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The popular book Chinese Boxing by Robert Smith refers to kung fu as being 'Chinese boxing' which is what kung fu has historically being called. The word 'boxing' summons images of fists and punching.

Taiji is supreme ultimate (yin/yang) and signifies the process of dynamic balancing. Quan is fist (combat/martial art/boxing). Dynamic balancing boxing renders the art as a process.

The punching game

You must learn how to deliver authentic strikes during practice. This is necessary for two reasons:

  1. You need to be capable of hitting somebody effectively

  2. You need to offer your partner the experience of strikes that hurt

If you pull your punches, your partner is being short-changed. Hit them with exuberance and vigour, but not with aggression or anger. Treat it as a game.


Performing applications in thin air is no good. It proves nothing. Striking target pads and bags - whilst useful - are also unrepresentative. Nothing compares to striking an actual person.
You may appear to have wonderful form and effective-seeming combat skills but it will all fall to pieces if your strikes are worthless.

Ideally, you should end by actually hitting something. When you practice explosive technique just by doing shadow boxing, your own antagonistic muscles stop your fist or foot.

(Frederic Delavier)


You need to feel what happens when you physically strike somebody. Do you feel a jarring, unpleasant jolt upon impact? Adverse feedback up your arm and into your neck?
Did the blow have the intended effect? Were you hurt yourself?
Hitting another person skilfully may not be as easy as you imagine.

How much of the force you are delivering is actually going into your opponent?

If you are tense, then much of it will bang off your attacker's body and back into you. There is a concussive shockwave that travels along your arm, into your spine and throughout your body.
This is not good for your health. This is why 4 ounces of pressure is fundamental. The moment of contact must be heavy, soft and penetrating. Do not push.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Do not push on impact. That way, the kinetic energy will travel out of your body instead of just bouncing back. Your intention goes through the opponent. Your punch does not go through your opponent. The effect goes inside your opponent.

Done properly, the 'devastating blow' will get you out of most situations.

(Barry Davies, SAS)

The bite

Upon impact, your hand/elbow/knee sinks slightly into the opponent before bouncing back off again. This process occurs naturally and need not be contrived.
If you pull off too soon, 4 ounces of pressure has not been established and the power will diminish.

Soft meeting

The aim must always be to strike with the whole body, every part soft and loosely connected. This is the essence of 'reeling silk' and is cultivated by whole-body strength.
Performed correctly, this should ensure 'soft meeting' upon impact. Whole-body strength and reeling silk will not prevent adverse feedback on impact unless you are soft, sensitive, and have awareness.


This is not so hard to achieve. It just takes a little practice. In time it will be second nature. Study Newton's 3rd Law of Motion.

Putting the ground in your hand

Certain body shapes enable you to transmit force from the ground effectively.
It is important to use the musculature efficiently. Deep stances and external body habits will reduce the effectiveness of the power release.
Body weight is the most essential component, and body weight can only be used when you relax. Should you disconnect any part of the body or stiffen-up; this will not work.

Your hard blow cannot strike home on my chest unless I stiffen it in resistance. The most effective form of self defence is learning to remove the buttons that my myriad of daily 'attackers' push to throw me off-balance.

(Wolfe Lowenthal)

What is groundpath?

Groundpath is connection + sinking + intent. When you touch your opponent, they should immediately feel the weight of your groundpath.
It should be a very distinct sense of weight in your hand; a downward pressure that is not the consequence of pushing.
If your opponent were to lean their body into your groundpath, it should penetrate into them and be most uncomfortable.

Pre-fa jing

Not all situations require an 'all or nothing' approach. Restraint is important. Also, an inexperienced student cannot generate a strike using fa jing but still needs the ability to strike.

Striking methods

Students learn a variety of striking methods on the road to fa jing:

Soft striking - heavy strikes without speed
Speed striking - fast strikes without any overt use of power
One inch punch - how to strike with the whole-body rather than just the arm
Gravity striking - rely upon body weight and relaxation
Contact jing - delivering power when already in contact
Projections - channel kinetic force in different ways into (and through) the opponent

Don't pull your punches

A well-practiced student hits comfortably and easily, with their hands finding their own way to the targets. They are also used to being hit and do not flinch from fear. 
When a punch is pulled, both the attacker and the defender suffer:

  1. Inability to assess range accurately

  2. No sense of commitment

  3. Unaccustomed to the threat of actually being hit

  4. Unfamiliar with impact

  5. Inability to counter-attack effectively

An unskilled striker will often hurt their own hand when they hit their opponent because they are not accustomed to impact.

Full contact?

When people say 'full contact' they are typically referring to no-holds-barred combat, unrestrained, without rules... But what do they really mean by full contact?  That they hit one another?
That they use full-power?

If you apply a break full-power then the bone will snap
If you strike full-power then there will be internal damage or death
If you throw full-power there will be concussion or serious injury

Power management

Our students are required to make contact, but are not permitted to use full-power under any circumstances.
Most people do not train martial arts in order to be injured or crippled. They want the ability to defend themselves in a varied, realistic manner. They do not want to get hurt in class.


A final thought to consider is the fact that your impact work needs to include freeform combat. You need to strike somebody who is not stationary.
Real life opponents can stop your strike. They can move out of the way. You may even miss.

Practicing impact

Training against pads, bags and compliant practice partners may offer you impact training, but this is still not a reflection of credible combat. You need to throw in some confusion, risk and randomness.

The difference between experienced fighters and beginners is the speed of muscle relaxation, which is 8 times faster in champion fighters. For an inexperienced fighter, the speed of muscle relaxation is too slow for the leg or the fist to gain enough speed when striking a blow. Keeping the antagonistic muscles contracted automatically slows down the movement.

(Frederic Delavier)

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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 15 September