Timing of Arm & Leg Movements
Most of us have heard many times that, during Karate training, the arm and leg motions should stop simultaneously (usually also along with the hip’s rotation and overall momentum of the body). This is the basic form, which we should all practice on a daily basis. But there are variations worth studying as well, once the basics are fully understood. (Please note: this discussion is aimed primarily at black belt level practitioners)
Warm up with gyakuzuki and maegeri, then move on to maegeri/gyakuzuki combination
The usual practice is to land the foot and end the punch at the same time. But the timing can change. Practice the same combo with the leg motion finishing before the arm’s. And again with the leg finishing after the arm.
Note the change in body connection and speed. The leg landing first can provide the punch with more stability/rooting. The leg landing after can absorb recoil after the punch connects. Which feels better, faster, stronger, etc.?
Now practice stepping forward into oizuki instead of back into gyakuzuki. Start with the hand/foot finishing at the same time. Then try the other timings.
Note the changes in body connection and speed. It is basically the same as for the previous combo. Or isn’t it? Does it feel the same? Is one timing better for gyakuzuki and a different timing better for oizuki? Try to examine why. (I can think of a few things to say here, but I’d like you to think about it by yourselves first, to encourage you to come up with your own theories.)
One person does maegeri, the other shifts back.
The person who shifted back shifts in, in a partial (fake) attack.
The person who kicked should now experiment with punching (gyakuzuki for this first set) while the kicking foot is still in the air vs landing in the stance, then punching.
After trying this a few times each, with a few different partners, change to oizuki after the kick.
Are your theories working or not? Why? Is the ideal timing different depending on whether you are moving forward into the punch, vs back, after the kick?
What I have found is that there is usually more power lost when punching while stepping back than when stepping forward, if you punch before the foot lands. This has to do with momentum of the body as a whole. In contrast, punching after the foot lands seems to work well when stepping back, but not so well when stepping forward. This also has to do with momentum.
Try to feel how the overall momentum of your body is only slight when returning to gyakuzuki after the maegeri (if anything, it is backwards). In contrast, the body’s overall momentum is heading noticeably forward towards your opponent when stepping into oizuki after the kick.
Therefore, the support of the legs behind the gyakuzuki would be limited to that of just the front leg when finishing/landing the punch before the kicking leg reached the floor. Since there is almost no momentum involved with this punch, this lack of stability can have a major impact on the power of the punch.
Likewise, although the supporting leg would be the only one in contact with the floor with the oizuki, this would now be the back leg, since you are stepping in. This, combined with the fact that the overall momentum of the body is moving forward, means that the additional stability provided by putting the kicking foot down is relatively insignificant (it helps, but not as much as for the gyakuzuki example).
To summarize, although I believe that daily practice of simultaneous ending of arm/leg motions is essential, if you are to deviate from this, there are cases in which the arm finishing first may be advantageous and other cases in which the leg finishing first may be better. In the cases I’ve presented, gyakuzuki may be stronger when executed after the kicking foot touches the floor, and oizuki may be stronger when executed before the kicking foot touches the floor.
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published August 1998)