements required to maximize striking power. Four elements to achieve the power required to incapacitate an opponent. Those four elements are: Structure, the Body in Motion (kinetic energy), an Appropriate Tool, and a Specific Target.

This article is confined to a discussion of the third and fourth elements – an Appropriate Tool and a Specific Target.

The term tool describes the upper or lower body weapon that is used to impact on the target. It is the conduit between your body in motion (kinetic energy) and the target.

To maximize striking power, the tool will be structurally sound and prepared for the impact. It will give you the ability to strike with your bodyweight and not just with the weight of your limbs.

An appropriate tool will result in an injury to your opponent and not to you. It will always adhere to the following principles: keep it simple and straightforward (KISS), the closest weapon to the closest target, and, hard on soft, soft on hard.

At the point of contact with the target, the tool, together with the rest of your body will be one solid unit. However, beyond that initial contact, your intent is to penetrate the tool deep into your opponents body. To achieve this penetration we use the potential energy stored within our muscles to extend and drive or extend and rotate the tool through and beyond the target.

In martial arts competitions, targets such as the eyes and the groin are out of bounds and for very good reason. A thumb in the eye or a knee to the groin has the potential to cause a serious injury. It is for this very reason that the eyes and groin are excellent targets for self defence/self protection. Self defence/self protection is not a passive, non violent act; it is about self preservation and whatever it takes to get the job done quickly.
 
The best targets are those which are going to result in an injury that requires medical attention. They are the weak points on the human body, regardless of gender, size or muscle mass. When hit correctly, they are the points on the human body that will result not only in an injury but also a predictable involuntary response.

There are hundreds of targets on the human body. There are numerous tools that can be employed in self defence and the martial arts. However, not all of them will adhere to the self defence/self protection principles and performance criteria discussed in this article. The following is a list of tools and targets that I prefer and recommend:
 
Tools - Palm Heel, Hammer Fist, Forearm, Elbow, Shoulder, Vertical Fist, Phoenix Eye Fist, Front Kick, Knee, Oblique Stomping Kick and Side Stomping Kick

Targets – Eyes, Ears, Nose, Chin, Neck/Throat, Collarbone, Solar Plexus, Liver, Spleen, Kidneys, Groin, Outside Thigh (Lateral Femoral Cutaneous Nerve), Knee, Shin and Ankle

With these tools and targets, your objective is to cause an injury; to incapacitate your opponent. To achieve this, you have to generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into the target. You have to maximize your striking power. 

Using an appropriate tool for a specific target is an important ingredient in the recipe for maximizing striking power, but as discussed earlier in this article and in previous articles, there are four elements that need to be present. The four elements are: Structure, the Body in Motion (kinetic energy), an Appropriate Tool, and a Specific Target.

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09-04-2008 9:02:49 AM CST

The Importance of Structure in Maximizing Striking Power

Author: Michael Harkess

In a self defence/self protection situation, once conflict becomes physical, you need to get the job done very quickly (within 30 to 60 seconds). The objective of every strike is to incapacitate the opponent. To produce an injury that fundamentally changes the normal functioning of the body. To cause such an injury, you need to generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into the target……you need to maximize your striking power.

There are four elements required to maximize striking power…..to achieve the striking power that is required to incapacitate an opponent. Those elements are: Structure, the Body in Motion (kinetic energy), an Appropriate Tool, and a Specific Target. This article is confined to a discussion of the first element - Structure.

In simple terms, structure is being prepared for the equal and opposite reaction that occurs when our body collides with the body of our opponent…...it is being braced for the collision…..being braced against the planet. The effect, a strike has on a target is determined, in part, by structure. It also has an effect on the person doing the striking.

If, when a strike lands, structure is poor; the equal and opposite reaction will detract from the power of the strike. It will also most probably result in: a loss of balance, pain, and injury for the person doing the striking. However, if you are braced against the planet, your opponent will be hit by the planet. With proper structure, you will absorb the equal and opposite reaction and be immovable. This is, of course, assuming that good timing and rhythm has not allowed the opponent to also prepare for the collision.

Structure is like a chain and it will give at the weakest link. It begins from the ground up and involves the feet, legs, hips, spine, shoulders, arms, hands etc. Each component of the body represents a link in the chain. A problem with any one of the links and our structure is compromised e.g. a bent spine.

Good structure is a straight spine. Bending or leaning results in a loss of balance and a loss of power. Maintaining a straight spine ensures that your centre of gravity is above your base. It ensures your balance is not compromised.  A straight spine gives you the ability to strike with your bodyweight and not just with the weight of your limbs.

With the correct breathing, stance and footwork training, you will be able to stand and move with both balance and power….you will be able to absorb the equal and opposite reaction that forces you backwards and robs you of striking power.

Future articles, will explore the remaining two elements required to maximize striking power: an Appropriate Tool, and a Specific Target.

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09-01-2008 10:23:47 PM CST

Using Body Weight to Increase Striking Power

Author: Michael Harkess

The mechanics of striking is about generating and transferring kinetic energy into your target. Kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. In a self defence situation, if reason and logic fail to neutralize the aggressive and violent intentions of an opponent, you may need to use physical force to incapacitate him (Note: This is a last resort, when all other options have failed or are inappropriate). To incapacitate i.e. cause an injury, your objective should be to generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into the target. This is your body in motion.

Potential energy is stored energy that has the potential to be converted into other forms of energy, such as kinetic energy. The body has potential energy stored in the muscles and also because of its position in the earths gravitational field. We can convert this potential energy to kinetic energy in two ways: by lowering the position of our body in the earths gravitational field or by using our muscles to accelerate the body.

Imagine simply falling (body in motion) onto an opponent (target) lying on the ground. You will generate and transfer a very large amount of kinetic energy into his body and the likelihood of an injury or injuries occurring will be very high. Unfortunately, the lack of technique will most likely result in injuries for you, as well as your opponent. However, if you were to maintain a vertical spine (structure) while dropping your body and use both knees or one knee (tools) to pinpoint a landing onto the groin or solar plexus (specific target), your opponent will feel like he has been hit by a freight train and you will walk away unscathed.

To generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into a vertical opponent, drive forward and bend your knee(s). Driving forward is about moving your entire body into and through the target. Bending your knees is about dropping your weight into the strike. Bending your knees is a subtle movement and should be less than 90 degrees, anything greater than 90 degrees will make recovery difficult. Whether or not you bend one knee or both knees will be determined by the type of strike. The kinetic energy that is transferred is a mathematical combination of the kinetic energy generated by the lateral body movement (drive forward) and the vertical body movement (bend your knees). If you are within grappling range when you initiate a strike, then rotational body movement replaces drive forward (lateral body movement). However, you will still need to bend your knees and drop your weight into the strike.
 
The body in motion (kinetic energy) is only one of the four elements that are required to maximize our striking power. The other three elements are: structure, appropriate tools, and a specific target.

If any one of these four elements is removed or used in isolation, the results are inefficient, unreliable and personal injury may also be a likely outcome. For example, without structure or the use of an appropriate tool, a simple strike to the nose, may result in a sprained wrist (injury) for you and a more determined angry opponent with a blood nose.
 
In a self defence situation, once conflict becomes physical, you need to get the job done very quickly (within 30 to 60 seconds). The objective of every strike should be to incapacitate your opponent. To produce an injury that fundamentally changes the normal functioning of his body. To achieve this, we must generate and transfer the largest amount of kinetic energy possible into the target. This is your body in motion.

In future articles, I will explore the other three elements required to maximize striking power i.e. structure, appropriate tools, and a specific target.

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