When punching or kicking, a decision must be made about whether or not to use a snap. There is some controversy about using snap techniques. Some martial art styles use a snapping motion when executing hand and foot techniques; they think the motion adds power to their techniques. While other styles say, it is only an illusion, that snapping does not increase power, that it actually reduces power.
There are only a few ways to punch or kick a person, so, to found a new martial art that is different from all the others, one must find some way to justify the reason for a new art. One popular way to do this is to pick one specific thing, such as the way a fist is formed, or to stress one particular thing and then criticize others who do not agree with the selection, such as always pushing punches and kicks and then criticizing those who use snapping techniques.
All techniques may be executed in one of three ways, snapping, thrusting, or pushing. Each of the three motions has its good and bad points, and situations where it may or may not be the best way to use at the time.
In a snapping technique, the foot or hand is quickly whipped out at the target and, immediately after it makes contact, it is just as quickly retracted. Snapping techniques only penetrate the target a couple of inches.
- In boxing, the jab is a snapping technique.
- Snapping techniques are linear, which makes them difficult to block but easier to slip.
- In a snapping technique, the fist or foot moves at a much greater speed than with a thrusting or pushing technique. The speed of a snapping technique may be illustrated by the snapping motion of a whip. The whip is slung forward with the arm and then snapped quickly backward. Even though the handle of the whip is snapped backward, the tip continues forward at an even greater speed. The tip of the whip exceeds the speed of sound and makes a snapping sound. If the whip is snapped onto a person's back, a sharp, piercing pain will be felt in a central location for a short period.
- A snapping technique has a minimum time of contact with the target. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, however, the two actions may not occur at the same instant. For example, the force of a punch starts at the immovable floor and moves upward through the body and outward into the fist. When the target is struck, the force of the punch moves downward through the opponent’s body to the immovable floor, strikes the floor, and rebounds back through the body and into the striking fist. When the fist first makes contact, most all of its force has already made its transit to the point of impact. However, in the target, the force of the strike must move through the body to the floor and back to the point of impact. This takes time. If the striking fist is not there when the force is returned, the force must stay within the target’s body, adding to the damage already done by the initial force of the punch. If the punch is still in contact with the target when the force returns, some will be absorbed back into the puncher's body.
- In snapping techniques, the body tenses at the moment of impact and then relaxes on retraction.
- Snapping techniques are relatively easy to control when sparring, so injuries are reduced.
Effects of using a snapping technique
- When a snapping side kick strikes a heavy bag, it will make a popping sound and the bag will be jolted, but it will move very little.
- When a snapping side kick strikes a large stack of hand-held boards and the boards do not break, the board holders will be moved backward very little but they will receive a sharp jolt and be momentarily stunned. The holders will feel as though their teeth fillings were jarred loose or their contact lenses had popped out. The feeling will be very uncomfortable if not particularly painful.
- When a snapping side kick is used in a real fight, the opponent will be jolted with sharp, piecing pain at the point of impact.
- A snapping technique is very quick, which makes it difficult to block. The quickness minimizes the time the guard is open to an attack. The quickness also permits follow-up techniques to be executed more quickly. Combinations using snapping techniques are very quick and powerful and are very difficult to block or avoid. Snapping techniques are good as the first one or two techniques in a combination or to setup for a thrusting or pushing technique.
- Since the snapping motion uses minimal movement, it is highly useful at close range, such as in a clinch, or in close quarters, such as on a bus. In addition, the minimal movement helps hide the technique. In a public situation, a quick, sudden snap punch to the mid section will take the fight out of an aggressive person while surrounding people will not see anything unusual. They will testify that they saw the person bent over coughing and that you were trying to assist the person.
- The snapping motion does not weaken stability since there is no reaching or overly extending an arm or leg beyond the center of balance. If a snap technique misses its target, it may be quickly re-chambered so stability is not affected and powerful follow-up techniques may be used. If a snapping technique is grabbed, since stability is maintained, it is still possible to pull it back.
- Since snapping techniques have a short target penetration, their power may be lessened or they may miss the target if the target moves backward too much. This problem is lessened by the quickness of the technique, since another snapping technique may be quickly fired at the new target location.
- Snapping techniques are difficult for opponents to grab.
A thrusting technique is similar to a snapping technique except that a little extra motion is added so the technique penetrates the target 3 to 6 inches more than a snapping technique penetrates. A thrusting technique is basically a deeper penetrating version of a snapping technique. To illustrate the difference between a snap and a thrust, imagine executing a side kick against a drywall in a room. A snapping side kick will break through the drywall quickly with minimum penetration. A thrusting side kick will break through the drywall and penetrate beyond the wall, possibly breaking through the drywall on the opposite side of the wall.
- In boxing, a cross is a thrusting technique.
- Thrusting techniques are linear, which makes them difficult to block but easier to slip.
- In a thrusting technique, the fist or foot moves at about the same speed as a pushing technique but at lesser than a snapping technique. The speed of a thrusting technique may be illustrated using by the motion of a whip. If the whip is slung forward and not snapped backward, the tip of the whip will not make a snapping sound. If the whip is slung onto a person's back, a lesser pain will be felt over a larger area and for a longer time than with the snapping motion described above.
- A thrusting technique has more contact time with the target than does a snapping technique. Therefore, it absorbs more of the reactionary force than does a snapping technique. However, it applies its force for a longer period.
- In a thrusting motion, the body tenses at the moment of impact, maintains the tension for a few milliseconds of thrust, and then relaxes on retraction.
- Thrusting techniques are relatively easy to control when sparring so injuries are reduced.
Effects of using a thrusting technique
- When a thrusting side kick strikes a heavy bag, it will make a thumping sound and the bag will be jolted backward.
- When a thrusting side kick strikes a large stack of hand-held boards and the boards do not break, the board holders will be jolted backward. The holders will experience a feeling of being slammed into by something heavy. The feeling will be uncomfortable but not necessarily painful.
- When a thrusting side kick is used in a real fight with a snapping motion, the opponent will be knocked backward some with deep penetrating pain at the point of impact.
- Since more body mass is being thrust into a thrusting technique, it is more powerful than a snapping technique, though not as quick. Once an opening has been created by a snapping technique, a thrusting technique is a good finishing technique.
- Since thrusting techniques have deeper penetration, they have a longer reach than snapping techniques.
- Although, thrusting techniques require more balance compensation due to their longer extension, they do not adversely affect stability.
- Since thrusting techniques have a greater target penetration than snapping techniques, they have a greater range than snapping techniques so opponents must move further backward to avoid them.
- Thrust techniques are more susceptible to grabbing than snapping techniques.
A pushing technique continues after contact with the target and continues until it is stopped by the target. If the target is missed, the technique continues until the limit of its motion. Using the drywall illustration, a pushing kick will go through both sides of the wall and into the next room.
- In boxing, the hook is a pushing motion.
- Pushing techniques may be linear or circular. Linear pushes may be easily slipped, which exposes the user to counter attacks. Circular pushes are easier to block but more difficult to avoid; if avoided, the extended motion of the technique leaves the attacker vulnerable to counterattack.
- A pushing technique moves at about the same speed as a thrusting technique but its duration is much longer due to the increased distance moved. The speed of a thrusting technique may be illustrated using by the motion of a whip. If the whip is slung forward for a full range of movement of the arm, it will stay in contact with back of a person for a long period. A slight pain will be felt over a larger area than with snapping motion, and for a longer time than with the snapping or thrusting motion. This is the technique used by stunt personnel when using a whip on another person when making a movie since it looks impressive but does not hurt the other person.
- A pushing technique has more contact time with the target than does a snapping or thrusting technique. Therefore, it absorbs more of the reactionary force than does a snapping or thrusting technique. However, it applies its force over a much longer period.
- Pushing techniques, if applied with the speed necessary to insure getting a point when sparring, are difficult to control, which leads to the increased possibility of injury. For example, when sparring, if a hook punch or a spin heel kick is not blocked, it may injure the opponent upon contact (even when using head protections). However, if a controlled snap or thrust punch is not blocked, since they have a planned ending point, they will not strike the opponent or, if they do, they will not strike with enough force to cause injury.
- In a pushing technique, the body either never tenses at contact or, if it does tense, it must maintain its tension for the duration of the contact. With a pushing technique, it is difficult to know when to tense the body to apply full power into the technique; therefore, the power level is constant throughout the movement. Body tension is important when imparting the force of a technique into the target. Think of a rope with a weight attached to its outer end and the inner end attached to a spinning shaft. If a target is moved in front of the spinning weight, the weight strikes the target with the force of its own mass and bounces off. If, instead of a rope, a solid bar is used, the weight will strike the target with its own mass and the mass of the bar, shaft, and motor, and may possibly smash through the target.
Effects of using a pushing technique
- When a pushing side kick strikes a heavy bag, it will make very little sound and the bag will be shoved backward.
- When a pushing side kick strikes a large stack of hand-held boards and the boards do not break, the board holders will be shoved backward. The holders will not experience any pain or discomfort.
- When a pushing side kick is used in a real fight, the opponent will be shoved backward with some continuous pain at the point of impact.
- Most all of the body mass is applied to a pushing technique. This makes a strong force at the moment of impact. The force is applied for a longer period of time but the initial impact force is not as great as with the snapping or thrusting technique. Since there is more mass applied to a pushing technique, it is useful for moving a person backward. Which would you rather have happen to you, Mike Tyson hitting you with a quick snapping jab that breaks your face, or Refrigerator Perry hitting you with a slow pushing jab that shoves you backward?
- Even if a pushing technique hits its target, since body mass is committed into the technique, the user must make a lot of compensating movements to retain stability or take a step forward. If the technique misses its target, the user is either off balance or has had to take a step to retain balance, either of which will leave the user vulnerable to a counterattack. Due to their long reach and off balance state, pushing techniques are very susceptible to grabbing and pulling.
- Since pushing techniques have deeper target penetration, they have a longer reach than snapping or thrusting techniques so, even if the opponent steps backward to avoid the strike, he or she may still be hit.
Criticisms of snapping
Opponents of snapping say that forcibly stopping a technique's forward motion does not make any sense. These opponents are usually trying to justify the techniques used by their styles (those techniques that supposedly make their style superior to other styles). However, all techniques must stop their forward motion at some point. Opponents of snapping do not seem to understand the concept of control and focus. A snapping or thrusting technique is not stopped or pulled by the user; it stops because it has reached the end of its motion. The point at which it stops is determined by the position of the body when the technique is executed. A pushing technique also stops at the end of its motion. The point at which it stops is also determined by the user at the time of execution. However, because of the reaching or other movements of the body, the distance covered by the motion is much greater than with the snapping or thrusting motion.
The power of thrusting, and especially snapping motions, may be precisely controlled since the power is focused at a particular point in space, not in just a general direction as is done with a pushing technique. This is vital in self-defense situations. If you only know how to throw full-power full-range techniques, and you injure or kill a person in a simple assault situation, then you may be charged with a criminal offense or face a civil law suit for excessive force. Since a black belt trains in, and is considered an expert in, controlling him or herself, it the black belt injures or kills someone, the law assumes the black belt must have intended to injure or kill
Taekwondo primarily uses snapping and thrusting techniques, but it also uses pushing techniques, such as a spin heel kick, a spin crescent kick, a hook punch, or a spin back fist.
Olympic style Taekwondo fighters fight from long range since they primarily use kicks. Traditional style Taekwondo fighters, fight from medium or short range since they use both kicks and punches. Styles that use pushing techniques usually fight from long range since their techniques have such a long reach.
Since their point of impact is so precise, martial artists that use snapping and thrusting techniques in their sparring must react quickly to block or avoid the techniques. Martial artists that use pushing techniques in their sparring, have more time to react to attacks since there is no precise point of impact. A snap or thrust sparring point is called upon impact since that is when it power is generated. A push sparring point must have a greater contact time to be called since it relies on longer period of contact to generate its power.
As explained above, all three techniques have their good and bad points and times when one is better to use than the others are. Anytime a martial art claims to be the best because it snaps, or do not snap, beware. Many hope to attain greatness, not by achieving greatness, but by trying to discredit their competition.