POWER (n. \ˈpau̇(-ə)r\)
(1) The ability to act or produce an effect
(2) Physical might
(3) Mental or moral efficacy
(4) A source or means of supplying energy
In the context of the martial arts, “power” refers to the strength, effectiveness, or force behind techniques. One measure of power would be the amount of damage rendered or pain inflicted on an opponent by a kick or a strike. Techniques with low intensity are said to lack power. Fighters who are known for the power of their technique are said to be “heavy hitters.” Boxers such as Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and Mike Tyson are known as some of the hardest hitters in combat sports history. In MMA, Rampage Jackson, Dan Henderson, Junior Dos Santos, and Paul Daley have received similar acclaim.
What makes a technique powerful? Is it sheer size and strength alone? History proves otherwise. While brute force certainly contributes significantly to one’s power, we often see fighters overwhelm opponents who outweigh and outlift them. Simply stated, while size and strength do matter, they are no replacement for effort and F.A.S.T. – Form, Accuracy, Speed, and Timing.
What Contributes to power? How can we bring power into our training? We will discuss five elements that constitute the Theory of Power – mastery of which will maximize the efficacy of strikes, blocks, kicks, takedowns and submissions, and polish your forms into demonstration masterpieces.
#1 – Speed and Mass
The most basic formula for power was described by Sir Isaac Newton in his Second Law of Motion, which states that “The net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the acceleration of the object,” or more simply, “Force = Mass X Acceleration.” This mathematically precise formula gives us the foundation of our power: heavy stuff moving fast hits hard.
#2 – Breath Control
Your breath is the most significant internal additive of power. When resistance training gained in popularity, many lifters would instinctively hold their breath to generate greater power. Not only did this prove dangerous (as depriving the brain of precious oxygen always is), but it actually inhibited their strength! Holding your breath is even more detrimental in the use of quick, explosive force, such as a kick or a strike. Holding your breath and tensing your muscles may seem intuitively to add power, but you are essentially adding resistance to your movements – as if you were kicking or blocking underwater. Holding your breath also deprives your brain and muscles of vital oxygen and increases the risk of injury. Develop early the habit of inhaling prior to the execution of a move, and exhaling sharply upon its execution, and you will find that you never lack for power.
#3 – Equilibrium
Equilibrium is the principle of physical, mental, and spiritual balance. Precious energy is lost when it must be redirected from a technique in order to maintain or recover balance. Equilibrium is developed physically through precision in execution, repeated continuously until it becomes automatic and instictive. Mental equilibrium is maintained by keeping our mind and body free from distracting or impairing influences such as mind-altering drugs, excessive levels of stress, sleep deprivation, or emotionally-toxic relationships. Spiritual equilibrium is preserved by exercising moral courage and consistently living true to one’s principles, thus allowing us to stand with confidence. When these three aspects of our lives are in balance, the energy directed into our techniques is more efficient, and more effective.
#4 – Concentration
Concentration means mental and emotional focus on the task at hand. A disciplined mind can tune out sensory distractions, mute negative thinking, and shed the negative energy of external circumstances at the door of the Dojang. A mind thus freed can focus on the next punch, the next kick, the next block, and the next combination. Better decisions are made, and the body is free to deliver its maximum potential.
#5 – Reaction Force
Reaction Force utilizes the physics of whiplash in order to generate additional power. A whip generates an enormous amount of speed at its tip by suddenly inverting the motion of the handle, causing a wave of energy to surge through the whip from the handle to the tip. Your body can be used in a similar way to maximize power. When we punch, for example, we do not stick our hand forward and run very fast into our opponent; rather, we corkscrew the arm, generating far greater force upon impact. The same principle describes the reason behind conventions such as: using a reaction hand, quickly retracting a technique after delivery, or shifting your stance upon a technique’s execution. All of these motions transfer energy from one part of the body into the technique, generating greater power.