Author: Master Yao ChengRong
Translator: J. P. Lau
Translator’s Note: This article has been edited for English readers.
You must learn to effectively deliver the straight punch from your ready stance, from any hand position. There should be no wasted motion and no give-away movement preceding the punch. Upon completing the punch you must immediately reset into your ready stance. The basic ready fighting stance is achieved by a simple, effective mental and physical organization of the whole-body that maintains comfortable, natural relaxation and perfect balance. This allows for quick reaction and smooth coordinated movement.
1. Lead Hand Straight Punch
Stand in left lead Ding Ba Bu with your weight distributed 30% on your front leg and 70% on your rear leg. The size of the step should be comfortable such that you can easily lift your front foot, advancing or retreating with power provided only from your rear leg. Too large a step sacrifices mobility and too small a step sacrifices stability; choose a comfortable neutral step size.
Modify the Hun Yuan Zhuang posture by closing your hands loosely as if holding eggs; do not tense or use any strength. Keep your hands separated approximately three fists width apart, about a foot from your torso. Your lead hand is slightly higher than your shoulder but do not extend it beyond your lead foot. Your rear hand is at shoulder level, protecting your throat, chin and chest. Visualize imaginary springs between your wrists and connecting your wrists to your neck. Visualize sitting on a high stool with a string pulling the top of your head upward. Tuck in your chin as if holding a small balloon between the chin and the neck. Visualize directing a small force in your front knee forward and upward and a small force in your rear hip backward and downward; the forces below the knees push slightly inwards and above the knees push slightly outwards. With your palms facing inwards, your lead left hand is over your left foot, slightly higher than shoulder level and your guarding right hand is at shoulder level. Visualize holding a large balloon between your chest and arms. Prop your elbows outwards, round your back and hollow your chest to maintain “fullness” in your “frame” while relaxing your shoulders and elbows. Establish proper internal isometrics by visualizing these opposing force pairs (Zheng Li) between different elements in your body. Maintain optimal body alignment, connectedness, whole-body integration, perfect balance and a relaxation/tension state that allows for gentle and supple movement with alertness and readiness for action.
From the left lead, visualize your whole body as a hammer and your left forearm as a nail. Completely relax your shoulder and upper arm. Push off with your right leg; shift your body weight forward onto your left leg. Push off on the ball of your left foot, turn your left heel out, torque your torso a quarter turn to the right, thrust your left shoulder forward, shooting your left forearm loosely and easily forward, upward and inward. Note: a full body pivot on an axis from your rear foot to your head, the shifting weight from one leg to the other and the opening of your joints (ankle, knee, waist & back, shoulder and elbow) are used to power this punch. The lead side of the body anchors the pivot point (visualize stretching the imaginary spring from you lead foot to your head).
Simultaneously, as you shoot out your left arm, rotate your left forearm to palm facing down; pull your right hand backward, upward and outward as if breaking a string between your wrists, keep your rear guard hand up. “When punching with the lead hand, concentrate and focus on the rear hand.” Coordinate your body to move as an integrated whole-body; push your front knee forward and your rear hip slightly backward; push your forehead slightly forward and upward; look at your intended target; keep your chin tucked. The head, the left fist and the left foot must arrive simultaneously.
Do not tighten your fists when initiating/delivering your punch; tensed stiff muscles prevent the proper release of power. When you punch, visualize holding an egg in each hand, do not crush it or let it drop. On contact, instantaneously tense and focus your entire body. Tighten your fist (visualize crushing the egg in your hands; your fingernails piercing your palm), twist and snap your wrist downward slightly (the back of your hand and forearm should be straight) hitting with the knuckles of your index and middle fingers with palm facing downward. Proper delivery of your punch is important in preventing injuries to your hands and fingers. The punch accelerates from the instant of contact until the ceasing of contact, driving clear through the target. After contact, immediately relax and withdraw your left hand along the same path of your delivery. Bring your hand back as fast as you thrust it out, like you have touched a red-hot iron plate. Keep your left arm well up while withdrawing for any possible counter. Push off with your front leg and bounce back to your small step posture; shifting your weight back to 30% front 70% back. You should be relaxed almost all the time, tensing only momentarily as you thrust through your target. Carry the shoulder and arm relaxed and ready at all times for follow-up punches.
Use your entire reach to punch through your target. The fist comes straight from the center with the full power of the leg behind it.
“Deliver your balanced force from curved form.” To reduce injuries to your elbow and prevent your opponent from countering, do not lock your elbows when executing the straight punch. Thus, the straight punch is often referred to as the “not-so-straight” straight punch.
2. Rear Hand Straight Punch
To punch with your rear hand the body must follow the punch. Add force by pivoting your body to a position over the lead foot. When using a body pivot, turn on the balls of both feet while punching. “Waist pivots like a wheel; legs twist like drills.”
From the left lead, drill down with the ball of your right foot, turn your right knee slightly inwards, torque your torso a quarter turn to your left to drive your right shoulder forward to propel your right forearm and fist. Your weight begins on the ball of your rear foot. Twist your forearm as your rear fist travels. You twist at the waist and your weight is shifted forward into the punch and to your lead foot before connecting. Make sure your rear heel and rear shoulder turn in one piece on an axis from your rear foot to your head. Like the lead hand straight punch, your proper body alignment supports your body weight, freeing the entire body to propel the rear fist. The shifting of your center of gravity is a major contributor of power in your punch. Shift your body weight to your left foot as you punch with your right hand, hinging the left side of the body and freeing the opposite side for an explosive pivot. Shoot out your punch loosely and easily; do not tighten up until your punch connects. As you shoot out your right rear fist, pull your left lead hand backward, upward and outward, keep your left hand well up in the guard position. As you connect, twist your right forearm inwards, snap your right wrist slightly downward, tighten your fist, focus and tense your entire body on impact. Drive through your target. Immediately relax and withdraw you right hand along the same path.
Whether punching with your lead hand or rear hand, you should use your body to drive your hands. For fast follow-up or sequential punches, the proper body mechanics demand that the body should move more than the hands. “The entire body must pivot to initiate every move/punch.” Maintain correct internal isometrics, body alignment, connectedness, perfect balance and a relaxation/tension state at all times to be able to deliver follow-up punches after your straight punch. Start the punch from wherever your hands are with no added motions and finish in your on-guard position.
1. When learning these punches, a beginner should start with slow relaxed “trial & feel” motions to learn the whole-body neuromuscular coordination; do not use any brute strength but avoid physical laxness and diminished consciousness. Pay attention to perceiving internal opposing force pairs, relaxation/tension exchange, and the transmission of forces from the ground through the body to the hands. When you have proper body mechanics, then increase the power and speed of your delivery.
2. The time of tensed focusing should be instantaneous. Release your power at the instant of contact accelerating your punch through your target until the cease of contact. Immediately relax and return to your ready stance whether your hit is effective or not. You can deliver an explosive discharge only from a proper mental and physical relaxed/tranquil state. Relaxation and tension are intrinsic opposites that you use appropriately to release your balanced force.
When you have mastered the straight punch from the fixed step, you should combine it with stepping e.g.: shuffle step lunge punch, one step three punches, three steps three punches, free stepping etc. Then add variety by executing circle step straight punches on a sandbag as well as using it in sparring. If you deliver your straight punch but open your hand at the instance before connecting and strike with the palm of your hand, this is the forward palm heel strike. Whether you are punching with the lead or rear hand, always use whole-body movement to drive your punches.