Methods to develop powerful strikes in your Kali training
If you need to hit someone, then make sure when you hit them, it counts. To do this, you need to be able to hit them hard. If you are lawfully justified in doing so, hit them with enough power that it will stop them from attacking you again. If you have trained to hit hard, then you have the option of hitting with less force when appropriate. However, if you have never developed the ability to hit hard, then you simply will not have that option. Learn to hit hard.
If you have a sharp blade and an accurate strike, you may not always need to hit hard, but you do need to be fast. In Kali, we are training for the use of both impact weapons and blades. If you cannot deliver a fast strike and quickly recover, then you are in trouble. The longer you leave yourself exposed, the more opportunity an opponent has to defeat you. However, other skills aside, if you are faster, then you have a much better chance of prevailing over an opponent. This is true in competition, and it is true in self defense. Learn to strike fast.
Below are some methods for learning to strike fast and hit hard. Whether you want to be faster for competition, self defense, or both, the methods below will help you improve.
Coordination, Consistency, and Speed
To reach the full potential of any technique, you first need to be coordinated. When you are coordinated, your technique will be efficient. Your mechanics will become efficient through repetition. With repetition, you will become more familiar with the movement. You need to be familiar with the movement, so that you can optimize it for speed and power. When you are familiar with the movement, when you really have it down, the speed will begin to come naturally. So if you are trying to develop speed with your strikes, go slow first and get coordinated before you add speed.
Once you are consistent with the movement and have cultivated sufficient muscle memory, you must push yourself to get faster. In my early days of training, we used a metronome to measure and develop speed. With a metronome, you can set a time interval of beats and try to complete your strike or combination between the beats. Now, you can use a par timer for the same thing. Download a shot timer app has a par timer function to your phone. Set the time to beep using an interval long enough that allows you to complete your strike or combination with good form. Gradually shorten the interval little by little and continue.
Don’t shorten the interval until you can consistently complete your strike or combination. Do not shorten the time until you can execute the technique ten times in a row without going over the allotted time. With this drill, you are squeezing the time and reaching to complete your movement in less and less time. It is this act of reaching that will make you better, so you must be honest with yourself in regards to actually completing the movement in time. The value here is that you are objectively testing your speed and making immediate adjustments as you repeat the drill. This immediate feedback during practice is key. It will make you faster.
Maintain the integrity of the movement. Make sure the range of motion for each repetition is the same. Otherwise, you are really not getting faster, you are just doing less. If you truncate a strike, you may lose the power needed to make it effective. That's the wrong path. In truth, you may find a compromise between power and speed that you can accept, but you will be better off training the full movement and pushing yourself to increase the speed only. If not, you may sacrifice the effectiveness of your technique.
Body Mechanics, Follow Through and Hitting Hard
Proper body mechanics will allow you to generate more force. When you are using proper body mechanics, the muscle groups used in delivering your strikes are synchronized and work together in a chain. Instead of just using the muscles of your arm and shoulder alone to strike, you can use your arm, shoulder, back, hips and legs together in a kinetic chain. Imagine how a baseball pitcher will use his entire body to throw the ball. Each movement of his body is synchronized to culminate in a powerful throw. If you develop the proper mechanics, you will hit much harder. Learn to strike properly from your instructor and test your strikes by hitting a target. Make changes in your mechanics each time you strike and compare the result. It’s simple: You must hit something hard in order to get better at hitting hard.
To hit hard, you must practice following through. You will never hit a home run if you only try to bunt the ball. To follow through, you must continue your strike through the target. Don’t stop at the surface of the target. Continue to accelerate your strike until after your weapon has passed through it. With the exception of Usain Bolt, winning sprinters continue to sprint at their maximal speed until they are past the finish line. If they only aim to reach the finish line, they will begin to decelerate before reaching it and, in doing so, lose power. The same is true of your strike.
Strike though a full range of motion to cultivate the power to hit hard. Let your strike continue until your arm wraps around your body or reaches a (safe) natural stopping point. Ideally it will also be in a chambered or loaded position to strike again. By doing this, you will find you engage more of your kinetic chain and you will identify how to coordinate it. If you later abbreviate the strike for the purpose of application, you will still be able to tap into those mechanics. However, if you try to shorten the strike in the beginning, you may never learn to tap into those mechanics fully.
Adding footwork with your strikes will allow you to develop even more force. Imagine getting a running start to hit someone. That’s what footwork can do for you. With the right timing, you can build momentum with your footwork and transfer that momentum through your kinetic chain, your weapon and into your target. Experiment with the timing to make this happen. A good starting point is to time the impact of your strike with your step. You will find that timing your strike with the landing of your lead foot and rear foot have different qualities, but both are useful.
Occasionally use heavy sticks for your striking practice. Rattan sticks are our primary training tools, but heavier hardwood sticks like bahi and kamagong sticks or batons made of plastics, metal pipes, etc. can be very useful for training. The added resistance of heavy sticks will help you develop more strength and use better mechanics to move them. When you switch back to your regular sticks, they will feel like nothing. You will be able to move them faster and hit harder. Heavier sticks are best used for fluid and circular strikes at slow to medium speeds. Avoid strikes that put excessive pressure on the joints and connective tissue or you will become injured.
Tire training is a great tool for learning to hit hard. Striking a tire will help you develop more power, stamina, and grip strength. Simply repeat your strikes using the proper mechanics and adjust for the best results. When starting tire training, remember to work up gradually. Give your joints time to acclimate, and protect your hands if your skin is tearing too much. Over periods of weeks and months, work up from sets of 50 to 100, 200, and up to 500 repetitions per set. After several months of regular tire training, you can also incorporate using heavy sticks or pipes to hit the tires.
Strength and Power Development
In addition to training the specific mechanics of your striking, you need to develop your strength and power through general strength training. If you rely only on exercises that mimic the movements of Kali, you will not have a well rounded strength base, and you will likely end up having imbalances that cause problems down the road. I discovered this in my own training many years ago in an effort to be more efficient with my training time. I cut out anything that was not directly related to the arts. Initially this seemed to work fine. I had more time to devote to coordination, hitting tires, knee walking and other drills, but I ended up having more shoulder pains and back issues. After adding general strength training back into my routine, I felt much more balanced, and I experienced a clear improvement in my speed and my hitting power. Many of those pains and issues went away, even when I continued the same drills as before.
You must develop raw strength if you want to reach your full potential. Strength is fundamental for any athletic endeavor. Raw strength is part of the equation when it comes to generating both speed and force. To develop strength, you should use barbell exercises like back squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses as well as bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, abdominal exercises, and back exercises. You really need a good plan, so do some research and get some coaching. Follow a program that is based on athletic performance, not bodybuilding.
To hit really hard, you need to be able to generate power. Power is equal to force times distance, divided by time. When you are stronger, you can generate more force. More force in this equation results in more power. If you can move faster, then you can also generate more power. Train your body to generate more power by adding explosive exercises in your training. This includes sprinting, jumping, throwing, kettle bell swings, olympic lifts, and any other explosive athletic exercises using the hips.
When you have a strong foundation in basic physical skills, then you will better at applying your technique. By developing your coordination, body mechanics and strength, you will maximize your Kali skills for both competition and self defense.
Besides, strong people are just harder to kill. Use the methods here, and you will be too.