Connectivity: Theory of Power and Principles of Living Force

Joel Winograd, Jee Do Jah, looks at the common threads between Theory of Power and the Principles of Living Force.

The Theory of Power (ToP) states that our full potential in a technique requires simultaneous attention to several characteristics:  reaction force, concentration, equilibrium, breath control, and speed. Similarly, the Principles of Living Force (PoLF) provide a methodology for building and analyzing a technique:  counterforce, focus, control of mass, integrated breathing, acceleration, center.

In the world of  weights & measures there are two well-known systems; foot-pound and meter-kilogram. A savvy builder will move between systems depending on the problem at hand. Each system is tied to the other by the fundamental equalities: 1 meter=3.3 feet and 1 kilogram=2.2 pounds.

ToP and PoLF describe the same phenomena and are fundamentally connected, just as in the weights & measures example above. Let's see how:

Reaction Force reminds us of the fact that each action creates its own reaction. We must take that reaction into account to apply maximum force to our intended target.  Throw a punch forward by itself and the body twists to respond. Throw the same punch forward while pulling the reaction force hand, and you balance the forces within the body, allowing the most effective application of net force to the target.

By using the term Counter Force, we mean to emphasize the response to the natural reaction that occurs in applying force. We are really asking the question: Do we respond to the forces acting upon our technique in a manner that lets us achieve maximum transmission of force while maintaining balance and integrity?

Concentration embodies both physical and mental dimensions. The smaller the point of contact between tool and target, the greater the shock that will be transmitted to the target. Shining a flashlight will illuminate a target. Concentrate that light as a laser and you can burn a hole through metal. Mental concentration ensures that the myriad of movements and the timing of those movements properly combine to build a powerful technique. If your mind wanders, so will your technique.

Both control of mass and focus address this issue. Do we move our bodies in a balanced and purposeful way that minimizes loss of energy?  Are our minds concentrated and coordinated with our body movements? Is our energy clearly and accurately directed to a defined target?

Equilibrium is vital to effective action. For example, effort used to prevent falling backwards is lost to the forward thrust of a good side kick. If I can begin a technique with good balance and maintain it throughout the action, then I can maximize the force applied to the target.  Mentally, reaching equilibrium requires that my mind and body work in harmony. Too much thinking about what is next, will leave me vulnerable to attack in the here and now. Too many techniques launched, exposes me to unexpected counterattack as I am too busy to assess the behavior of my opponent.

By using the term focus, PoLF reminds us to direct our energies, mental and physical where they are needed. Center reminds us to check if our actions begin in, and are directed from, our center of gravity. Do we feel comfortable that our minds balanced with, and coordinated with our body movements?

Breath Control is a fundamental requirement for effective action and self-protection. To ensure maximum effect from body movement, we must have an assured and adequate supply of oxygen to the bloodstream. Ineffective breathing,  quickly leads to muscle fatigue, reduced responsiveness and faulty judgment. Who hasn't experienced being out-of-breath, resulting in a lazy kick from a high and vulnerable position? Timing our breathing is indispensable. For example, in the typical situation, exhaling on impact increases the force applied while enhancing the ability to absorb an unexpected blow.

Integrated breathing prompts us to use our breathing apparatus as a component of technique and not fight ourselves over when and how to breathe. We ask if our breathing adds to our ability to effect a technique? Is our breathing supporting our ability to sustain continuous activity?

Speed is essential to the production of force. The higher the speed of the tool at the moment of impact, the more force will be generated. To achieve our maximum  tool speed requires us to increase speed over the entire trajectory. And the effect of this speed change overwhelms the effect of our mass! Add a weight equal to the effective mass of your tool and you double the force applied. But double the ending speed of the tool and increase force by a factor of FOUR!. Not only is speed the most leveraged of the elements of ToP, it often is the easiest to improve.

PoLF, points out that speed is the visible portion of the key ingredient: acceleration. For acceleration is indeed the rate of change in speed. So we ask ourselves: Have we maximized the force directed to our target by accelerating from the moment of initiation to the moment of contact?


How do we apply these paradigms? ToP is well-known throughout the world TaeKwon-Do community, even if not always well understood. Learning to appreciate the inner meanings behind the elements of ToP is a worthy goal of TKD practitioners. ToP provides a common platform for both learning and the exchange of ideas among diverse groups. PoLF is careful to draw terms from classical physics and not simply familiar names. In addition, PoLF by using a changed frame of reference can give us new perspective into the synthesis and analysis of  TKD practice.  Just as with feet & meters, choosing the paradigm depends on the problem.

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07/01/2003,  rev 07/01/2005

Last update: 06/07/2016