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Step and Punch

A new student is taught to step and punch -- to step forward, shifting weight, and then to punch after the foot has settled. But if you think about it, the power of the punch is lessened by the amount of power that was lost by the stepping foot. Any weight on the front foot is weight that could have gone into the punch.

In my dojo, we practice 18 empty handed kata (19 with Tensho). Imagine stepping and punching (or blocking, striking, etc.) in all those kata. So much power is lost.

Thus, when a student is a little more advanced, we teach them to step and punch at the same time -- both the end of the step and the maximum extension of the punch are at the same instant. In this way, less power is lost by the stepping foot and more is put into the punch.

For even more advanced students, we teach to punch and then step -- the step is a slit second after the punch. In this way, maximum power is transferred by the punch.

It is therefore possible to practice kata three ways: (1) step and then punch; (2) step and punch together; and (3) punch and then step. Of course, there are many other ways to practice kata. I am only considering the timing of the step and punch here.

These three methods can be done in an exaggerated way, so that there is a noticable gap between the step and punch. They can also be done in a compressed way, so that the gap is very difficult to notice. But even if the gap is small, the difference in power is great.

The three methods also involve timing adjustments to the use of the koshi. The koshi must be timed to retract, extend and recoil (reset) at the proper instants based on the stepping/punching method used.

When I lead class, I generally let the students use the method they desire. Sometimes I will direct that they use a specific method so that I can observe their timing and mechanics. When I am demonstrating a kata, I will usually use the step and punch method so that beginners can follow easier. When I move naturally, I almost always use the punch and step method.

The use of these methods is also affected by combinations. A double punch might be timed so that the first punch preceeds, is simultaneous with, or follows the step -- or the timing can be placed on the second punch (or technique). Again, the koshi dynamics is also affected.

Punching is very fast. Stepping is very slow. By pre-positioning weight, the slow part of the step can be somewhat avoided, resulting in a technique that appears to be much quicker (even though it actually takes the same overall time if you take into account the pre-positioning time). The pre-positioning of weight is often hidden in a body shift (taisabaki).

Step and then punch; step and punch together; punch and then step. Save as much power as possible for the punch and pre-position weight (through body shifting) to make the punch lightning fast when thrown. Now apply these various methods throughout all the kata and techniques you practice.

This was taught to me by Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato and my dojo has been happily working on it ever since. It certainly makes training interesting and challenging!


Charles C. Goodin