There are a lot of different ways to punch someone: strong arm in front, strong arm in back, jabs, punching along a straight line, hooking punches, uppercuts, vertical fist, horizontal fist, half fist, and so on. If it’s a fist, someone has figured out how to hit with it and people tend to get themselves wrapped around the axle about which way is best. Most sytems, especially the hard-style systems, tend to throw the power strike from the rear hand.
The reason for putting the strong punch in the back hand is due to the way you can use your hips and legs to help generate punching power. Simply put, when you engage your whole body starting with the legs, moving through the hips and up into the shoulders to throw a punch, you can put a lot of power behind it. Boxers use this kind of punch, as do most karateka, kickboxers, Krav Maga, and Tae Kwon Do practitioners. It’s relatively easy to learn (if somewhat hard to master), and highly effective. It does, however, have one drawback: since your fist is further away from your opponent so it has further to travel before it hits.
Enter some other styles, including Wing Chun and the style put together by this guy
That system is, of course, Jeet Kune Do, also known as the Way of the Intercepting Fist. Jeet Kune Do emphasizes putting your strong hand forward and stroking quickly. It makes for a different kind of generating power and is a tad harder to master, but works quite nicely when you want a fast strike. So, your straight punch works like this:
But a strong forward punch can work just as well.
Lee could knock a guy down with a one inch punch from the front hand.
Both styles of punching contain a lot of power, you just have to generate it a bit differently. The twist of the hips doesn’t work the same way with your strong hand forward. You’ll still engage your hips but there’s also more of a push off from the back leg. I’m sure someone has done some actual studies on this and found using the rear had for the power strike will generate more power, but there’s more to strike than just the power.
Kenpo is one of those systems that empasizes the power strike coming from the rear hand. We tend to use our front hand to jab and parry. Unfortunately, fighting is a fluid situation and you don’t always have time to set up that perfect position for a strike so over the past couple kids’ classes I’ve been trying to introduce them to punching from unconventional positions. Last night we worked on using the front hand as the power hand. I stole a lesson from Jeet Kune Do that I picked up somewhere or another and introduced them to the water hose analogy. This is similar to the whipping philosophy for circular strikes in that it requires a relaxed arm but rather than working from arcing position the water hose analogy works on explosively moving forward.
To try it out yourself, get a solid stance that will let you push forward with your rear leg. Keep your arms relaxed. I started the class with their hands on their thighs, but you can really do it from anywhere. Now, imagine what happens to a water hose when water suddenly flows into it. It goes from soft and dangly to rigid very quickly, right? Keep that image firmly in your mind and just raise your hand from your thigh into a punch. You’ll get a kind of upward then forward movement in your fist. Imagine it almost as your fist is attached to your shoulder with rope and you’re throwing your fist forward. Practice, practice, practice and you’ll soon find you can whip that arm forward from any position and drive it forward with your rear leg. If you’re relaxed you’ll get an explosively fast punch with almost no telegraphing.
It may not be as powerful as standard rear hand punch, but it’s wicked quick and it doesn’t matter how powerful a punch is if it doesn’t hit anything.
One thing to keep in mind is punching is like anything else: the more you do it the better you’ll get at it. Find a heavy bag and start hitting it regularly. Practice slowly at first and work your way up to experimenting with different strikes. Make sure to use some kind of hand protection (I use cotton wraps) or your hand might wind up looking like this.
Now, if you’re so inclined, here’s the science behind Bruce Lee’s one inch punch.
Go train hard and train safe.