How The Concepts Behind Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch Can Help You Become A Better Guitar Player

By Byron Marks

In 1967 Bruce Lee debuted a move called the One Inch Punch on a kung Fu TV show. The announcer of the show claimed at the time that this punch “had more force behind it thanks a car” traveling at approximately 30 miles per hour. This claim may not be actually true but what is true is that from and Ince away, Bruce Lee was able to strike a blow that pushed a man back 16.4 feet, almost 200 times the distance that his fist traveled. 

Here is how this is can be relevant to your guitar playing. 

When we talk about playing louder, most of the time guitar players associate plying louder or harder with a “wind up” of the pick hand and striking the note from a further distance. If I asked you, right now, to hit a chord as hard as you can look at how far back your pick hand goes. 

Now don’t get me wrong, if you are on stage performing and you want to do some Pete Townsend style windmills, that is cool and it looks very cool but if you are practicing dynamics in your playing, you will quickly see that windmills are not very practical. Surely there must be an easier way to get more volume without the big wind up. Yes, (drumroll please………) there is. The “One Inch Punch” 

Here is how it worked for Bruce Lee: 

The real power from the punch actually originates in the legs, specifically with a rapid, explosive knee extension. The force from that extension allows the hips to twist faster which then lurches the shoulder of the thrusting arm forward. It is the coordination from all of these muscle groups that makes the punch work. 

How this is going to work for you: 

To get more volume (dynamically speaking) from your guitar you can apply the same principal, the coordination of different muscles, to your guitar playing. No, you don’t need to start doing squats or leg exercises to make this work for your guitar playing. You will have to further develop the coordination in your picking arm and wrist. 

Why You Will Want To Do This: 

The great guitar players all understand how to control their guitar playing. They understand that there are times where you will need to hit the strings harder than normal. The best guitar players know how to do this with a short, controlled motion instead of a big, unnecessary wind up. 

The big bonus in the "one inch punch" is better and clearer articulation when you play. If you play fast lead lines, picking the notes harder will make those note “jump right out” from your guitar. For rhythm guitar playing you will add intensity to your rhythm guitar playing. These are smaller things that make a huge difference. 


This will require some more tension in your arm. Not so much tension that your arm completely stiffens up though. 

Start with the pick right next to the string and pick the string (can be an open string or a fretted note, doesn’t matter which) as you normally would. Do this 10 times in a row and take note of how the arm of your picking hand feels.  

Next line the pick up to the same exact spot and pick the string again, this time use more force but resist cocking your arm back to do so. You will have to tighten your forearm a little more. Once you have, strike the string and notice how much louder the string is now. This will take some time and practice but keep with it.

Next try switching between loud and soft volumes. Again do not let the pick go back too far. Your pick should be just on the other side (the top side) of the string. There does not need to be any space between your guitar pick and the string. Do this (keeping the pick on the top side of the string) for both loud and soft volumes. 

Making this improvement in your guitar playing is going to make you sound and feel like a different guitar player. You will have more control over your playing. You will be able to more easily express yourself with the guitar. How awesome is that? 

Byron Marks is a guitar teacher in Manchester, NH where he helps guitar students improve their guitar playing and become more confident guitar players and musicians