Thursday, 5 August 2010

Wave form striking - is it really better?

In my karate class last night we were introduced to the waveform strike. This was an off syllabus thing just to show us a different way of striking. Unfortunately, I found this way of striking very unsettling....

I have spent the last three years learning how to punch in a traditional karate way believing that it is a method of striking that has been worked out and tested by old masters of karate and that it is an effective, hard hitting way of striking. It requires a lot of detail to body, foot and arm positioning; correct hip rotation, correct relaxing and tensing of muscles and a final wrist rotation at the point of impact. I am of the understanding that if I do not give proper attention to these details then my punches will not be effective.

With the introduction of the waveform punch everything I'd previously learnt had to go out of the window! The back heel is lifted, the arm is not chambered, the fist is held more loosely, the whole body twists prior to delivering the blow, the punch is not retracted, the fist is vertical, the non punching arm holds onto the target. To hit harder I am told to do everything opposite to the way I have been taught!

Can both ways of punching be right? Is there any point in trying to understand the bio mechanics of punching if the complete opposite is just as effective anyway?

I tried to find out more about this waveform striking......

The person who is an authority on the waveform is Russell Stutely , who is also well known for his pressure point fighting system. My instructor has recently been on a course with Russell Stutely and this is where he has learnt about waveform striking.

Here is Russell Stutely demonstrating waveform striking techniques:

It looks casual, it looks relaxed, it looks fairly naturalistic, it looks effective - it doesn't look like karate though!

I was unable to find any clear explanations of how this waveform method of striking generates greater power. It's presumably something to do with sine waves. I found some rather pseudo-scientific sounding theories involving quantum physics and the uncertainty principle but it didn't really make any sense. If you can explain it to me in straight forward way I'll be glad to hear from you.

On Stutely's own website a review article just says that it is important to strike using a downward motion because this downward force greatly affects the body's physiology, weakening the opponent both physically and psychologically.  Apparently it causes an 'internal disruption'.  It also says that,  "this method uses a wave-like motion through the body that starts at the feet and rises upwards, almost throwing the user off balance as they project their energy into the strike."

In my humble opinion this description of the effects of a waveform strike do not fit with what I see in the above video. In the video the opponent is clearly being knocked off his feet by the strikes. My understanding is that this dissipates the energy of the blow and therefore reduces the chances of internal injuries. In a classical gyaku zuki the opponent will literally drop straight down to the floor (rather than be pushed back) because the punch is retracted quickly, allowing all the energy of the punch to enter the opponent and cause internal damage. Is my understanding wrong here?

This experience has turned my understanding of punching a bit upsidedown at the moment. Can anyone unravel it for me?
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Frank said...

Interesting... In Isshinryu, of course, the vertical fist thrown to 98% extension, with retraction at the end, is a staple of ours, but it's always thrown from a very stable stance, similar to the way you've described in your blog. I don't know about the wave form striking, or how effective it would be. Any punch thrown with enough power or velocity, is going to cause "internal disruption." It kind of seems like more martial arts mumbo-jumbo to me, but that's only my humble and uneducated opinion...

Journeyman said...

New concepts can sometimes be unsettling, especially if it makes us question what we already know. I had never heard of wave form striking until I read your post.

The style of Jiu Jitsu that I study is influenced quite significantly by Karate. There is quite a bit of stance work, blocking, striking and kicking techniques taken directly from Karate.

The traditional karate punch that you are discussing is a beautiful and powerful thing when performed properly and can have devastating results. Although it can be thrown very fast and hard from a stable stance, we often train from a variety of stances, often high stances placing an emphasis on mobility over the added power of deeper stances. Having said that, after a quick distraction technique, we often sink into a stable stance and deliver the traditional punch.

Some of the wave form striking I watched in the video clip you linked to reminded me of some of the work we do from various high stances. We often practice from a very relaxed state or one that begins when we deliberately put ourselves off balance from a grab or push. From this somewhat nonchalant state, we try to generate as much force as we can as we attempt to restore a more stable base. From that position, I see some similarities with the up and down motion of wave form striking and the types of movements used.

I don't think there really is a better or best way of doing any technique. It's what works for you in any given situation.

I'd experiment with wave form striking, but I wouldn't question the value or effectiveness of what you've practiced and worked on for years. Maybe you'll find a situation where it works for you, maybe you won't.

I often read about or hear about the next big technique. I bring it up in class and we 'play' for a while, seeing what value it has, if any. Most recently, it was some sort of a punch that was shown on t.v. that said a man could knock out a bear with it. It had some good points, but I'd still rather leave the bear alone...

sandman said...

As an engineer by trade, I tend to try to analyze things from a scientific point of view, even in karate. There are a lot of different ways to punch - boxing, thai boxing, karate, etc - and most of them are backed by legitimate principles of physics. There are pros and cons associated with each one and you simply choose the method that best suits your fighting style, the situation, etc...

This wave form thing however, I don't know about. It has a scientific sounding name, but I'm not sure the real science behind it is sound. I'm skeptical - I guess I'd have to have the guy hit me with it for me to be a believer.

Sue C said...

Hi guys! It's interesting that none of you is familiar with the wave form strike. This suggests its not a widely known or used method.

My instructor seems pretty convinced by it (having been on the receiving end of these strikes from Russell Stutely himself)and he hits pretty hard this way himself, so I don't doubt its effectivness when delivered by a trained person. But then I don't doubt the effectivness of a classical karate punch when delivered by a trained person. However, I am a little skeptical about the explanation for why it works and I'm not convinced it is actually better than a classical punch!

Anonymous said...


fishface said...

Waveforms occur in all martial arts believe it or not. Its not a new thing and shukokai karate has been using it for ages.
Your basic Gyaku zuki is fine but it is a fairly long range punch which is ok if you have earned the right to throw it (created the space and opportunity).
If you break down the Gyaku zuki or reverse punch in terms of movements you will find that the hips rotate to the point that your punching hip moves forward towards the target while the other hip movers away from the target. This seams strange as power will be equally split between the two.
Waveforms are called this as it looks like a wave in terms of motion, they are a great way of generating the same power (more when practiced) when using half the effort in half the space.
Karate is a fantastic martial arts but in terms of its use you have to remember that ALL its techniques when applied happen half way through the actual movement.
Basic technique is learned to familiarise the student with mechanics and how the body moves.
We all practice karate but wouldn’t fall into a kamae at the first sign of trouble.

Basic waveform punch. Both feet point at the target as this way you can direct more force think of walking. Left foot slightly in front, as natural walking stance. Left hip moves forward over the left foot (where it stays) this is now basically a hinge from which the rest of the body turns. The right hip moves forward over the right foot followed a little later (and the delays important) by the striking hand.
Therefore the hand is half way through the turn and its relaxed as you can move faster when relaxed and as soon as you tense up (usually at the end of the move) you stop the energy flow. The idea is to insert energy into your opponent.
As this is practised on a pad the uke moves backwards as he has to due to dissipation by the pad itself, but trust me he drops away from you. You can add direction to wave form or snap it back to drop him on the spot.
Think of walking in terms of mechanics when we first start we fall over and we eventually get the hang of it. Its difficult because you are essentially falling into the next step for a split second of time. All your bodyweight is moving forward which is a natural line of movement for which all the muscles involved have evolved to make it as easy as possible.
This bodyweight is what waveforms take advantage of, its just the same . If you are 16 stone its that weight transferred to the end of your fist.
Your instructor sounds like he knows what he is taking about.
Just think Karate & applied karate. 2 sides of the same coin.

Shukokai is great power generating karate as has seen double hip come and go double hip is a waveform. Old shotokan instructors teach this true shotokan.
Don’t think too much. First learn walk, then learn fly…

fishface said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fishface said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue C said...

Hi Fishface, I assume you are a shukokai practitioner/instructor. I'd like to thank you for your detailed explanation and reassurance about the waveform technique. I'm not dismissing it and I DO trust my instructor and I accept that sometimes I think to much about things - but then if I hadn't thought about it and put my concerns to this blog, I'd never have got your explanation!

My initial response to the waveform strike was more emotional than rational - it just seemed to turn everything on its head for a while. Your explanation has clarified things, so thank you :-)

Frank said...

Agreed. I'll ask my Sensei about wave form striking. I'm honestly curious, now.

Sue C said...

Hi Frank, let me know what he thinks - I'd be interested :-)

fishface said...

Shukokai uses waveform quite often. It's just the application in a realistic situation. With a bit of practises you will learn to love it.
As for the comment above please don't ask master stutely to hit you with one. Ouch.
The downward motion master stutely mentioned is an application method again as the body is designed if you like to take impact in certain planes of movement. By adding multiple planes or 45 degrees (idealy downward and sidewards) to body is less capable of dealing with it. A waveform strike aimed downwards is devastating! Even with a pad!

Sue C said...

Hi Fishface, thanks for commenting again. I really do hope that we explore the waveform strike a bit more in our classes, I think I've got over my initial reticence about it now!

Perpetual Beginner said...

Seconding that you don't want to get hit with a waveform punch. I had a couple of lessons with a guy here locally who was showing me the waveform technique. He described it more as cracking a whip, where the handle is at your heel and the tip at your hand. It is very different from a standard karate punch, but he knocked me clear across the room and left a fist-shaped bruise on my sternum with it!

Sue C said...

Hi Cindy, I'm pretty convinced now that it is an effective way of punching and I hope we explore it more in our classes.

Anonymous said...

I am a boxer and I can say since I have learned wave striking it's real....


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