The Power of the "One-Inch Punch"


Bruce Lee was renowned for what is known as the "one-inch punch," a punch that was delivered at fingertip length and would knock a grown man back several feet. Often, when giving martial art demonstrations, Lee would invite a member of the audience (usually one of the biggest guys there) to assist him in demonstrating it. Smiling and joking with the audience, who were not sure of what was happening, Lee would place a chair several feet behind the person, then stand in front of them with his arm near full extension, his fist an inch away from the person's solar plexus, and tell the man to brace himself. Lee would then torque his body and his fist would travel forward into the guy, sending him flying backward into the awaiting chair. While the strike itself did not look very impressive, the results definitely were.

The one-inch punch was not a demonstration of some mystical or magical power that Lee possessed, but rather an exhibition of purposeful, well-directed and focused energy. In Joe Hyams book, "Zen in the Martial Arts," Lee explained to the author how he achieved such power, telling him, "I relaxed until the moment I brought every muscle of my body into play, and then concentrated all the force in my fist. To generate great power you must first totally relax and gather you strength, and then concentrate your mind and all your mind and all your strength on hitting your target."

In martial art movement, your muscles work in groups or chains or links -- supporting, guiding and contributing to the overall force of the movement. For example, a punch may start in the feet, move through the knees and hips, add waist twist, shoulder rotation, straightening the elbow and extending the arm, through the fist. The timing is such that each segment adds its speed to that of the others. All the accumulated speed and power is pinpointed at the fist as it makes contact with the target and all the force travels into the target. There is no dissipation at all. The goal of a martial artist is to coordinate all parts of their body into a coherent and dynamic whole.

We can take the concept of the one-inch punch and apply it to whatever we are doing. We can relax, gather our strength or resources, and then make sure that we coordinate our energies in the direction we want while not allowing any of it to dissipate. The cumulative effect of harnessing and coordinating what we are doing into such a dynamic whole can, just like Lee's one-inch punch, multiply our force tremendously. And the results can be awesome.


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