The Pinpoint Effect

By John Davis
Published on Mar 30th, 2010

My earliest memories of the martial arts involve a former school mate who studied Shotokan while in high school. In that late 60's era, the practice of "karate" was not a mainstream activity and one might have looked upon such pursuit as an oddity. It is very likely that by today's definitions he would have, at the time, been branded a "nerd". Despite the social difficulties that pervaded such a small, West Virginia community, my friend went on to acquire high rank in Shotokan, eventually moving to Okinawa to study with masters of that art. While he continued to practice into adulthood, I had no interest in such a serious study of anything.

In the late 70's, after having spent nearly a decade meandering about the country, I found myself living, once again, in my hometown. At that time my association with native friends had dwindled, including my old acquaintance. He was, by then, a master of Shotokan and a practitioner of the Chinese healing arts, teaching and practicing in a small, downtown dojo. Being easily bored and restless, I was happy when I ran into the young "master" thereafter graciously accepting his invitation to join beginner's classes in Shotokan.

On the night of the first class, we learned to do a "crab walk' by squatting to push dampened rags with outstretched arms, cleaning the polished wooden floor. After that little lesson in humility, the group sat around a chalk board for a short lecture on the importance of velocity. As I recall, the equation E=MC2 was used to discuss the maximal impact of an object as it reaches its greatest speed. It was not difficult to understand that a weapon travelling faster would achieve deeper penetration. (There are stories about pieces of straw stuck into trees, hurled by hurricane force winds) I was clueless, however, about the nature of Einstein's theory or why it was used to illustrate the point. Recent events have drawn me back to that point...more precisely, perhaps, to the "pinpoint" and the devastating effect it can have on the human body.

My limited understanding of Einstein's theory spurned a web search that turned up a number of interesting articles. One example found in Wikepedia (the on line encyclopedia) discusses the equation (E=MC2) as a concept of "mass - energy" equivalence:

"...the mass of a body is the measure of its energy content... as measured on a scale it (mass) is always equal to the total energy inside, multiplied by a constant (C2) that changes the units appropriately."

(Einstein's constant is the speed of light). That would dictate that the faster your weapon (fist, foot, etc.) travels, the more damage it will do on impact with the target. In the case of Einstein's contribution to humanity, nuclear fission and fusion were both developed as a result of his findings. In the realm of martial arts, including self defense and organized fighting, the understanding and use of this principle may mean that one survives attack or wins a match.

Einstein dealt with the movement of singular atoms at incredible speed and found a force greater than most in nature. The results of his work and the work that followed are very useful as well as destructive and dangerous. In the martial arts, one makes use of body parts as weapons which, when coupled with the proper velocity, may also be very useful while at the same time dangerous and destructive. An example of this came to light at the MALC's 2009 Residential in Bethany Beach, Del. It was there that I finally realized the effective use of "pinpoint" strikes.

In Ed Parker's Kenpo training, a familiar sight is that of the"technique line". Self defense training is practiced through the use of prescribed Techniques that make use of the system's basics in a logical and orderly fashion. (One might liken the training to learning how to make sentences from the basic alphabet). One of the technique models is known as the "Leaping Crane". Essentially, it consists of blocking the offensive weapon (fist) inward while angling away from an opponent, striking the mid section and kicking the leg (simultaneously or progressively). There are follow up strikes from behind as the technique premise assumes that your opponent has fallen to their knees.

While practicing this technique in a rotating line, I was facing a young brown belt who threw the appropriate attack. What followed was a shock to them as well as me... a simple middle knuckle fist, jabbed very quickly below and to the rear of the short rib had them reeling in pain and confusion. Myself and other members of the group feared an emergency room visit was in order. Luckily, that was not the case, yet, it was several hours before the trauma subsided. When all was said and done, I had not intended that result; however I came away with a very valuable lesson in the concept that my former friend and teacher had introduced many years ago.

There are many principles put into use for effective martial arts practice. Technique models are practiced to enhance the integration of such principles. Kenpoists may recognize the terms (principles) readily, while others may have similar concepts with different names. (i.e. "settling" refers to "rooting" or dropping body weight to enhance strikes). After that incident, I became very aware of the intense "energy' that can be produced from the combination of some of those principles. Remember Einstein's theory: mass is the measurement of the total energy inside a body. A fist alone can do some damage; A fist travelling at great speed, more so. When one begins to add or layer principles such as relaxation, settling, angle of cancellation (of the opponents weapon), angle of disturbance (opponent's body), alteration of weapons (in this case I substituted a middle knuckle fist thrust for a raking downward inward middle knuckle fist), rhythmic timing of strikes/blocks, fully accelerated motion, and more, the results can be devastating.

In the case of my "accidentally" injurious practice that day, the pinpoint of my middle knuckle, protruding from a well formed base was enough to cause a painful and nearly paralyzing effect. Little effort was involved in doing so; it was more a matter of layering the many facets that 11 years of training have built in to my make up. The incident spurned a newly found respect for the artists who study the effects of targeting vital areas. Stories of "death strikes" no longer seem out of proportion.

Last night, after having written this far, I had an opportunity to watch a TV documentary about none other than Albert Einstein. What an incredible, unrelenting mind! His theories govern much of the intellectual outlook of physics to this day. While watching, I could not help but draw the correlation between Einstein and the likes of Edmund Parker Sr. For a martial artist not involved in Kenpo, the name may mean very little. To put his stature into perspective, one might do a little research and find that Mr. Parker was a tremendous innovator, willing to challenge the status quo. He took the public view of martial artists as brutal miscreants, and turned it around through the use of intellectual outlets. Before his untimely death, he had written several books on the martial arts and especially his consolidated view of a systematic approach to learning. Additionally, he spurned a generation of teachers and educators that have continued to make a lasting impact on the martial arts world.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: John Davis

John Davis is an Associate Instructor of Ed Parker's Kenpo, currently studying with coach, Dennis Lawson. Being a life long lover of sport and adventure, John began practicing the martial arts eleven years ago out of curiosity. Throughout that time, he has attended seminars and camps with several of Kenpo's regarded masters. A career highlight came in 2006 when he was part of a group that attended the Kenpo World Championships in Utrecht, Netherlands. While training in a large commercial setting, John taught daily classes for two years. Currently, Mr. Davis supplements his martial arts training with distance cycling, coming from a background of amateur racing in that sport. When not training regularly, John enjoys cooking for friends, travelling, fine art and a good comedy.

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