Article:    Lever your way to power

It’s interesting to watch people train hard with the best of intention but not always get out of it what they put in. In numerous clubs I’ve seen them training really hard, yet being slow and cumbersome or wide and ineffective in their standup and get exhausted in the process. It’s the same situation on the ground too.

Many of us have the work ethic but are trapped by it. I’m working hard, therefore I must be getting better, seems to be the concept. So what’s the answer to this problem of putting more in than you are getting out? These problems of slowness, lack of power, tiredness and inability to hit the target tend to fall into four categories. One; using the top of the body to do the work. Two; Not compounding levers together. Three not spiralling through the body and four getting in your own way.

Firstly for the boxing/ kickboxing aspect the key thing is work the base. Most people are used to working with their hands and arms therefore that’s where they do most of their work with the top half of their bodies. Instead you need to concentrate on leveraging from the bottom. Look at good boxers shadow boxing there is very little arm movement and it’s all very snappy if it’s there at all. Think of Bruce Lee coaching you and saying- ‘ I will turn your body into a weapon’ That means your body not just your arms, your whole body.

I always jokingly describe working with the top of your body as similar to manufacturing in Germany. Good but expensive. Working lower down your body is like producing in China the costs are lower. Work the base. Lower down never gets as tired, doesn’t complain as much and is also good at it’s job. Therefore it’s important to work the base in particular the feet. The rear heel should always be up. Do what the Thai’s do and put a little stone under your heel or imagine a drawing pin in your shoe. In my own club anyone with their feet flat is doing pushups. You’ve got to associate the heel down with pain. Sometimes, you’ll have both heels raised so it’s easier to keep the hips up and engaged making kicking easier but the rear one is always up. Then, you can move easier, It acts as a shock absorber and the leverage in the foot makes your strikes more powerful with no telegraphing. A flat back foot means I can see you coming as there’s a start up time as you load the foot. Think of it like having to cock an automatic pistol. You really only want to pull the trigger. A small thing but huge.

Think about the levers in the foot. You’ve got toe joints then a nice span of arch (a great lever like a trampoline) then all the joints in the ankle. If you think of all of these working together each multiplying the force of the previous joint you can understand the power. Flexible feet work more efficiently so simple mobility exercises help. Then take this power (think of a number) then multiply it by each joint as it goes up the body. Then you get to the back if you’re punching. How many joints there? And all to help you punch harder. Sometimes punching is taught like opening a door with a hinge down one side. That’s a good way to teach beginners but a better way is to think of a central pole like a spiral staircase with each joint going round a little further. Think of a helix and you could almost say it’s based in DNA. Line the knee and skeleton up so they are aimed at the target. Make sure your hitting with your skeleton not with your muscles that will fold or collapse. Work it on the heavy bag to check.

Don’t get in your way by being tense. In my Karate days you could always feel how strong your punch was. I loved the feeling, but when changing to boxing in the early seventies I realised that if I could feel it, then it was still in my body! I was fighting two people, myself and the other guy. You’re arm should feel empty like a hose with power flowing out the end or a whip with a rock on the end. Good punches seem effortless – Opponents just go down.

A big thing that reduces your effectiveness is getting in your own way. Think of it as two people trying to go through a narrow doorway you can’t both go through together, it gets jammed up. Like a wide equal triangle it becomes easy to block or easy to see because it’s wide.. Make it slimmer. If hitting you can either let the arm go first or the body with the arm following. This gives you two types of timing that is hard for an opponent to read. In classes I often joke with students and tell them to imagine they’re punching someone who’s got one of those old megaphone loud hailers they have on sports days in old movies. You want to put both punches down that and hit the person in the mouth. A hated school teacher perhaps?. You’re body has to spiral with one hand going first, then your body, then the second punch, all as far as possible down one line otherwise you can’t fit them in. Think of your opponent with a tight guard. You want to put your jab and straight right through that hole not let them get stuck or jammed on his arms. Successful striking is a great buzz. Why would you plan or train to miss? Once you’ve got the jab and straight right down then you can loop the cross around his lead arm. It’s called a cross so it goes across. With the cross you’ve got two options. First the hand can go first and the body follow. Like a Ferrari the engine is in the back. The skeleton lines up on contact-POW! Or second move the body first so he doesn’t know where it’s coming only that it’s been launched. That can be a horrible feeling, you know it’s going to hurt, but don’t know where.

Successful striking is all about the basics. Work the footwork and lower body. You won’t get as tired so you can use your work ethic to develop more skill or train for longer. Don’t use the arm in shadow boxing, work your body it’s less trained and needs educating. Mix and integrate the feet and the body with spiralling through the body all working together. Then add the big muscle groups like the abs to pull you in or stabilize you so you punch ever harder. Apply the same concepts, ease of use and doing less with levers, not strength, to your kicking and ground game too. The principles are the same. The martial way is one of constant polishing. Like Karate’s Master Funakoshi Gichin you want to realise you’ve got a great punch when you’re at the end of your life. Good training.