Training: The Arrow Punch

I started this book on training, Kung Fu style, and who knows it if will ever see the light of day. But I thought I might share a few classic training methods. The emphasis here, and the reason for the title of the proposed book, “White Tiger, Black Tiger” is that there is always a deeper level of training in this art. However, it is so easy to see the “top layer” that this alternative information is often passed over.


The Arrow Punch

The art of the punch is variously interpreted in different martial disciplines. Kung Fu punching is just one option along a whole range of hand strikes. It is a pure action that engages the entire body. It is also a form of punching with many skills all wrapped up in one package.

Basic Action: 

1. Sit in a square Horse Stance. Start with the left flat fist extended in front of  you. Rotate the left fist so it is palm up. Position the left fist in front of the left hip.

2. Next, turn leftward into a left Bow Stance. Your heart should be pointing now to the left while you thrust out with the right punch straight ahead to your original direction.

3. Pull the hand back while returning to sit in the Horse Stance with the right fist rotating palm up as it is drawn to a position before the right hip.

4. Next, turn rightward into a right Bow Stance. Throw the left hand to the front in a left standing fist.

Repeat over and over.


Kung Fu Arrow Punch

Kung Fu Arrow Punch

Fine Points:  This excellent routine sharpens your sense of unity for torso and limbs. The movements are powerful, but they should be relatively relaxed. Remember, there is nothing wrong with going slow. As you move into the Horse you should drop your stance a bit. When Arrow punching, the springing action from the Horse to the Bow should almost be a natural expression of the potential energy squeezed into the Horse stance. When you are “down there” you should feel so much energy in the legs that to punch you only need to release, not push. Also, make sure that the cocked elbow points in the exact opposite direction from that of the extended Arrow Punch. Why is it called an Arrow Punch? Because the line of the body when you punch should resemble the flat and open shape of someone holding a bow about to release an arrow.

arrowmarch5Common Mistakes:

1.     Tight shoulders. The word “punch” automatically seems to tense people’s shoulders. Think of the power of your body like water flowing through a hose. Under no circumstances kink this hose at the shoulders or any other place on its path. You are teaching your entire body to generate power, don’t section it off.  Do not elevates the shoulders. Examine tension and/or timing to make sure that the shoulders stay loose and dropped.


2.    Shallow transitions. One of the most basic ideas of Kung Fu is that stances are really frozen transitions. As you move from Horse to Bow and back the effort should be toward making definite movements felt deeply in the legs. Don’t just glide from side to side. Sitting in the Horse should compound power for the follow-up punch.

3.    Off balance stances. The Bow is a very easy stance to perform but not to perfect. Press the rear heel to the ground. This has the benefit of stretching the ankle and engaging the back. It also sets a very valuable limit to your reach, preventing you from off-balancing yourself. This is a crucial piece of information. One of the first distinctions a martial artist must make is the sometimes fine differentiation between trying to reach for some target or taking a “cheat step” to adjust the range. People who do not understand this risk the danger of moving their noses into range before advancing any other body part. The bow stance is your limit of reach before taking that custom step. Understand its range and use.

Variation:  Practice the series many times until you can do it automatically. This allows some nice footwork variations. In the first version you take a shuffle step (left then right) to the left as you turn left into a Box and throw that right punch. Return to the Horse stance then,  when you turn to the right Bow, take a right-left shuffle step in that direction. You do not cover any distance but move back and forth, one shuffle to the left then one to the right. This will definitely let you sense what “loaded thighs” of a powered-up Horse stance feel like. In an even more advanced version you shuffle continually to the left, with the same left-right shuffle step,  for the length of the room and then to the right for the same number of steps. This means that half of your Arrow Punches will be turning into the power and half turning away.  A challenge in itself.

arrowmarch6What You Want to Feel?  Most of the movement up to this point has been to create a shape and then fill it. You step forward into a Cat or Horse or Bow stance and then try to find just the right tension and balance. In this pattern we begin to link stances, rotate through positions and generally learn to treat every action as a transition to another action. We begin to see moving stances like playing music; you may pause, but never actually stop.


What’s really happening?  One of the main aims of practicing these exercises is to fully absorb the idea of body integration. Most martial artists realize that the body, not the arm, powers each punching action. But in exactly which way is this power generated? Breaking the movement into two sections like this is just brilliant. When sitting in a horse the student gathers his or her energy, relaxes, establishes correct posture and feels the proper compression of spine and stance. Next comes the explosion with the punch, more like a released arrow than a weight pushed forward. This is the beginning of real Kung Fu power.

How is this applied?  In application, defense and offense are almost indistinguishable. A good example of this can be seen in this technique. Assume you have already punched but missed the opponent. As he counters with a low strike, draw back a little and use your returning punch to intercept his attack. When he throws a second strike higher, lean out of the way and drive your other punch into his chest while ducking his second strike. This is a lot of body movement for a two-punch combination but it can set up a number of very potent counters.



Training: Ideas and exercises to improve your Kung Fu


4 Responses to “Training: The Arrow Punch”

  1. Erik House says:

    I’d buy that book!

  2. Rick says:

    I love the title! And of course, it sounds like another great book. I hope it sees the light of day.

    This punch looks very much like a punch in the Lohan form I learned ages ago. And very much like a similar punch in Chen style Taiji. So I’ll be reading this article closely, and practicing, to see if I can gain any new understanding or perspective regarding my Chen form (Lohan, unfortunately, is too far in my past to remember, although I *DO* still remember this part of the form). Thanks for the post!

  3. Aziz says:

    I’d buy this book as well! Concepts like these are so integral to kung fu, but also very easy to forget when we first learn them. Thanks for a great article!

  4. DavidFromDenver says:

    Great info! I listen to George Xu talking about “whole body movement,” etc. Internal? External? Or “just” CMA?

    How about a compromise – don’t go for a book, just release 25-40 double sided printer paper, 3-hole punch for a minimal price. 2-4 techniques/concepts. As the mood strikes you. Sort of like Kaimen already.

    Adam Hsu’s books were monthly columns. And they are great. And you already know the fundamentals/workout/training niche you want to work in.

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