How to Punch Correctly in a Fight

Learning how to punch with power and speed and without running the risk of breaking or injuring your hands is a skill that will take time and practice to master. This tutorial will cover several  punching fundamental, yet critical, aspects of punching technique that benefit anyone who wants to improve their fighting skills. 

However, keep in mind that you cannot learn how to punch by simply reading an article. You need a visual that will clearly show you the right way to perform each and every move. In this regard, I strongly encourage you to look into our many Instructional Punching DVDs. You will also find just about everything you need to know about proper punching technique from my DVD, Armed to the Teeth: Mastering Upper Body Weapons. 

You Don’t Have to be a Big Guy to Hit Really Hard!

Let me begin by saying, learning how to punch effectively is not predicated on ones size or strength. While it’s true that your body weight can substantially increase the power of your strike, it’s not the only determining factor. For example, take a look at the late Bruce Lee who weighed approximately 130 pounds, yet he knew how to punch harder than a professional heavyweight boxer. Lee was able to do this because of two important factors. First, he mastered the fundamentals of punching technique. Simply put, he knew the correct way to throw a punch. Second, Mr. Lee exploited the laws of kinetic energy by relying on movement speed instead of body weight to generate his impact power.

The Laws of Physics Don’t Lie: Remember Mass X Velocity!

Bruce Lee’s freakish explosive power can actually be validated by understanding the basics of kinetic energy. Essentially, mass (m) times (v) velocity equals impact power. If you double the mass of the object (i.e., body weight) and leave the velocity (speed of the punch) constant, you will double the impact power. But, if you leave the mass of the object (i.e., body weight) constant and double the velocity (speed of the punch) you will quadruple the punching power. See my Combat Speed Training DVD Series to learn more about improving your punching speed.

What are the Fundamentals of Learning How to Punch?

So what are the fundamentals of punching? And what is the correct way to throw a punch? Well, to some degree, the answer is relative. Meaning, it will largely depend on the specific body mechanic or individual punch you are trying to perform. For example, the body mechanics of a boxer’s jab is going to be much different from that of a rear uppercut punch. However, there are some important foundational concepts and principles that must be used for any punch to actually work or be effective.

Avoiding Injury is Just As Important As Fighting Well!

Incidentally, when I say effective punching, I mean throwing a blow that creates maximum damage to the opponent without sustaining injury to yourself. Don’t forget that self defense also means avoid injuring yourself during an altercation. Learning how to punch safely and correctly go hand in hand with one another. No pun intended!

Ironically, effective punching technique is one of the most important concepts you can take from any self defense or martial arts class but unfortunately this subject is seldom addressed by the instructors. Perhaps they overlook its importance or they simply don’t know what is involved when teaching a student how to punch from an analytical perspective.

Is Fist Fighting Too Risky in a Street Fight?

Believe it or not, there are self defense instructors who won’t even bother to teach their students how to punch. They claim that punching is too risky for the student because fisted punches can often cause a severe hand or wrist injury. To the uninitiated this may sound logical and prudent observation, but in reality it’s a big mistake that will drastically hinder your ability to effectively protect yourself or a loved one from harm.

Open Hand Strikes Alone Will Not Win A Fight!

In a real self defense situation, you need to be able to hit your opponent, from a diversification of angles vantages and ranges of combat. The only way to accomplish this essential requirement is to include fisted blows that can shower the opponent with hits from all possible angles. There’s good reason why mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters and boxers rely heavily on punching skills and techniques. When executed correctly, punching techniques are a highly efficient and potent form of fighting.

So what’s the bottom line? If you want to learn how to fight and prevail in combat sports as well as reality based self defense, you must understand and master the science of punching! Incidentally, the Body Opponent Bag is also a great tool for safely learning how to throw punches without injuring your hands. Once you feel comfortable with the Body Opponent Bag, you can then graduate to the Heavy Bag Training

Do You Know How to Punch Injury Free?

Learning how to punch without sustaining a hand injury requires you to understand and ultimately master a few concepts and body mechanic principles. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a martial arts expert to master these basic principles. Essentially, there are four main causes of punching related hand injuries. They are weak structural integrity of the fists, poor skeletal alignment of the hands, wrists and forearms and hitting the wrong anatomical target. While there are different body mechanics for each and every punch, there are four things that must take place in order to avoid a hand injury. They include the following:

  • Knowing how to make a proper fist.
  • Strong hands, wrists and forearms.
  • Maintaining skeletal alignment when your fist makes contact with its target.
  • Hitting the proper anatomical target and avoiding contact with extremely hard boney surfaces.

Learning to Make a Proper Fist is the First Big Step

Okay, so the first thing you need to do is learn the proper way ti make a solid fist. It’s actually ironic how some of the most experienced fighters and street brawlers don’t know how to make a proper fist. As you can imagine, improper fist clenching can be disastrous for some of the following reasons:

  • You can jam, sprain, or break your fingers.
  • You can destroy wrist alignment, resulting in a sprained or broken wrist.
  • You’ll lose significant impact power when attempting to hit your target.

To make a proper fist, make certain that your fingers are tightly clenched and that your thumb is securely wrapped around your second and third knuckles. You fist should look resemble a solid flat brick. Remember to keep in mind, if you can’t make a proper fist, you won’t be capable of delivering a punch!

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when learning how to make a fist is allowing their thumbs to protrude outward. This type of hand position is dangerous and can often lead to numerous hand and finger injuries as well as powerless blows. Please remember to always keep your thumbs tightly wrapped around the other two fingers when throwing punches.

Training Your Arms and Hands for Devastating Power

Proper finger placement and fist configuration is important but that’s really only half of the equation. You must have strong hands, wrists and forearms to withstand the force of power punching. You will, therefore, need to perform specific hand and forearm strengthening exercises. Bruce Lee was aware of this fact. As a matter of fact, he would religiously strengthen and develop his hands and forearms. The next time you look through a Jeet Kune Do book, observe a photo of Lee’s forearms and you’ll see his massive and well conditioned flexor and extensor muscles. He knew that powerful and injury free punching depends largely on the overall strength and structural integrity of your hands, wrists and forearms.

There are many efficient ways of strengthening your hands, wrists and forearms for the rigors of punching. If you are low on cash and just starting out, you can begin by squeezing a tennis ball a couple times per week. One hundred repetitions per hand would be a good start. Later on you can add power putty to your strengthening routine. This unique hand exerciser is made up of silicone rubber that can be squeezed, pulled, pinched, clawed and stretched in just about any conceivable direction. This tough resistant putty will strengthen the muscles of you forearm, wrists, hands and fingers.

Another quick and effective way to strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms is to work out with heavy duty hand grippers. While there are a wide selection of them on the market, I personally prefer using the Captains of Crush brand. These high quality grippers are virtually indestructible and they come in eleven different resistance levels ranging from 60 to 365 pounds.

Finally, you can also condition your wrists and forearms by performing various forearm exercises with free weights. If you would like to learn more, you might want to look at my War Machine Program. While I’m on the subject of hand strengthening, if you plan on using a handgun for self defense, then you should also consider adding a hand conditioning program to your routine.

Weapons Training Will Help You in the Long Run!

Did you know that training and working out with weapons will also improve your ability to punch correctly. Stick fighting practice, for example, can make a huge difference in your training progress. Gripping a rattan stick (also called a kali stick) and performing stick drills like hubud, sombrada, punyo sombrada, six heaven and the like will condition and strengthen your arms, forearms, wrists and hands. Most importantly, the structural integrity of your fists will improve and this means you can deliver a solid punch without risking a structural breakdown of your hands. This may sound trivial to the unschooled, but you have to remember that your fist is the load bearing component of any punch. If its weak or flimsy you’ll be in big trouble.

Learning How to Punch Means Keeping Your Wrists and Forearms Straight

Now that you know how to make a proper fist, your next step in learning how to punch is maintaining skeletal alignment when your fist makes contact with its selected target. Skeletal alignment will help ensure that both your hand and wrists won’t buckle and break during impact. Let me first teach you how to punch without breaking your hand.

You Must Always Make Center Knuckle Contact When Throwing Blows

This requires that you learn to how to strike with your center knuckle first. Punching with the center of your knuckle is important because it affords proper skeletal alignment and will maximize the impact of your blow. Excluding hammer fist strikes, every conceivable punch (i.e., jabs, rear cross, hooks, upper cuts, body hooks, etc) can be thrown with center knuckle contact.

Center knuckle contact also prevents a broken hand or “boxer’s fracture” from occurring. Essentially, a boxer’s fracture occurs when the small metacarpal bone bends downward and toward the palm of the hand during impact with an extremely hard surface (such as a brick wall or human skull).

Contrary to what karate teaches, I suggest that you avoid striking your opponent with your first two knuckles. This common karate style of punching diffuses the weight transfer of the punch which can easily lead to a broken hand.

By the way, the double end bag is an excellent piece of training equipment for teaching you how to punch with your center knuckle. Our Double End Bag Training DVD would be a good place to start your training.

How to Punch Without Injuring or Breaking Your Hands

Now its time to teach you how to punch without breaking your wrists. The simple rule of thumb is to always keep your wrists aligned with your forearm throughout the execution of your punch. This applies to both linear punches (jab, lead straights, rear cross) as well as circular punches (hooks, uppercuts and shovel hooks). If your wrist bends or collapses on impact, you will either sprain or break it. It’s that simple. Remember, a sprained or broken wrist will immediately put you out of commission in a fight.

One of the best ways to learn how to throw a punch without bending your wrists is to regularly workout on the heavy bag. The heavy bag or punching bag will provide the necessary amount of resistance to progressively strengthen and condition the bones, tendons and ligaments in your wrists. Remember to start off slowly and progressively increase the force of your punches. 

Punching Accurately is Critical in a Real Fighting Situation

The final component of learning how to punch is avoid hitting hard body surfaces, especially the opponent’s skull. You’ll need to possess target orientation skills. Target orientation means having a workable knowledge of the various anatomical targets presented in a fight. Remember, knowing how to punch your opponent is just as important as knowing exactly where to hit him.

Believe it or not, but many self defense hand injuries are a result of striking the opponent’s skull! The human skull is extremely hard and resilient. It’s likened to an armor helmet that protects the human brain from impact. I personally know several fighters who broke their hands when their fists connected with an opponent’s forehead or skull. Therefore, when learning how to punch you are to avoid making contact with your opponent’s skull (frontal bone). The only viable punching targets are the opponent’s nose, chin, temple, and jaw. See my Pressure Points DVD if you would like to learn more about how to punch vital head targets in a street fight.

Learning how to punch also means you will have to study and observe each and every punch in your arsenal and making ceratin they can handle the rigors of power punching. Through proper analytical observation you can quickly identify the strengths and weaknesses of each blow in your fighting arsenal. The best way to accomplish this is to methodically test each punch on a resistant target such as a heavy bag.

The Critical Importance of Heavy Bag Training

For example, lets take the most basic punch known to man – the rear cross. For those who may not be aware, the rear cross is one of the most powerful punches in a fighter’s arsenal. This knockout punch travels in a straight path to either your assailant’s nose, chin or solar plexus.

Begin by standing approximately four to five feet from the bag. Then, assume a fighting stance with your left leg forward and your body positioned at approximately forty five degree angle from the punching bag. Make certain both of your hands are properly clenched into fists and your head and chin are angled slightly down.

To deliver the punch, exhale and quickly twist and throw your rear arm and shoulder forward and towards the punching bag. Make certain to twist your rear leg, hip and shoulder forward and extend your rear arm straight. Do not lock out your rear arm when throwing the punch, be certain there is a slight bend in the elbow. Your punch should forcefully snap into the heavy bag and then return back to the starting position.

Always Be Mindful of Proper Form and Technique

Keep in mind that proper proper waist twisting and weight transfer is of considerable importance to the rear cross punch. You must shift your weight from your rear foot to your lead leg as you throw the punch. To maximize the impact of the punch, make certain that your fist is positioned horizontally when it makes contact with the bag. Remember, the goal is center knuckle contact! Also avoid overextending the punch or exposing your chin during its delivery.

It’s Important to Make Some Critical Observations When Training

After delivering the punch to the heavy bag, make the following important observations:

  • What was the overall feeling of the punch when you delivered it? Did it feel rigid and forced or was it loose and fluid?
  • What happened when your punch connected with the bag? Did the punch snap or crack the punching bag? Or did it just nudge it?
  • Did anything feel strained or hurt when your fist initially connected with the bag?
  • Was your punch accurate? Did you hit the bag exactly where you intended?
  • Did you remember to exhale or did you hold your breath when you threw the punch?
  • What happened to the structural integrity of your fist when you make contact with the punching bag? Did you fists open? Did your thumb get in the way? Did your wrist buckle inward?
  • Which knuckle made initial contact with the punching bag?
  • Did your punch have knockout power?

Get into the Habit of Video Taping Yourself When Training

You might also want to consider video taping yourself so you can quickly identify mistakes and errors in your punching form. Or perhaps you can have your training partner observe your punching technique and give you feedback.

If you find the heavy bag to be a bit intimidating to work with, you can always start off with the punching mitts or focus mitts to examine your punching form. Unlike the heavy bag, the punching mitts are more forgiving on your wrists and hands and will allow you to progressively build up your power as your punching form improves. The only downside to working with punching mitts is they will require a training partner to hold them for you. The good news is, once you have learned how to punch on the mitts you can then graduate to the heavy bag where you can test delivering your punches with full force.

Here Are Some Helpful Resources That Can Get You On Your Way!

Here are some helpful products that will help you when learning how to punch correctly.

I am sure by now you realize that learning how to punch with your fists is truly an art form, requiring considerable time and training to master. However, with the proper attitude and substantial training it can be accomplished.

I wish you all the best of luck!