Does punching vertically really decrease the chances of breaking your hands? How do you do so when you hit that way?

wolfeyes2323

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I read that old bare knuckle boxers rarely suffered hand fractures because they punched vertically instead of the horizontal punches today. In addition many existing martial arts such as Wing Chun punch vertically exactly for the reason to prevent injuries to the hand.

However I tried hitting a punching bag without gloves recently using vertical fists and my hands were sore and hurting by the end of the workout! So I am doubting this. However even Bruce Lee tended to prefer vertical hits irl in contrast to his movies when fighting in the streets without gloves so there must be something I'm missing.

Can anyone clarify? I mean Jack Dempsey even stated when he was a bouncer he preferred vertical punches for safety reasons despite fighting primarily as a boxing battler in the streets and many street boxing systems take a page or two from Jack Dempsey's experiences! Not to mention many Krav strikes are vertical fists in the way bare knuckle boxing before Marquis Queensberry rules and Wing Chun fighters hit!
preventing injury to your hands when striking
has to do with a straight wrist and the alignment
of striking knuckles to the Radius bone in the arm.
One punch does not work for all striking.
A vertical fist is used to attack the center line,
If striking overhand or hooking , the fist must be
rotated or over-rotated, to maintain correct
alignment when striking .
Even practicing with correct alignment your hands
are going to be sore , your knuckles will sometimes
swell, it is your bodies reaction to the stress of
contact.
 

nigebj

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I can punch both vertical fist and horizontal fist with that elbow down. We teach beginners the horizontal fist and require the elbow down.
Mechanically I can only make elbow at or close to 45 degrees (for horizontal strike), or fist at 45 degrees with elbow vertical. Attempting to keep elbow down, and make fully horizontal strike it feels like my wrist is structurally very weak.

Obviously structurally a vertical punch supports a fully vertical elbow and mechanically the strike has less directions of motion than a horizontal punch TKD taught me the power and strength of twisting (I repeat the claim, am not actually endorsing it's validity in this statement).

JKD taught the speed and structural benefit of vertical.

In more recently in SD training taught by someone with exposure to many disciplines over many years (MA, military, and law enforcement - as student and trainer) the vertical punch was taught as faster and structurally less risky from most defensive postures.

Obviously there are places for both - and horizontal orientation feels more sensible for an upper cut, vertical for a jab (having tried both in the above scenarios).

When I first boxed more than 30 years ago (sh*t closer to 40!) every new kids who joined the gym bust their hand within a few weeks of joining OUTSIDE of the gym using over confidence, and poor technique to hit someone in the "wrong" place - usually fist to head. Gloves change everything.
 

AIKIKENJITSU

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I read that old bare knuckle boxers rarely suffered hand fractures because they punched vertically instead of the horizontal punches today. In addition many existing martial arts such as Wing Chun punch vertically exactly for the reason to prevent injuries to the hand.

However I tried hitting a punching bag without gloves recently using vertical fists and my hands were sore and hurting by the end of the workout! So I am doubting this. However even Bruce Lee tended to prefer vertical hits irl in contrast to his movies when fighting in the streets without gloves so there must be something I'm missing.

Can anyone clarify? I mean Jack Dempsey even stated when he was a bouncer he preferred vertical punches for safety reasons despite fighting primarily as a boxing battler in the streets and many street boxing systems take a page or two from Jack Dempsey's experiences! Not to mention many Krav strikes are vertical fists in the way bare knuckle boxing before Marquis Queensberry rules and Wing Chun fighters hit!
I've been teaching martial arts for 52 years and I went through what you are going through. The short version: vertical punching is safer and less chance of breaking your wrist. Vertical punch, you use the the forefinger and middle finger knuckles. From there you can drop it into a uppercut to the target. Bend your fist slilghtly downward so to strike with two knuckles.
Vertical fist gives less chance of you breaking your wrist.
Sifu
 

cane56

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I think this is an interesting topic. I trained in the 70s and up till yesterday, day off for me. So my history goes back quite aways. If you practice like a boxer which I also done you'll be using a glove and probably hitting a bag. Your hands will be wrapped and the chance of rolling your fist or lessen. In my early days of bouncing I always tried to use psychology first. Everybody knew me and everybody knew that I would fight. Most bar fights are not really a fight, they are a tough guy picking on somebody. If you practice on a bag and you don't use gloves and wraps you can rotate your hand to a two knuckle punch. Also doing push-ups on the two knuckles strengthens your wrist and causes your hand not to roll. Normally I would use a straight punch to the solar plexus without rotation when I was bouncing. I have never broke my hand in either straight punch or a rotation punch. In the street usually the first guy to connect with a strong punch wins. Especially if the other guy has never really been hit. And I can't really answer this! Because without rotation there's not as much power. But without rotation less chance of breaking the small pinky in the metal carpal. This is an excellent question for a yellow belt.
 

krowe

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I read that old bare knuckle boxers rarely suffered hand fractures because they punched vertically instead of the horizontal punches today. In addition many existing martial arts such as Wing Chun punch vertically exactly for the reason to prevent injuries to the hand.

However I tried hitting a punching bag without gloves recently using vertical fists and my hands were sore and hurting by the end of the workout! So I am doubting this. However even Bruce Lee tended to prefer vertical hits irl in contrast to his movies when fighting in the streets without gloves so there must be something I'm missing.

Can anyone clarify? I mean Jack Dempsey even stated when he was a bouncer he preferred vertical punches for safety reasons despite fighting primarily as a boxing battler in the streets and many street boxing systems take a page or two from Jack Dempsey's experiences! Not to mention many Krav strikes are vertical fists in the way bare knuckle boxing before Marquis Queensberry rules and Wing Chun fighters hit!
Its more about where you strike and conditioning. You need to understand that bareknuckle or simly no gloves no wraps fighting is fundamentally different from modern boxing. Part of the reason is that unless you are doing a sport there are no rules against grabbing, pulling, grappling, etc. Secondly there are more options for surfaces of the hand and fist to strike with and though there may no rules there are laws regarding self defense that differ state by state. Unlike with gloves and wraps which allow for more reckless and high impact striking due to the wrist and knuckle support. --This is not to say gloved fighters do not study the nuances of different striking methods or use good form at high levels of skill. Boxing is a very refined science and does cover biomechanics and bone alignment etc.--- the contours of the naked hand/fist and mechanics/placement of the strike tend to matter more in bareknuckle not only due to the now increased versatility of having ones hands, wrist, and fingers free, but also due to safety precautions and the combat strategies these factors create. A bareknuckle fighter must be much more concious of executing clean strikes and tends to be more mindful of the force of their punch to avoid breaking their hands on bone. Conditioning of course plays a role as well both for the skin and for the tissue underneath; bones, tendons, muscle. Much of this is shared with gloved combat sports, it is more a matter of emphasis out of necessity and differences between weapon shape between gloved/wrapped and no gloves/wraps. How that emphasis changes the fighting tactics is the difference maker. Bareknuckle fighters often use all three fist positions ( and varieties of contact point as well ) depending on what effect they want to have on the target and where on the body they are targetting. It can also differ stylisticly between individuals. Formal bareknuckle fighting leagues have their own rules and standards that I am not as familiar with. There are a lot of different ways to train and condition barehanded/fist
 
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Jusroc

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I think that if you want to bare knuckle box, you will need to condition your hands a great deal before they stop being sore.

Some karate styles included this style of conditioning as part of their practice.
Some traditional styles also included their own style of conditioning.

I read that Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin did all sorts of training to help strengthen his wrists and condition his hands. I believe hand stands on the knuckles is part of his training to develop strong powerful wrists.

Boxers also have several styles of training to help develop their wrist strength. Apart from weights,
they use the speed ball and floor to ceiling bag.

Some bare knuckle boxers were known to soak their knuckles in white spirit daily, in order to harden the skin.

I think if you are keen to develop bare knuckle conditioning, to consider buying all the books you can on the subject, to see find out how the fighters have approached the practice through history.

Be careful however, as extensive trauma to the hands will eventually cause arthritis in old age.
At one of the gyms i used to go to I met this nice old man, a little smaller than me.
He was in his 80s, He was a champion boxer, won loads of local amateur fights.

He invited me to his house to show his rather large collection of trophies, which were very impressive.

He was suffering from dementia I guess due to excessive head trauma likely due to his extensive experience as a boxer.

He also showed me his hands, in both his hands he had chronic arthritis, both his hands looked like squashed spiders that had been stamped on. He said he no longer could close his hands into a fist and it was very painful.

So. be aware that your training may result in long term health problems in the long term.

Unless you want to be the next Gypsy King Bare knuckle boxer
Perhaps consider buying some gloves that can be worn on the street? Gel wrap gloves? May make you look a bit strange though.
 

Christopher Adamchek

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vertical punch with the elbow pointed down is great for trapping range striking and the angles of adjustment on it better allow anatomical striking ie striking on the line of the target rather then just into a target which protects your hand.
 

Flying Crane

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I think that if you want to bare knuckle box, you will need to condition your hands a great deal before they stop being sore.

Some karate styles included this style of conditioning as part of their practice.
Some traditional styles also included their own style of conditioning.

I read that Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin did all sorts of training to help strengthen his wrists and condition his hands. I believe hand stands on the knuckles is part of his training to develop strong powerful wrists.

Boxers also have several styles of training to help develop their wrist strength. Apart from weights,
they use the speed ball and floor to ceiling bag.

Some bare knuckle boxers were known to soak their knuckles in white spirit daily, in order to harden the skin.

I think if you are keen to develop bare knuckle conditioning, to consider buying all the books you can on the subject, to see find out how the fighters have approached the practice through history.

Be careful however, as extensive trauma to the hands will eventually cause arthritis in old age.
At one of the gyms i used to go to I met this nice old man, a little smaller than me.
He was in his 80s, He was a champion boxer, won loads of local amateur fights.

He invited me to his house to show his rather large collection of trophies, which were very impressive.

He was suffering from dementia I guess due to excessive head trauma likely due to his extensive experience as a boxer.

He also showed me his hands, in both his hands he had chronic arthritis, both his hands looked like squashed spiders that had been stamped on. He said he no longer could close his hands into a fist and it was very painful.

So. be aware that your training may result in long term health problems in the long term.

Unless you want to be the next Gypsy King Bare knuckle boxer
Perhaps consider buying some gloves that can be worn on the street? Gel wrap gloves? May make you look a bit strange though.
Honestly, I find that regular, but not excessive, time working on a heavy bag (I like one that weighs about half of my body weight), without using any kind of wraps or gloves, does a good job of teaching you how to properly align the wrist so you can punch without injury, and develops resistance to withstand that impact trauma. It doesnt mean that you can punch a concrete wall without injury. But you can slug away for a time and not develop injuries, including those that might show up later in the form of arthritis. Special push-ups or handstands might be useful, but definitely not critical.

I think once or twice a week is plenty, for those who arent trying to actually become a full-contact competiton champion. I spend about an hour at a time, but I am working on many types of hand strikes, using all parts of the hand, not just straight punches for an hour.

That is my input. You need to hit the bag without the protection of gloves and wraps, so that you develop the ability to really hit something without the kind of support and protection that is used in a competition.
 

Yokozuna514

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Interesting topic Ive been exploring for some time and agree elbow down is the best way to ensure the punch is structurally sound. For years I tended to go with a 45degree fist but have recently happened onto Jack Dempseys book that explains his theory on the shoulder whirl. Currently looking to see if it is a better fit because it does seem to have its advantages over what I am currently doing.

In any event interesting comments on the thread.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Interesting topic Ive been exploring for some time and agree elbow down is the best way to ensure the punch is structurally sound. For years I tended to go with a 45degree fist but have recently happened onto Jack Dempseys book that explains his theory on the shoulder whirl. Currently looking to see if it is a better fit because it does seem to have its advantages over what I am currently doing.

In any event interesting comments on the thread.
I've read on the shoulder whirl, and watched some videos on it. I'm not sure if the quality of what I watched/read was low, or if I'm just having trouble understanding it, but I could never comprehend it conceptually. The closest I could think of how it works is the bolo punch, but for straight punches rather than an uppercut variation.
 

Yokozuna514

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I've read on the shoulder whirl, and watched some videos on it. I'm not sure if the quality of what I watched/read was low, or if I'm just having trouble understanding it, but I could never comprehend it conceptually. The closest I could think of how it works is the bolo punch, but for straight punches rather than an uppercut variation.
My takeaway from the JD's shoulder whirl, as opposed to what I was doing before, is that by rotating the fist more at the end of the punch (while still maintaining the structure of the arm), I can take advantage of the elasticity in the muscles. If you combine this idea with aggressive footwork, more forward momentum and power can be generated or so the theory goes. I'm intrigued by the idea and am working on the application to see if it is a better fit that improves my game.

So yes kind of like the idea bolo punch but allows you to set up a tighter combination while moving forward, if that makes sense.
 

Flying Crane

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Ive never heard of the Jack Dempsey shoulder whirl. That isnt surprising, as I dont follow combat sports and barely recognize the name Jack Dempsey.

So I looked it up. Interesting approach. It is actually similar, at least visually, to how we approach punching in Tibetan Crane. The description I found indicates some difference that I might not agree with, but if the overall approach is similar then yes, it is a very powerful method.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Ive never heard of the Jack Dempsey shoulder whirl. That isnt surprising, as I dont follow combat sports and barely recognize the name Jack Dempsey.

So I looked it up. Interesting approach. It is actually similar, at least visually, to how we approach punching in Tibetan Crane. The description I found indicates some difference that I might not agree with, but if the overall approach is similar then yes, it is a very powerful method.
Jack dempsey has a lot of interesting punching mechanics that aren't otherwise seen in boxing. I'm convinced he trained an eastern martial art at some point, as a lot of them follow ideas I have heard of in cma, but not in western martial arts.

Even if you don't box or care for it, it's still interesting to read his books on the subject.
 

Buka

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Jack Dempsey is the most over rated well known boxer of all time.

Had a nice restaurant in NY, though.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Practicality is always in fashion.

Flaring the elbow - there is a structural reason not to do it during a straight punch. If the elbow is out, it's not directly behind the fist providing power and support on impact. And it's easier to see that a punch is coming due to the lateral movement of the elbow. Also, wasted motion is the definition of inefficiency.

These things are true no matter whether you twist the punch or not. My experience is that twisting the horizontal punch does lend itself to some elbow flare and rotation, but disciplined practice can overcome this.

(I have seen world champion kata competitors - a couple of females in particular - flare their elbows out on you-tube which turns their punch halfway into a backfist. Maybe it makes a louder gi snap or looks faster? Anyway, I'd deduct for that. Sacrificing function for special effects is not my cup of tea.)



Personally, my reverse (vertical) punches with full extension do rotate 25-33% or so, but this is not a practiced movement, rather just a natural one, letting the punch do its own thing. I still consider it a vertical punch, though, due to most of its other elements and mechanics.
Best example! Thanks for articulating that so well. I shoot both punches with elbow pointing down. Flaring is a bad habit that can be overcome. It is the humerus bone proximal supination that opposes the pronation in the forearm and supination of the saddle joint in the thumb in correct flat punch. The humerus bone is already under spiral torque in the body, which is one reason that proximal humerus fracture with displacement is so difficult to fix in the operating room.
 

23rdwave

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Zuan Quan (drilling fist/water element) is a vertical punch. In Han Shi Yi Quan the punch is delivered at a 45-degree angle, trapping the opponent's arm. The drilling (rotation) movement causes the opponent to bend forward while the vertical path of the punch causes them to be moved backward. The fist need not make contact with the body to be effective. The trapping of the arm allows one to have control over the opponent. As far as breaking one's hand, a vertical punch may more frequently deliver a glancing blow that could protect the hand.
 
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