I had a question on ground power in the comments on one of the posts and my reply became so long, I though everyone might be interested.
Elmorio April 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Hi. I have a question on ground power. Does it mean when you do a movement to “sink” or bend your knees. I think Sifu Lam refers to this as “sitting”. Also is it done on every stationary movement or only on certain ones? Thanks if you can help clarify this for me.
OK Elmorio. This is easier to demonstrate than to explain in words, but I’ll give it a shot.
Your joints all have a triangular relationship to one another.
If you are hitting forward, you have a triangle created by your arms and shoulders, by your hips and knees, and by your knees and the ground. Triangles are a fundamentally stable structure. So the ground power comes from the relationship of your skeleton (held in place by tendons) as a conduit of power between your heel and the target – the power passing through your joints on the way to the target..
Get into YJKYM (Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma, the Wing Chun horse stance) and then turn out your left toe (pivoting on the left heel). Stand close enough to a wall bag (or even just the wall) so that your elbow is a fist distance away from your body but when you extend your arm about a foot, your arm should still be bent at a 45 degree angle – this is where you want to contact the target (not with the arm fully extended).
OK – now you have your right fist against the wall and you are turned slightly, but still have what we call facing (you can touch the wall with both hands – your body isn’t excessively “bladed”).
Push into the wall and see if you can line up your hip behind your elbow. If you turn your right hip toward the target, this should press your fist into the wall.
Note the relationship of the right elbow to the right hip to the right knee to the right ankle to the right heel. You can shift them so they are all related. Try and experiment until you you find that you can turn your hip to press your fist into the wall and you feel this in your heel. It doesn’t require that you shift your body weight over to the right side – the body weight should be centered between your hips, between your knees.
This heel to ankle to knee to hip to elbow to fist relationship is what is called sitting. Its called sitting when you are in YJKYM and turning to hit – you usually sit on the heel on the same side as the punch.
Once doing this movement in this way becomes natural (through lots of chain punching into the wall bag), you will develop the ability to draw on ground power to back up your strike.
Sifu Lam uses a banking metaphor. If you want to start a business but only have your own money, you will have a hard time if anything goes wrong. But if the bank backs your business with a line of credit, you can prosper. The ground is like your bank. It doesn’t move. If your fist hits their head, the recoil from that strike goes down through your joints and finally into the ground. The ground is like the house in Vegas. It never loses – it never gets tired or weakened. Even if you are 100, if you can rely on the ground for power, you will hit hard.
The illustration below sort of shows how the lines of force work, although I’m using a forward stance to make the lines of power easier to see.
The red line shows the way I usually think of it, although probably its something more like the blue lines, where the force is transmitted along the lines of the joints and there is a certain amount of leverage involved which modifies the path of the force. You really just have to feel it and find it through experience. Get into position and have someone lean into your fist and try and direct their weight through your joints into the ground via the rear heel. You should be able to bear the weight of a heavy person without too much effort, just by stabilizing your arm into the striking angle.
One cool thing to note: this was one of the “secrets” of Wing Chun which used to be “held back” in the old days. Most teachers in China in the old days used to teach their kids or favored students one way and everyone else another way. Some secrets would be held back. These were subtle but powerful concepts that were not easily seen with the eyes.
You can look at a guy hitting and not really be able to perceive if he is sitting correctly or not. But you can sure feel the difference!