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Punching in Karate

A characteristic of the Karate punch is the twisting of the wrist before impact. At rest, the fist rests near the hip, with the palm facing upwards. During the strike, the arm is extended forward in a straight line, and as the elbow passes the body the wrist begins to twist, completing the punch so that the palm faces to the ground. The target is hit with the knuckles of the first two fingers (index finger and middle finger; Seiken). In comparison, no twisting of the fist occurs in Kung Fu, where practitioners hold the fist straight (palm facing to the side) and the target is hit with knuckles of the last three fingers. The boxing punch technique is different again, as the fists are held close to the face in a protective manner, and boxing punches start from this position.

Focusing the energy of the punch on a small area

A keypoint of the Karate punch is the focusing of the energy onto a very small surface area, in this case the front two knuckles of the fist. Physics dictate that this will dramatically increase the force and impulse of the strike, causing more damage than if a larger area (such as a gloved boxing fist) had been used.

Striking targets

Karate knows three primary target areas, the upper (jodan), middle (chudan) and lower (gedan) area. These correspond to the level of the chin, the solar plexus and the stomach/groin area, respectively. The chudan and gedan area are somewhat overlapping when it comes to stomach punching, as the stomach is between the solar plexus and the groin.

When practising your karate techniques you should try to imagine that you have an imaginary opponent in front of you of a similar size to yourself. In that way you can then practice all of your techniques to be on target.

Karate strikes: Punching harder and faster

When you learn how to throw a punch, your goal is to learn how to increase your punching power and speed. The foundation for any powerful technique, be it a block, strike or kick is a good, strong stance. From this stance, a strong hip rotation can add power and speed to your punches, in fact to most techniques. A Karate punch begins with the hip roation. If for instance you are performing a right punch, your right hip should move forward with the punch.

As a general rule exhale on impact for you strikes. Inhale while performing your blocks then exhale as you make impact with your target. This exhalation should be strong and powerful, in fact so strong that it turns into a war-cry like shout (“Ki-Ai”) that accompanies your strike, and typically occurs when the body tenses up on impact.

How to punch when moving

When performing strikes while moving, wait until your feet are both firmly on the floor before performing your strike. It is hard to deliver a powerful strike without a strong stance to launch it from, as you cannot use the rotation of your hips without being firmly rooted to the ground.

Summary

A powerful karate strike involves coordinating all of the above points.

  • Good stance
  • Hip rotation
  • Breath control
  • On target
  • Twisting of the wrist before impact
  • A tight well clenched fist

35 comments about “Punching in karate”

  1. Shaun Banfield said:

    I would just like to point out that in my opinion, as I have been taught, that when you mention the fact that you exhale on completion of the technique, that you are in fact being quite misleading for you should breathe silently during the technique to relax the muscles, then upon completion of the technique you compress the remailing air in your body to a) protect yourself if you get hit in the stomach (for the abdomen would momentarily tense up), plus b) it gives you internal structure, to prevent you from going limp. These were the points and theories behind Sensei M. Nakayama in ‘Dynamic Karate’. Of course I understand that the article is clearly for beginners, but it is still misleading and could very well be a hinderance.

    Your opinions would be thankfully recieved.

    Shaun

  2. Kelvin said:

    Now if you’d read the article, you would notice that it says as a general rule Shaun.
    Suggesting this is an over simplified generalisation for the beginner. “The man who exercises his mind, has a 3 step advantage on the fool who rushes in”

  3. Rick Seiden said:

    The punch described above is not used in Isshin-Ryu karate. In Isshin-Ryu we use the vertical punch. It starts in the chamber position, with the fingers curled into a tight fist, and the thumb on top of the fist, with the palm facing the body. The punch proceeds as described above, but is laned either vertically, or slightly rotated to match the line of the ribcage, hitting with the first two knuckles. The elbow is never locked, and the arm is never fully extended.

    This is one of the basic differences between Isshin-Ryu and other styles of karate. I’m only an Orange Belt, but you learn this the very first day, and it is reinforced over and over again. My dojo’s website is http://www.wnykarate.com, but they’ve been having problems with the website, so you may not see it.

  4. dr zahir umar said:

    Apart from these, one must focus that every chance for a strike is the last one, and be confident that you will break the opponent apart with this last punch.

  5. satchfuji said:

    You karate guys ought to start placing your hands near your face so that, ya know, you can protect the face.

  6. james strauch said:

    the reason us karate guys dont punch from the face is because there is more power punching from the waist.

    in kumite i fight with one arm forward and high to protect the face and upper body, the other arm is lower to protect the lower body, this way the lower hand is in a good position to preform a powerfull punch and the higher arm can either block,grab,pull the oponents guard down, or jab.

    i find this works against both a puncher and a kicker!.

  7. Ruisu said:

    “satchfuji” As well if you read the article then you would understand that the power mainly is enforced by the hip rotation.

  8. kais said:

    the hip and hand movement should be simultaneous.

  9. santosh said:

    The legs strtching is more important and the concentration too while doing or learning karate

  10. storm said:

    in order to have a powerfull punch you must have good form you should regularly lift weights, you shouldnt be fat and slow for power is speedxstrength so lift weights hit a punching bag and eat rite and you will be a more powerfull puncher in months. O yea and when weight training always work you core well because as i became bigger and stronger i neglected my core wich is where the punch begins so now i am a slow jerk and strong but i am working on it i hope to regain my speed to what it used to be. i used to be able to catch flys and now the laugh and run when they see my hand coming.:)

  11. lampard08 said:

    i am currently 3rd kyu in wado ryu karate and i have been training now for 5 years, i find that kicking your opponent is better than punching your opponent, simply because you can get more power, plus its quicker to escape a counter attack, if that should occur.

  12. JUAN said:

    I live for karate.Im almost 3 years into it.Im better at punching than kicking.Classmates sais i have deadly left jab.Bruce lee ones said that the secret in a punch is the snap,hiting your target and breaking away leaving the inpact in the target and not back through your fist. KEEP ON PRACTISING.

  13. Ninja Turtle said:

    I think the whole hip theory is debateable. According to a book written by Kyoshi Gary Purdue; “Beyond the Black Belt”, power is generated from the legs and TRANSFERRED THROUGH the hips into the torso, the arms, the fist and eventually the target. No power is generated from the twisting or otherwise rotation of the hips, it’s a pivot point. The author states that he observed athletes in other sports & none of them generated any power from the rotation of the hips, it was all from the legs. The legs are a powerful source of energy, he relayed this one real life story about a guy with 6 months of Thai boxing training beating a Black Belt with years of fighting experience. But then I’m sure we’ve all heard that the art doesn’t fail the fighter; it’s the fighter who fails himself.

  14. Ninia said:

    I have been taking Tang Soo Do for about three years now and I take 5 classes a week, plus 2 weapons classes and I help teach 2 times a week. Karate has become almost my passion and I train everyday as much as I can.

  15. Daz Ellis said:

    As i am a black belt 6dan i think u got it allllllllll rong

  16. Lance said:

    The hip rotation can be done without using the chamber possition thing… if you always use the chamber all the time you would be killed in kumite. Almost all good karateka know this and also practice striking from ju kamae which is generally one hand outstretched about the legth of a shuto and the other hand up protecting the face and upper body also with the body angled so there is less area of your body exposed to hit. I practice karate style jabs all the time and gyaku zuki from next to my face to be prepared for ether self deffence or kumite. Also to reffer to someone saying kicks are better than punching… that is very debatable i do believe it is a great idea to know and be good at kicking but it also puts you at a bigger disadvantage as you can be taken to the ground very easily. As I have trained in ju jutsu and judo when doing kumite in my karate class if anyone attempts to kick me in the face it normally gets blocked and they end up on the floor lol. But kicks can be a good weapon also esspecially if they are not super high.. i rather do mid level and low level kicks unless im sure i can land and with force a kick to the opponents head.

  17. Ninja Turtle said:

    I’m not sure who Mr. Ellis is directing his comment to, so I’m going to assume it’s me, since I made the last comment concerning martial arts dogma. All I have to say is look at boxers, they’re considered some of the best & most powerful punchers in the world; I don’t think there is much dispute about that. Much of their power is generated from their legs; shifting, pushing off of, stepping into their punches; what’s known as thrust. Then there are the other elements such as putting their shoulders & body mass, etc. behind their punches. None of them are taught that power is generated FROM the hips; which is a common belief among many martial artists. The book I referred to previously, goes into where that theory came from. I’m fully aware of the hip theory, as I was a Shotokan practitioner, & so was Mr. Purdue. Now I am fully involved in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, along with various other martial arts to make me a better fighter & to keep my mind open to new ideas. I’m not fully discounting the hip theory. Maybe it has some merit, I did say it was “debatable”, but after reading this book & judging from my own personal experiences I would say that it’s not as profound to my martial arts training as it used to be. But if you get a chance, read the book & draw your own conclusions. Maybe the idea that power coming from the legs isn’t as far fetched as saying it’s generated from the hips.

  18. Nick K. said:

    Iampard, it is better to flow with each and every one of your techniques that you learn, not just kicks. Your physical goals in karate technique is nothing more than having the capabilities to execute every aspect of your karate that you learn. If you dont learn how to apply your different punches as well as kicks then what would be the point of practicing them in class. Im sure your sensei practices punching just as much as kicking with his students. You should gain just as much control of your upper body as your lower body (kata helps alot). You’ll find more flow in your kata and kumite if you apply this
    Nick Kraft
    shodan- shotokan

  19. Nick K. said:

    Ellis and Ninja, i would like to know your opinion. I believe in the theory of hip power because i use it all the time. I empasize that with the perfection of technique. If you think about it, the hips control almost every one of your techniques. when your hips lock into place so should your stance and your technique to achieve maximum power during Kihon(basic individual techniques). Where your hips stop is where your technique stops if you achieve control over the hips. If you practice this way you’ll feel so much more fluid motion and power you will be amazed. Control over hips and balance plays a big role on the way to the improving technique. Now imagine if you have all of that plus leg thrust. WOW. Once again can i just have your opinion on this?
    thanks.

  20. Ninja Turtle said:

    Hey Nick K,

    Well the main point of the argument is power is NOT GENERATED from the hips. The hips help augment power to the target, but power/thrust starts from the legs. The hips, ball of foot, knees, shoulders & elbows are all pivot points that aid in transferring thrust from the legs all the way up to the target. Mr. Purdue describes a drill in the book which basically locks out all these pivot points & the resulting affect is a weak crappy punch. But opening all these pivot points up loosely results in leg thrust being transferred resulting in powerful punches. There is so much he goes through on this topic that I can’t put it all down here. My suggestion is read the book, it isn’t long, 2nd section “Dynamics & Execution”. I think you will find it interesting to say the least. He does also go through what you’re talking about in terms of the hips stopping where your techniques stop-referring to “stance” and “set”. I’m sure Mr. Purdue knew he would stir up controversy, all his points were valid to me. Good luck.

  21. simon pwenza said:

    i supportthe act of hip

    twisting during punching procees,as this allow one to gian a stable stance i.e for stability because you need power to punch Am an elementery tranee,

  22. Josh said:

    Shaun if i may make a suggestion,

    When it comes to karate i am only a purple and white belt having passed recently, but perhaps i can offer an opinion as to why one should exhale on completion of a technique. Whenever you complete a hard physical task, for example lifting a heavy weight, your blood pressure increases. Holding your breath in during this time further increases your blood pressure. If ever you have lifted a heavy weight you will understand that it is easier to lift if you blow out hard rather than whilst holding your breath. The same principle applies here. If a punch is fast and hard your blood pressure momentarily increases. By exhaling on completion of the technique you help lower your blood pressure a little, thus keeping it relatively constant, and helping you maintain a higher tempo of activity for longer.

    What do you think?
    Josh

  23. master Milkiou Yangerezy said:

    The punch must be thrown when standing on the ground to get a good follow through. however if you are in the air you do not exhale as much. i know i am a 3rd degree black belt

  24. Karen said:

    Being a 4’10″, 90-lb, Senpai, I find accurately hitting small targets with a single knuckle to be not only debilitating to the hittee, but satisfying to the hitter.

  25. karatemaster5 said:

    i think that karate fighters should use boxing punches they are more powerful than traditional karate punches and we cannot confine ourselves to lesser techniques just because its a tradition

  26. S_TonyB said:

    You probably want to rotate the hand while impacting, not before, to add rotational motion and to break things (like bones). If you rotate it fully before impact, your arm will over turn the bones in your forarm and the energy coming back will cause your elbow to bend while hitting a heavy target, the end result is the energy from the punch will go out your bent elbow instead of out your knuckles.

  27. Dragon said:

    I have been taking martial arts almost a year I’m sixteen and about to become a green belt in karatejutsu. People who says that karate doesn’t work is wrong because it depends on the individual and how much skill they have in the martial arts. You must not take martial arts for just self-defense reasons. You must take it seriously in order to get the technique down. First it comes the techinque speed and power will come later when you have the technique down. People who says boxers are the strongest punchers are wrong because it depends on the individual and how much hours in train a day. People who says karateka’s don’t protect their face is wrong because they do in kyokushinkai karate they use a lot of punches, kicks,etc. Most karate styles uses more hand techinques then using a lot of kicks. In tae kwon do they primarly uses kicks. Some americans are stupid when it comes to martial arts because they always say what style is better than another style know style is better than another style it depends on the individual and how well they do the techniques. Everybody knows the same kicks and punches it is how you put the kicks and punches together to do a combination. You have to have a strong root in the martial arts what I mean by that is a student of martial arts have to be strong and flexible like bamboo.

  28. brickshooter said:

    The author is wrong. Power comes from either the hips or legs. To maximize power, you use both. You move forward/ up/ down AND whip the hips.

    It’s the same mechanics as a pitcher in baseball.

    Only problem is in a real fight, it’s actually a fight in a phone booth. There is no spacing. Once you move forward, you are nose to nose and there is little room left to use you legs. In close quarters only your hips are available to generate power.

    BTW, the same is true of kicks. To maximize power, you move forward AND whip your hips into your target.

  29. wrestlingjujitsumuaythaiescrimaandkarate said:

    I think that karate fighters should use boxing punches. They are much more powerful, and since the punch is a boxer’s only weapon they must know more about it than a martial artist who thies to master not only punches but also kicks, knee and elbow strikes, throws and takedowns, and submissions. Hand rotation and other such tactics I will admit are effective, but we clearly see that boxing punches are more effective. My proof of this? Watch an MMA fight. Watch kickboxing. Watch a real fight on the street. Learn boxing punches to master the punch.

  30. Owfio said:

    Power can be generated from your entire body, only using your hips OR your legs to generate power is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard. To get power in your punch you start with your feet, legs, hips, chest, and finally deliver your entire body’s power into your punch.

  31. flloki said:

    This article for karate punching (tsuki waza),its very goood for beginers and advanced karate who really dont know what is diferent of karate and western boxing in this forum.

  32. martin said:

    it doesn’t matter where the power is coming from, you cant read yourself into good punches. when you train on punching, the power will come naturally if you train hard enough. just think about using your lower as well as upper body when punching

  33. Arbab jehangir said:

    i want to learn krate online thanks

  34. Arbab jehangir said:

    i am 10 year boy

  35. victor hugo said:

    i dont think that this type of punch is powerful rick

  36. mikel warxty said:

    i train myself a lot on endurance by God s grace, but i need a real step by step basic matial arts, i do like to fight injustice…….even if it means death thank u.

  37. Keith barrett said:

    I am 48 is it to old to learn

  38. Divine said:

    50% psychology.. because if u have no strong and relaxed mind u cant able to execute proper punch. Even if u are practicing karate for 50 years…

  39. How Heavy Should Beginers Use For Weight Lifting said:

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