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Focus Striking

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Defining Focus
(as used in striking)
Pat Munk, Judan
10th Degree Black Belt

What is focus in strikes?
How do we know if we are using focus when striking?
Can you use focus when kicking?
Can focus be used in both straight strikes and hooking strikes?

These are some of the questions concerning using focus that I've heard asked and will attempt to explain in this article. What is Focus when applied to striking. Well put very simply it's that POP at the point of impact of the strike. I'm not talking about the popping of the Gi when striking but the pop caused from the strike itself.

To create focus when striking (we'll use the reverse punch as an example) the entire body must be relaxed.  When the body is relaxed maximum effective speed can be obtained. Striking fast and returning the striking weapon twice as fast has been the formula for striking used by many instructors. Now I know that no one is going to be able to do that and most don't think it's a correct method of throwing a punch. What we are trying to accomplish is getting that pop in our strike. So what we are looking for is a strike that goes to the target fast as necessary to hit, and returns at least as fast or somewhat faster than it went out to the target.

As the strike starts the body must pivot from our starting horse stance into a hard bow stance. This pivoting of the body between the stances will give us proper rotation of the body and stability at the contact point. At the instant the strike reaches the impact point you must tighten every muscle in your body starting at the floor and ending at the top of the head. This tightening of all the muscles will concentrate all of the energy of the strike to the striking weapon (the hand or foot). Once contact is made with the target the strike should penetrate one to two inches. The instant this happens the muscles relax and the body pivots from the hard bow stance back to the starting horse stance as the strike is reversed and pulled back towards it's starting point at a speed equal to or greater than the speed the strike was thrown. This reverse motion of the strike only has to be a couple of inches or it could be a full return to the strikes starting point. Either way this reverse motion and the timing of the motion if correct will cause the pop we are looking for. Like cracking a whip or flipping a towel.

We all know that in Physics the formula for energy is Mass times Speed Squared /2. The mass (body weight) is a constant with each of us depending on our weight, but we can maximize our weight by the proper transition between our stances. We have more control of the speed of our strike, and as seen in the formula, speed has twice the effect on power (energy) than the mass behind the strike. If we only use this formula when striking most of the energy of the strike will cause the target to move away from the striking weapon. Most people feel that the farther the target is moved back when struck shows how hard the target was hit, it doesn't really. What it shows is how hard the target was pushed by the strike. What we want to accomplish with the strike is to concentrate all of the energy of the strike internally into the target causing the foundation of the target to collapse in the exact spot it was standing if possible; like a building imploding. If this happens there was a focus of the energy of the strike. Timing and getting the correct penetration of the strike is the hardest part of getting focus in strikes.

The correct penetration of the strike will be made when the target starts to rebound (move away) from the striking weapon. The instant the target starts to move away from the strike, the strike recoils back toward it's starting point. If the timing of the recoil is correct maximum damage should be accomplished and the recoil from the impact point of the target should be stopped and the target should not be moved back from the impact point. The timing of the strike making contact and the pivoting of the body between stances is where most people have problems.

You can use the theories of focus for kicks also. The kicks that we can use focus with are the snap kicks. Focus can also be used with hooking type strikes. It's a little tricky to develop focus strikes when using hooking strikes but it is possible with practice by using the same formula. Most of the time focus strikes don't look as powerful as non-focused strikes but the person being hit knows differently.

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