How to punch (simple explanation)

The most important fighting technique: the punch

The first things to say are that:

  • In any realistic combat system, the striking capability comes first (especially with the upper limbs); all the rest represents a second step (throws, joint levers, etc.)
  • Punches are simple, fast and safe, in one word effective
  • If we are not seriously conditioned we cannot hit with our knuckles (read Hands conditioning: first approach with a bag of rice)
  • If we cannot hit with the knuckle, we simply have to replace the fist with the base of the open palm of our hands (the theory we will see remains 90% valid)

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu there is a wide variety of upper limbs’ attacks (with different types of impact, loading, breathing, rotations, muscle chain, etc.), in this article, we will show the fundamental one.

Didactilcally, the punch we are going to see is at the same time:

  • The most “simple” (to understand, not to execute)
  • The most “useful” (to have and idea of the general blows’ mechanic)

A note by Master Kongling – To learn to punch perfectly is a matter of years of training: the first step is to teach the method to our mind, the second is to allow it to pass the movement to the body and the last is sparring, to make sure that head and body find a common point of effectiveness (read also A scheme to quickly learn any kind of technique).

How to execute a straight punch

So let’s see how to deliver our first punch.

The preparation

A note by Master Kongling – Normally, at Shaolin temple, this technique was executed in Ma Bu stance, starting with the fists facing up and at the hip height (read The correct position of the rider (ma bu)). The traditional Shaolin Kung Fu punch is slightly different, we will see it in another tutorial.

To be in condition to release the biggest amount of power, let’s start with a good guard stance (read How to rapidly learn Kung Fu: guard stance):

  • In the initial phase, the hand must be closed conveniently (but should not be tightened, read How to tighten the fist)
  • The shoulder and the whole arm are relaxed (in order to express the maximum speed in terms of reactivity)
  • The thumb, bending, must superimpose the external part of the second phalanx of the index and middle fingers
  • The remaining four fingers must be aligned harmoniously and fully bent on themselves
  • The back of the hand must be aligned with the forearm in order, at the same time, to allow the bones to follow the trajectory of the force and to arrive at the target without unwanted dangerous bendings (this avoid easy damages to the wrists)

A note by Master Kongling – to check the quality of your wrist-forearm alignement, let’s hit with gradually increasing power a rigid target covered with a pillow (let’s start extremely gently, read also Convert “any” type of object into a training dummy). If the wrist bends, let’s correct the position. When the wrist’s structure becomes strongly conditioned, we can venture to perform more dangerous types of blows but the moment of giving the right general setting is: now.

The attacking movement

Generally speaking it is wrong to load an attack because it makes extremely predictable (at the eyes of a martial arts practitioner) our action.

A note by Master Kongling – The strategical aspects of the fight are beyond this discussion but it is important to stress that the fact of loading a blow is not always wrong: it can makes our attacks stronger and faster but this “surplus” must be tactically evaluated (read for example Dragon Motion: the swirling movements) and never done as a first move.

The key point is that we must have no backward movements, we have to immeditely go in the direction of our target:

  • The shoulders are firm but completely relaxed
  • The power of the muscle chain (read Use the body power: the muscle chain) starts from the back feet (the idea is that the energy passes between our muscles gaining their power exponentially until arriving to the tip of the knuckles)
  • When the energy arrives to it, the shoulder of the attacking arm moves forward
  • The elbow bends frontally and the forearm moves upward frontally (directly, without any superfluous collateral motion)
  • We are not just bending the elbow, we are already moving the arm forward
  • While the forearm moves we must inhale through our nose (this way our breathing will not leave time to our opponent to be read as a signal of imminent aggression, read also The signals that identify an imminent aggression)
  • Without flow interruptions we begin the second part of the movement and stretching the arm toward the target, we strongly exhale
  • While we stretch the arm, we have to rotate the punch clockwise
  • The arm never backs away, the rotations are gradual and synchronous with breathing
  • At this point, the arm has to be stretched out also by using the elongation given by the synchronous rotation of the shoulders (the attacking one follow the impact direction and the other the opposite)
  • Stretching the elbow, we should not get an opening greater than 90% (in combat it exposes us to bone breaking techniques and in training it is detrimental to the ligaments)

A note by Master Kongling – It is important to stress that the inhalation moment is normally in the loading phase but compressing the action (to remain more unpredictable) it starts in the exact moment when the forearm moves (read also The 6DKF’s combat breathing).

The impact moment

In relation to the target (if we do not know what we are doing), it is alway better to try to hit in upward direction (this way we avoid easy conuterattacks):

  • Just before the impact (achieved the target certainty), we must tighten with all our strength the fingers (this is what we call the “solid moment”, read 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch)
  • The hand should not be tightened before because, in case of error, a soft contraction produces minor damages (cushioning)
  • Who is only partially conditioned should hit with the knuckles of the middle and index finger (but even in thisd case there is a risk of rupture); a fully conditioned practitioner can hit more freely (3 knuckles, etc.)
  • At the moment of impact the entire body structure slightly moves forward, allowing the release of our weight on the target; let’s do this only if we are sure of our blow’s effectiveness (quick reasoning is a skill made of experience, read also All the skills of 6 Dragons Kung Fu)
  • The final closure, combined with the total arm tension, to a vibration (read The metal sphere: how to release the force of a punch or a kick), to our weight and to a further rotation, brings out the highest power of this blow

The return

  • We never have to remain in extension for a longer time than the necessary to release the right amount of power (the opponent can capture us, etc.)
  • It must be said that the right amount of time is proportional to the effectiveness of our action (eg. it is useless to remain extended to complete the power release if our action is not giving the results we were searching for)
  • The attack movement must be equivalent to a screwing, the return is its rewind (like a spring or an elastic band that moves at the speed of an explosion)

A note by Master Kongling – One of most common errors of beginners is to confuse a short punch with a fast punch: the difference is that the first appears to be quick (because it does not exploit the full elongation power of the arms), the second is instead truly fast (because through righteous training mixes elongation and speed, read also Speed and quickness).

Final notes

  • To learn better we can also perform all the movement in reverse
  • During a combat, let’s be ready to rapidly step back to the guard stance, to concatenate sequence of attacks, to turns the fist into a grasping, a push, etc.)
  • Again, to load a fist is right but it slows us down and warn the enemy of what we are going to do (a good fighter always knows when there is opportunity, space and time to act)
  • If we intend to use full power to exercise this fist (eg. with sequences of 25) we must opt for a soft target and not for empty blows (especially at the beginning)

This is a basic punch, in the next articles of this series, we’ll see many more (some faster, some more unpredictable, some more powerful, etc.).

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Can you concatenate a sequence of punches like this?

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