How to Throw a Punch

               Arguably, the punch is the best-known self-defense move.  It is the first one to come to mind when thinking about defending yourself.  It is ubiquitous in Hollywood fight scenes and action moves.  It may also be one of the least effective self-defense moves if done incorrectly.
               In the typical Hollywood style, the punch is thrown in a wide arc or roundhouse (aka the “haymaker”) and can be seen coming for a country mile – which works for movie audiences.  In a real defense situation, this can be easily blocked or sidestepped.
               A better technique is the straight punch or jab.  Instead of a long arcing path, the fist travels in a line straight to the target – thus the name – straight punch.
               Before going any further, however, we need to look at two critical elements.  First is how to make a fist.  Second is how to position your wrist.
               Making a fist incorrectly can actually cause you more harm than the bad guy (or gal) attacking you.  The trick is all in where you position your thumb.  If you tuck your thumb against your palm and wrap your fingers around it to form a fist you risk serious injury – to yourself!  Another common mistake is to leave the thumb hanging out and exposed; something of a hitchhiker mode.
               The first step is to roll your fingers into your palm until your knuckles are even.  Then tuck the thumb against the fingers between the 1st and 2nd joints.  This fist gives you two solid surfaces for striking.  One is the area formed by the base of the fingers along the knuckles.  The other is the bottom of the hand often called the hammer fist.
               The second piece of throwing a punch is the position of the wrist.  Most martial arts teach students to punch with a twist so the knuckles end up horizontal or parallel to the ground.  The twist or snap gives the punch more power.  However, this is dangerous for someone who does not practice extensively.  It is easy to snap the wrist on impact if the wrist is not kept perfectly in line with the forearm.  If the wrist folds up or down as you are punching into a target, the blow can easily sprain or even break the wrist and put you out of action. 
               To avoid this, defense tactic instructors for police train officers to keep their wrists vertical so the knuckles form a line perpendicular to the ground.  This provides a stronger position for the wrist and helps avoid injury when striking.  Incidentally, this is the same wrist positioning used by bare-knuckle boxers of the past.
               Remember to practice.  Self-defense moves need to be instinct and practice is the key.  Now you know the right way to throw a punch, and better than a Hollywood action hero.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.    To learn more visit 

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