Punching: alignment with the forearm

I have often been asked: "What is the correct alignment of your forearm to your fist in a standard punch?" Given that in karate and most Eastern martial arts (excluding arts such as Wing Chun) the standard punch strikes with the 2 big knuckles, you could be forgiven for thinking that the top of the forearm should align (be flush) with those 2 knuckles. Makes sense doesn't it? But actually this is not the case.

Indeed, if you make a fist and then hold your forearm vertically, side on (so that your fist is pointing up and you're looking at your wrist so that you can see whether it angles the fist up or down), you'll notice that you could, if you wanted, make the back of your hand flush with your forearm. That means that the top knuckles are in a straight line with your forearm and your energy is going to be transmitted in a straight line (theoretically).

The problem however is that if you look at the palm side of your fist, it now slopes down quite a lot - increasing the risk of your wrist buckling on impact. If this occurs it not only renders your punch largely useless, but it is also is painful and injurious (I speak from experience).

On the other hand you could angle your fist/wrist so that the bottom of your fist is in line with the bottom of your forearm. The problem with this is (a) the risk of wrist buckling the other way (less likely, but more severe when it happens) and (b ) you'll be striking with the smaller knuckles in a kind of "bear paw" punch, not with the 2 main knuckles.

The solution is to see your fist as it is: a natural "Y" shape. In other words, neither the top of the forearm nor the bottom of the forearm lines up with the top or bottom of the wrist.

Even if your fist shape is such that this causes your small knuckles to protrude a smidgeon ahead of your big knuckles, what happens in practice is that on impact your fist compresses and the imapct is transferred almost immediately to the 2 big knuckles.

Do some knuckle push ups (on the 2 big knuckles of course) and look at your self in a mirror, noting the angle of wrist to forearm and you'll see what I mean. Without compression (either static or on impact) your fist looks very different, so be mindful of this.

To summarise: the fist and forearm have a "Y" shape. Neither the top nor bottom should be flush with the top or bottom of your forearm.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic