Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Power generation

There are many ways to affect the world around you or, since this is a martial arts blog, your opponent. In this blog entry, I want to talk about the most basic source of power and how this power can be applied to something or someone.

Gravity pulls you down toward the ground and you can always push against it to get power. When you walk forward, the momentum you have comes from the ground. When you turn at the waist, the power comes from the torque from the ground. When you bend over to push your friends car cause he ran out of gas, you are using the ground. You can easily see how this is the case when you consider how much power you would generate in a weightless environment.

So the first principle of generating power is to always feel the ground and how your are pressing against it to get power.

There are of course many ways to contort the body or move the legs to get said power from the ground. Lets leave all that for another time for now (it's late).

Instead, lets consider how we apply the power we get from the ground into something else. This is where people have the most trouble.

First, the point of contact with an object or opponent must lead the overall movement. That means if you grab my wrist and you want to move me in some way, the point where I am touching you, the wrist, must lead the movement that you do for maximum transference of energy. If you pull the wrist with your elbow or shoulder, less power will affect me.

Second, your body cannot be locked up at any point or that will interrupt the transfer of power. If you lock your elbow and shoulder when you push someone, you won't be able to use as much power from the ground as possible. You will instead mostly be pushing them with your arm.

I will talk some more later about how how to contort the body to generate power and why it is better to do it while staying in balance vs. contorting in a way that goes away from the connection to the ground.

I realize what I am saying here might seem overly simple or hard to understand depending on how you look at it so let me put it another way.

The best way to have power is to be powerful rather than do powerful moves. Relax and keep your attention outward and surrender to gravity. You use the legs to move this relaxed and sunken "base" around. Then when you want to use your arms to interact, you let them lead a move away from you. Don't push them out or "go with them". This takes you off your base and makes the arms weak. You can of course move your base in the direction you punch to get more power.

I don't know if this is helpful. I will read it again tomorrow and see if I can do a better job of explaining what I mean.


  1. There is the Chinese martial saying, 力從地起, which embodies what you are saying. However, I think the Western Scientific mind tends to see that as being hocus pocus. So I usually describe it in terms of Newton's Third Law: You push against something and there is an equal energy pushing back against you. If you are not aligned, linked and rooted to the ground, you push yourself backwards and you cannot maximize your power into the target.

  2. I the problem comes from the fact that what you are thinking and doing when you are performing an action are very different than an external analysis of your actions.
    You might be pretending you are flying when your are riding a bicycle in the most efficient way, whereas I as an observer might note that you are relaxing and letting your whole body work together to put power into the pedal. I think you have to experience the feeling of it working and follow that feeling. Later, you can analyze what you are doing.