Yesterday, I wrote a post about the importance of striking in the martial arts; not only from a technique perspective, but the actual practice of striking solid objects (punching bags, pads and mitts) in order to refine and develop the techniques your specific style uses. After all, how can you learn to punch if you never PUNCH something? Makes sense, right?
I think that people in general tend to underestimate the importance of proper technique and practice when it comes to throwing an efficient punch. There are a number of elements to consider: bone alignment, stance, knuckle use and where to chamber the punch from… It’s not a matter of simply throwing the fist out there and hoping to make contact. This is one of the reasons why that first punch in an actual fight usually results in injury.
For years, karate practitioners conditioned their strike through the use of a punching post called a Makiwara. Although some may argue with this perspective, the Makiwara was originally developed in Okinawa. It involved a post driven into the ground and wrapped in rope or padded with rubber or a rice pad. Practitioners would strike the Makiwara in order to develop the knuckles on the index and middle finger, which are the two that SHOULD be used during a proper punch (unless you’re using Kung Fu’s punch, which uses the last three knuckles).
I tried to find an image of what a karate practitioner’s knuckles look like after years of Makiwara training, but all I found were extreme photos of excessively calloused and swollen fore-knuckles that don’t ACTUALLY happen to martial artists, even when they train consistently. After three decades of hitting everything in sight and doing knuckle push-ups during every class, my knuckles STILL don’t look like the examples provided online. Seriously, Google “karate knuckles” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Those knuckles are the result of years of knuckle push-ups and punching bags. If you do your punch properly, your knuckles, wrist, forearm and elbow are aligned and the two fore-knuckles will be the ones performing the strike. To do otherwise leaves you open to injury; wrist sprains, fractures and breaks, injured knuckles and lack of power behind the punch.
Knuckle push-ups are another controversial subject in martial arts circles. Are they worth it? Are they better than traditional push-ups? Well, speaking from experience, I can say that they provide a certain amount of conditioning for the fore-knuckles. They also help build the forearms, develop bone alignment for punches and builds the chest and triceps. It also helps to strengthen your wrists, but there’s a catch-22 to doing them…
You’re doing push-ups using a smaller area of stability, which can cause loss of balance and risk of falling over and spraining something. You can also injure the small bones in your hand due to the focused stress that knuckle push-ups put on them. So there is some risk in doing them, but they also offer all the same benefits that traditional push-ups do.
As with any other technique in the martial arts, the learning never stops. If you think you’ve mastered the perfect punch, I can promise you that you’re wrong. There’s always room for improvement, so work on finding the technique that works for you. Then train, train, train… ☯