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.
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.
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