In striking, there are three different ways you can coordinate the landing of your foot with the landing of your strike. For simplicity, we will be looking at landing a lead hand punch using all three variations. First we have the most balanced – the foot lands at the exact same moment the strike lands. Next we have the power version – the foot lands ever so slightly before the strike, allowing more weight transfer and sinking into your stance. Finally, we have speed – the hand moves as fast as possible and the foot trails behind.
Timing your movement so that your foot steps and your strike lands simultaneously is very common in styles developed for competition. It is balanced, fast, and still strong. A good example of this is a boxer’s jab. Step with the lead foot, and throw your lead hand so your punch lands at the same moment your foot hits the ground.
Simultaneous Timing Drills
Mirror: Find a mirror and get sideways while being able to see your reflection. Practice stepping with your lead foot and punching so your foot hits the ground the moment your hand fully extends. Reset and repeat until the timing feels natural.
Bag: Get a punching bag or some other target and practice stepping and striking as above. If you’re struggling, try to stomp your foot on the ground and make the noise of the stomp happen at the same time as the noise of your punch’s impact on the bag.
Foot First Timing
Foot first timing is common in some traditional martial arts. Stability, balance, and power are the priorities here. In the ring this may seem slower, but in the rain, the mud, or ice the idea is to be steady and rooted before striking.
Foot First Drills
Mirror: Find a mirror and get sideways while being able to see your reflection. Practice stepping first, sinking, and even rotating your hips to throw a lead hand punch.
Bag: Get a punching bag or some other target and practice stepping and striking as above. Same as before, try to stomp your foot on the ground and shift your weight so you should hear “stomp then hit” on the bag.
Hand First Timing
This timing is very popular in point-based sparring styles. The idea here is to start moving your hand before your body starts to move. This is harder for an opponent to react to because a hand movement is much smaller than a whole body movement.
Hand First Drills
Mirror: Find a mirror and get sideways while being able to see your reflection. Pick a spot in front of your hand but before your reach full extension – practice your timing so that your hand reaches that spot before you even start to step. This is much more difficult and will take practice to get right.
Bag: Get a punching bag or some other target and stand where the target is just out of reach. Fight the urge to step and strike. Instead: start your punch movement even though it wouldn’t reach from this range. Once your punch is already on its way, step to allow it to reach. You should hear the sound of the punch landing before the sound of your foot touching the ground.
Three Ways, Three Uses
Like everything else in the martial arts, I don’t believe any one method is “right” or “wrong.” Each timing variant offers something unique and important. Even in a full-contact or self defense situation hand first timing has its uses – the sheer speed of it can surprise an opponent and set yourself up for a stronger second attack.
Today we just looked at the three different timing methods with just a front hand punch. Think about the rest of your arsenal and how each variation can be used!