Some say that punching with the 4th and 5th knuckles is dangerous because those are the knuckles most likely to be broken. But maybe they are broken because people don’t learn to punch with them. Perhaps a lot of people are doing four-knuckle punches with two-knuckle fists. In my opinion, a fist should be as adaptive as a push, sticking and following applies to punching as much as pushing.
Let’s suppose that you are studying a martial art and the style that you are learning teaches you to punch with the second and third metacarpal phalangeal joints. So, these two knuckles are at the distal end of metacarpal bones, which you want to align with the radius bone in the forearm.
And your elbow here is essentially the back of your fist.
And as you throw the punch, you want to line this up and stabilize the wrist using some muscular conditioning in your wrist and in your forearm.
You stabilize the wrist and that allows you to punch with the Maximum Impact with these two Knuckles. You are taught not to punch with the fourth and fifth metacarpal phalangeal joints because statistics have shown that these Knuckles are more likely to be broken when you punch somebody.
Statistics yes. Three kinds of lies.
Anyway… So, common sense tells you the second and third metacarpal bones are the strongest bones these line up with the strongest bone in the arm, and you want to punch with these.
These Knuckles, however, the forth and fifth, don’t line up with the strongest bone. And if you want to punch with these Knuckles, you need to change the angle of the Fist and line these metacarpal bones up with, not the radius, but with the ulna of the forearm
Which is not as big a bone as the radius.
So, clearly it would seem that punching with the second and third metacarpal phalangeal joints is safer and more effective than punching with the fourth and fifth metacarpal phalangeal joints.
Lets call that the typical two-knuckle punch.
The three-knuckle punch.. If you punch with these three, then you get the the third, fourth, and fifth metacarpal phalangeal joints connecting with the flat surface, if you are punching a flat surface. Biut if you punch with the second and third joints then you will have two Knuckles against a flat surface.
And you’ll notice that these first two Knuckles are lined up in the direction of the punch.
But the third and fourth knuckles are going off this way, in a different direction.
So what happens? Suppose that you spend years doing knuckle push-ups and wrist exercises and punching a makiwara board, or punching a wall or punching some marble blocks or whatever you do to condition these bones, to make them stronger and impervious to pain. And, suppose you practice stabilizing the wrists so that so that you’re only punching with these two knuckles. And suppose you always make a fist like this, with only these two Knuckles lined up.
And then the thing you trained for finally happens. You get into an unavoidable fight, and you punch a target with your two-knuckle fist. Perhaps you aim for the bridge of the nose, or the chin, or the eye socket or whatever. You aim with these two Knuckles and time it so your opponent can’t block.
Your timing is perfect. They can’t get their hand up fast enough. And so, as you throw the punch, all they can do is flinch and go like that, and their chin is replaced with the corner of the head, or the forehead, or maybe you’ll get right in the middle of the forehead like that.
But, because they flinched, you don’t end up hitting with these two knuckles. You miss with these two Knuckles and you end up hitting with these two Knuckles instead. These are the two Knuckles which are facing in the wrong direction, and the wrist doesn’t stabilize that very well. And so the wrist might sprain, or these bones might break. When this happens, sometimes this knuckle ends up getting relocated to a more proximal part of your hand, right back here.
Yeah, and it makes you go “ugh, yech” when you see it the first time. It’s not not a pretty sight.
And maybe you get the bone reset and your hand heals and works fine. But you get arthritis as you get older. It hurts to hold chopsticks. Perhaps there are some normal things you just can’t do anymore.
And all that is after years of conditioning and training to punch with these two knuckles.
And you’ve gotten to one fight and now you’ve broken your hand and you did not even damage your target. That’s what you might call a poor return on investment for punching.
Now there are other ways to think about punching but if you want to punch with one knuckle or two Knuckles or three knuckles or all four knuckles.
There are things you can do to protect your hand. One is to wrap your hand with with wraps that boxers used to basically tie their bones together so they don’t go off in all directions, and stabilize the wrist so that the hand stays lined up with the forearm the way that you want it to be.
Wrapping is quite a science. So you get somebody who’s really good at wrapping your hands to do all of your hand wrapping if you are a boxer, especially if you’re competing in the ring.
And then you put on a 14 ounce glove or a 16 ounce glove…a nice padded glove that some people actually think is there to protect your opponent so that you don’t mess the face up so much.
That’s not what the gloves are for. The gloves are there to protect your hand so you don’t hurt your hand as much. And the glove also allows you to punch a lot harder than you would be able to if you were in an old fashioned bare knuckle boxing match. Well old-fashioned Marquis of Queensbury boxing matches would go for many rounds.
Watch The Quiet Man, a John Wayne movie and you will see a fight that lasts for many rounds and ranges across the countryside. A bareknuckle match could go for 80 rounds or 100 rounds. But you’re not going to be punching like Mike Tyson does with wrapped hands and good gloves.
Now I wouldn’t want to be punched by Mike Tyson if he’s not wearing gloves either, or wrapped hands. No, that would be foolish. I’m just saying that you can punch a lot harder and a lot more often and a lot longer if you have your hand wrapped and wrapped in a glove.
So,if you’re training for self-defense, your are training for bare knuckle fights.And that means that you want to be able to connect with this bone or this bone or this bone or this bone in the most appropriate angle.
So you might do what is sometimes called a three knuckle punch. Some people call this a “pure fist” or something like that. I’ve heard that once before but it is not the way I talk about it.
Two knuckle punches or three knuckle punches.
But, really if you’re thinking about Tai Chi principles… and we’ve spoken before about this..
You engage with a focused centripetal tensile geodesic with the low shear modulus, then you are really punching with one knuckle.
And you can practice seeing how stable your bones are by lining up your fist. Now if you make a fist like this. You notice how this is not a straight line across here. These knuckles form a curve, like that.
What you do here in is make a fist like this, with a little finger curling really tight and then the ring finger then the middle finger and there. What ends up happening is that these Knuckles don’t go flat like that. The fourth and fifth fingers these Knuckles will protrude a bit like this. Wo you’re not tucking them right in.
Let’s get this angle. So it’s not like this. It’s a bit like that.
This is because we want these Knuckles to be lined up in a straight line.
So, you might punch with this part of the the knuckle right underneath or you might get the top of the knuckle wherever. But you want all of these to be punching on the same plane. Whether it’s like this or like this, you want to make sure that if you do connect with these two knuckles, or with this knuckle that it’s lined up with the radius bone.
And that the the forearm is aligned like this. But if you impact with these two Knuckles, you want the angle of the wrist to be a little different. So, this is very different from the way people think of punching a lot of the time, where the wrist has to be stabilized and there’s only one shape for the wrist.
The fist in taiji. Well in my tai chi, is adaptive. It’s flexible. The purpose of the Fist is to make a connection with your opponent to affect their center of gravity and to be the Terminus of your internal centripetal tensile geodesic. Refer to earlier videos if you’re wondering what I’m talking about there.
So if I connect with only this boneI want that power to connect through the ulna through to the elbow and then ultimately through the whole body into the ground around either a Class 1 or a Class 2 lever.
I don’t want to be using class 3 levers. I don’t want to be applying lateral pressure sideways on the bone. I want it to be going directly into the target.
Now again, see that’s knuckle here, the proximal phalangeal joint. See how this is poking out. You might think. Oh, you’re going to be punching with that. That’s not actually what happens, though, because the finger will collapse and not affect the alignment of the metacarpal bone.
When you make contact, you’re really punching with this knuckle here.
Even though these are out in front they just fold away. Okay, and they don’t for they don’t operate much like a shock absorber at all. They’ll just be out of the way once you make impact.
Okay. A vertical fist might be good for uprooting a person might be good for getting underneath the chin underneath the jaw. It might be good for punching the Torso for issuing short power. Very close in right? It could also be used for upper cuts and you can punch with any one of these bones. You just want to be able to adapt the angle of the wrist and everything else to the position of the target.
As you’re throwing the punch you want to be able to make that change as you are doing it. So in this respect, you want to treat the punch like a push. It’s just faster.
But it’s as adaptive as a pushes. So when I push and the person moves and neutralizes, I stick and follow in a circle so that I’m always on their Center and I’m always changing and the punch needs to be able to change shape as well.
And this brings us to the difference between short power and long power.
So if I’m doing a long punch and I’m throwing the fist, I want to make the fist go as fast as possible and hit the target and have as much kinetic energy on impact as it can without breaking my fist or damaging my wrist. I want that power to damage the target.
If I’m more of a push-like punch, then I’m thinking more about momentum than I am about kinetic energy. And in that case, I’m not talking about making my fist move fast. I’m thinking about making the target move fast. So the target accelerates. When I connect to it with a lot of momentum the target will be a small part of the opponent’s body.
And so that’s sort of the rough introduction to the mechanics of punching and there are many different ways to condition or train the punch.
What we don’t want to be doing is making a four knuckle punch with a two knuckle fist.
You want to always have the four knuckle four knuckle fist so that you can… and sometimes a Five Knuckle fist… but we don’t talk about that much around here.
So this shape of the hand is not meant to strike with this thumb. It’s to stabilize the musculature in the hands.
So, you’re holding the you’re using you bring this thumb up because that helps to hold these knuckles in alignment if you tuck the thumb under and you tighten it up, then it pulls these Knuckles down.
But if you bring this thumb up, then it allows you to stabilize the alignment of the knuckles this way.
So that’s that’s the idea.
I don’t argue a preference for Horizontal fists or vertical fists or two knuckle punches three knuckle punches four knuckle punches or whatever.
What I’m concerned about is first principles and the alignment of whatever you are punching with, with the rest of the body.
So the punch will change shape as the target moves and changes it adapts.
So when we talk about stabilizing the fist in order to reduce injury and maximize efficiency improve your return on investment for all your years of training.
Then we want to think about doing it from without wrapping your hand.
You want to use the muscles in your hand and forearm to stabilize the metacarpal bones in the hand so that they stay on the same plane as each other… so that if you punch with one knuckle and you miss and you end up with the other that at least you have one plane in alignment.
If you don’t have the bones in alignment, then when you miss with one knuckle, then you’re going to damage the others because there’ll be more likely to break.
So you use the muscles in the hand and forearm to keep those knuckles in alignment.
Now, you can explore the stability of your hand by forming the Fist and then wiggling each knuckle relative to the others. So, my second metacarpal phalangeal joint can be moved relative to the third. It doesn’t move a lot, but it’s visible to me.
And the third can be wiggled a tiny bit relative to the second and fourth.
And the fourth can be wiggled quite a bit relative to the Third.
And the fifth can be wiggled quite a lot relative to the fourth. I can move that Knuckle Up and Down and twist that bone out of alignment with the others. So, if I were punching with this knuckle and I collided with this one then this bone would probably break if I were using any Force at all in my punch.
So you want to stabilize those bones?
Get them back into position. And then hold them there. And practice finding a the way to stabilize the muscles in the hand so that it’s more difficult to wiggle that knuckle. And more difficult to wiggle that one and that one and so on.
So when I do that I often find myself bringing this thumb up and around to the side. So this hand this thumb is not there to strike with although it can be it’s there to stabilize the fingers and to create a tension that holds the fourth and fifth metacarpal phalangeal joint in place.
So by having my thumb up, then it’s more difficult to wiggle the little finger and more difficult to we call the fourth as well. So then that’s stabilizing the joint. This works for vertical fists horizontal fists. And what have you.
Again, I don’t have a preference, when I’m teaching≤ for one type of punch or another. But I do encourage people to keep their knuckles lined up like that. So now if you do a straight punch like that. Then you can turn and you can punch with all four Knuckles or two Knuckles or one knuckle or three, like so. Even if it’s a spring punch same idea.
And if you are doing a vertical punch, then this will line up with the ground and you’ll transfer momentum more efficiently. And if you’re snapping a punch a horizontal fist with this kind of punch, we’ll apply kinetic energy a little more efficiently.
But always, the punch is adapting to the relative position of the Target and your ability to generate power with that centripetal tensile geodesic.
And by having a really good precise sense of which way these bones are going that will improve your adaptability your ability to have “the needle inside the cotton” as we say in Tai Chi.
You want to be able to have an extremely strong tensile modulus and very low Shear modulus. You want to always be on target always have that people call forward pressure and have no lateral resistance at all.
So you’re you’re attacks are constantly changing and neutralizing the opponent… they’re attack and their resistance. And you are like a hot knife cutting through the fog and you can punch quickly.
That you can have all your back fists and uppercuts and Hammer fists and all that stuff. Applying
momentum with kinetic energy, with good class 1 and Class 2 levers. That way, hopefully, you’ll improve your return on investment and reduce the chances of injuring your hand and shorten the conflict as much as possible.
In the next video. We’ll talk about the tai chi form and how it relates to striking.
Very good. More practice