In order to initiate a first strike and to have it reach its maximum advantage, the opponent must not be able to anticipate your move. If he can see or even sense your move or punch, then you will have lost the greatest advantage of the first strike: the ability to strike ferociously without warning, catching your opponent completely off guard and unable to defend against your strike. Remember, he cannot react faster than you can act.
An important tool or skill in being able to do so effectively is being able to execute a strike without telegraphing it to the opponent. That means being able to go from perfect stillness to full speed and power in the blink of an eye.
In order to develop the non-telegraphic delivery, you will need a mirror. You need to stand in front of the mirror and practice going from that absolute stillness to a blindingly fast strike as hard and as fast as you can. I stand in my hands-up boxer’s position with my hands cupped but not clenched fists, keeping my hands just loose. In fact, your whole body, every muscle, must be relaxed, not tensed, there should be no tension whatsoever anywhere in any muscles from your toes to the top of your head. Any tension will cause an antagonistic reaction in opposing muscles, and you will either need to relax them before the initiation of the strike or you would develop what baseball batters call a hitch, a slight movement, spring-loading your muscles before you move. Either of these, the lack of relaxing or the hitch, act as a “tell” to the opponent that something is about to happen, and neither of them is necessary to generate full speed or power from a dead stop.
So here’s the drill: Start in front of the mirror in a boxer’s guard, right or left lead, it doesn’t matter, because you are going to be switching anyway. Relax your arms and don’t clench your hands into fists, but keep them loosely cupped. Your shoulders are also relaxed. Now most people will say, “Okay, I’m relaxed,” and they really think they are. In my classes, I will reach over and touch their shoulders or their upper arms and feel that it is as tense as a 16-year-old showing off his muscles to a girlfriend even while they are telling me they are completely relaxed. Relaxing, truly relaxing every fiber in your body, is not easy. That is why in class, so many people think they’re relaxed and they’re not relaxed at all. As in so many endeavors, “thinking so” and “being so” can be a long ways from each other. It is a learned and practiced skill. So you need to practice to truly relax and then you must also relax the mind, which is also a learned skill that must be practiced in order to be mastered.
Let me digress for a moment to discuss something relevant to both combat and the ability to relax. There is a big difference between anger and fury. Anger as an emotion that takes control of your mind and your body. It tenses you up, and it stops cognitive function in the brain, so much so that people that have killed another person are often able to use it as defense in court, calling it a crime of passion, saying that they didn’t know what they were doing. Sometimes, it’s actually true. Sometimes, it’s made up by the lawyer. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, it doesn’t. But the truth is that it does happen. It does exist. Now think about this: In a fight where your very survival may be at stake, do you want a blind rage taking over and letting an emotion have complete control of all of your actions? Because that’s what anger will do. Or do you want to control the fury and apply it where it will do the most good in protecting you and save your life? I vote for the control. So part of this exercise involves you practicing control of the mind, your thoughts, your emotions. The samurai called it the loss of self. When I am practicing a non-telegraphic punch in front of the mirror, I am also starting to practice a conscious control of my mind. That is because like I said, everything must be completely relaxed. That also includes your mind, your thoughts, and emotions. Remember this: emotion creates motion. You must be able to relax to a point of absolute stillness, both physically and mentally, in order to reach that place of no emotion, no tension, and no motion.
When you start practicing this in front of the mirror, I want you to go through a pre-flight checklist as you’re in your guard position. Are your hands loose? Are your arms, shoulders, upper body, mid-section, and legs loose? Is your face loose without any expression? Is your jaw loose? You’d be surprised at how many people who do this exercise clench their teeth and jaw without ever knowing it. Be aware of that. Is your mind relaxed?
Now check for perfect stillness. Is there any movement or swaying taking place? Is there any movement at all? Again you’d be surprised how difficult it is for some to remain perfectly still. Remember, it’s a skill that is a big part of the training in sniper school, and all the trainees have to learn how to do it. Their effectiveness and also their lives depend on their ability to remain absolutely motionless for extended lengths of time.
So, it can be done.
Once you have relaxed emotionally and physically, then you’re ready to explode out with a jab as fast as you possibly can. Recover, do it again, and again, and again.
Once you have done this over a period of several training sessions, you will start to see an improvement in speed, power, and explosiveness along with your ability to instantly and on command go completely still. Then, of course, you can switch to a different lead, going from left lead to right lead, and then later adding a 1-2 punch combo, like the jab-cross. Then, finally, you can go to a 3 punch combo, perhaps the jab-cross-hook. I spend at least 10 minutes on this at the end of each training session. The reason I do it at the end is that if I were to do it at the beginning of a training session, I’d already be relaxed. By doing it at the end of an intense session, my heart is pumping, my hands are shaking, and it is much harder to revert to the stillness that I am after. That’s a good thing, because it is important to be able to access that ability anytime or in any circumstance, even when the adrenaline has been dumped into your system and your heart is racing. I hope that you realize this is not a technique, but merely a drill or exercise. Its purpose is to enable you to execute your techniques or tactics more effectively.
I would like to leave you with a couple of ideas that may help you to understand the concepts a little better. Think about going from stillness to full speed like this: picture yourself going over to your TV and turning the volume control up to full volume before hitting the power on button and turning it on. Your actions need to be that quick. The minute it starts, it’s at a full volume, full speed, and full power. Also, remember that to generate the most speed and power, you must go from being absolutely motionless and relaxed. Be aware, like I said earlier that emotion causes motion. We have a slogan that I use for teaching the Emerson classes, and it is this: “Strike like lightning; hit like thunder.” If you can do that, you are well on your way to becoming a real force to be reckoned with.
Ernest Emerson is the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. He is a tier one Combatives instructor, Master at Arms, noted author and lecturer, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a connoisseur of fine whiskey.
Click here to visit EmersonKnives.com. Mr. Emerson offers a 10% discount on his knives to Daily Caller readers. Use the discount code – tdc (all lower case). Click here to visit the Emerson Training Center.