Emerson Combat Series: Developing The Power Punch

Ernest Emerson | Contributor

By Ernest Emerson, The Guardian Shepard

There is always an interest in this subject and since I teach a specific evolution on how to develop ultimate power, I thought I would share some of my insights with you.

Let me qualify a few things first.  I have always been considered a heavy hitter, both as a boxer, a kick boxer and a no holds barred fighter.  As a life long student and instructor of combat fighting arts (over 35 years) it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I realized that you could teach fighters, not just to hit harder, but that you could teach them to hit as hard as they possibly could.

For the last 15 years I have studied, interviewed and trained with some of the heaviest punchers in boxing and various other fighting arts in an effort to understand and define what are the ingredients needed to hit hard – real hard.

My research has also included in depth studies of human biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology.

I have found that there were several things that all heavy hitters had in common and several things that none had in common.  Some were tall and thin – Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns.  Some were built like body builders – Mike Tyson.  Some were light framed and slight of build – Bruce Lee.  What became important to me was what the commonalities were, and could they be categorized and then taught, encouraged, or brought out in others?  The answer was yes.

I have broken down the whole package down into 5 absolutely essential attributes that can be taught to others or enhanced in yourself that will increase your power dramatically.  They are as follows;

1 – Body Mechanics – You must have proper body mechanics.  Most martial artists and many boxers have poor to marginal body mechanics.  Without going into too much detail, proper body mechanics must include footwork, violent hip rotation, proper shoulder/arm position and correct fist/wrist/arm alignment.  However, the most important aspect of proper body mechanics is efficiency of motion and economy of action.  In other words, no unnecessary motion or muscular action.  Think of it as your entire body being relaxed and only the muscles and motion needed to deliver the action (in this case a punch) are activated.  I am big, big on body mechanics in my instruction and I could go on here for several more pages but, I’ve got 4 more categories to cover.  Let me just say this.  If you want to see proper body mechanics in action take a look at films of Muhammad Ali or Bruce Lee.  They are both perfect examples of what your body mechanics should reflect.

2 – Speed – This is the simplest to understand and yet, maybe the most difficult to execute.  It’s really simple physics here guys.  Newton’s 2nd Law.  Acceleration times mass equals force.  The faster your punch travels the more power it generates.

Now most people assume they are born with a certain speed.  “I wish I could be as fast as John.  John is just naturally fast.”  Well, the truth is, you are born with a certain speed.  That speed is as fast as any other human who has ever walked the face of this earth.  You just have to realize it.  The activation of the muscle cells used to move the arm or any part of the body is the result of an electrochemical reaction.  It travels at a fixed rate just like electricity or the speed of light.  Barring some physiological abnormality or disease, your ability to activate your muscles is just as fast as the fastest person you have ever seen or admired.  However, if you are a slow thinker or a slow reactor (mentally) then you will never be able to realize your full speed potential because your thinking will be a beat or two behind your opponent.

In order to be fast – real fast – you also need to start training your mind to start thinking faster.  You have to look at speed thinking just like speed reading.  The faster you force yourself to read, the faster you can read.  It’s not just your arms or legs, your brain has to start working faster also.

There are two key elements to increasing your speed.  You gotta believe, brother.  You have to start thinking and convincing yourself that you are the fastest human being that ever lived – ever! And you have to start thinking fast.  I mean believe it – no self doubts – none.

The second key element is that you have to start moving fast, punching fast – punching faster.  Now I know it’s a little different when I’m standing in front of you screaming Punch fast.  Faster!  Faster, Damn it!  But you have to push yourself on this one.  This is where the proper body mechanics start to become evident.  You can’t be fast if you’re out of balance or clumsy.  Remember efficiency of action, economy of motion?

You can’t be fast if you’re all tensed up and adding any unnecessary motion to your effort.  Think of a world-class 100-meter sprinter.  He practices sprinting not jogging. He practices explosive starts out of the blocks, etc.  He practices sprinting at full speed.  There are dozens of drills and exercises to increase or enhance speed but the most important, really, is convincing yourself that you are that fast.  If you can do that, the rest starts to fall into place by itself.  Now, I know that some people are born with various ratios of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle cells.  Such is the difference between a sprinter and a marathoner.  However, I can still make a slow twitch dominant individual faster, after I work with him, than he was before I trained him.

3 – Accuracy – All the power in the world is nothing if you can’t put it where you want.  The most powerful gun in the world is useless if it cannot hit the target.  Punching power is really all about the transfer of energy.  The more energy I can deliver to a target the more efficient and effective I am.

One thing you will notice is that as your speed increases, your accuracy will decline.  You must practice accuracy drills at full speed to increase your accuracy at full speed.  It’s just that simple. There are lots of accuracy drills, but here is my personal favorite. Hang a piece of paper with a small black circle on it about the size of a ping pong ball or smaller.  Hang it so it’s suspended at about chin level and practice finger jabs or punches at full speed against it.  I hang mine taped to the end of a light chain so it returns faster.

Concentrate on moving at full ultimate speed and centering the target.  It will come with practice and you will see improvement the more you do it.

4 – Timing – You have to put your punch where the target is – not where it was.  Think of it like leading a duck with a shotgun.  You’re not shooting where the duck is, you’re shooting where the duck will be.

Timing is not accuracy.  Accuracy is accuracy.  In simple terms timing is estimation. Timing is experience.  Timing is developed by sparring.  It is developed by training against an individual who is moving in a spontaneous and unrehearsed manner.  Timing is a very perishable skill and is what boxers refer to as “ring rust” if they haven’t fought for a while.  It’s why they spar and why they use tune up fights before the big match.

There are some drills that you can do, but timing is really, only, developed by actual live sparring.

5 – Mental Intensity – this is where it gets a little voodoo.  Any of you who know me know I do not believe in Chi or Ki or any of that Hocus Pocus.  I don’t care if anyone can bend a metal rod on their throat.  What good does that do you?  With the UFC, K1 and Pride Fight purses getting into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, I’m still waiting for some little skinny guy to step up and knock out any current champion.  Anyway, I digress.

Bruce Lee once said when asked about which specific nerve or pressure points he would hit, “I want you to hit so hard that it doesn’t matter where you hit your opponent, you will still bring him to his knees.”

Mike Tyson was once asked early in his career, “How is it that you can knock your opponents out just with body shots?”  He simply replied, “You have to throw your punches with bad intent.”  This was a simple yet perfect summation of what it takes to be a power puncher.  You have to throw with everything you’ve got.  Nothing left.

Watch a boxer like a young “Iron” Mike Tyson, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, John “The Beast” Mugabi, Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns or a “Irish” Micky Ward, they throw every punch as hard as they possibly can.  You can tell, you can see it and the opponent can certainly feel it.  And they have the knockout record to prove it.

There are plenty of exercises and drills that you can do that will enhance your power but really the best – the best – is to stand toe to toe with a heavy bag and hit it like you want to rip it from the ceiling.  The heavy bag is the only place you can really hit something as hard as humanly possible.  And that is what you have to do.  Hit the bag as hard as humanly possible.

You can hit much harder that you think you can – really.  But you have to do it.  It’s the same principle as when a spotter can scream at you to put that weight up, to grind out that last rep.  Something, someone, has to push you to go a little harder.  You have to be that someone.  You have to hit harder, Harder!  HARDER!  Yes, I know you can sacrifice speed by trying to emphasize power.  But that’s for the amateurs.  A huge lumbering thump of a punch is not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about having a grenade detonate every time your fist strikes the bag.  And I’m talking about a grenade thrown by your arm with the speed of lightning.  Therein lies the difference – a big difference.

Bear in mind though, that you will need all of the other attributes to fully make use of true mental intensity and see its results.  At the same time, you could fully develop all of the first four attributes but still not experience your ultimate potential, if you don’t add the magic ingredient, “Bad Intent”.  You will need the correct body mechanics, speed, accuracy and timing.  Leave any of them out and you won’t be able to hit the bag as hard as you want and you will feel it.  I practice every one of these attributes every time I train and it has paid off for me.

This is far too brief to really describe all of the attributes and drills you could do, but these are the five essential ingredients for developing true heavy punching power.  Be creative, experiment, and develop and pursue the drills or exercises that enhance these 5 attributes and you will get the extra horsepower that increases your punching power.  I hope that you find this useful to your training.

There are two slogans in the Emerson Combat Systems relevant to developing your power punch, one is: “With Bad Intent” and the other is: “Train Like a Madman . . . Fight Like a Demon.”  It’s all about how you look at it.

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Ernest R. Emerson is a knife-maker and personal combat instructor.

Just Launched – The Guardian Shepard – Click here to visit Emerson’s newest project. You will find articles on training – fighting – and how to stay alive in a tough situation. Click here.

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