How Karate Masters Generate Insane Power (Body Mechanics) — Jesse Enkamp

– Did you know that there are two types of martial arts power? One, is the towel, and
the other is the stick, and these two ways of generating power were handed down from
the old karate masters right here in Okinawa,
the birthplace of karate. In this video, I wanna explain these two ways of generating devastating martial arts power, so that you know which one to use. Stay tuned! What’s up, I’m Jesse
from, a.k.a. “The Karate Nerd”. And right now I’m in Matsuyama Koen in the historical area of Kume Village, where a lot of the old karate masters would come to exchange techniques and cooperate in order
to improve their karate and learn what worked
and what didn’t work. So let’s talk about these two things here, the stick and a towel. All the old karate pioneers
from Funakoshi Gichin to Chojun Miyagi, to Mabuni Kenwa, mention that karate originally stems from two different ways of using the body. A quick fun fact, before we start talking about these two methods
is that even in China, where you can trace the
roots of karate to, they refer to these two methods
as internal and external, or northern and southern,
or soft and hard methods. Anyway, lets start
talking about how to use these two things to understand the methods of generating
power with your body. I’m gonna start with the towel. Imagine your body is like a towel. Now a towel by itself can’t
really hurt anyone, right? It’s soft, and it can’t
even stand on its own, unlike a stick that is hard and actually has some structure to it. However, if you manage
to wind up the towel, and then snap it… Kapow! Kapow! …against somebody, it can really hurt. Isn’t that weird? Something so soft and weak,
can actually hurt somebody, which is why many of the old
karate masters said that, even if you’re frail or small or weak, you can overcome a bigger opponent by understanding the
biomechanics of power generation. And the secret, of course, is to use your body like
a towel, like a whip, or a chain, by dropping
your center of gravity through neuromuscular relaxation, and then using the ground reaction force accelerating that through your “koshi”, your hips and your center, and then letting your fist or your leg shoot out into a punch,
or strike, or kick, or whatever you do. And the key of course is relaxation, and intra- and intermuscular timing. Now let’s talk about the stick. Now the stick, on the other hand, is very hard to whip, and in fact, my brother went to Thailand
to practice Thai box– damn mosquitos… Went to Thailand to
practice Thai Boxing once, and when he came back, he said that all the Muay Thai
trainers told him to kick as if his leg was a baseball bat. You want to imagine your
body being strict and rigid, you need perfect posture,
structural integrity, and you need to be rooted into the ground and then you dump all of
your mass into the target. That’s exactly what happens when you hit somebody with a stick, right? You don’t pull back to snap a stick, you want to strike through, just like a Thai Boxer would do when they kick their
devastating round-house kicks. But of course, we’re not just limited to talking about Thai Boxing, this is a biomechanical principal that applies to everything you do, no matter what martial art you practice. If you want to apply this stick principle, the most important thing is that you transfer your body weight and your whole mass,
and imagine dumping that into and even through your opponent. In Japanese, this concept
is known as “tokiho”, which literally means falling wood, and it’s all about using
gravity to your advantage. So the question is,
which one should you use? Well, here’s what I tell my students and what I teach my students
when they come to my dojo. If you’re a bigger and
naturally stronger guy, you will probably be aligned more with the stick method of
using your body, right? Because you naturally have that force and that physical capacity needed to use your body in this type of way. However, if you’re smaller or weaker, then you need to rely more on speed, and snap, and relaxation and technique, which is more important when you want to use your body more like the towel. Obviously, a lot of the old
karate masters knew this. They knew that some people will want to use this method, and other people will
want to use that method. Ultimately, you want to find
some kind of middle ground, you want to be able to use each method in a case by case basis depending on when, where, and why you wanna
actually hit somebody, right? That’s why many of the old masters named their karate styles after the combination of these two. For example, Goju-ryu means “hard-soft style”. Or the founder of Shito-ryu, Mabuni Kenwa, he originally named his style Hanko-ryu, which means “half-hard style”, and Uechi-ryu karate was originally known as Pangainoon, which means, again, the exact same thing. In other words, all of the
old karate masters knew you should not limit your
martial arts practice to just one way of generating power. However, you will naturally start with one of these ways depending on where on the spectrum you are naturally
when you start training. So if you have a student
that’s naturally very strong and buff and powerful,
maybe you shouldn’t tell her to start using her body like
a whip, or like a towel. Maybe, this method is better, and if you have somebody who is naturally more like the towel,
somebody who is more relaxed and snappy and laid back, maybe you shouldn’t start
to do strength training and power training and tell that person to get stronger and harder
all the time, right? As an instructor, it’s
super important to learn how to distinguish between these two methods of power generation, and then according to each student’s natural physical capacity,
personal preferences, and needs, and goals, and outcomes, you should then prescribe
the correct method of power generation to them. Ultimately, the best martial artists are the ones that can combine them both, so that when the situation arises that you need to use
your body like a stick and dump your body into your opponent, or when you need to use
that snappy and fast technique like the whip or towel, then you can always fall
back on those skills, because you know how to use your body. After all, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. So after having heard me say all of this, I have a question to you. Which method do you prefer? Have you ever been forced
to train a specific way even though maybe naturally
you are the other one? Leave a comment and let me know, which method do you prefer? What’s your experience? I’m dying to hear your answers and I always read the comments. Thanks for watching, train hard, good luck, and have fun! (Bruce Lee shout)

100 Replies to “How Karate Masters Generate Insane Power (Body Mechanics) — Jesse Enkamp

  1. Simple answer, they don't, no offense I like karate but most karate guys I've fought punch bot weakly and slowly, it is fun to practice though and the history was interesting

  2. Hey Jesse good morning. I just want to learn how to take points if opponent is a girl without attacking at their private parts because its so hesitating to fight with a girl plzz tell me

  3. Usually I prefer using 'towel' method combined with several weight shifting techniques,, for example, using my skull [the heaviest bone in body] to gain momentum for strike with kinetic chain movements. it must be fate that I found your channel.

  4. here's a story from my past, one night two of my friends fought each other and I found myself unable to separate them without hurting them . I felt incredibly useless. It's so easy to fight as compared to stopping a fight. Please Tell me what could I have done to stop the fight without? violence?

  5. Hey Jesse I just want to learn how to get points in fight if opponent is a girl without attacking at their private parts plz tell me because it's totally hesitating when fighting with a girl plzzzz tell some tricks to take points from distance. I am waiting for your suggestion.

  6. I don not like to use only one method because we have different physical training, muscular mas, power and body structure. I prefer to combine the methods then chose one of them.

  7. Hello Jesse !! I'm practicing Goju Ryu Karate, so I would say I use both, but depending on the situation I can be more towel or more stick, for exemple in kumite tournament I'm more towel like, and in my 2nd Dan exam I was more like a stick, for it's more a "traditional" context there.
    Thank you for your videos, it's really inspiring and satisfacting to see someone so much dedicated to this martial art !

  8. Informative video my friend. I've trained in JKD ,Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu and then currently Shotokan Karate. From my experience, JKD was a combination of both the stick and the towel. Since then, I have used both methods. Be like water right? I love how the techniques have some overlap between the styles. It just goes to show how all of the styles are connected. Of course JKD is more a concept than a style lol.

  9. Dang mosquitoes! Lol XD

    I love kung fu and karate and can see the soft / internal power in kung fu's fa jin, which i dont understand at all, despite having experienced and seen great vids of it. Real tai chi guys look like magicians to me, whether striking or wrestling.

    As for hard power, im not a thai trainer or ufc dighter but in my experience theres nothing hard or stiff about muay thai at all. The baseball bat analogy actually reminds you to relax so you dont chamber it or tense below the hip. A stiff leg or body wouldnt have much power and would be too tiring.

    I dont want to act entitled as theres already a lot of awesome content here but perhaps you could show us punches or kicks using each kind of power delivery?

    Peace ^_^

  10. I'm like a half and half kinda guy. I like counter-striking and utilizing what I've learned as a Judo student and what bits of Aikido that I've picked up.

    I love how you explain stuff and still hold onto the traditional and historical bits. My brain just gets it. Another great vid.

  11. I'm more the towel (female & tiny) but usually have to train with sticks (large heavy guys) since our dojo is rather small). I find it difficult but am eager and positive to master this. Oss, sensei Jesse, for this insight!

  12. I've realized that I use both depending on what I am doing. Usually I'm the stick with my kicks and the towel with my hands

  13. Hey all

    I need some advice. Years ago I did some grappling and Sambo. I LOVE rolling and grappling and it is awesome first choice and a great utility skill as well. But I want to gain more confidence in striking and be more well rounded and see the other side of martial arts. Not just physical but spiritual as well. I am looking at Isshinryu. The school is affordable, close and is said to teach practical application, hard sparring and situational etc. To me is sounds like a well regarded school. This next question is controversial but I am just looking for some sober recommendations. Is it a good style for what I am looking for (based on your knowledge) and effective as well if God forbid I have to defend myself?
    Thanks in advance!

  14. Towel for jabs and elbows. Stick for roundhouse kicks, back thrust kicks and side kicks. Towel for crosses, hooks, and stick for uppercut. I train to have a mix of the two because one should never be one dimensional in combat

  15. I practice the karate contact (every styles in one, pretty like mma) for about 11 years now, and I had during 1 year a ''5th dan Shito ryu master'' who taught us his Shito ryu style. That was really interesting to learn the towel method like he did. But, that guy thinks his style is the best in the world and told us that our karate contact is bullshit compared to his style. He ''trained'' us in order to attend a Shito ryu kumite championship, and when we got there, we won almost every single medal in all categories ! BUT, it wasn't thanks to his ''training'', but thanks to our ability to adapt and our mixed style. At that kumite competition, everyone saw the difference between the Shito ryu practitioners and my club : we were a bit better. That's why I think every karate practitioner should learn a lot of different styles in order to get more and more experienced and to become better.
    Then, we made some research about that ''5th dan'', and we didn't found anything about him. He told us that he used to train the national kumite team (Belgium), he was the one who brought karate in Belgium, he was in the foreign legion of France, he was like 8 times world-champion of kumite, and also 6 times champion of Belgium…
    And the worst thing about him, is that he tried to close our dojo !

  16. Great video. I guess that depends of the style too. I practice shorin ryu (shidokan) and my sensei remark all the time the "exploding" movement and the "be here and now" attitude. That would be the "towel power" 😅. But at some point of my training I found out that I need strenght, a body conditioning for some techniques. So yeah, a mix of this two source of power is the best way to practice (knowing that one of them is more adjusted to my type of body).

    Keep it going! Your work is great jesse. Cheers from Argentina

  17. Hi there: i'm a student of Shito-Ryu so i practice both stiles, although i'm more inclined to the stick method

  18. Im free martial artist and free thinker I train diferent ways to generate power , many ways and diferent percentage of kinds of force, pushing force, penetrate force,soft and hard , ….., great video , forgive my poor english, thanks,

  19. Im not so strong so when people ask me if they can see me punch, they are never impressed. Its amazing tho that if i start to move my body and jiggle with my punch i generate stunning power. So i need to be moving and blitzing around just to punch. Thanks jesse. I guess im a natural Towel.

  20. I've always been forced to train like the stick in most schools. Whereas the towel/looser style feels more natural to me. I think a lot of trainers noticed I was a big guy (6'3 250) and thought I'd be more about strength/power but I learned over time I fight best relaxed and quick/snappy

  21. I feel like I mix the two just because of my preference, I tend to throw Thai style kicks to the leg and body and snap kicks to the head. As I am decently muscular but quite short and quite light (65kg ) which one logically would be better for me ?

  22. Very interesting! I can see that some techniques seem to follow the towel and some follow the stick, I guess a towell example would be the back fist and a stick example would be the side kick

    Cool vid Jessy 👍

  23. Thank you so much for the video, I am a shotokan practitioner or I was, and I am coming back thanks to you, I feel you can also apply the principal on age Progression, like when Istarted I was 17, I found that the strength that you have to use in defending and attacking, also long stands, some how was fulfilling and I felt satisfied mentally and psychologically.
    Although I am now 37, and I tried to practice the same way, but I felt the movement little bit heavy on my Knees, so I am planning to practice shitō-ryū, and use the soft stile in it.
    Btw you sounded like a lawyer, in your description, it is like you are writing a contract lol
    I am a lawyer myself.

  24. I will be real i try train both amd compian both in fighting because my goal is go up too much that need be good at anything give me strength power speed etc i don't need alot of weak points etc 😂

  25. As a Shotokan Karate practitioner, I have always thought that we practice a "hard style". Now I have better understanding why we always snap our punches and kicks. Awesome video Jesse-san. Osu!

  26. I am naturally the stick. I am 5'7 and 165lbs….not big but, not small either. My Sensei is trying to move me more toward being the towel, which I like but, like all things, it is a work in progress. Thank you for your insight good Sir and keep up the good work.

  27. I have a question, i watch another channel from a man named jake mace who specialises in kung fu and on his channel he has iron bone videos (a training method to strengthen the bones in the body to increase power and defense) and my question is: is there a karate way to do it and can you make videos on it or if you already have can you guide me to them?

  28. Ive been actually mixing both types up and now after watching this video ill practice and balance both of them😊👍👍👍👍👍👍

  29. So should everyone in a dojo really work towards strength building??? Cause how I have been taught and how people in other dojos are taught is in such a way that we are told we have to reachh certain ideals that mainly comprise strength. In other words we are taught how to fit into a certain mold that sometimes feels impractical and strenous but we have accepted it. So should people be taught how to best use their bodies first, so even when they train all they are doing is honing their natural skills?

  30. Awesome explanation!! I have seen so many instructors saying karate IS one way, or IS the other way without considering both can coexist

  31. And this is why uraken is NOT a weak blow. I have learnt these same concepts from Kung Fu and it has made a huge difference in how hard I hit.

  32. Soft or hard or hybride between it… Whatever don't fight the gravity, surf on it. Whip your force slowly that will improve your muscle coordination.

  33. In Arnis/Escrima, we use the towel method with actual sticks and both methods with empty hand. In BaGuaZhang, we also use both methods at once with weapons or empty hand.
    Seems like most good martial artists learn to use both at once. This isn’t 1970’s “hard as you can” karate. Even the mma guys know to relax and hit through nowadays.

  34. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing, please investigate Okinawan Kikyu breathing method, I like the Whip like action, I grew up using the stick method, i recently joined Asai Shotokan Karate which uses the towel method. i find that I am stiff and not relaxed as I should be…Check out te late Tetsuhiko Asais'videos and methods…..

  35. TL;DR Balance is key, everyone needs both.

    I've been extraordinarily fortunate in that I've been blessed with two excelent teachers (and 1 bad one, but that's another story), so I've never been forced to train one way or another. But I think it's an important point to bring up that the worst guidance I've had waas from myself. I decided that the harder style was flawed and for lazy people, and completely neglected direct-force applications. Now, I'm a 188cm, 95kg person; I am not a towel, and have since learned balance is key. Technique is critical, but it is with good reason that the masters taught sanchin and sanseiru kata.

  36. I don't train under a sensei right now, I'm basically training using the techniques I previously learned, I plan on getting back into the Shotokan karate once I get my schedule in order.
    Anyway, love your channel, sensei.

  37. For some reason my upper body is the towel and my legs are the stick. They've been described as tree trunks 😂

  38. First time watching one of your videos, I loved the history and detail. I am a 4th Dan in Wado Ryu, and we typically emphasize relaxation and snap. However, my sensei is also a retired world class kickboxer, and his style typically leans towards the “stick” method, so I get a healthy dose of both. They both have their place. Great video!

  39. I always thought we were supposed to be both in every move like attaching the stick in the end of the towel, because without hip twisting movements it's only muscle power, I have only six months of karate before getting bored when I understood that we were never getting to the fun part then i was three months in a Tae Kwon do where questions were not allowed and I like to know why I'm doing the exercises what em i supposed to achieve with this,,,, so I quit again and started Kickboxing then the fun started really quickly and I had fun with it my entire tennage and young grown up life been instructing and stuff for a pretty long time in my end days Kickboxing became what people call k1 that's what you train for in European Kickboxing there is four other formats but none of them have own clubs or anything,, anyways the dynamic mechanics going in absolutely every move starts with hips and leg twisting and ending up hard then relaxed again to get as fast as possible back to guard even a upper cut we use more power in hips and legs than your shoulder and arm, so attach the stick in the end of the towel,, anyways in matches we do not always do every single move hundred percent perfect, it's at least very difficult which is why you do not get points for bad performed moved even they connect and will give you three points for each time you connect with a perfect jumping spinning kick, because we like people to train enough to apply those moves in a match not just on stuff that doesn't move. Also in those moves you are kind of like the towel until you have the target in your eye and then apply the stick,,, anyways this guy is the master in karate I'm not but we do have sparring together with the kyokushin once a week with k1 rules and sometimes i join them because they training right after us on the same spot, so if we have the energy we're always welcome because they are few, sometimes kyokushin is also helpful with the Kickboxing training and teaching their mawashi geri as round kick and ma geri as push kick or teep etc. Please karate nerd help me out here I'm getting confused by this

  40. When i joined karate and i was going to the sports center where karate was there so i was gonna go there i open the gate of our house and my friend and his cousin came to our house and i greet him and he said that where am i going i said im going to learn karate and after that several months pass later and i said to him would you like to learn martial arts and he replied yes i will learn karate like u but my mother will not let me because i am weak and short not like u tall and tough but when i watch this video i will said to him on what u said to jesse thanks

  41. I'm a very tall guy but built on the very lean side of things (only 195 pounds/88 Kilos for being 6 foot 5 when I'm diligently training in the gym.) I've always been more towards the towel end of things. Or at least I try to. Long boi arms and legs make it pretty difficult sometimes to move them with great speed. 😂

  42. Do not underestimate the mystic power of the towel and the stick. This ancient knowledge was handed down from 10 billion generations since the Big Bang. Basically all you need to know about life is included in this ancient philosophy. If you don’t comprehend ”the towel” and ”the stick” then your life has no meaning. Every Karate master knows this and that is why they are unbeatable and immortal,

  43. Bruce lee talked about this in an interview. He said "imagine your Arm is a chain and your fist a steel Ball, light swing, hard Hit."
    You got me, i sub.
    Onegeashimasu 🥋🙏

  44. In the movies, I keep seeing little women fight using stick method, when they should be using towel method. It totally ruins the experience for me.

  45. This guy talks to you(us) as if we were in his class room which is incredible because I just let my cereal go soggy listening to this man's lecture instead of eating, and dammit I wanted to eat that bowl of cereal

  46. I prefer both because sometimes you need put power into it and sometimes speed i use both methods wjth hands or kicking styles

  47. As a Wing Chun practitioner, i am struggling to achieve the softness of the "towel method" you described. It's very difficult, because it's not an easy to understand principle ,and it requires a lot of mental self control (you can't stay relaxed in a combat situation if you're not trained).
    And the wing chun system doesn't work if you haven't achieved this basic skill first. So at the beginning, i felt weaker than before starting to practice martial arts. That is very frustrating!
    i am studying for quite some years, but i am still far from being like that soft.

    By the way, i watched many wing chun videos with so called masters that actually talk about softness, but then they apply hardness when they do exercises or when they fight, so i thank you for the explanation. Some japanese wisdom can get back the lost chinese knowledge

  48. Our master in kuntaw tells us to punch a smooth concrete wall to strengthen our punches. 5 punches each fist every day. It hurt from the start, but in time I felt resistance of pain and my punches got even stronger. I'd say about 20% increase of power in just about 2 weeks.

  49. old sckool methods will save your arse big time if you have the expertise,not the modern day have that knowledge

  50. I practice goju ryu and come from a sports background. I am athletic and tall which has benefits but I found the smaller stances and small movements very difficult to adapt to. But in stances like zenkutsu dachi I feel my athletics can come out and serve me better through longer movements and stances. So I guess I feel that naturally I prefer the stick method. But also I think that being forced to learn the towel method of movement by my sensei has made my karate more versatile. Which now that I think about it is probably why goju means BOTH hard AND soft. The strength is perhaps in being able to use both at will and to be adaptable! Gogen Yamaguchi said something similar in one of his books (I think its called karate-do kyohan). I think bruce lee's quote about being like water and being able to flow and crash is the in the same spirit as the idea of hard and soft also. Thanks for the great vids Jesse!

  51. When I was younger and struggled with controlling my body with the physical disabilities I have, I used the “stick “ method of training, however now that I am older and a bit more worn down and have better control of my body and am more in tune with it, I prefer the softer towel approach not for the snappy speed but for the flow and the over all options available. The largest and strongest of rocks can be worn down by wind and water

  52. I think the soft method would be necessarily taught because usually people think of martial arts as how to be strong and a heavy attacker but they lack the concept of dexterity and harmony and personally as an aikido practitioner I rely almost entirely on my gravitational center and harmony of my relaxed body although I'm 6 feet tall and weigh almost 220 lbs

  53. I think the soft method would be necessarily taught because usually people think of martial arts as how to be strong and a heavy attacker but they lack the concept of dexterity and harmony and personally as an aikido practitioner I rely almost entirely on my gravitational center and harmony of my relaxed body although I'm 6 feet tall and weigh almost 220 lbs

  54. I definitely prefer the towel method: relax, coil, strike, recoil before opponent even knew what hit them. I train in Kempo Karate. Recently, I asked my sensei what animal of the 5 he feels would best represents my style from what he's seen of me in class. He replied with the leopard. And, to me, the leopard does seem exactly like the "towel" whereas a tiger seems to be like the "stick"

  55. In law enforcement training, you train to be soft to control your opponent on the ground and hard to create diversions to bring him to the ground. Palm to face – soft, grab arm to twist wrist and armbar – semisoft , go in the direction your opponent wants to go when he resists – soft, bar his neck with your knee – semisoft , turn him on his belly to control and arrest – semisoft.

  56. Hola!
    En primer lugar, enhorabuena por su canal!!!
    Me alegra ver su afán por enseñar aquello que se ve que le apasiona!
    Respondiendo a su pregunta: en mi modesta opinión, ambos métodos son necesarios y complementarios (como el Yin y el Yan)
    Un cordial saludo desde España!
    First of all, congratulations on your channel!!!
    I'm glad to see your enthusiam to teach what you like!
    Answering your question: in my modest opinion, both methods are necessary and complementary (such as Yin and Yan)
    A cordial greeting from Spain!

  57. As a 5'10 and 110kg guy I definitely tend to use the stick method more. For now I will focus on that while learning basics but try to incorporate the towel method so my body can start learning to relax and use momentum and conserve energy better.

    Love that you actually give the theory and history. That makes it much more relatable and easy to understand why

  58. I think sometime your not forced to train a specific way but your not at the right place. I started my martial art journey with muay thai class but I wanted something with more body/mind conditioning, more discipline and more variation of kicks. As a tall and slim person I am now doing Kyokushin Karate and Its perfect for me! OSS

  59. Jag tänker att man ska kunna växla i slaget, handdukens hastighet på vägen, avsluta en kort sekund med hela kroppstyngden, och sen handdukens hastighet tillbaka. Då är man snabb och hård.

  60. Incredible! Never heard this, or just dont remember.
    Its sounds kind of similar to the story how Zhang Sanfeng get the ideas for Taichi chuan from watching a fight between a crane (stick) and snake (towel).

    WHY northern and southern Martial'arts?
    Well i know the north is more famous for its internal Arts, but very much styles get some ideas and was intensive influenced from the Zen buddhists monks kungfu and the meditative inner aspects.

    The Most southern technics also have an inner aspect, but its kind of hard to get that knwoledge from the innitiated masters of that Arts..

    Karate, Wingchun have this inner Styles also the' to Late Fist' (dont remember original name of that style)
    or the system of the 5 Ancient Fists.. (idk excactly, its maybe Part of the Tai chi System)

    sink or 'sticking Hands' (Hands like sticking sticks!!?! 🤓😅) are part of many southern technics and basic for some of their 'seems so' external technics.

    the ytube channel: 'The martial man' does a great Job to find practioners and masters all around the World in different styles to gain informations about their inner aspects.

    Nice Vid with nice ideas!

    Be like water my friends 👣

    as i forgot, at least if none of that 2 methods work, maybe u can wave the towel as a whiteflag with the stick🤣🙏

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