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Drill for understanding the need to keep elbows down and striking from the center

When utilizing basic punches and thrusting arm strikes from the center; it is important that the elbow remain in a down position. The reasoning for this is that as you move the elbows up towards the sky, your body stops using the core muscles to drive the strike and begins to use only the shoulder muscles. Also as the elbows rise this lifts your body out of its frame, raises your stance, and disengages your ability to ground the strike through the feet.

The benefits for elbows down are:

  • Aligns the body and arm action to originate from the body core
  • Utilizes the entire upper frame to perform the action
  • Strengthens the wrist position in relation to the elbow and shoulder
  • Allows upper torso to rotate/twist with the thrust of the arm
  • Grounds the strike to the feet
  • Uses much less energy to deliver a strike

How to train

Stand in a working position Stance with arms at waist position. Use one arm at a time to push forward into the target the same as you would do for a punch. It is important that the strike be a gentle push. You are not trying to strike the target or prove how fast or strong you are. Stay in stance the entire drill. If you find yourself rising up out of stance you are not focusing the center with the stance and are instead trying to use your arms only for the drill.

Hand Position – Extend the fingers as if you are doing a chop but do not stress or flex the hand. You want to align the finger tips all the way back to the elbow in one straight line. If you are curving your hand or tightening your fingers or wrist you are not in proper position. Stable relaxation is what you are trying to achieve. You are not trying to strike with the finger tips, only using the tips of the fingers as an alignment tool to understand the wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulder dynamics.

Elbow Position – Keep them down. This is a drill to train arm structure and it is important that you not rotate your elbow up. In referencing how the hand position works, if your finger are stacked one on top of the other with the thumb on top; the line from the thumb should extend down the line of the radius bone in the arm, straight to the center of the bend in the elbow.

Now step forward as if you are punching the target but instead press the hand/arm forward into the target. As you press forward keep the little finger in line with the ground and the other four fingers stacked directly one on top of the other. Your small finger should stay aligned with the floor and the palm/knuckles should be presented towards the horizon line.

It works best to begin this drill striking with the hand opposite to the foot that is in front. The reasoning for this is that it requires you to move your body close enough to the target to stay in stance and not lean forward. After doing the drill with the opposite hand to foot front, try it with the same foot hand front.

You will find that you will want to over rotate the upper torso and move your center forward of your stance. Don’t do this, it will build a false reality of strength and causes you to disengage your center to the strike.

It is allowed to let the hand rise gently to follow the curve of the shoulder swing but at no time do the palms/knuckles stop facing the horizon lines.

As the technique is performed take note of the wrist, it should never bend. It is important that a single straight line run from the finger tips to the elbow. Also, the stance must also remain grounded.

Remember this is not practice for a strike with the finger tips; it is only used to train your body dynamics for proper elbow down pushing from the center.

Note:  This drill is designed to work from a grounded stance position. If you are working with an art that works on a rotational method to generate energy, the drill will still work for training elbow position. What may change is how you ground your stance. As the student achieves more skill in their art, you will find that coming out of a grounded stance and striking from multiple stances is obtainable. What does not change is the need to understand how to generate your energy for a strike from your center and the importance to keep the elbows down to help build the frame.