Have you ever seen “tension” moves in a form? They’re often slow, and the martial artist’s body vibrates as they execute them.
Have you ever wondered why they’re there?
Yeah, me too. In fact, if you have a good reason** to be doing them that way, I’d like to hear it, because I’m having trouble coming up with one on my own.
**”Good reasons” (in my book) do not include, “We’ve always done it that way,” or, “That’s the way it was taught.”
Personally, I like to go back to good ol’ physics class to help inject a dose of logic and science into martial arts. Let’s get right down to business:
Kinetic Energy = 1/2 Mass x Velocity ^2
Or if you like:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
Are your eyes glazing over yet? Bear with me.
Basically, these formulas point out that speed and acceleration are crucial for generating power. On the flip side, if your moves are slow, they don’t generate power, according to physics.
If you accept that, then “tension” moves in form begin to make less and less sense.
“Slow” moves don’t generate power either.
However, they are are extremely useful. What’s the difference? Well, “slow” moves leave out tension. They aim for total relaxation of the muscles being used.
Relaxing until moment of impact is the number one way to increase your speed, and therefore your power. Relaxed muscle travels faster than tense muscle. Simply because you’re not fighting your own body to get to your destination.
So, what “slow” moves teach is actually relaxation, whereas tense moves teach the opposite. Tension moves start to seem kind of counterproductive, don’t they?
Number two way to achieve greater speed is the twisting that is built into many martial arts techniques. That twist at the end of your punch?
Without really getting into some yawn-inducing formulas, twisting causes a short burst of acceleration, much like that of a bullet. Twisting increases your speed by a lot over a short amount of time.
And your speed squared is what increases your power.
Think about it this way: a car that crashes into a wall at 90 mi/hr vs a car that crashes into a wall at 30 mi/hr. If that car is a punch, which hit would you rather take? Which would you rather deliver?
(Did you ever think you’d need to know physics to understand martial arts?)