Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Burning Questions: Round 6

First Prize in the
Burning Questions: Round 6