If you are someone who trains in karate, you would have heard your Sensei say that the power in striking comes from the hips, specifically hip rotation. Your Sensei is right. Hips play a very important role in the process of striking, kicking, and so on.
But hips are not exclusively the only body part that plays a role in how ‘good’ your striking is.
Just like anything we do, it requires components of our body to work together throughout the process. There are muscles that work as the primary movers, muscles that are secondary movers, and stabilizers. An example would you the set of muscles that make up the core. If you have a strong core you will have stronger striking, faster striking than if your core is weak.
When we punch, or strike, the motion starts with our feet. Foot positioning, stances can be a complicated discussion but I’ll keep it simpler. As an example, if we are throwing a reverse punch (punching from the opposite side of the foot that is forward in our stance) our hip on that side is rotated back and the opposite side is rotated forward. We make ourselves become heavy by digging into the ground with the ball of our foot on the side we are striking with. That starts the process of kinetic energy getting to the punch, the fist. While digging down on the ball of that foot, a few things start to happen. That kinetic energy drives up our leg, through the muscles in the leg, through the glutes. Core muscles tighten and contract to help with the speed and efficiency of the hip rotation.
As the hip rotates forward and our arm starts the striking process, moving forward towards the target driven by the kinetic energy we have created from the foot up, the energy now is moving through additional muscles. The back, shoulder, biceps, triceps, all this working in harmony (hopefully) to execute our striking as efficiently as possible. Just like a conductor of a symphony keeps the wind section, percussion, string, and brass sections working together to make beautiful music, we want the various muscles of our body working together as best as they can to make that perfect punch.
If one of those muscle groups is not able to perform well due to being weaker, underdeveloped, out of balance, our striking will not be as strong or efficient as it can be. Just like an orchestra, if the brass section is not aligned with the other sections, the music just isn’t as good as it can be.
I think we all have muscle groups we like to train more than other ones. That’s why there is the saying ‘Never skip leg day’. No one likes training legs. Try to have a balanced workout routine. Full body exercise routines are a great way to help achieve this. On the other hand, exercises that isolate individual muscles can end up creating muscle imbalances if not done correctly. This can lead to reduced performance, and also injury.
Want to get better at something, then keep doing it. Want to be a better striker, then keep striking and correcting mistakes made in your technique.
Do you have muscle imbalances that need correcting? If you don’t know, a personal trainer can assess you and point these out. This will help you strengthen those imbalances and bring your body to a homeostasis state.
Lastly, something to think about. If we continue to train each side of our body the same, we are only perpetuating our muscle imbalances. As an example, if on my weak side I curl to failure a certain weight for 10 reps, and on my strong side I curl the same weight for 14 reps, I’m perpetuating my bicep muscle imbalance. I’ll always have that imbalance if I don’t change my training. Ideally, you should always train the weak side first, and only do the same amount of reps on the strong side that you did on your weak side. The same goes for striking. Let’s take the jab/straight combination. If you execute the same amount of combo’s on your strong side that you did on your weak side you will never have your weak side perform as well as your strong side.
The weak side will get better, but it will never be as good as the strong side since the strong side is also improving. Try things like a 2:1 ratio. If you do 10 reps on the strong side, execute 20 on the weak side. Developing the weak side by doing significantly more reps than the strong side will bring improvements quicker. You will then get to the point of not having a weak side and being uncomfortable when having to strike from that side.
Ultimately, have fun in your training. Find what works for you best to address these things and help you to become better at what you do. If you aren’t having fun, you won’t end up doing it.
Yours in health,