Introduction: How to Throw a Punch

Picture of How to Throw a Punch

My name is Scott, and in this Instructable I will be demonstrating how to throw an effective punch. A little background: I have been studying Martial Arts for around eight years, teaching for three. I am a second degree black belt in Isshinryu karate, and brought home five medals- three gold, one silver, and one bronze - at the 2004 World Games in Athens, Greece. I was also recently inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Bunki Instructor of the Year (bunki means the application of a movement). I realize that this is "tooting my own horn," but I want you to know that I really do know how to throw a punch.

Disclaimer: This instructable is not a substitute for one-on-one training with a professional. The author assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of the information in this instructable.

Step 1: The Fist and Arm

Picture of The Fist and Arm

When throwing a punch, the goal is to make contact with the first two knuckles (index and middle fingers). The knuckles of the ring and pinky fingers do not have as much skeletal support and are more likely to break. Many styles teach that the thumb should be tucked to the side, however Isshinryu karate teaches to put the thumb on top to strengthen the fist (as well as to provide another striking surface).

The fist should be almost vertical, with a slight turn to the inside. The punch described here fits very nicely into the space right below where the ribs divide. When punching high, angle the wrist down so you are still making contact with the first two knuckles.

A rule of thumb is "Out like an arrow, back like you touched fire." Basically, that means don't leave your punch out there - bring it back quickly so that:
1. You can throw another punch
2. You can block an opponent's punch
3. Your hand can't be grabbed (from which many bad things happen)

Read this study, then go on to the next steps!

"The soviets looked at 120 boxers ranging from amateurs to experienced professionals. This study found that among the highest level boxers, the highest percent of their power (38.46%) came from the push-off of their back leg, whereas the arm extension and trunk rotation accounted for 24.12% and 37.42% respectively. "
I found this summary of the study on and several other web sites, but was unable to find the original study.

Step 2: Upper Body Dynamics

Picture of Upper Body Dynamics

A punch has the most power when thrown from the hip. While a seemingly obvious statement, you would be surprised by how many people want to throw short, 6-8" punches. While Bruce Lee had the "One inch Punch," the rest of us should have a little more wind up in their punch.

Also, twist the hips when you punch. Otherwise, you are robbing the punch of much of its power. When throwing multiple punches, it is important to bring the fists all the way back and twist the hips when you punch, to avoid rapid little punches that don't do anything.

Step 3: Lower Body Dynamics

Picture of Lower Body Dynamics

The lower body is one of the most important things to get right. You may have seen some of the hockey fights on TV - the reason that they don't get hurt more than they do is because they are on ice, so their punch does not have as much power behind it. An old karate saying is that "Your power comes from the ground."

A good stance is one where the feet are shoulder width apart, with the the toe of the back foot in line with the heel of the front foot. While a wider, deeper stance will give you more power in your punch (many martial arts favor a deeper stance), it takes away some of your mobility. Your body type makes a difference in what stance would be best for you.

Another big issue is, do you punch with the lead hand or the back hand? (If your left foot is forward, your left hand is the lead hand and your right hand is the back hand). Both have advantages - your lead hand is faster, while your back hand has more power. This is where "the ol' one-two" comes in - a fast jab with the lead hand to the face to make them close their eyes followed by a reverse punch (back hand) to the midsection.

Step 4: Different Types of Punches

Picture of Different Types of Punches

The main types of punches are:
1. Straight punch/Reverse punch (what was used to demonstrate the previous steps)
2. Jab (quick punch off the lead hand)
3. Cross (Back hand punch to the head)
4. Hook punch (Coming in from the side, usually to the jaw)
5. Uppercut (upward strike to the chin, sending the head backward)
6. Twist punch (taught in many martial arts schools)

Again, all of these use the first two knuckles to strike with.

Step 5: Targets

Picture of Targets

See below for an overview of the most common targets. Personally, in a self-defense situation, I would favor a heel-palm strike to the nose. It is very painful, does not cause serious damage, and makes their eyes water so you can escape.

Step 6: Training

Picture of Training

Reading this instructable is pretty useless if you do not practice. The first time you get hit, all of this information will instantly leave your mind and you will revert to instinct (often just flailing your arms). The ideal situation is to join a karate school or boxing club so that bad habits are caught early on (remember in the movie "Karate Kid," how poorly he fought when he was just practicing moves from a book?). The tips below will help in your home training.

1. THE MOST IMPORTANT: Only throw your punches 90%. Otherwise, you risk hyper-extending your elbow, which can create lasting damage to your joint and limit your training.

2. Use a heavy bag. If you only practice shadowboxing, you will not be prepared for the "equal and opposite reaction" when you punch something solid. Also, you may roll your wrist and damage it. (wear gloves with wrist support to prevent this in training).

3. Push-ups on knuckles. See photos below for proper technique.

I hope this instructable was a help to you!


allanj124 (author)2016-12-19

nice touch with the summary of study. made a simalar post on my blog -

onepunchonekill (author)2009-12-09

more likely because your joint will be hyper extended and broken by your opponent...

Amen. Beware of jujitsu practitioners.

You suck

I mean you commenter

Esinru karate (author)2015-03-25

I spelled it wrong sorry what kata are you on I'm on sasan

Esinru karate (author)2015-03-25

I spelled it wrong sorry what kata are you on I'm on sasan

Esinru karate (author)2015-03-25

I do however you spell it I'm yellow belt who's ur teacher and corkscrew punches stink so I love this instructeblse it rocks and good luck (because I do that style) (not lying ) =)

Subdood (author)2015-02-23


freepancho (author)2014-03-11

I am a 2nd dan in Tae Kwon Do, and I would like to say that I found this very interesting!

I would like to add that in TKD (at least WTF) we put the thumb across the first two knuckles, instead of on the side
Great instructable!

pancho del rancho (author)2009-08-12

u mind telling me why do them on your knucles will it make them tougher or something and will it cause damge if u do to many consequtive also wat type of material will it be good to do them all i have is tile and some creepy carpet

Doing the push-ups on your fists strengthens your wrists so your wrist doesn't collapse under the force of the punch.

nakigara (author)Argon272010-09-16

also the stress on the bones should help to strengthen them directly, as well as maybe teaching you a bit of 'muscle memory' so you are more likely to strike with the first two knuckles when you throw a punch.

and you'll get some cool looking callouses on your knuckles

freerunnin1 (author)nakigara2011-10-20

I have dense bones and dead nerve endings in my hands, I can punch a brick wall and feel only slight discomfort, the only problem is my wrists collapse :L I'll be doing this, we had to do this is tae kwon do on a wooden floor, hurt like hell a i was only 10 :P but that was years ago now :)

frikkie (author)2008-10-03

Its not about the medals you bring home. The important thing is we all must remember is it street effective?I also did pushups on fists.It helps to condition i must say.

NetReaper (author)frikkie2011-01-18

That's a really good idea

hoihoi151 (author)frikkie2010-03-18

 i agree 1000% a lot of martial arts are competition based so they arnt designed to hurt they are designed to hit targets. My tkd is military traditional. We arnt aloud to go to competitions and stuff. last time we did a contact lesson with the competition pads on i punched a guy and popped a disk in his spine. through his chest. so i agree 1000% unless there is sufficient force behind a strike then it is pointless

martialartsbrain (author)2010-05-28

Great post, loved the tricks. need to work harder on punch bags

Choky (author)2009-03-01

phh.. i gained a 2nd degree(blackbelt)in 3years.

hoihoi151 (author)Choky2010-03-18

 that just means ur school gives out degrees like candy. i study Rhee taekwondo in Australia. It is notoriously hard to get a 2nd dan here. My regional instructor got his after 20 years of training. I have been a black belt 1st dan for 8 years and i wont likely get 2nd dan for another 5 years or so. Its because your rank doesnt mean ur skill. for example some schools give out a rank just because u have been there for x amount of years. Rhee you have to have been training for a long time and develop certain skills before getting 2nd dan. the highest rank i have heard in Rhee is 3rd Dan took the guy 30 years.

AlaskanTKDKid (author)Choky2009-04-03

mcdojang much?

onepunchonekill (author)2009-12-09

your wrist is bent, making for an improper punch. Also isshinryu punch is no good when punching to to head as the wrist bones cannot be aligned.

Also why are you wearing blue. The Issinryu gi is white and the only patch that belongs on it is the megami.

suzukisuv (author)2009-07-09

Thanks for this great tips. I had few years Karate on my college and this tips just reminds me. But as you are very experienced you could write some more advanced tips for brick smashing and so.

Osirls (author)2008-10-04

Hi, I understand different Karate styles are different but in Shotokan it is very important to keep the back heel on the floor when punching. As you said, the power comes from the floor and it is difficult to 'kick' the floor with much power when you raise your heel as shown in one of your pictures. Yes, being truely flat-footed for that moment that you punch makes you less manueverable but it also means you can execute a real, powerful Karate punch. I'm not sure if Isshinryu teaches otherwise or if you just made a mistake in raise your heel but I would like to hear your take on the technique. I myself am a 1st Dan Shotokan Karateka having trained for 5 years. Thanks

sameotoko (author)Osirls2008-10-04

Hello I'm a black belt in Kenpo and have been training for the past 13 years and teaching for the past 7. I am also an Orthopedic Surgeon. I found something interesting while reading your instructable. You claim that a straight heel-palm strike to the nose causes no serious damage. I beg to differ. Though unlikely, there is the possibility of breaking the cribous membrane of the ethmoid bone, right at the top of the nasal pyramid. It's a structurally weak point in the bone beacuse that's where the olfactory nerve traverses to the nose. If it breaks, it could lead to a cerebrospinal fluid fistula to the nose. This means the fluid arround the brain could leak outside, leading to infection. There's also a vascular plexus behind it, and you risk tearing an artery. Arteries arround the nose may be small, but they have a very high blood flow. Tearing one could lead to death, either from the bleading or from drowning in your own blood. It's an excellent strike, but when your life is at risk. Same applies to palm strikes to the sides of the jaw. Breaking the jaw poses the potential risk of tearing the internal carotid artery just beneath it. Great instructable, though, and congratulations on your achievements

_soapy_ (author)sameotoko2008-10-17

Under UK law, you must take your victim as you find them. So if you punch someone with a brittle bone disease, shatter the skull and kill them, even though you only meant to slap them, you get done for murder, because you intended harm. Hitting anyone is anti-social. Don't do it unless you really need to. If you really need to, hit them as hard and as accurately as you can, then depart. Kicking someone once they are down is not going to help you when you end up in court - self-defence is a hard thing to prove, even if you took a kicking first, if you walk away and they don't! sametoko, you raise a good point. Only hit people if you absolutely have to. But in my opinion, if you really have too, and you hit them in the nose, the low odds of causing serious harm is outweighed by the effectiveness of a good strike to the nose and/or upper lip.

karthikkamath93 (author)_soapy_2009-05-27

didnt you read about the ortho who talked about the nose

my vote goes to you

creator 1 (author)sameotoko2009-04-17

isn't it possible to jam there nose into there brain and kill them. I heard someone tell me that once. if you use a palm heel strike going slightly upwards under the nose.

sdanny (author)Osirls2009-05-07

i train muay thai (and i know isnt the same as karate) but u get the power from your hip movement not the floor. altho u need to be stabilised in order to punch of course :)

creator 1 (author)Osirls2009-04-17

I've been doing the style you do for about fiveish - sixish years.

karthikkamath93 (author)2009-05-27

I studied budokan karate in which there are no hook punches and uppercuts. a little more tips.

svfox69 (author)2009-05-12

Congrats on the medals.
You can break Chuck Norris record.


svfox69 (author)2009-05-12

lol , I thought you were going to say you use brass knuckles, haha.


bassmonkey (author)2009-04-18

you look smart, but I throw punches i clench my pinky,ring finger,middle finger, and pointer finger, then bend my thumb,so someone's not right, can anyone help??

mushfiqc (author)2008-10-03

I was just in a fight and everything you have just stated was true but another thing you might want to add when your punching wouldn't it be more powerful to lounge back and then forward then forcefully throw the punch?

creator 1 (author)mushfiqc2009-04-17

if you do that you are telegraphing which means you make a lot of movement and your opponent knows your going to lounge at them. In that case they could spear you with a kick or just move out of the way. I have been doing karate for six years(I know that does not sound like a lot), and I have learned not to telegraph. I help my teacher instruct sometimes, and when we spar, it is easy to tell what people are going to do next, because they do the same little twitch or something like that before every strike. to make a long story short, you should not make any unnecessary moves before a strike. My teacher said it sometimes helps to punch with your front fist or kick with your front foot because it takes your opponent by surprise. one last note, if you are trying to get out of a fight, you don't need to hit your opponent really hard. just do a snap kick or a quick pop with your fist and it will probably stun the the person enough for you to run away.

PKM (author)mushfiqc2008-10-05

It would, if you are
- doing a break test
- using one of those "punch strength tester" machines at fairgrounds
- punching someone who is letting you punch them, is immobile or has no idea you are about to hit them

In a real fight or any sort of self defence situation, "winding up" a punch is slow- making it obvious you are going in for a big punch is an invitation for your opponent to hit you first. A good straight punch of this form is plenty powerful enough unless you are fighting a boxer or seasoned street fighter, and is much, much quicker than winding up- in those situations you might be better off with a kick but a good kick is out of the scope of an Instructable.

If your opponent is further than arms reach or is retreating, stepping into a punch can make it more powerful but still makes it slower.

michael9319 (author)2008-11-18

you could have prepared me with how much knuckle push-ups actually hurts. does it keep on hurting? or is the point in doing them that throwing a punch will hurt less?

creator 1 (author)michael93192009-04-17

the more you do them, the less it hurts. your knuckles will become tougher in time. you should also try doing them on your wrists. that is the strengthen them for doing chicken strikes or blocks

Eristic (author)michael93192008-11-20

When you do knuckle push-ups, you are placing your wrist in the proper alignment for punching. This strengthens the wrist, and helps build a form of 'muscle memory' to keep that alignment when you actually hit something. As a side affect, doing them fairly regularly on a hard surface will both toughen the knuckles and deaden the nerves in them so they hurt less as time goes on.

creator 1 (author)2009-04-17

in my system, we use a horizontal punch usually. only in katas do we sometimes use vertical punches. also i could not tell, but do you do your push ups on your two first knuckles. that's how we do them in our system. you should also try doing them on your wrists.

creator 1 (author)creator 12009-04-17

never mind, i just saw how you use the two first knuckles.

Choky (author)2009-03-13

no offense ironchopstix but i am a korean. taekwondo in korea is even harder because when you achieve 1st dan, they test me once a year in a place called Guck-Ki-Won.2nd dan also

AlaskanTKDKid (author)Choky2009-04-03

its spelt kukkiwon...

naruto 777 (author)2009-02-20

cool i learned something today, now to go practice......

static (author)2008-10-03

Interesting instructable, goes to show the variety topics here. Being legally blind without eyeglasses, getting myself in a situation where punches will be needed, isn't good option.

Vodmire (author)static2008-10-06

if your blind then how are you reading this? o.O

static (author)Vodmire2008-11-05

Ya overlooked an important fact. I'm legally blind WITHOUT my eyeglasses. With glass I correct to 20/20 yet. I say yet because I did correct to one line better than 20/20. getting older I guess.

cd41 (author)static2009-02-01

DA**! those must be thick; no offense but from legally blind to 20/20 Da**

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