A se­nior black belt de­scribes six keys to a more pow­er­ful goju-ryu punch. Spoiler alert: ,W·V DOO DERXW ELRPHFKDQLFV which means the tips can ap­ply to any art.

Black Belt - - CONTENTS - ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Scott Lenzi is the se­nior stu­dent of Toshio Ta­mano, cur­rent head of shorei-kan goju-ryu. Be­fore his death, Sei­kichi Toguchi made Lenzi the United States rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the art. Lenzi as­sisted Toguchi in the writ­ing of Ok­i­nawan Goju R

As Ok­i­nawan go­juryu mas­ter Sei­kichi Toguchi liked to point out, the role of the legs in his style of karate is pri­mar­ily lo­co­mo­tion. They’re used to move the body into po­si­tion and then align it so a hand strike can be de­liv­ered. The rea­son is clear: Biome­chan­i­cally, the most nat­u­ral and ef­fec­tive weapon for hu­man be­ings to use ϐ Ǥ

The masters of old de­voted them­selves to the study of the hu­man body and how it func­tions in com­bat. In their re­search into the best ways # ϐ ǡ ar­rived at cer­tain con­clu­sions — that me­chan­ics mat­ter, that stance is cru­cial, that tim­ing is im­por­tant, that breath­ing is es­sen­tial and so on.

ǡ ϐ by Western sci­ence. I’ll ex­am­ine the most per­ti­nent ones here.


When prop­erly ex­e­cuted, a tra­di­tional karate punch gen­er­ates great power. It’s de­signed to pen­e­trate an op­po­nent’s body, which is why it makes con­tact with the small­est pos­si­ble sur­face Ǥ ϐ ǡ $Ǧϐ (80 per­cent) and Ǧϐ knuckle (20 per­cent) hit the tar­get as the ϐ # space and ro­tates.

The force im­parted by the punch de­pends on the lin­ear and ro­ta­tional ϐ and arm. Pro­vided it’s per­formed prop­erly, the punch will gain power as you in­crease its speed. An un­for­tu­nate com­po­nent of this for­mula is the loss of en­ergy that re­sults from joints in the body com­press­ing in re­sponse to the im­pact.


Many strik­ing arts fea­ture some form of ro­ta­tional punch, but unique to Ok­i­nawan goju-ryu and ad­vo­cated by the shorei-kan school is chinkushi. It was passed from Cho­jun Miyagi to many of his stu­dents, but few in­vested the time to mas­ter it. Chinkushi, which is taught in the sanchin kata, is cru­cial for a pow­er­ful punch be­cause it ef­fec­tively trans­forms the arm into a sin­gle strik­ing unit.

The best way to un­der­stand this con­cept is by feel­ing it. Be­gin the punch by twist­ing your fore­arm # ϐ for­ward. Keep your el­bow and arm in con­stant con­tact with the side of your body. Dur­ing the ex­ten­sion of the arm, keep your shoul­der down; don’t let it move for­ward.

Just as you reach the point of con­tact, your fore­arm con­tin­ues to twist in its nat­u­ral di­rec­tion while your ȋ ϐ ǡ Ȍ si­mul­ta­ne­ously moves in the other di­rec­tion, thus draw­ing the shoul­der down and tight­en­ing the lat to al­low for max­i­mum en­ergy trans­fer.

The ef­fect, as pointed out by Toshio Ta­mano, se­nior stu­dent of Toguchi and cur­rent head of shorei-kan in Europe, is like tak­ing a wet towel and twist­ing the ends in op­po­site di­rec­tions to wring out the wa­ter. The more equal and op­po­site tor­sion there is, the more rigid the towel be­comes. When no more twist­ing can be done, the towel is one

strong unit. Like­wise, your arm ef­fec­tively be­comes one strong unit with­out re­quir­ing you to fully ex­tend the el­bow.

ϐ chain that needs to be forged to gen­er­ate the most pow­er­ful punch pos­si­ble. At this point, the maki­wara en­ters the pic­ture. The maki­wara is de­signed not to de­velop cal­luses or en­large knuck­les but to strengthen the wrist, which eas­ily can be bent or mis­aligned when strik­ing. In other words, it’s de­signed to foster chinkushi.


The fun­da­men­tal stance of Ok­i­nawan goju-ryu is sanchin dachi. It per­mits quick and se­cure move­ment in any di­rec­tion, but its pri­mary func­tion is to al­low the lower body to be “sep­a­rated” from the up­per body, thus fa­cil­i­tat­ing smooth and fast move­ment while bal­ance is main­tained for strik­ing.

The sanchin stance is a rel­a­tively nat­u­ral one that po­si­tions the feet shoul­der-width apart and lon­gi­tu­di­nally aligned so the toes of the back foot are in line with the heel of the front foot. Weight is dis­trib­uted evenly on the legs.

The feet are twisted ap­prox­i­mately 10 de­grees in­ward for added sta­bil­ity. Be­cause the knees aren’t locked, they al­low the body to re­main low and rooted and help you keep your fo­cus on the tanden, the point lo­cated at the body’s cen­ter of grav­ity, ap­prox­i­mately 2 inches be­low the navel.

When Miyagi taught, he re­quired his stu­dents to prac­tice only sanchin kata for three years. He be­lieved this train­ing should form the ba­sis for the study of goju-ryu. His habit re­minds us that hold­ing this bent-leg po­si­tion and mov­ing while in it aren’t part of ev­ery­day life — but they can be learned. Once your body has been re­pro­grammed, you’re ready to learn the next level of goju-ryu the­ory and tech­nique, in Miyagi’s view.


Now that you have a ba­sic bal­anced stance, you need to be able to main­tain it while ad­vanc­ing, re­treat­ing or sim­ply shift­ing po­si­tions — and still be able to strike with­out tele­graph­ing.

# ϐ the bill in this sit­u­a­tion is known as suri­ashi, or slid­ing. When you walk nor­mally, you push off your back foot to take your next step. When you in­crease your speed and run, you an­gle your body for­ward to bet­ter push off.

ϐ ǡ ǯ # ϐ op­po­nent can per­ceive your move­ment in his di­rec­tion. In ad­di­tion, your abil­ity ϐ a dy­namic sit­u­a­tion once a for­ward or back­ward push has been ini­ti­ated. The re­sult is of­ten the cre­ation of mo­men ϐ no abil­ity to change course or stop.

The so­lu­tion — mov­ing in suri­ashi — begins with the sanchin stance. Your body is low­ered be­cause your ϐ $ Ǥ # ahead with­out tilt­ing your body for­ward. Your front foot slides along the ϐ Ǣ ǯ you walk. Be­cause you haven’t leaned for­ward, there’s lit­tle or no ex­tra weight on the leg, which fur­ther fa­cil­i­tates quick move­ment. Once your front ϐ # ǡ im­me­di­ately moves into proper po­si­tion to recre­ate the sanchin stance.

Of course, the dis­tance be­tween you and your op­po­nent is crit­i­cal when mov­ing to trans­mit max­i­mum power. Your abil­ity to judge dis­tance, or maai, be­fore you strike and then to ex­e­cute the strike with pre­ci­sion is crit­i­cal.

That en­tails know­ing what your per­sonal abil­ity is with re­spect to clos­ing the gap to reach your op­po­nent, not to men­tion hav­ing ex­cel­lent tim­ing.


The term gamaku refers to power gen­er­a­tion as it per­tains to the afore­men­tioned sanchin stance. It, along with chinkushi, is unique to Ok­i­nawan goju-ryu.

To max­i­mize gamaku, as­sume the sanchin stance and, with­out rais­ing your body, pivot your hips up­ward while keep­ing your knees bent. The mo­tion cre­ates a ten­sion and ro­ta­tional move­ment in the in­ner thighs and legs that try to make your feet turn out­ward. By main­tain­ing the foot po­si­tion of the sanchin stance, how­ever, your legs be­come ef­fec­tively locked be­cause your hips are turned up as far as pos­si­ble.

At no point are your knees fully ex­tended or locked be­cause do­ing so would im­pede your abil­ity to stat­i­cally and dy­nam­i­cally bal­ance. In short, you need to avoid do­ing that to keep your stance both strong and sup­ple.


Be­ing a budo, goju-ryu sub­scribes to a breath­ing method that’s been used in the mar­tial arts for many cen­turies. It en­tails in­hal­ing through the nose and ex­hal­ing through the mouth. The air is drawn deep into and then ex­pelled from the lower ab­domen, down by the tanden. This helps keep your cen­ter of grav­ity low while strik­ing and block­ing.

When you ex­hale, open your mouth slightly — as if you’re smil­ing a lit­tle. At the end of each breath, mo­men­tar­ily place your tongue against the roof of your mouth, which al­lows you to bet­ter con­trol your res­pi­ra­tion and co­or­di­nate it with your strike.

ϐ ϐ locks it to the rest of your body be­fore the punch makes con­tact. The con­nec­tion is mo­men­tary, but it’s cru­cial to cre­at­ing a pow­er­ful punch. Per­haps the best way to prac­tice all the needed skills is per­for­mance of the sanchin kata.


The fol­low­ing, then, are the main points to re­mem­ber if you wish to max­i­mize your karate punch:

Re­lax your body by fo­cus­ing your breath­ing and en­ergy at your tanden.

Draw your punch­ing arm back while bend­ing your knees to lower your stance.

Keep your shoul­der and el­bow down as you slide your front foot for­ward.

As you slide your rear foot for­ward to recre­ate the sanchin stance, be­gin ex­tend­ing and ro­tat­ing your strik­ing arm.

Just be­fore your punch makes con­tact, raise your hips and lock down your shoul­der as your hand ro­tates.

Ex­hale to fo­cus all your en­ergy on the strike.

The re­sult is a thing of beauty. All parts of the body are re­cruited to gen­er­ate power in the punch. They func ` ǡ ϐ — un­til the mo­ment of im­pact. At this ǡ ϐ the at­tain­ment of your goal. You will not waste any mo­tion or do any­thing that com­pro­mises your bal­ance be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter the strike. You will have ef­fected a per­fect punch.

Maki­wara train­ing is es­sen­tial to de­velop a pow­er­ful, fo­cused punch that can be de­liv­ered with­out cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary ten­sion in the arm. The prac­tice isn’t de­signed to toughen the knuck­les.

In goju-ryu, the pen­e­tra­tion of a punch is op­ti­mized by ori­ent­ing the fist so that 80 per­cent of the power is de­liv­ered with the knuckle of the in­dex fin­ger and 20 per­cent with the knuckle of the mid­dle fin­ger, Scott Lenzi says.

When train­ing on the maki­wara to in­crease pen­e­tra­tion, it’s im­por­tant to pro­ceed slowly and, if nec­es­sary, to use the non-punch­ing hand to de­velop a feel­ing for proper chinkushi.

In goju-ryu, the key to ad­vanc­ing with­out lean­ing or tele­graph­ing is suri­ashi, or slid­ing. The karateka sinks be­fore slid­ing his right foot for­ward. He then slides his left foot for­ward to recre­ate the stance, af­ter which he punches. Note how his body...

The sanchin dachi stance al­lows the karateka’s up­per body to trans­mit max­i­mum force with a punch. The heel-out po­si­tion makes the stance strong while en­sur­ing it re­mains sup­ple and quick.

When dis­cussed vari­able­sall thein this ar­ti­cle — chinkushi, tim­ing‚ stance, gamaku, dis­tance and so on — are in or­der, a per­fect karate punch re­sults.

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