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Topic: "Hitting Correctly"

Question: During practice I noticed that when I am hitting a heavy bag, if I punch at my head level and keep my wrist straight (with a twist punch) the middle finger joints of my fist hit first. How can I solve this problem so that I can hit with the first and index finger knuckles that are usually used for striking?



This is a common problem with the twist punch if aiming at targets above the waist and particularly the head. In Japanese karate and in many other Chinese, Korean and oriental martial arts, there are a number of effective alternative ways to strike upper targets to avoid this problem. Here are some suggestions for alternative punches:

  1. Instead of a fist try hitting with an open hand palm heel strike or shuto (little finger side of the hand near the wrist). Often this is a good alternative strike to the head since many practitioners injure their hands striking this target.

  2. Use a straight vertical punch, one where the wrist is not twisted but is instead held so that the first and second knuckles are on top. A slight bend of the wrist can also be used to accentuate the first two knuckles. Another alternative to be used with this fist position is to extend the second knuckle to hit specific targets such as the throat, the hollow in the check, the side of the nose, under the nose, or the eye socket.

  3. Use a modified punch where the forearm is held vertically to start and then the elbow is rotated upward before the punch begins. From this position the punching angle is horizontal or slightly downward (Seikan Ago-Zuki in Japanese) and toward the center. This type of punch is also useful in getting over the opponent’s guard. Since the punch is angled downward the first two knuckles should strike first.

  4. Tilt your punching shoulder upward and bring your punching arm up, around and downward in a circular punch that hits from over the top with your first two knuckles facing downward (top of the hand facing your own head). Here contact is often made with just the first knuckle. This punch is particularly effective as part of a combination where you first execute (with your shoulder lowered) a low rising (uppercut) punch into an opponent’s ribs (using your legs to add power) on one side and then follow with this circular over the top punch from the top.

  5. With your hands held in front in a guard position, execute a short upward reverse punch (knuckles and top of the hand faced down). Since your hand and forearm are rotated 180 degrees from the normal rotated fist position, your two knuckles now facing downward will strike first (often called Shita-Zuki, or short punch, in Japanese karate).

  6. If this punch (as in # 5) is brought from a lower position it is an upper cut, or rising punch (Age-Zuki in Japanese karate).

  7. With your hands in the same position of in # 5 you can also do a back knuckle strike to an opponent’s nose, eyebrow or temple (Uraken Shomen-Uchi in Japanese karate).

I hope this helps.

Christopher Caile

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