Timing of Arm and Hip

Timing of Arm and Hip in Gyakuzuki


There are two main theories concerning the timing of the extension of the punching arm and the “rotation” of the hips in basic gyakuzuki (reverse punch). One extreme has the hip finishing its movement before the fist leaves its chambered position (moves from the hip). The other extreme has both motions finishing simultaneously. Other methods also exist in between these two extremes.

In the fist method, the idea is that the larger, more powerful muscles of the lower body begin the technique. At the moment of maximum velocity, the hip movement reaches its conclusion and inertia propels the fist from the hip. At that moment, the muscles of the arm and shoulder take over and the result is a very fast arm movement.

In the second method, the arm’s extension and the hip’s motion begin at roughly the same time and finish at the same time. The fist may not be travelling quite as fast at the point of impact, but the overall speed of the technique (elapsed time) is usually faster, since the arm’s extension was begun earlier.

As far as the connection of the various body parts, these two methods are quite different. In the first example, the hip completes its rotation and tenses before the arm. If the lower body is properly tensed throughout the arm’s extension, this method can provide for a stable, fairly strong punch, with the arm being launched off of a strong base (the tensed hips and legs).

In the second example, all the moving parts are tensed at the same instant, into impact. Although more difficult to time, if done properly, this method can provide for overall amount of connection similar to that of the first method, although timed differently.

Momentum Transfer
This is where the two methods differ the most. In the first extreme, the hip completes its rotation well before contact is made by the fist into the target. The hips are not moving forward in this example when the arm completes its extension. Therefore, the only mass moving into the target at impact is that of the arm.

In the second extreme, the hip continues moving up to the point of contact (and perhaps still moving, if taken further to the extreme). Therefore, the mass moving into the target is that of the entire torso, in addition to the punching arm.  In kihon (basics), in both extremes the draw hand moves back and front leg unit remains stable, so these points are not relevant here.

There is, of course, some middle ground. Some will combine the two extremes. One example is that the arm begins moving off the hip partway through the hips’ rotation, finishing the movement at the same, or approximately the same time.

Sometimes, the tensing of the various muscle groups occurs like dominoes, with the muscles closest to the floor tensing first and others building on those already tensed muscles, culminating in a completely tense body. Some may also want to experiment with relaxing those muscles tensed earlier, before completion of the punch. This may not make much sense for a basic punch. But if shifting/stepping forward, it may prove to be worthwhile to develop this as an option. Obviously, when we look at non-basic punching, various other theories come into play and the extreme situations found in basics seem to no longer apply. Remember, though, that basics are the foundation without which we cannot properly progress to higher levels. Work on proper basics if you want to advance. These basic theories are important even for the most advanced of practices.

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published November 1998)