Many effective self-defence techniques do not require a great deal of strength to perform. This seems to have given rise to a myth that strength is not important. Possibly this grew out of attempts to build confidence in the lighter built members of classes: “It doesn’t matter that he is stronger than you, you can still hurt him!” While the latter statement is true, it is wrong to think that a bit of extra strength will not improve your chances.
One of the most useful fields for improvement is of grip strength. If you want to Judo throw someone, you usually have to grab hold of them first. Catch someone’s arm as they attempt to bottle you? Whether you can control their arm long enough to turn the tables will probably depend on grip strength. Squeeze the testicles to escape from a hold. Grip strength again! And what is the point of being an awesome fighting machine if you still have to get your girlfriend to open the jam jars?
If you have read my book, this blog or the associated webpages you have probably acquired a cheap set of dumbbells or even attempted to make a set of Indian clubs. Hopefully you have been exercising with them regularly. If so, you will have already begun to see improvements in your grip strength just from manipulating these weights. The palms of your hands probably feel firmer and certain muscles on your hands may be more noticeable. Here are a couple of extra exercises you can attempt.
Clench your hands into fists as tight as you can for a second or so. Then open them explosively, spreading the fingers. Clench, pause, pow! Repeat.
Starting with your fingers straight, bend you middle knuckles so your fingertips touch the upper edge of your palm. Then bend you distal knuckles to form a fist. We can combine this with the previous exercise: Half fist, full fist, pow! Half fist, full fist, pow!
The great thing about these little exercises is you can do them anywhere at nearly anytime. Walking down the corridor at work: Half fist, full fist, pow! On the train: Half fist, full fist, pow! Standing at the bus stop: Half fist, full fist, pow! Waiting for dinner to finish cooking…
If you are cooking, try standing in Horse or Sanchin stance. Most combat stances have the knee bent so holding these positions will increase your leg strength and improve you overall speed and mobility.
Another little conditioning exercise you can attempt. In the book I had you making a knife-hand strike onto the palm of your other hand to demonstrate the force you could generate, especially if you learnt to relax your striking arm. Executing a few strikes like this against the other hand is a good conditioning exercise that not only toughens the edge of the hand, but also the palm of the hand. And since palm heel, knife-hand and hammer-fist are three of our most useful hand strikes…