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The Secrets of “Frictional Moving Isometrics” for the Development of Extraordinary Striking Power

"FOC you!" I implore my Combatives classes, as we begin an initial warmup period prior to hard striking on the heavy bags. No, I'm not insulting the group, just reminding students of the name for our unique aerobic "kata"! And advising them to pull out yoga type bands from their gym bags.

Some may wonder aloud about these conditioning "combative warmups" which I call, "Friction isO Combatives" (FOC). I'm simply following the advice from my personal strap "guru," Al (who I call the "Sultan of the Strap"!), from California. Together, Al and I fashioned a proper length of 3" wide polyester/cotton strap which we hold behind our backs as we march around the house or gym (or Al's West Coast beaches) throwing hand strikes while using friction (like drying yourself with a towel) from upper back musculature. While so doing it is advisable to wear a thick sweatshirt to prevent abrasion and callouses on the upper or lower back — but this to & fro rubbing does provide a refreshing massage!!

By gently sliding yoga-style, looped straps (the Tumaz Stretch Strap is a great one) against our bodies, with additional limited but meaningful resistance from the opposing hand — alternating left and right hands during individual strike simulations — we get a fast paced, fun, fighting sequence. These "moving isometrics," first conceived by famed Heavyhands creator Dr. Len Schwartz, are much like Doc's Heavyhand "shadowboxing," but with resistance from flat straps rather than light dumbbells.
Striking Forearm forklift strap
In our photo, son Rob is throwing the eye-plucking, nose-breaking face smash with a heavy-duty, doubled poly "Forearm Forklift" brand strap. Notice how his slightly retreating yet firm left hand is adding resistance to the right striking hand. Also check out the important thumb position to secure the non-stretch band for an open hand blow. Other WW2 combatives strikes that are especially useful in our strap training system include the side slashing axe hand, a looping cup hand to the ear, forearm smash to the throat, an open handed uppercut called a "chin jab", and even various angled hammer fists.

Since we alternate right and left hand blows to acquire that back-rubbing frictional resistance, COMBINATIONS of combative strikes can easily present themselves. For instance, I enjoy throwing an arcing overhand RIGHT cup hand strike, simulating an aim to an opponent's temple, followed immediately by a LEFT underhand groin grab. Combinations are limited only by one's own imagination, with all contributing to dynamic movement toward overall fitness.

Of course, martial artists everywhere can also adapt specific FOC exercises from their own particular favorite maneuvers. Use imagination and enjoy the empowering sense of isometrics to vastly improve any strike which your art favors. Be strong, get yourself well prepared, and always hit the bad guy FIRST!

Any series of strikes you personally select can be done daily, almost anywhere. Your goal is to "punch" continuously for 20 minutes as soon as you can muster that, in the beginning, eventually progressing to a half hour or longer. Go at a fairly fast, spirited pace, and move those legs as you "dance" around a room (but maintain a solid foot stance & connection with the ground; power generates from the feet!) Increase enthusiasm by visualizing that you are actually under street attack — enjoy smashing a few ugly faces!

It is said that to acquire automatic reaction to deploy an individual combatives strike, that 2,500 solid reps need to eventually be performed. Most martial arts never achieve this in training due to too many movements in their systems, yet by "FOC'n" a student will have our handful of strikes perfected in little more than a month! Sure, a bit of bag work will be needed to acquire proper speed and snap, but the sheer iso power developed by strap work will enable the attitude & ability to literally decapitate a mugger within an eyeblink! (a famous quote from a renowned British bouncer/trainer on how to escape a nasty street encounter — "Learn to hit foc'n HARD!"). Plus our "striking under tension" concept yields all the amazing health benefits — cardio, speed, endurance, and a trim, tight physique!

While vigorously see-sawing a Tumaz band across the ole lumbars, remember to keep your movements relatively light and lively. If, for instance, you are performing a set of downward L/R alternate axe hands, those forearms should more resemble dual sewing machines than hatchets on stumps. Yet not too fast nor too slow. Just have fun with this, as you bounce around house or yard; keep a smile on your face and pretend that you're elbowing right through an obnoxious group of politicians!

Word must be getting out about this enjoyable but vigorous system of SOLO exercise; everywhere I go it seems people are yelling at me , "Go FOC yourself!" It feels great to be popular!!

Epilogue: The Isochain SURGE

Have you ever tried to stand in the surf line after an East Coast storm? Just don't stand too close after a decent sized wave crashes the shore — that amazingly powerful surge of water will blow you right over! And if you do manage to keep upright by wisely staying further back on the sands, even the gentler return water is just as likely to trip you up!

I liken that secondary undertow to the milder FOC'n aerobic system discussed above, whereas the initial wave could remind one of the extreme force (surge) of intense 6 second pure strength isometrics. So, just as the ocean is in constant motion, I decided to combine my daily FOC'n with about 5 to 8 "hard" iso pushes or pulls by easily shifting to my handy Isochain. Just non-moving here for that very brief time of an iso hold, and a slight break from actual movement. But I still maintain a constant motion exercise system — there is no rest; in effect, this half hour to 45 minute fitness AND strength session is one giant "set"!

To implement, simply begin with a normal, back-rubbing frictional strap warmup for the first 15 minutes, quickly move over to your Isochain, then position chain links so only, say, a mid-position, standing press can be achieved. Push for all you're worth for 6 intense seconds! This is the "strength surge"; actually all the work necessary for added tricep/delt power. Then return to some moving frictional isos for 5 minutes, go to an isometric row, pulling for 6 seconds, FOC a bit more, continuing this mixing, until all strength oriented Isochain "lifts" are completed.

You'll quickly discover that these purely static isos offer more than just a jolt to power enhancement, but also supply an instant ENERGY surge to the total program! Yep, following a max effort push or pull, the mind and body receive a huge boost of all those goodly body chemicals that spur us on to better heights! The intermittent moving and non-moving isos, in effect, spur each other into ever better, more enthusiastic performance! Interestingly, this combination appears to promote recuperation at an accelerated pace — you can do this SURGE SET every day !! So, put it all together, and really get FOC'd up !!

John McKean has won multiple local, state, national powerlifting titles, Masters Olympic national titles, and national and world all-round titles during the past 50 years. He has written extensively for all major strength magazines starting with Strength & Health under John Grimek and was featured in Dr. Len Schwartz's famous book Heavyhands Walking. A certified instructor in flex band training and American Combatives, Mr. McKean offers his consulting services at