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How to throw a decent punch

Updated on December 3, 2015


So you want to learn how to throw a decent punch. I don't blame you, because if you are searching for this kind of information, chances are that you have either been in a scuffle, or you are trying to protect yourself from future attacks. While not everyone can throw a punch like Mike Tyson or Chuck Liddell, anyone can learn the basics and throw a decent punch that is enough to stun even the toughest of opponents. The three key elements that must be studied and utilized in order to throw a good punch are form, technique, and practice, and this article is going to explain the most effective way to utilize these tools in order to help you defend yourself.

Improper form

How to make the proper fist

The Form of Punching

The first element of effective striking that I am going to cover is the form of punching.

Although this may sound self explanatory, proper striking form is overlooked by almost anyone who has not been professionally trained in fighting, and lack of good form can cause your punches to be weak. In fact, without proper form, you also risk hurting yourself in the even of an all out brawl. Although fighting should always be a last resort during a conflict, it is important to know how to properly land a punch in order to increase your chances of winning a fight.

The first element of proper punching form that must be addressed is the proper fist form. Throwing a devastating punch required a strong, hard fist. The proper way to make a fist is to close or "curl" your fingers downward until they touch the top knuckle pads of your palm. Then, bend your knuckles forward until your hand is in the form you would make to knock on a door. Now, curl your thumb over the second digits of your finger to make a fist. Do not squeeze your fist too tightly, but keep your fist firm enough to control the movement of your fingers.

The second element of proper punching form is your stance.The most important thing to remember when you are in a fight is to distance yourself from your opponent's attacks - and the best method to utilize in this scenario is to stand sideways against the stance of your opponent. Not only are you less broad in this position, which means there is less of you to aim for, but it puts your lead arm in front of you so that you can block hits and land jabs.

The proper way to stand is with your left leg forward if you are right handed, or with your right leg forward if you are left handed. This is what I will call your default stance. Now, turn your toes 45 degrees toward the right if you are right handed, opposite if you are left handed. Next, bend your knees slightly, which will give you the ability to spring forward or backward without notice. This is the basic position in which to stand, which demonstrates an effective way to utilize proper footwork while also delivering effective offensive strikes. The only thing left to do is to bend your leading arm (left arm for right handed fighters, opposite for lefties) at the elbow about 90 degrees, and to bring your elbow out in front of you so that your fist is at shoulder level. Your main striking arm, on the other hand, should remain loose and cocked at the elbow around wait level.

The final element of proper punching form is the actual punching movement. I know that the preceding steps may have seemed redundant, or might have even seemed a little complex, but the worst part is over. 90% of people might disagree with me that stance and the proper fist are more important than the movement of the punching arm - those 90% would lose a fight against any professional in minutes because they are overlooking fundamental basics of proper attack form.

Now, on to the movement: Remember your rear arm (striking arm) is around waist level? And remember, I told you not to make a very tight fist?

The reason why is because (a.) when you bring your rear arm up and across your body, with your feet angled away from the opponent, it will force your hips to turn toward the opponent, and your toes to end up pointing toward your opponent, and your blow to be accurate. (b.)The very moment before impact, squeeze your fist as tight as you can to make your striking surface harder and more damaging against the target. The reason you had to wait? If you have been squeezing your fist tightly the entire time, you are wasting precious energy in your forearms, which during the duration of a fight, will cause your punches to be less and less powerful.

Finally, make sure to aim around 6" behind the surface you are striking. You don't just want to hit the surface and immediately recoil, because it won't be as effective or damaging to the opponent. The key words here are to follow through, and aim for the back of your opponents head/chest/target-area to be as effective as possible.

So, lets recap form: make a proper fist, get in a comfortable, proper stance, and move your striking arm across your body, turning your waist and toes toward the target, aiming behind their face and squeezing your fist as hard as you can right before impact. It's not difficult with just a little practice, and can make all of the difference in a fight. Now, on to punching techniques...

Effective Uppercut

Punching Types and Tips

The Techniques of Punching

The second element of effecting striking in regard to learning how to punch is the variety of punching techniques. There are literally hundreds of techniques that can be utilized, but I am going to cover the bases from a street fighting point of view.

Your main options are:

When learning how to punch, the most important strike that you must first learn is a jab. The jab is when you make quick, low-medium power strikes against the head or body of your opponent with your lead arm. Although the purpose of the jab is not to end the fight in one hit, the jab is effective at wearing down an opponent throughout the duration of the fight. You may find yourself off balance from time to time, and need to switch your stance from left foot forward to right foot forward. Whatever your stance is, a jab is always with the front (leading) arm at that moment in time

In my opinion, an uppercut is executed improperly by amateur fighters almost 100% of the time. An uppercut is when you strike with either your leading or striking arm in an upward motion toward the chin or nose of your opponent. When demonstrated properly, uppercuts can be fight ending strikes. The proper technique of uppercutting involves keeping the arm in the same position (i.e. your fist is always facing toward the sky, and your elbow stays locked at 70-90 degrees) and moving your entire body up with your striking arm. The uppercut should not hurt your shoulder, and most likely should not be attempted by beginners until a lot of practice has taken place.

A hook punch is exactly what it sounds like - your arm moves out toward your opponent in a "hooking" movement. Not only can this strike be one of the most powerful in your arsenal, but it can confuse the opponent when they are tired - much like a curve ball can confuse a baseball catcher. Watch boxing matches where the winning fighter threw a hook to the temple of his opponent, and knocked him out. You will notice sometimes that the opponent decided to block his nose, or try to throw his own strike, because he did not see the hook coming. In this sense, the hook can be one of the most powerful punching techniques.

In punching form, I already covered the cross, and just didn't tell you. In my opinion, the cross is the most effective punch that can be thrown consistently, and does more damage than any other hit with minimal training. It is also effective, because the cross punch involves more than the speed and strength of your arm - it carries your entire body's weight behind it. Be careful, however, as a cross can leave you vulnerable to counter-attack, and can also tire you out if you do not utilize them effectively.

This is another punch that is exactly how it sounds. Your arm comes straight from your side toward the opponent. This is easily the simplest punch to master, and can be effective as well, but it is also the easiest for your opponent to block.

As you can see, each punching technique has its own advantage, as well as its own unique disadvantage. It is important to learn each of these strikes properly, and to mix them up during a fight so that you have an effective offensive move for every opportunity presented. The only element left to explain now is practice.


Practicing Punching

When you learn the proper form and techniques of throwing a good punch, it is important to practice what you have learned.  The best methods for practicing how to punch are:

Against a punching bag or similar surface
Watching yourself in a mirror and correcting your mistakes
Doing knuckle push-ups to make your fist and forearms stronger
Stretching every day to become more flexible and less vulnerable to injury, and...
Repetition to become familiar with the movements!

Be Well Rounded

Putting It All Together

Practice makes perfect, and most people do not worry enough to practice their fighting and punching skills everyday.  By utilizing the aforementioned techniques, form, and practice routine on a daily basis, you will be putting yourself at a great advantage against opponents in the future.  However, it is important to remember that fighting should always be a last resort unless it is for competition.  Furthermore, learning to punch is only one facet of hundreds that need to be learned in order to be a well rounded fighter.  By mastering this basic skill, and learning as many techniques as possible, you will be on your way to becoming a self-defense master.  You can further enhance your skills and encourage yourself to train by joining a boxing class or martial arts studio.  Remember, the more you know, and the less your opponent knows, the better off you will be.  So practice, get better, add more strikes and skills and techniques to your form, and soon you won't have to fight - because no one will want to start a fight with you.


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