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sensei8
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Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:00 am    Post subject: The Nomenclature of the Reverse Punch Reply with quote

I've always taught, therefore I believe, that before a student of the martial arts can ever execute effective techniques within ones style, that the practitioner must first understand said technique(s). I'm not speaking about just the execution and/or the application(s) - while that's an important aspect, it's not the totality of a technique. It's critical for ones martial arts betterment to learn the nuances as well. To understand it is to know it and to know it is to appreciate it. To appreciate it, one must experience it. For the sake of this article, we'll examine the nomenclature of gyaku zuki (reverse punch). Methodologies will vary within the martial arts; therefore, I will try to speak towards its general terms.

Due to the ease and effectiveness of the reverse punch, it's the one technique that is generally preferred by martial artists worldwide, no matter the venue, and no matter the style of the martial art.

Nomenclature of Gyaku Zuki
  1. Head
  2. Neck
  3. Shoulder
  4. Arm
  5. Elbow
  6. Wrist
  7. Fist
  8. Posture
  9. Back
  10. Hips
  11. Rear end
  12. Legs
  13. Feet
  14. Muscles
  15. Exhale
  16. Floor
The head's connected to the neck bone and so on and so forth until the complete unit works together in concert to achieve an effective reverse punch. Albeit, it's similar to the effect that if a chair was missing one of its legs, it would become off-balanced. Therefore, it would fall over, ineffective from the beginning to end.

Remove one from the nomenclature list, and the end will be defined by its beginning; therefore, the totality of gyaku zuki is incomplete, without means and without sufficiency to be effective at its most important and critical point: the target. The usual target for the reverse punch is the solar plexus; however, the head is, at times, an inviting target. That said, the head as a target can be challenging because it's on a swivel - the neck - and, in that, not quite so easy to attack when one compares the area given to the torso.

Surely we can afford to rid our gyaku zuki of one or two elements from our reverse punches nomenclature. What harm would befall this particular technique if we were to change and/or amend said list that encompasses this most basic of techniques? Isn't it vital to the practitioner that all of its parts are there as an attack is composed?

For the most, and for the purpose of this article, we'll look at the reverse punch while one is in a basic front stance, zenkutsu-dachi, approximately two shoulders long and one shoulder wide. The outer blade of the foot of the lead leg is straight forward; the back foot is at a 45 degree angle. Depending on the style's methodology, the weight distribution is generally 60% on the front leg, 40% on the back. The front knee bends forward so that the knee is in line with the front toes, the back knee is straight. The kumite kamae is the same as the basic front stance with two exceptions: length (about 8 inches shorter) and back knee (bent, facing down).

Let us now look at the nomenclature list from above one at a time, in basic and general terms, as we delve inside of karate's reverse punch:

Head: What's the head have to do with our punch? Everything! If our head is askew to one side or another, it disturbs balance, even if ever so slightly. Many things can be destroyed by our head being out of alignment. For example, our posture is no longer proper. Keeping your head, so to speak, is very important to the success of the reverse punch.

Neck: This is the swivel point for the head. Does the neck move at all? To a point, it does, but not independently. Movement, as in flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation, elevation and depression, don't include the neck. When one's stretching their neck muscles, it's the head that's moving, and not the neck. Inasmuch, a stiff and sore neck can have an undesired affect on one's reverse punch and to the point of debilitating other parts of the body. A pinched nerve can be radiating in various networks of the body, which in turn can be bothersome to one's posture. However, humans have learned to work through said inconveniences and uncomfortable situations to achieve their aims.

Shoulder: Shoulders should remain relaxed throughout the entire reverse punch - therefore, your shoulders shouldn't be raised either. Keeping the shoulders back, not forward, will end the temptation of arresting the power curve throughout the reverse punch. Depending on the methodology of the style of martial art, your shoulders aren't fully squared at its beginning; sort of in a "cocked position," as how one would view a gun's hammer would be right before firing. To increase power of the shoulders is what we call, in karate, using push/pull. Meaning all of our techniques, as one part of the body pulls, another side pushes.

Arm: The purposeful orientation should be tense, but only at contact with said target. Always keeping the arm close to one's side throughout, not allowing the arm to flap outwardly. For it is true, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This differently applies to both of the arms. As the arm closest to one's side starts towards its target, the other arm starts to return to that side as though they were attached by some invisible rope. Its plane must be direct so that its target isn't thought to be unreachable by what's at the very end of the arm - that being its fist.

Elbow: In order to protect one's elbow at target, the elbow shouldn't ever be fully extended. In that, the fully extended arm should be ever so slightly bent at the elbow at contact. This also helps to prevent one from overextending the arm; thus, hyper-extending the elbow, thereby extending the elbow joints beyond their natural range of motion. In short, the elbow gets bent too far in the wrong direction from a straightened position. If the opponent isn't within range of attack/counter-attack, then don't try to reach. Instead, close the distance by transitioning towards the target with the means that your style advocates.

Wrist: A bent wrist at contact is a formula for disaster. Not for your opponent, but for you. The wrist should never be bent at contact; otherwise, injury is highly possible. From the elbow to the end of one's knuckles, that plane should never be broken. When striking something solid, make absolutely sure that your wrist is properly aligned and strong enough to absorb contact with said target.

Fist: This is the contact area to the target. Depending on which style of martial art you train in, the determining knuckles you hit with might vary from the two knuckles of the index and middle fingers and/or the three knuckles of the middle, ring and small finger. Either way, your fist should be relaxed until contact with target, but just a trillionth of a second before contact, your fist better be held tight. That way, there will be solidness in your attack through your reverse punch. Loose fists can cause injury to your finger(s) and, because of the proximity of one's wrist to one's fist, they're both subject to injury. Concentrating everything into two or three very small points, such as the knuckles of your fist, requires some physics. Physics dictate that this will dramatically increase the force and impulse of the reverse punch, causing more damage than if a larger area had been used. Tight is right! The action of returning your fist to its original position, immediately after contact with target, must be executed with the same fever as it had before.

Posture: Posture defines the martial artist. Your posture is either bad or good; there's no in-between. Achieving great martial arts posture takes time. A martial artist must learn that posture is an integral part of performing techniques; in that, one must work hard to ensure that they consistently maintain good posture. Don't slouch! Don't lean to one side! Don't lean forward or backward! Don't be stiff! Whether one's in a front-facing, half-front facing or a side-facing posture, one must maintain that their back is straight, shoulders are back and their head is high. A defective posture denotes a defective technique, even more so, a bad posture will denote a defective reverse punch. This alignment must be maintained while moving for optimal balance, power and execution. The body will overcompensate any time any of these parts is out of their proper position; working harder and with less efficiency.

Back: A strong back means a strong martial artist, and that means a strong, in this case, reverse punch. As a matter of fact, a strong back will be a prerequisite to many techniques, in order for them to be effective. Training one's posture properly will build up the back. Remember your mom constantly reminding you to sit up straight. Well, it's a proven fact that those who listened to mom have much fewer back problems.

Hips: Hips drive the machine! Without hip movement, there can be no power in any martial arts technique. The hips allow a student to maintain good balance; thus, the ability to engage the entire body. The hips make it easier to coordinate breathing. The hips provide momentum for the execution of said technique(s). The use of the hips allows one to explode through your fist. Without your hips, the body remains at a state of rest; therefore, power can't come from the core. Using only one's arm provides limited amount of force. However, with the hips in full utilization of your entire body, the force generated multiplies. Hips are your friend!

Rear end: Your rear end isn't just for sitting, even though we spend a lot of our life doing just that. While punching, you push onto the ball of your back foot, and to incorporate the calf muscle, we involve our backside as well as our thigh muscles. At first, one will have a sore rear end from doing one punching drill after another, but in time, that should subside. Don't ignore the importance of your rear end, and this is what I see a lot of beginning students consciously do. Beginning students pass off the functionality of their read end as though they don't even have one. All parts have to work at their prescribed moment; no sooner and no later.

Legs: Depending on the stance, the front leg is bent with the knee over that foot. While the back leg is ever so slightly bent, however, just at the moment of contact, the rear leg is straight and taut in order to drive into the floor, pushing out into the target concurrently. The back leg pushes off the ground strongly to produce proportionately equal power in the lateral rotation of the hips, then turning the torso and shoulders for added speed and power.

Feet: The power of the punch isn't in the fist or even the arm, the power starts from the ground. For the power to start from the ground, the feet are an intricate portion of the power formula. P = m x v, mass times velocity and/or F = m x a, mass times acceleration. However, you can speak about all of the theories and formulas you want, but if you don't include the feet having a constant and intimate relationship with the floor, any assumed equation that might be formulated will not be an accurate one. My feet can be imagined to be the carburetor that fuels the engine which drives my power curve up to and through the power apex.

Muscles: Without muscles, nothing we do can be done. The complex network of muscles allows us to do the most basic functions as well as the most difficult. I can't walk, move, stand, run, skip, hop, jump, squat, spin, turn, slide, twist, stop, start, and so on, without them. In the martial arts, nothing can be effective without fully understanding the who, what, when, where, why and how of the muscles in relationship to each and every technique. In addition, muscles during the reverse punch must be relaxed. However, just at the point of contact with your target, the muscles must be tensed. It's that constant relaxing and tensing that will use up a lot of resources, tiring you out prematurely. To avoid that drain, drilling the reverse punch over and over, and then some, is a requirement for all martial artists. A sore/stiff muscle can affect the outcome of any martial arts technique; therefore, the reverse punch isn't an exception to any rule. Proper stretching is critical to the health and well being of the muscles.

Exhale: As a general rule, hold your breath, and then throw out your reverse punch, exhaling hard as you execute it. You will notice a difference in your power. Exhaling also helps to prepare your body for an attack, should it get through your defenses. Proper breathing techniques help to oxygenate the muscles through either sanchin breathing at proper moments during the techniqur or when expelling a sharp kiai at the conclusion of the technique or any other types of breathing that some styles would advocate. Holding one's breath during a technique, as beginners often do, is detrimental to the effectiveness of the technique. For things to flow, they mustn't be stopped. When the breath is being held, that's exactly what's occurring: a disruption of the flow.

Floor: That which we stand and/or move upon is more than mere collections of material things. The floor is the judge as to the effectiveness of any karate-do; it's not subjective, nor is it selective. However, its judgment is complete, without reservation and/or favoritism. In the execution of the reverse punch, grip the floor with your toes as you push and/or drive towards the technique's conclusion through the target. Don't lift your feet higher than how your style dictates. The maturity of the reverse punch is determined by how close one pays attention to the smallest details. The floor takes no prisoners in its prudent and tactful evaluation. My feet know the floor intimately through actions as well as inactions - through how my foot grips the floor, how my foot is planted on the floor, how much the area of my foot is resting on the floor and how much of my foot denies the floor.

A strong reverse punch requires coordinating all of the above points. Everything must be in proper alignment from head to toe. Everything is straight: the shoulders are level, the elbows are tucked and the wrists are straight and in line with the first two and/or three knuckles of the fist. Lining up everything correctly will ensure better balance and efficient movement.

In closing, whenever I've spoken about contact to the target, I'm not implying that the reverse punch terminates at the target. Instead, the reverse punch drives through the target - not at it, but all the way through it.

The nomenclature is a list of content, this is for sure. But it's much more than that.
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Patrick
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Bob.

Patrick
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ninjanurse
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GREAT!


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CredoTe
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great, in-depth analysis of the simple, direct reverse punch. Just a few points...

Quote:
Elbow: In order to protect one's elbow at target, the elbow shouldn't ever be fully extended. In that, the fully extended arm should be ever so slightly bent at the elbow at contact. This also helps to prevent one from overextending the arm; thus, hyper-extending the elbow, thereby extending the elbow joints beyond their natural range of motion. In short, the elbow gets bent too far in the wrong direction from a straightened position. If the opponent isn't within range of attack/counter-attack, then don't try to reach. Instead, close the distance by transitioning towards the target with the means that your style advocates.


In Matsubayashi-Ryu (official WMKA) and from Ti, we teach to punch straight from the shoulder at the desired target height, fully extending the arm to achieve full range of motion. When the arm is fully extended in a straight line, the major bones and joints of the arm line up together, thus making it an unbroken line/plane. When all of the other parts of movement, as noted by your nomenclature list, are utilized correctly with proper training against heavy bags and machiwara, the actual possibility of injuring the elbow is very small. While we do not advocate extending/reaching the arm past the natural fully extended range of motion (thus, a "hyper-extension"), Soke Takayoshi Nagamine was notorious for being able to achieve lightning-fast, powerful punches that extended beyond his natural full extension. He could gain a good 6-in. without "leaning" or "reaching" into it. In fact, during seminars with him, Soke would use the term, "hyper extend". He did this for his entire MA career with no adverse effects on his elbow joints.

Quote:
Rear end: Your rear end isn't just for sitting, even though we spend a lot of our life doing just that. While punching, you push onto the ball of your back foot, and to incorporate the calf muscle, we involve our backside as well as our thigh muscles. At first, one will have a sore rear end from doing one punching drill after another, but in time, that should subside. Don't ignore the importance of your rear end, and this is what I see a lot of beginning students consciously do. Beginning students pass off the functionality of their read end as though they don't even have one. All parts have to work at their prescribed moment; no sooner and no later.


And:

Quote:
Muscles: Without muscles, nothing we do can be done. The complex network of muscles allows us to do the most basic functions as well as the most difficult. I can't walk, move, stand, run, skip, hop, jump, squat, spin, turn, slide, twist, stop, start, and so on, without them. In the martial arts, nothing can be effective without fully understanding the who, what, when, where, why and how of the muscles in relationship to each and every technique. In addition, muscles during the reverse punch must be relaxed. However, just at the point of contact with your target, the muscles must be tensed. It's that constant relaxing and tensing that will use up a lot of resources, tiring you out prematurely. To avoid that drain, drilling the reverse punch over and over, and then some, is a requirement for all martial artists. A sore/stiff muscle can affect the outcome of any martial arts technique; therefore, the reverse punch isn't an exception to any rule. Proper stretching is critical to the health and well being of the muscles.


For us, for proper usage/training of gamaku, these are together, but I see why you separated them. Most of our students complain the next day/class how much their butt muscles hurt after a hard gamaku-training class.

Indeed, all the muscles of the gamaku zone are critical for proper development of power/technique. Proper muscle memory must be achieved so one can utilize gamaku in a reverse punch (or whatever) within microseconds in response to an attacker. The muscles of the gamaku zone will already be contracting/expanding during the technique before target impact, but I agree, the entirety of the body must tense during the moment of impact.


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sensei8
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Patrick, Heidi, and CredoTe for your posts.

CredoTe...

The points you make about hyper-extension are solid, and should be greatly considered through and through. Any percentage, no matter how minimal it might be in injuring oneself, is to large for me to ignore. I agree that proper training minimizes the chances of injuring ones elbow, but, a percentage does exist, nonetheless, imho. Any percentage of injury should be reviewed to insure proper and effective technique without any chance of injury. How Soke Takayoshi Nagamine avoided injuring his elbows is beyond me because the doctors I've read about and spoke to about this subject preach in contrast to what Soke Takayoshi Nagamine did his entire MA career.

Aren't the differences of methodologies of the MA interesting, to say the least!




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Harkon72
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some very interesting pointers, but just one observation; I think the list is the wrong way up. The way I perceive any technique is from the floor up. In any energy transferal, be it based in Qi Gong most obviously or not, it makes sense to me that the analysis should start from the floor.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harkon72 wrote:
Some very interesting pointers, but just one observation; I think the list is the wrong way up. The way I perceive any technique is from the floor up. In any energy transferal, be it based in Qi Gong most obviously or not, it makes sense to me that the analysis should start from the floor.

Oh, I wholeheartedly agree.

The list is meant to be just a list, and I suppose I should've put a disclaimer in my article to state that the list was..."In no particular order", but I neglected that little bit of writing. The list, as shown, shows the 'content' of the reverse punch.



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CredoTe
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sensei8 wrote:
Thank you Patrick, Heidi, and CredoTe for your posts.

CredoTe...

The points you make about hyper-extension are solid, and should be greatly considered through and through. Any percentage, no matter how minimal it might be in injuring oneself, is to large for me to ignore. I agree that proper training minimizes the chances of injuring ones elbow, but, a percentage does exist, nonetheless, imho. Any percentage of injury should be reviewed to insure proper and effective technique without any chance of injury. How Soke Takayoshi Nagamine avoided injuring his elbows is beyond me because the doctors I've read about and spoke to about this subject preach in contrast to what Soke Takayoshi Nagamine did his entire MA career.

Aren't the differences of methodologies of the MA interesting, to say the least!





Oh, I agree. That's why we teach/advocate extension only to the full natural range, and not beyond. I mentioned the case of Soke Nagamine only as a unique contrast to the accepted understanding of extending punches and elbow joints.


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sensei8
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

CredoTe wrote:
sensei8 wrote:
Thank you Patrick, Heidi, and CredoTe for your posts.

CredoTe...

The points you make about hyper-extension are solid, and should be greatly considered through and through. Any percentage, no matter how minimal it might be in injuring oneself, is to large for me to ignore. I agree that proper training minimizes the chances of injuring ones elbow, but, a percentage does exist, nonetheless, imho. Any percentage of injury should be reviewed to insure proper and effective technique without any chance of injury. How Soke Takayoshi Nagamine avoided injuring his elbows is beyond me because the doctors I've read about and spoke to about this subject preach in contrast to what Soke Takayoshi Nagamine did his entire MA career.

Aren't the differences of methodologies of the MA interesting, to say the least!





Oh, I agree. That's why we teach/advocate extension only to the full natural range, and not beyond. I mentioned the case of Soke Nagamine only as a unique contrast to the accepted understanding of extending punches and elbow joints.


I enjoyed learning about Soke Nagamine's approach; it's a portion that can't, and shouldn't be ignored. In that, it opens up an avenue worthy of exploring for practitioners of all styles of the MA.



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