Why Is A Force That Is Applied For A Short Time More Effective In Karate? (Karate Principles Explained)

In martial arts, you often learn many things in your time at a school or dojo, whether that is patience, discipline, katas, and forms, or even just how to take a hit.

Why Is A Force That Is Applied For A Short Time More Effective In Karate?

What they often don’t talk about is how much about physics you’ll also be learning!

In this guide, we are going to cover some of the basics of why smaller objects or attacks delivered over a faster period, will often do more damage than strikes that take longer, despite being larger and having more power to them.

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

The Importance Of Physics In Martial Arts

Anyone who has been practicing martial arts for any given period will tell you just how important things like weight and center of gravity are.

For many techniques, where their success depends pretty highly on the user’s understanding of momentum, force applied, and balance, it soon becomes pretty clear that understanding how things and objects move.

Especially with speed and power behind them, will help you grasp the essentials and principles of a technique almost as much as practicing them in a sparring match.

Take punches, for example. They are one of the most simple things you will learn how to do in martial arts like Karate.

But, even here, you can see and feel just how devastating a punch that is delivered quickly and precisely has a much bigger effect than a slow punch that has plenty of wind up.

This had led many students to ponder this issue in their own time so that they can better understand how to deliver strikes better.

And often, without any help or a deeper understanding of physics, it can leave many students scrambling and spinning their metaphorical wheels.

Well, spin those wheels no more!

The Use Of Momentum And Physics In Karate

So, when it comes to discussing the force of punches and strikes on objects, we have to first understand the importance of momentum in Karate, as well as martial arts as a whole.

When it comes to a strike, speed and power are the most important factors when making an attack effective

However, these two factors are simply an expression of a single force that is behind the most effective punches that you’ll come across in martial arts: Energy, and how momentum carries and transfers it.

This isn’t to mean the kind of energy that is often mystified by popular media and folklore about martial arts, however. Energy in this case is the force that is used to move mass and create momentum in an object.

The force that an object with mass has come from the acceleration of an object, times the amount of mass that it has.

The energy that is spent to create the movement that allows for the acceleration and velocity of an object, such as a punch, to increase or decrease in speed.

Is simply a translation of the body’s energy that it generates into kinetic or movement energy that can be seen or observed by others.

The damage from an attack comes when that moving fist makes contact with another object. As we know, according to the first law of thermodynamics (energy cannot be destroyed or created.

Only transferred for change into something else), the force behind a punch doesn’t stop once it makes contact with an object, and will continue to be exerted until the energy has dissipated, or until the object cannot handle the way that the energy is being dispersed.

This is why a martial arts practitioner when using the correct technique, can punch a board and break it in two.

A badly practiced punch will not transfer that kinetic energy properly, but the fist will still be moving, causing the hand to move in a way against the inertia of the board that can cause the fist to damage or breaks itself instead.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

However, for larger objects that are moving fast, the amount of energy that is needed to move the object with any force is noticeably larger than a smaller amount.

And, as well have already established, energy is simply transferred into different forms, the force behind a larger punch will take longer to dissipate, resulting in a longer attack that can have less of an impact.

By contrast, if a strike or punch connects with an object for a shorter amount of time, then the energy transferred in that smaller strike will be transferred in a shorter time frame, resulting in a much more noticeable impact.

Often, this can be because of a smaller surface area that transfers the energy. It’s this same principle that explains why the crack of a whip, with such as small tip, can do as much damage as a much larger object.

So, when it comes to Karate practice, this is often why strikes are taught through drills or practice.

Rather than forcing your body to mismanage its energy and overextending, causing the energy transfer of a punch to take longer and have less of an effect, a lot of emphases is taught on controlling how far they extend out from your body.

What ‘Rolling With The Punches’ Means Here

This is also why in many forms of sparring, whether it is in Boxing or Karate, many fighters are taught to ‘roll with the punches’, as they say.

In terms of the physics that are at play, rolling with a punch given to you means allowing the energy of the fist to connect, whilst also not resisting it as the force of it tries to move you.

This way, the energy of the fist simply goes into motion, rather than damage the body.


So, whilst it is quite a technical answer to wrap your head around, a shorter punch does that damage it does much quicker and easier than a big one.

And there’s your answer!

Christopher Anderson
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