What is Elbow Power? – Solid and Immense to Opponent, Light to You

A common understanding of elbow power is: relaxing muscles, particularly from the shoulder blade and the back, down to the elbow to give out heaviness. A typical test is to push one’s elbow towards his shoulder. The shoulder should remain unaffected (not squeezed) if the elbow power is great enough to resist the pushing force.

As such, it implies that to attain greater elbow power would inevitably require increasing the degree of muscular relaxation and/or involving more muscles to relax. In a sense, this is mostly a “muscular” matter.

Based on the point-linked structure, an alternative picture can be painted.

The elbow point also functions as a separation point – all points upstream belong to the power generation unit; all points downstream (the forearm and the hand) constitute the contact unit. (Refer to previous posts for further explanation on upstream/downstream.)

In the point-linked structure model, the skeletal system takes the master role in initiating movements. Joints are represented as points in the mind. When an upstream joint (point) is (felt to be) linked to its downstream joint (point) in the mind, they are being freed from muscular constraint and the upstream joint can “freely” navigate its downstream joint by joint-rotating on its own. The joints of the power unit are linked as points in this way to act as a whole in the mind.

A linked joint is highly expanded because its major connecting elements inside (i.e. in most cases ligaments) are actively connecting in full length (or full size) due to little constraint by muscles. In other words, the joint expansion is a manifestation of such connecting elements spanning the gap length (or width) of the joint, leaving no room for squeezing by any incoming force.

Joints of the power unit are linked in this manner, leaving no room for squeezing into any of the joints. When the tester pushes your elbow towards the shoulder, his force seems not able to proceed even a bit, but being kept away at the elbow position. The tester can only feel as if pushing onto a corner of a much bigger entire “frame” (as a whole) situated there: its mass “inertia” is too great to move a bit, yet it is not “heavy”, just not movable, just not exposing any weakness vulnerable to force intrusion. In contrast to the “heaviness” described at the beginning, let’s term it as “lightness”. Thus, the tester feels it “hard” to push because he cannot find anywhere to exert his force, while you feel it “light” at your elbow because you don’t need to specifically “move” something to load it with extra “weights”.

You may now query why muscles have no place in this process; that sounds unrealistic. Yes they have a role, of course, but just not a mastering role which has been played by the skeletal system. Upon the point-linked structure which has already established the mass “inertia” effect, muscles relax (in terms of extent or amount or both) and go along the (multi-)directions set up by the skeletal structure, resulting in “magnified” momentum with heaviness. Joints and muscles cooperate in this way: Joints through rotating “lock” the target from multiple directions, muscles always in relaxation mode provide the “heavy” momentum to “shoot” (go along) the target. The two systems combined in this way give out power both solid in quality and immense (a term I prefer to “heavy”) in magnitude, as felt by the tester. And you yourself, light.

Such elbow power is foundational and essential to giving out multi-directional (bi-directional as termed in The Book of Wing Chun) forces in arm movements, by being able to “pin” the elbow tips in space. This will be expounded in the next post together with how the other unit, the contact unit, operates.

CONCISE GUIDE: (All is mind activity.) Soften-melt muscles into joints to discover them as points. Link the elbow points to shoulder points and further to points in the spine. Link both elbows (not one-sided) altogether at least up to the upper centre point in order to articulate the “frame” to an effective extent. The immediate reaction to an increasing pushing force is not to press the “frame” back to it, but strengthen the linking of the existing points and/or link to more points (e.g. all along further up to the lower centre point).


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