The Myth of Internal Energy Strikes in Martial Arts

"You must burn your hands in this secret potion my son, sit under the water fall for 15 minutes, and do these secret breathing techniques." Bull! Usually after doing an article such as this I get at least one person who teaches like this unsubscribing and three more who appreciate my honesty subscribing. I have heard explanations even from honest martial arts instructors that sound mystical, "You must allow the ki (chi, bio-energy) to flow through the arm and into your attacker's body.", but I hold that to the way it was explained to them and not having a background in exercise physiology such as I do or their path of research following a more easterly direction. Before many of my martial arts friends get mad at me for this statement, as a teacher with a background in physical education, I believe it is important for my students to understand the physics behind a martial arts technique as much as possible. I believe it allows them to improve their martial arts techniques even faster if they understand what they are striving for physically. I apologize in advance if I offended any honest martial arts instructors.We all have our own teaching styles. I'll be happy to post any comments you have in the next martial arts ezine. You may also post comments on our new bulletin board.

It takes practice yes, but as opposed to what some instructors would lead you to believe, there is nothing mystical about internal energy strikes. It is a strike like any other,based on physiological principles. So why do I still call it an internal energy punch? It is simply a term with which martial artists are familiar and the shortest one I can think of. My students begin learning the basics of internal energy strikes within their first month. Although all the internal energy strike drills do for them in the beginning is to increase their striking power. Later on, at blue belt level, they learn how to execute internal energy strikes more rapidly since they have already been introduced to some of the drills.

Internal energy strikes involve proper breathing, proper coordinated movement, stability, and proper use of antagonistic and taganistic muscles.

Proper Breathing

Have any of you ever seen a boxing match and heard the boxer breath out explosively through his nose? This is done for a two fold purpose, to increase the power of the punch and prepare the boxer's body if he takes a blow. If your health allows you to try throwing a punch while holding your breath. Now throw the same punch while exhaling hard. Did you notice a difference in the power and speed? Similar breathing is done during the internal energy strike, with the exception that you continue to breath out as long as you are following through. Visa versa continuing to breath out helps to prolong your follow through and do more damage to your attacker. Now let me stop right here and tell you that you should not try any of these techniques or drills without the guidance of a good instructor. Furthermore James R. Kirkham, The Martial Arts Ezine, nor any of The Martial Arts Ezine's contributors nor advertisers accept responsibilitly for any injuries which may take place attempting any of these techniques, drills, or exercises including injuries to the practitioner, partner of the practitioner, or attacker of the practitioner. I'm sorry I have to take time for that, but some people will not accept responsibility for their own actions.

Proper Coordinated Movement

I know this sounds basic, but the hips and hand must move together and in the same direction to execute an internal energy strike. The basic mistakes when throwing a punch is to lean forward, lock the front knee out, and fall forward as you punch. This must be corrected in order to execute any type of good punch especially an internal energy punch.


Stability is different than balance. In order to be stable, you must be able to remain in a stationary position against resistance. The best position to be stable in the beginning is a front stance. Later, through proper use of weight shifts and straightening a leg, you can be stable in almost any position. Practice your internal energy punch slowly, against a resistance in order to make sure you are stable. It should be done slowly at first to make sure you are not compensating for lack of stability with speed and inertia.

Proper Use of Agonistic and antagonistic Muscles

Antagonistic muscles are those muscles which inhibit a movement you are trying to execute. anantagonistic muscles are those muscles that aid you in executing a movement. When I tell my students they must be completely relaxed when they throw an internal energy strike, I am not being completely honest. Muscles are always at some level of tension commonly known as muscle tone. In order to stand up and have our legs support us there must also be some contraction of muscles. By the way if it ever comes up, muscles can only contract, they cannot expand, although they can stretch and are more efficient in a stretched state, thus the wind up for a pitch or drawing back (or chambering) to throw a punch.

My students seem to understand the concept of being as relaxed as possible and still staying on their feet however, therefore I allow myself this tiny fib.

When you execute an internal energy strike it must be done with a complete totally relaxed movement and follow through. Any tension from antagonistic muscles will decrease the power of the strike and hinder the flow and follow through of the movement. The fact that an attacker is in the way of you doing a complete follow through should not hinder you from completing your relaxed, flowing follow through.

I am presently working on an ebook on methods and drills for internal energy strikes . If you are looking for mysticism do not buy my book, you will get facts, drills and how to's in my internal energy book in plain language. I already have one section of my meditation ebook already including internal energy strikes. Those of you who would be interested in my book on internal energy strikes or advertising in my ebook on internal energy strikes please let me know.

Sensei J. Richard Kirkham


Honolulu Hawaii

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