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Crashing the Lines

How do you hit hard? This is such a simple question, but one that every student will ask himself many times during his Karate career. The answer will differ for a beginner, intermediate and expert student. The answer will also differ depending on the style you are learning, who you are learning from, and a host of other factors.

It almost seems too obvious a question -- how to hit hard?

First, it isn't always necessary to hit hard. There are many ways to transfer power. Hitting is just one -- and there are many different ways to hit. How much power is needed to poke an eye? How much power is needed punch someone in the center of his chest? How much power is needed depends on what you are hitting and how you are hitting it (or gouging, poking, ripping, twisting, pulling, pushing).

We usually think about hitting with our fist/knuckles by punching. This is not my favorite way to hit, but for purposes of discussion, how can we punch harder?

There are many factors: (1) minimizing the striking surface to concentrate the hit; (2) bracing when we hit so as not to lose power; (3) hitting as fast as possible; (4) accelerating into the target; (5) secondary penetration, etc.

But one factor that isn't always discussed is the idea of crashing the lines. The idea is not to stand in front of the attacker and punch him with our fist. The idea is to almost crash into his vertical centerline with our vertical centerline. We are going to crash into him -- and through him. In the process, we will strike him with something (our fist, elbow, foot, knee, shoulder, etc.).

Our vertical centerline is called the seichusen. It is also the center of our weight, usually.

When we strike with our centerline, we are striking with all our weight, multiplied by the speed and acceleration of our body. Thus, the idea is not only to punch very fast but to move our bodies very fast as well -- to move very fast into the target.

My brother-in-law used to try to teach me how to play chess. One of the strategies he often mentioned was to occupy the center -- we should try to position our chess pieces to control the center of the board.

I believe that the same strategy applies in Karate -- we should try to control the center. By this I mean that we should protect our centerline, and maneuver to the most advantageous position from which to attack the opponent's centerline. And then we should try to unsettle his centerline -- generally to tilt it back so that the opponent will be off balance in unable to attack or counterattack strongly.

When we hit the attacker, we are not aiming for the surface of his body. We are literally targeting behind him (or possibly inside of him). By the time our centerline reaches the point where his centerline was, he will likely have been pushed back somewhat. Thus, we might even be moving through (beyond) the initial location of his centerline.

In any event, the moment of contact is like a controlled crash. We are crashing into him, and focusing all of our weight and power into our desired striking implement (fist, foot, etc.).

This may sound out of control . Ironically, we gain stability by crashing into the attacker. We are actually more out of control when we hit the air (as in kata practice).

Crashing into the attacker is a lot like ukemi (breakfalls). If you know how to fall well, you start to view the ground, and walls, as allies.

Of course, there is usually more to a successful technique than a single punch. With the crashing momentum, the punch could be followed by an elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, throw, etc. The punch might just be the initial point of contact for a sequence of movements powered by the momentum of your body.

The next time you are wondering about how to hit harder, think about crashing the centerlines.


Charles C. Goodin