I’ve recently been focusing on getting the feet to do their work. Steve Morris will often show us how to use the feet when walking as an example of how to get ‘in touch’ with the kinetics of movement. It’s equally as important to use the feet while striking as it is during your gait. In the archives on his site you can find an article where he espouses the importance of using the feet, amongst other observations. In this article he quotes Aristotle
The animal that moves makes its change of position by pressing against that which is beneath it
Often people will throw a punch and one foot is left floating and so contributes nothing.The floating foot is passive, for it to be active it is required to “press against that which is beneath it”. This pressing action uses Ground Reaction Force to produce a force in the opposite direction. Assuming this is transferred and directed correctly it will contribute to the force delivered to the target when delivering a punch.
Put simply, if the foot is floating or lifted away any force is going in the wrong direction AND it cannot be taking advantage of ground reaction force. Potential force production is wasted. That’s not to say that force cannot be generated with one foot in the air, it is possible but relatively less efficient.
For the force to be delivered to the target other principles need to be in place to allow transfer, but if the person fails to ‘press against that beneath’ then the force produced is less than it could be. Efficient movement will be curtailed while punches, kicks and strikes will be weak.
Movement and striking are dependent on each other if an efficient, sharp fighting style is valued. That would usually be the case but it is often not evident. Sometimes, people press into the floor and manage to transfer some ground reaction force toward the target but fail to move afterwards. This effectively anchors the rear portion of the body to the floor, and anchors not only fail to contribute to punching force they detract from it! Imagine punches in the static karate long stance (zenkutsu dachi), an extreme example where the back foot is about as useful as Quasimodo’s deformed rear limb!
Often the rear foot does move toward the target, thereby lining up the direction of force. This is good but if it fails to contribute to driving the hip, and so the punch, it is merely dragged forward, once again detracting from force production.
The feet need to drive against the floor to move quickly and/or strike forcefully. In an earlier article Morris uses a cheetah as an excellent example of movement efficiency, ground reaction force is transferred super-efficiently through body, while added to by the bending action of the spine, allowing flowing, rapid movement.We naturally, press our feet into the floor when pushing a car, this feeling needs to be utilised in striking.
People tend to think they are using their feet, but often are barely using them at all, they primarily move by lifting the leg at the hip, or strike in a similar fashion. Then if they do press against the floor the force is not transferred forward properly. We really should be driving from the feet.