Most human beings have no real idea how to punch. For a strong man, this doesn’t especially matter unless you’re up against a trained fighter. A crap punch from a strong guy is still a potential knock-out. For women…well. Don’t throw a crap punch.

When we think about striking, we think about our arms. The fists we make. These are important, but they are not what actually create the power behind a good punch. Your arms and your fists are, in fact, vehicles for your real power – and you get that from your core.

It is simple bio-mechanics: most of the strength of the human body is derived from the network of muscles at its core. The rest of your strength falls in line with these muscles if you use them properly together. Think of a good baseball swing: a great hitter will have his hips fully opened up by the time he’s swinging through with the bat. Just swinging with his arms wouldn’t give him nearly the kind of power necessary to drive the ball into a gap.

Same thing with a punch. You’ve got to get your hips into it; you’ve got to drive your whole core into the strike. This makes for a much nastier punch, even for someone without a lot of strength. It won’t give you super powers (let’s be realists here), but it will definitely make the bad guy who tried to hurt you think twice.

When I first started learning Krav Maga, activating my hips alongside a good, clean punch was one of the most difficult and important things I had to pick up. It is not exactly easy to snap your hips forward with the rest of your arm, then to twitch back into a speedy defensive recoil. You’d think it is, but it isn’t. Everyone who starts thinks they’re using their hips, but they’re barely even tilting them. You think you look cool, but really, you’re awful.

Stronger fighters, particularly men, can make up for it. They can rail their opponents to the ground with really awful form simply because they have the strength to do it. It’s just a physiological fact – a matter of muscle density and size. But me, I’ve got none of that. Absolutely nothing makes up for poor form. Because I am not very strong, it is always obvious when I am doing it wrong. There is no pretending. If I screw up, there is no threat to any of my strikes.

If you’re not strong, you’ve got to do it right. And if you are strong, you’re still going to want to protect your face.

A great way to overcome thinking you’ve got it is to slow it down. Go real smooth and slow, and watch yourself in a mirror. Follow your hips all the way through the strike, and recoil again. A good strike will have your core facing basically sideways by the time you’ve fully extended your arm. Check for that. Do it slowly, carefully. Repeat it. This is how you build muscle memory.

Another trick I prefer is practicing a strike without throwing my arms into it. I keep my guard up to protect my face, and I practice only the hip-twitches. This forces me to really think about how I balance my weight and shift my core. I’ll still practice a lot this way even though I’ve developed a really snappy punch. Nothing beats practice, you know.

So, there you go: don’t throw a crap punch. Get your hips into it.