I noticed during drills, many people shadow box without full extension of arms? Is there a reason for that?

Around half the class has full extension, other half does not. I thought when you box, you're supposed to hit at around completion 95% extension (not full extension, however due to overextending, etc). I see some people box at 25-50% extension.

During Karate kata and traditional martial arts, people practice punches with full extension, as opposed to Western boxing.


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I was taught to not strike at full extension because of the risk of hyperextending the limbs due to a lack of resistance.

To avoid this sort of injury, never fully extend (or hyperextend) your elbow joints during shadow boxing (especially if you are punching hard and fast). Your jab gets its speed and power from the rotation of your shoulder joint, not from the (hyper)extension of your elbow — always remember that.

Shadowboxing and bag work essentially work two sides of the coin. Shadowboxing teaches you how to throw your strikes when you miss (no resistance, so you don't want to go full extension) and bag work teaches you how to throw your strikes when you hit (resistance, so you need to make sure your movement is lined up so that your joints, tendons, and muscles are not compromised on impact) with sparring being the acid test for being able to switch based on whether you are about to hit or not.

That said, you've modified your question to reference people doing much less extension, 25%-50%. Some would argue that's a mistake, but others claim that this is to improve flow.

Here you’re working on rhythm so it’s ok to minimize the movements to help you find a natural “fighting dance” rhythm in your body, rather then fully extending all your punches and putting 100% power on every movement.

As for why strikes are generally at full extension during karate kata, and many other Asian martial arts, it's a combination of that part of the purpose of kata is to demonstrate each individual technique and that those styles have a focus on "one strike takedowns" (regardless of one's beliefs in how feasible that is), so you're training to show full force, and often to pause after each technique to demonstrate it. Because of the regularity of the movements, there's more control available, and therefore less chance of hurting yourself.

  • @mattsmith5: They're not my words, so I can't necessarily properly defend them, but when your arm is at full extension, it's the end of power generation (and heading into the retraction), whereas the main power is chaining your back legs support through your hips and torso, up through the shoulder, which has to rotate to square your force through the punch. Full extension is, of course, important both for range and so that, when you do hit, it's a largely rigid structure rather than one still flexed around the elbow (which will therefore fold). Oct 18 at 19:49
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    @mattsmith5: I'm a Googler, not a fighter. :-D Oct 18 at 21:19
  • These days, I only really do Capoeira, where most of the sparring is light to no contact due to the nature of the dance fight. Oct 18 at 21:25
  • thanks for the answer! its interesting when I got back from class, I just noticed the same people who shadow box their punches without full extension; do not conduct the practice for leg kicks which they do in full extension, however athlete is still at risk of hyperextension at leg (as I have felt it few times)
    – mattsmith5
    Oct 19 at 5:55

Further to Macaco's answer...

This is yet another example of where both techniques have merit. Near-full extension and partial extension both replicate different combat circumstances. To practice only one of these exclusively is to prepare well for one set of circumstances whilst neglecting the other.

Despite the fact that many top fighters seem to incorporate half-extension into their training, the benefits of partial extension are to my mind best realised when they are seeking to replicate close range techniques as opposed to simply enabling a better 'flow'. The ability to string techniques together smoothly is important and definitely worth training for, but is far more translatable to combat if this flow is generated by the actual techniques upon which you will be relying in a fight as opposed to the non-realistic half-movements many fighters practice when the cameras turn up to their training camps. It feels good to do (it's a kind of fighter's dance) and it looks good, whilst betraying little of any quietly drilled combinations the fighter hopes to smuggle into a fight.

Other uses include (but are probably not limited to):

  1. Providing some upper-body context to footwork drills, in which improving footwork is the primary objective.

  2. Warming up/cooling down in preparation for more serious work.

  3. Incorporating specificity to aerobic endurance training, in which fitness is the primary goal, rather than technique.

  4. Maintaining the shadow-boxing element of a training routine during periods in which minor injuries (such as repetitive stress, elbow tweaks) have surfaced.

  5. Training torso rotation speed.

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