Punching Air

Bill Mattocks

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I've seen a lot of discussion about 'punching air', which is what man martial arts students do when they practice. Not to say that they do not *also* punch bags or pads or people, but that they do practice punching air.

It is said by some that there is no power in it. It's a bad way to train because there is no resistance at the end of the punch, so it does not teach proper body mechanics and that people will hit like they train; ultimately, weak punches.

I suggest that punching air can be quite effective. Not a replacement for actually punching bags or pads or people, but certainly useful.

And to test this? I simply close my eyes. I ask a partner to randomly place a pad where my punch is going. Say one time out of ten. I try to punch air as I always punch air - no difference. It should feel the same to me. No cheating; if the pad isn't there, it should feel as it does when one normally punches air; not harder, softer, faster, slower, or whatever. Just normal punching air.

What I discovered is that I hit like a train. When I contact the bag which I did not know was there, the power explodes into it. There's nothing wrong with my body mechanics. If someone were to accidentally walk into a punch while I was punching air with my eyes shut, I'd clock 'em, no doubt.

Furthermore, such practice (with eyes shut) also allows me to think about my breathing, timing, and balance, in ways that I might ignore with them open.

Give it a try.
 

wingchun100

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I don't think it would result in weak punches so much as it would not allow you to judge proper distance. Then again, neither would punching a wall bag because the bag is always in the same spot. A sparring partner won't be. :) So maybe the best practice would be against a heavy bag, which will sway, or one of those other bags...shoot, I can't remember what they are called....not speed bags, but the kind where they have a rope attached to the top and bottom?
 

Marnetmar

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Punching air can actually condition your fists wonderfully if you're in Beijing. You might even break your knuckles if you're not used to punching concrete.
 

Balrog

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I do a combo. Some days, I'll have them punching air and working on the mechanics of the technique. Other days, I'll put them on the bag, still working mechanics but also body positioning for the resistance. Kicks as well.
 

robal

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Originally when karate (Te) was being developed on Okinawa practice was more or less kata based. This is to say that kata was everything. It was kata as a memory aid (notes to take home with you for practice/homework) it was kata as basics/kihon and it was kata as kumite. However it wasn't kumite as in sparring like today. Application is kata in action. So practicing application with a partner is true kumite although the term "kumite" doesn't accurately apply. But it puts kata to use. That makes kata everything...the whole class. Which is why the old masters always said "kata is karate." Punching (and strikes) would also be done on makiwara to develop the mechanics as well as the strikes and kicks. There were no "classes" and line ups or marching up and down the floor. (this is all a very simplified explanation).

When karate moved to Japan they separated classes into Basics (kihon) Kata (forms) and Kumite (sparring) which in turn disconnected the kata from karate other than being more of a dance. So it wasn't really always air practice. As a practice of perfecting movement and form air practice is good if you're careful. Overdoing it can cause hyperextension and over time this could lead to a painful old age. If you practice this way exclusively I think you will develop a better/stronger punch than if you did nothing but I don't think it will compare to good target practice as far as real punching power goes. The reason being, striking a bag, makiwara or even pads allows the body to learn and adapt the transference of bodyweight and mechanics into a target along with balance and most important drive (from the feet/legs) and resistance.

As with everything a balance is a good idea imo. A lot depends on ones goals. What the trainee is attempting to accomplish.
 

Transk53

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I've seen a lot of discussion about 'punching air', which is what man martial arts students do when they practice. Not to say that they do not *also* punch bags or pads or people, but that they do practice punching air.

It is said by some that there is no power in it. It's a bad way to train because there is no resistance at the end of the punch, so it does not teach proper body mechanics and that people will hit like they train; ultimately, weak punches.

I suggest that punching air can be quite effective. Not a replacement for actually punching bags or pads or people, but certainly useful.

And to test this? I simply close my eyes. I ask a partner to randomly place a pad where my punch is going. Say one time out of ten. I try to punch air as I always punch air - no difference. It should feel the same to me. No cheating; if the pad isn't there, it should feel as it does when one normally punches air; not harder, softer, faster, slower, or whatever. Just normal punching air.

What I discovered is that I hit like a train. When I contact the bag which I did not know was there, the power explodes into it. There's nothing wrong with my body mechanics. If someone were to accidentally walk into a punch while I was punching air with my eyes shut, I'd clock 'em, no doubt.

Furthermore, such practice (with eyes shut) also allows me to think about my breathing, timing, and balance, in ways that I might ignore with them open.

Give it a try.

That your version of shadow boxing?
 
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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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I don't think it would result in weak punches so much as it would not allow you to judge proper distance. Then again, neither would punching a wall bag because the bag is always in the same spot. A sparring partner won't be. :) So maybe the best practice would be against a heavy bag, which will sway, or one of those other bags...shoot, I can't remember what they are called....not speed bags, but the kind where they have a rope attached to the top and bottom?

Don't need distance to practice technique. The punch should have power at any position during extension.
 
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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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I do a combo. Some days, I'll have them punching air and working on the mechanics of the technique. Other days, I'll put them on the bag, still working mechanics but also body positioning for the resistance. Kicks as well.

Good to do both, of course.
 

JowGaWolf

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Punching air forces the practitioner to focus on technique. Without technique there is no power.
 

gpseymour

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I've seen a lot of discussion about 'punching air', which is what man martial arts students do when they practice. Not to say that they do not *also* punch bags or pads or people, but that they do practice punching air.

It is said by some that there is no power in it. It's a bad way to train because there is no resistance at the end of the punch, so it does not teach proper body mechanics and that people will hit like they train; ultimately, weak punches.

I suggest that punching air can be quite effective. Not a replacement for actually punching bags or pads or people, but certainly useful.

And to test this? I simply close my eyes. I ask a partner to randomly place a pad where my punch is going. Say one time out of ten. I try to punch air as I always punch air - no difference. It should feel the same to me. No cheating; if the pad isn't there, it should feel as it does when one normally punches air; not harder, softer, faster, slower, or whatever. Just normal punching air.

What I discovered is that I hit like a train. When I contact the bag which I did not know was there, the power explodes into it. There's nothing wrong with my body mechanics. If someone were to accidentally walk into a punch while I was punching air with my eyes shut, I'd clock 'em, no doubt.

Furthermore, such practice (with eyes shut) also allows me to think about my breathing, timing, and balance, in ways that I might ignore with them open.

Give it a try.
I never thought about trying this, but my punches feel much the same with or without a target to actually hit. I don't think I change the dynamics tremendously whether I'm punching air, a person, a heavy bag, a focus mitt, or much of anything else. At most, I adjust some of the variables a bit, but the mechanics are much the same.
 

gpseymour

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Punching air can actually condition your fists wonderfully if you're in Beijing. You might even break your knuckles if you're not used to punching concrete.
The same could be said of Zaporozhye, Ukraine (where my wife is from).
 

punisher73

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Everything should have a purpose to it in training. "Air punching" is great for technique and proper mechanics, just like shooters will put an empty shell on their empty gun and practice dry firing to see if the shell dips, falls etc.

Like Bill pointed out, the ultimate goal of those reps is that when a target puts in front of it, the mechanics don't change.

I have found that too often when i put a target in front of a new student that the punch suddenly changes because their only focus now changes to "power" and their idea of how that is achieved.
 

Danny T

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So maybe the best practice would be against a heavy bag, which will sway, or one of those other bags...shoot, I can't remember what they are called....not speed bags, but the kind where they have a rope attached to the top and bottom?
Double end bags.
Double end bags and speed bags are more about timing, accuracy, & rhythm than distance or range.
 

gpseymour

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I don't think it would result in weak punches so much as it would not allow you to judge proper distance. Then again, neither would punching a wall bag because the bag is always in the same spot. A sparring partner won't be. :) So maybe the best practice would be against a heavy bag, which will sway, or one of those other bags...shoot, I can't remember what they are called....not speed bags, but the kind where they have a rope attached to the top and bottom?
There's also stuff like the Century Versys - it moves a lot when hit with any force, so you can move around it, chase it to the ground, etc. There's one at the center where I teach, and I've been using it to do a better job at not throwing strikes that will miss as it moves away or gets too close (haven't had enough of that kind of practice in a while).
 
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