The Vertical Punch Pt. 1

*Be advised that this article is a description of the vertical punch and it’s physical constituents. It is not a prescription for or of it’s use. Future articles will explore that subject.*

In this article we will be taking a look at identifying the anatomical components along with the corresponding concepts that make up one the most notable techniques within the Ving Tsun system, the vertical punch.

Ving Tsun’s most popularly known action is the Yat Ji Kuen, “Sun Center Punch/Fist”. This kind of punch is applied with a bent elbow position along with a vertical fist that travels through the center line (spinal column) of our body while remaining positioned in front of our hips. The concept that aligns with this arrangement is referred to as Mai Jaang, “Sunken/Buried Elbow”. This concept’s qualities and potentials of application stem far beyond the general technical description above, but before we begin to explore the depths of this concept and it’s constituents let’s take a closer look at some of the fundamental components in the body.

 The vertical alignment of the fist provides a broader, stable surface area for striking with the bottom three knuckles instead of the more common horizontal fist used in most striking systems. Coupled with the supportive structure of the bent elbow placed in front our hips, the punch’s ability to produce power and accept recoil force is greatly expanded due to the muscles in the upper limbs and the core of the body. In order to better appreciate what makes up this economical punch we’ll need to look into the muscles in the arms separately. Let’s start with the triceps.

The triceps function as extenders of the elbow joint. They are made up of three separate groupings or heads. It has been noted that the long head is used for sustained force generation, or when there is a need to sustain a unified control between the elbow and shoulder joint or both. The lateral head is used for high-intensity force, while the medial allows for more precise, low force movement.The long head of the triceps has its root connection with the scapula allowing for retroversion (tilting back) and adduction (dropping the arms to the side) of the shoulder. There’s a great deal of articulation in the upper limbs due to these muscles along with their antagonistic cousins, the biceps.

The most important actions the biceps support are the palm upwards (supination) of the forearm and the flexion of the elbow. The brachialis is the attending muscle/tendon that primarily supports in the flexing. The elbow joint has several parts that support the qualities of the biceps’ ability to powerfully supinate, act as a flexor in the arm (particularly when the arm is supinated), as well as minorly assists in bringing the arm upwards and forward (forward flexion of the shoulder joint). Lastly, the short head of the bicep attaches to the shoulder blade (scapula) which helps to stabilize the shoulder joint when a heavy weight is being carried in the arms. It’s important to note that regardless of the arms position (pronation, neutral, or supination) the amount of force exerted by the biceps remains unchanged, however, that is where the last item we will be observing in this article steps in, the brachioradialis.

Brachoradialis is a great compensatory, supportive muscle in the forearm that connects to the elbow pit (cubital fossa) from the base of the thumb. It helps to flex the elbow and forearm. When the forearm pronates it tends to flex in supination, while flexing in pronation when the forearm is supinated. The brachioradialis is at its strongest when the forearm is in a neutral position. It becomes more active when pronated to supplement the weakness of the biceps during elbow flexion since they are at a mechanical disadvantage, though ultimately it cannot produce as much torque as the biceps themselves. The bracoradialis is most effective when muscles have already partially flexed at the elbow. The two main functions you can make note of that simply define the use of this muscle are flexion of the forearm at the elbow during quick movement or when lifting a weight slowly while the forearm flexes and finally stabilizing the elbow during rapid flexion and extension while in the neutral position.

All of these material components aid in the success of the Yat Ji Kuen but it can be easy to never pay any mind to this information.We can commit ourselves to countless hours of training, running through an extraordinary series of motions with our bodies and yet possess no real relationship with them. In order to build relationship we must cultivate awareness (self and other) as well as  understanding. Understanding stems beyond knowledge and information. Understanding finds its root within experience and wisdom. Knowledge and experience reflected upon over time finally ordering our thoughts and opinions into a more orderly and clarified state approximating what we can possess as an individual to be verified as objective truth.

Understanding these anatomical features within the upper limbs can offer an opportunity for further appreciation of the complex and elegant nature of the body as well as improve our application of the Ving Tsun system. When we combine this information with our current ability to apply the system when can expect to clarify and develop a deeper connection with our forms and drills.

In the next article we will discuss the skeletal arrangement that acts in accordance with this articles content to help build an even fuller appreciation of the strength and power behind a bent elbow punch. Until then, keep learning and training!

– Sifu Brandon Schlueter-Cat