Power vs. Muscle

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

How do we generate power in the martial arts and where does muscle come into play?

When we think of ‘power’ formulaically, Power = Force x Velocity, and Force = mass x acceleration. In these terms, our ‘muscle’ is what provides the mass and allows for greater acceleration. In this context, muscle is absolutely essential to generation of power. This is the reason why there are weight classes in professional combat sports. If two equally proficient fighters meet, the bigger fighter will often be victorious. Size matters.


This said, smaller defenders can and do prevail against larger assailants. This can be achieved through superior technique. We are built with very specific biomechanics. There is an optimal way to execute techniques based on our biomechanics, whether it is a reverse punch, roundhouse kick, or downward cut of a sword. Optimizing a technique generates far greater power than ‘muscling’ it ever can. Furthermore, in the open hand arts, we condition through speed drills. This improves our power irrespective of our size.


Often bigger guys think they need to ‘muscle’ techniques, and so they deliver their technique holding a lot of tension. The tighter we constrict our muscles, the slower we move. Beginners are also often guilty of this. The more we think about a technique, the less we are able to relax and simply deliver it. Much like a person learning guitar or piano, the more we ‘think’ about each note, the slower we play. Speed and fluidity only comes when we are relaxed.