Friday, July 25, 2008

Keeping grapplers at bay

Brazilian jujutsu practitioners are fond of saying that most fights go to the ground, but as Chad Merriman (also a strong Judo player) likes to say, that's because most people don't know how to stop them from going to the ground.

It is important to note that I think one should learn grappling skills regardless of one’s “stand-up” fighting ability. But there have been times where I have not wanted to go to ground for the simple reason that I know my opponent is better there. I have managed to stay on my feet quite successfully despite repeated attempts at "taking me down".


The answer, I’ve found, is to get used to the "melee" range as I have discussed previously. Invariably the next question I’m asked is: “How do you keep someone at this range?” Yet this misconceives my point:

While some schools teach specific “formulae” for keeping grapplers at bay, I’m afraid I can’t offer anything like this. For me the question: “How do you keep a grappler at bay?” is no different in substance from: “How do you keep someone from hitting you?” The question is so general that any specific response is bound to be seriously flawed.

Most marital arts magazines, books, videos and self-defence courses will offer you certain “pre-set responses” for various situations. But the reality of applying any of these in a real fight is another matter. In the chaos of combat you’ll find pre-set responses hardly ever see the light of day. In short, I don’t believe there is any “formula” for dealing with a punch or an attempted grapple. Instead there is just an attack. And you have to deflect or thwart it, and counter. This involves dominating what I have called the “melee” , a complex process — not one that can be summed up in pre-set “guaranteed” moves. (See my article: “Staying in the melee” for more on this subject.)

Learning to dominate the melee involves a process of staged inculcation: embedding into the subconscious certain basic kinaesthetic principles that manifest themselves differently (but consistently) in quite disparate movements. You learn these principles through “form” (in Chinese “xing”). But in combat you apply the “essence” or “concept” of that form rather than the form itself (in Chinese “yi” meaning “mind”). You groove your “form” and then you apply the “concept” in increasingly more and more unpredictable continuums — the melee of a real fight being, of course, the ultimate continuum. (As an example of the shift from “form” to “concept”, consider my comparison of the basic hiki uke and its “looser” application against a jab in my article: “Why blocks DO work”.)

In my experience the reason many stand-up fighters get taken down is that they don't know how to dominate the melee, principally because they don’t use, or even know how to use, blocks/deflections (again see my article on blocking above and also my article “Evasion vs. blocking with evasion”). Instead they panic or do too little in the melee, by which time the attacker has passed into the grappling range. Many times a stand-up fighter will actually willingly fall into the grappling range, subconsciously expecting a clinch (particularly if they’ve inculcated this response in boxing/kickboxing style sparring/fighting). Many stand-up fighters even suggest just that as a tactic. However in my view clinch = go to the ground. If you don’t want to go to the ground, don’t go to a clinch. Simple. Instead keep your opponent at your striking/kicking range. Deflect his attempted strikes and grabs and hit/kick him.

Put another way, I think the number of stand-up fighters who get taken to the ground by grapplers reflects the common attitude that the melee is either a "transit"/"temporary" place or a place where you swap punches "toe-to-toe". It isn't. It is the place where your deflections/evasion and counters — your set-up — should be applied. It is where you create your “checkmate”.

To summarise, the starting point to keeping a grappler at bay is to master the melee range. You do this by learning to apply your deflections and evasions in that range. This in turn lets you counter. Your counters should keep your attacker at bay because he/she doesn't get an opening. It doesn’t get more simple (or more complex) than that!

As to how I suggest you build up your melee skills... again, I invite you to look at my earlier article on the "melee" range. That article outlines some of our drills and other methods which, while not overtly profound, might as well be "secret" in terms of how widespread or appreciated they are in the karate world. Part of the reason for this is simply that lack of understanding as to (a) the importance of mastering the melee and (b) the role these methods and drills play in that process.

Tensho sensitivity drill - one of the more unusual "melee" drills practised in our school

I think it’s sad that few karateka (or other traditional stand-up fighters) ever venture into the melee for more than a quick, panicky flurry of techniques and fewer still every apply karate techniques such as deflection and “shock” strikes. Instead they prefer my pet-hate — “faux boxing” — complete with pointless bouncing up and down. So it’s no wonder they get taken to the ground...

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Staying in the "melee"

My article “The melee: karate’s fighting range” has elicited many responses since I posted it on the net – many favourable and encouraging, others not so. I have had cause to address some of the points raised in forums and on the net, so I thought I’d summarise those comments here:

But your approach is too risky!

One of the principal arguments I’ve encountered is that “giving opponent an opportunity to hit you doesn't make much sense”. Another way this has been put is: “standing toe to toe and attacking will leave you open to attack.”

Superficially this argument might seem persuasive. However it relies on several flawed assumptions as to what I meant in my article about fighting in the “melee range” and about self-defence in general.

As a starting point, it is worth noting my opinion that the melee is the fight. Everything else is “sport”. Fights aren't about squaring off in stances, donning pads and bouncing etc. The fight will begin and end in the melee.

With that in mind our approach is to train (including sparring) in the melee. So while it "doesn't make much sense to be where your opponent can hit you" we're simply reflecting reality. When you're attacked in a bar etc. that is precisely where you'll be - where your opponent can hit you. Ergo, this is where you should train/spar etc.

Yes, it is probably a foolish tactic to stand there just slugging it out “toe to toe”. But that's not what I'm talking about. Assuming you’ve just been attacked, you're in the melee deflecting/evading and countering. You wouldn’t stay in the melee "leaving yourself open". You would “stay” in the melee not so much out of choice but because you're fighting - and in real combat I don't see why your attacker would let you go "out of combat" that easily.

I’ve been taught to enter the melee only to elicit your opponent's committed attack or to "meet" an attack he has already launched...

What is unwritten is that, presumably, you either counter successfully or you step out of the melee. This works fine with an opponent who is “playing the game”. But what if he/she doesn’t?

In my view you should deflect and counter in the melee. If your counter succeeds, good. If it doesn't you deflect/evade still in the melee. If your counter is still thwarted, you deflect and try once more...

This is as opposed to realising that your attack has been thwarted and simply backpedalling out of the melee - which even if you are successful in evasion etc. leaves you having to close the gap again...

Of course, if you can disengage and run away then this is always an option. For training purposes we assume that you can't get away.

Put another way, I'm talking about dominating the melee - learning tactics that will deflect attacks and set you up, just as I’ve suggested in my article “Is karate a striking art”. I'm not talking standing there exchanging blows "toe-to-toe" as one might occasionally see in boxing. The latter is not karate. Karate uses deflections/taisabaki as a set-up. The difference between the “dart in and out” style kumite commonly (and regrettably) seen in many karate dojos today and our “randori” approach is that the former trains you for a "one-off" while the latter trains you for a continuum. I see training in a continuum as vital - particularly since you don't (or shouldn’t!) actually land "finishing blows" in training, so you can’t rely on an “ikken hitsatsu” (one blow, certain defeat) methodology. You have no idea if your “single blow” will work – no feedback to ground realistic expectation of success and nothing in the way of a back-up plan. Training for a continuum is vital preparation for the chaotic environment that is the melee.

I only stay in the melee to obtain a favourable position – then I’m out of there

You don't stay there if you have executed a determinative counter! The reality is that the fight will be won or lost in the melee, so for what it's worth you will "stay there in a fight" until you have landed a sufficient blow to disable your opponent or allow you to escape.

And there is a difference between "staying there in a fight" and "staying there in sparring". In sparring you stay there because you and your opponent want the experience. You mightn’t even be able to complete a take-down or other “melee breaker” if you and your sparring partner are evenly matched (and neither of you can manoeuvre the other into a "checkmate"). Furthermore, even if I'm sparring with a junior I won’t (as a rule) press my advantage. I try to stay in the melee for training reasons. There I'll use the opportunity to try less-used/more advanced techniques. That way we both learn.

That crucial point of "deciding who will obtain a favourable position" is what it's all about, so one should train for it. What happens next (eg. your finishing blow) is not as important (makiwara, bagwork and less “chaotic” drills will teach you that).

I'm not talking about darting in and out. I'm talking about receiving your opponent's attack in the "melee" range and countering – then getting out!

Fair enough. But even if your "move in" involves receiving the attack, deflecting it, moving to the inside, countering etc. I would still call that "darting in and out". Why? As I said earlier, if your counter fails you can’t assume you’ll be able to get out of the melee just because you want to... And you might be coming in for than just one punch, but that doesn't change my perspective. You're still talking about “moving in and out” of the melee...

How is randori in the "melee" range any different from “faux boxing”? Both are nothing like real fighting

I've been at pains to point out that our randori isn't meant to be real fighting; it is a drill. It lets you become accustomed to that range and gives you the chance to learn the strategies of controlling the melee – deflecting/evading and countering. It is artificial in the sense that in sparring you can't land real, committed finishing blows. In a real fight if you are successful with your first counter the fight might well be over. On the other hand, if your opponent is good, you might be equally deflecting/countering each other for at least some time (unlikely, but possible). In any event, sparring this way gives you greater experience in the melee.

Of course, you can't rely on randori as your sole training. It does not replace other simpler sparring drills where you perform finishing moves. However randori does allow permutations such as "try to evade the grappler" because anything goes - grappling, trapping, striking, small joint locks, you name it. I've thwarted would-be grapplers in sparring with a few controlled contacts (that hurt just enough). The attacker could take advantage of my kindness in not hitting for real, but then again he or she could speed up to full speed. It's a drill that relies on cooperation. That is precisely why we call it "randori" (which in judo and elsewhere relies on some cooperation) and not "jiyu kumite" or just "kumite" (as some others do). It isn't fighting, nor is any so-called "free" sparring.

Why is it better training for a karateka than faux boxing / "bouncing" kumite? Very simply, the latter doesn't use karate techniques. Randori, by contrast, uses karate deflections and taisabaki which only work in the melee. Most karateka would agree with this, it's just that their sparring only takes them into the melee sporadically. Why?

Nowhere in my book is there a reason to disengage unless you have to. Backing out of the melee because your counter fails is very common, but, as I said earlier, I haven't seen this work very well with a person who isn't "playing the game" – he or she will follow you and try to hit you some more. Backing away often delays the inevitable. So you've got to learn to deflect attacks and stay in range. You have to get used to the melee and its dynamics. Spending only short bursts there is not good training given that, as I've said fights begin and end in the melee.

On the subject of "sport" sparring, is it really surprising that karateka should train both free and restricted sparring in the melee, and not all the attendant preparation (assuming stances, circling each other, etc.)? Isn't that precisely the difference between combat and sport?

But to stay there just seems to break too many principles of the karate that I was taught...

That's the inertia I'm arguing against. Just because distance fighting (darting in and out) has been the norm in karate since the popularisation of ippon shobu sport doesn't mean that it is optimal. I believe it isn't. If it doesn't work against a boxer, muay thai practitioner, grappler etc. you have to ask why. I haven't seen anyone use this kind of distance sparring in anything other than dojo/competition. Nor does it train the "melee" except for very brief periods.

When I say that "karate is a civilian defence system" I do not (as many others) use this as an excuse for "why it doesn't work against boxing, muay thai etc.". Rather I use it as a reason for not adopting their sport-based methodology but instead preferring karate techniques such as deflections/blocks and taisabaki/tenshin...

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is karate a "striking" art?

My brother is fond of saying that karate is a "counterstriking" art. However I know that he really means a “countering” art, since karate counters are by no means confined to "striking". Rather, he uses “striking” (and more specifically “counterstriking”) in order to distinguish karate from those arts which are predominantly about grappling. Put another way, the reference to “striking” is not intended to imply any exclusivity in terms of striking (as opposed to locking/taking down etc.) in a counter. Indeed it is a critical mistake to label (or apply) karate as just a “striking” art since it misapprehends karate’s function....

Examples of true “striking” arts are boxing, Muay Thai and savate. Each of these is almost exclusively about landing blows. While I can see why the uninitiated might see karate in the same light, the way in which karate techniques were intended to operate is fundamentally different.

Karate (not just goju/Naha-te, but shorin-based systems as well - if you look at their kata bunkai) is fundamentally about "setting up" in the melee range for a counter (see my article on the “melee” range) - whether it be a counterstrike or a takedown or a lock etc. In this regard karate is actually not that different from the atemi waza of jujutsu (see for example this jujutsu blog). In fact the same can be said of all original Okinawan and Japanese civilian defence arts. The fact that many such systems don't reflect that today is, to me, a function of a sports influence - particularly from the ’60s onwards.

Many have commented to me that even some goju-based karate systems (of which ours is one) seem to focus squarely on striking: their practitioners do the ubiquitous "dart in and out" type of fighting which eschews blocking/deflection (never mind grappling) and concentrates on landing blows. It is a combat approach summed up with the expression “ikken hitsatsu”, or “single blow, certain defeat”. This is in sharp contrast to our approach where “anything goes”.

What explains this disparity?

My view is that many modern karate schools are invariably influenced by the movement (from the 30s onwards) to popularise karate and the closely related modern-era “ippon shobu” (single point) sports karate tradition. These have, in my view, served to dilute karate to a point where its application in sparring looks nothing like its kata/basics (eg. see my article about “Why blocks DO work” for a discussion as to how and why karate basic blocks are not applied in most schools today).

Certainly I have friends in both Okinawan and Japanese goju-ryu who practise what they variously term “iri kumi” or “jiyu kumite” exactly as we practise our (melee-based) randori sparring. However, as a very popular and widespread style, goju-ryu, like many other schools of karate, obviously has a wide base of examples to draw from. And (in line with my popularisation/sports discussion) it has a large number of practitioners who do the "dart in and out" thing.

So what factors led to the development of this sparring method? In my opinion it comes down to 2 factors:

(a) the non-contact format of modern-era competiton (in keeping with popularising karate); and

(b) the "aesthetic appeal" on the Japanese mainland of the “ikken hitsatsu” methodology: There is something about the clean lines and power of “ippon shobu” competition that I believe had/has great appeal in Japan (perhaps as an allegorical or subconscious reference the deadly cut of the samurai sword), where otherwise this phenomenon would not have arisen in, say, the West or even in other parts of the Orient.

By contrast, when you consider the "old time footage" below of sambon kumite (a basic drill), any technical photographs or written or oral historical sources(which indicate that "free-sparring" in karate is itself a modern innovation) you get the feeling that whatever it was/is technically, karate was never intended to be applied in the modern “dart in and out” method.

Old footage of "sambon" (3 step) kumite - a basic karate drill

Historical sources confirm to me that karate was always intended to be applied in a melee - to deflect/evade while simultaneously setting up a counter, be it a strike, a throw/takedown or a joint lock. It was never about swapping punches and kicks, particularly from a distance. Rather, it has always been about dealing with the critical moment: when someone throws a strike, kick or other attack against you (a point that is, by definition, already in the “melee” range).

It is for this reason that my primary instructor has always maintained that karate is a civilian defence system not a sport. The objective in karate isn’t to score a point. The objective in a civilian defence system is, first and foremost not to get hit. As I’ve said elsewhere, while in a sport like boxing you have to land a blow to win, in self-defence you “win” provided you don’t get hit. Having said this, it is dangerous to deflect and evade and do no more. The most effective defence is to neutralise your opponent. So you should deflect/evade for the purpose of setting yourself up for a counter. In other words, karate, like most traditional self-defence systems, is a countering art.

Am I reinterpreting karate? I doubt it. My parent schools (right up to Morio Higaonna’s IOGKF and beyond) provide proof of a continuing tradition. To the extent that I have studied Chinese martial arts and these have influenced my movement and approach, I consider this to be delving into the origins and application of the techniques that comprise karate (at least to some extent). Concepts such as deflection etc. might have subtle differences in expression in Okinawa vs. China - but in the end they have more in common than not. They provide (generally speaking) a common tactical approach that is completely at odds with, say, boxing. That is to say, most (particularly Southern) Chinese systems are "melee" setup arts specialising in deflection/evasion and counter. I don't know if I've seen any that might qualify as "striking" arts in the sense of sport-based systems such as boxing or Muay Thai. And nowhere in Okinawan karate (kata or basics) do I see any suggestion of the "dart in and out" methodology of sport karate... no applications, no old footage - nothing.

Historians are fairly clear that karate was simplified for mass consumption; maybe not in kata or basics but certainly in its application. The fact that my argument might "fly in the face" of many schools' teaching today is entirely explicable (and, in my view, most easily understood) in that light. Nothing in my experience and research supports what I have elsewhere referred to as "bouncing kumite" or "faux boxing" as a legitimate application of karate techniques.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Two for the price of one: more about karate "blocks"

Those of you who have read my article on Why blocks DO work will recall that I mentioned there that every basic block in karate contains 2 movements - the primary block (a larger movement) and a secondary block (a smaller movement) in the "pullback" arm (what some people call the "crossing hand"). I am astounded as to how few karateka today are actually aware of this fact.

So what is the function of these 2 movements? Well first, the secondary movement can operate as a deflection entirely on its own. While the move is generally smaller and weaker than the primary movement it can often intercept the attack sooner. And executed correctly it can be just as effective. Consider the pictures to the left of the secondary movement in goju-ryu's chudan uke (chest-level block). Just as the primary movement comprises a circular deflection, so the secondary movement also deflects with a circle (albeit smaller) on the same angle.

While the secondary part of the chudan uke can be used as the primary deflection it is more likely to be used as a "back up" in this context; in other words it comes into its own when there isn't enough time to get the primary part of the movement into action. In that case it either deflects on its own or, more accurately it starts the deflection action, transferring to the primary movement as soon as possible. In this regard the secondary and primary movements work in concert to create one cohesive and powerful deflection. This is illustrated in the video below:

The secondary movement in chudan uke

As the video points out, there is another, quite important aspect about the secondary movement (one I intend to make the subject of a specific blog article in the near future) and that is what I call the "Clayton's Opening". The secondary movement needn't be a movement at all: even in a static, pre-movement postion it actually blocks of straight-line attacks from the mirror side while giving the impression that there is a gap for a punch...

Last, and most importantly, what is also highlighted in this video is that the secondary movement does more than just start the deflection. Rather it acts as a kinaesthetic feed into the primary movement. In other words the initial contact gives your body the necessary feedback to more correctly utilise the primary movement in the deflection. Kinaesthetic feedback in martial art occurs predominantly via sight - but the next most important is touch. There are of course many drills aimed at building this "touch sensitivity" - including the drill below which utilises primary and secondary deflections from goju-ryu's tensho kata - in particular the complex mawashi uke (roundhouse block) - a block that has multiple "parts" and not just 2.

Tensho kakie - a "touch sensitivity" push hands drill that trains the various primary and secondary movements of deflections from that kata

Now I mentioned above that the chudan uke's secondary movement was unlikey to be used as the sole deflection; it is more to be used as a back-up or a "kinaesthetic feed". This is because the chudan uke is primarily intended as a deflection against straight line attacks. However when we come to its more advanced cousin, hiki uke (the open hand "pulling" or hooking block - also known as "kake uke") we see a different picture. Yes, the hiki uke's primary movement is intended as a deflection against straight jabs, for example (again, see my article Why blocks DO work). But the secondary movement is also ideally designed to be used against curved backhand strikes such as the hammer fist and uraken (backfist). This is in line with the principle that a straight attack should be deflected with a a circle, while a circle should be deflected with a straight line... Consider the pictures to the left illustrating the hike uke when used against the backfist strike. The secondary hand intercepts, transferring to the primary hand for control while the secondary hand then counters with a backfist of its own.

All in all the hiki uke's secondary arm has more uses in deflection combinations that I care to mention. Some of these (and their associated drills) are outlined in the video below:

The secondary movement in hiki uke

Last I mention for the sake of completeness that the secondary movement can be used as the main deflection while the primary movement is used as an attack. While this might a valid occasional use of the constituent elements of karate blocks, I feel it is somewhat overstated. Certainly it can be seen in the hiki uke, for example (see the pictures to the right where instead of using the primary movement to control my opponent's arm, I've converted it to a backfist). It is however more commonly argued in the case of the humble age uke (rising block) also know as jodan uke (head-level block). I have covered this briefly in the video below.

The secondary movement in age/jodan uke

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The "melee": karate's fighting range

In my articles “Evasion vs. blocking with evasion” and “The karate 'kamae' or guard” I have mentioned what I call the “melee range”.

This is the range you're in when you're both swapping blows furiously - half a step in to elbows and knees, half a step out to a fully extended kick. In other words, wherever you step, you face a blow. Most other martial artists I know feel very uncomfortable at this range: for them it feels like the “no-man’s land” in tennis – the mid-court where the ball bounces. In other words, it is a place where you might venture on occasion, but generally it is too “hectic” to stay in (at least successfully) for any extended period. Like tennis players, most martial artists nowadays seem to stay at either an extended range (cf. the baseline) or in close at the clinch/grappling (cf. the net). The in-between is avoided, except in transit or unless the chaos of a particular exchange finds you there temporarily.

It is no surprise then that this “no-man’s land” is where one often sees “panic” set in. You’ll note that boxers don't stay here for long because it is hard to evade blows, so generally this is where they both punch furiously (sometimes parrying) until someone lands a big punch, someone backs off with an evasion or they go into a clinch. To quote a correspondent on the forum: “Not much evasion going on here. If it's close up and personal, I'm going to exchange blows until one of us falls down.” The melee is what boxers often call “toe-to-toe” and it is the exception, rather than the rule, for people to stay in that range for long.

But in my school and my parent schools (right up to Morio Higaonna’s IOGKF) we have learned to feel quite comfortable in the “mid-range”. I've actually found that I use the “melee panic reaction” to my advantage - distance fighters are often totally flummoxed by my insistence at keeping this range for the duration of the fight. Just like grapplers are fond of saying they “own the floor”, I'd like to think that karateka should “own the melee”. This is where the karate guard, karate deflections/blocks and karate counters, strikes and kicks come into their own.

This contrasts with 'distance' fighting where you stand half a step outside full kick range and someone has to close - usually with a thigh kick or a jab. It's almost impossible to use any karate deflection at that range - or for that matter most karate techniques (including, for example, most kata bunkai).

As I’ve said before, karate is a civilian defence system with very different dynamics from combats sports. To quote another forum correspondent: “most ‘attacks’ are not the ‘lets step outside - assume a fighting stance and then start the punch up’” scenarios. Rather they start – and finish - in the “melee range”. I speak from years of experience as a prosecutor and seeing/using in evidence countless surveillance videos of assaults.

Now I've fought good traditional distance fighters who use the often-seen “side-on” posture and try to keep you at an extended range. I've fought good boxers and similar artists who stay at a range, only to come into the melee with furious attacks, then break for a clinch or back away. I’ve fought grapplers who try to get in past the melee range so they can take you down. These all work with a good fighter. As I’ve often said, it is less the method than it is the skill of the fighter implementing the method.

But in the end, my view is that karate's techniques were not designed for any of these approaches. I often feel I’m fighting against the tide in this respect – relatively few people seem to be using their karate to dominate “the melee”. Mostly they try to fight distance only or use boxing strategy. If they get into the melee they look for an opening to grapple BJJ style. I think it is fair to say that many karateka have all but abandoned their traditional techniques as “unworkable”.

However my physical experience is that karate techniques DO work. They work, almost exclusively, in the melee. Why they work can be understood through simple physics (see my articles “Why blocks DO work”, “Evasion vs. blocking with evasion” and "Randori" - our "soft" sparring method where we practice fighting exclusively in the melee). Put another way, if people aren't using karate techniques in sparring, they should be asking why. If they can't match a boxer without themselves resorting to boxing, they should be asking why...

I think learning to use traditional evasion and deflection, learning to effect karate strikes and kicks, using the correct guard, learning to fight in the melee, etc. are all links in the chain of karate’s effectiveness. You can't have a missing link if you want it to hang together...

See also my articles "Staying in the melee" and "Keeping grapplers at bay".

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Punching: alignment with the forearm

I have often been asked: "What is the correct alignment of your forearm to your fist in a standard punch?" Given that in karate and most Eastern martial arts (excluding arts such as Wing Chun) the standard punch strikes with the 2 big knuckles, you could be forgiven for thinking that the top of the forearm should align (be flush) with those 2 knuckles. Makes sense doesn't it? But actually this is not the case.

Indeed, if you make a fist and then hold your forearm vertically, side on (so that your fist is pointing up and you're looking at your wrist so that you can see whether it angles the fist up or down), you'll notice that you could, if you wanted, make the back of your hand flush with your forearm. That means that the top knuckles are in a straight line with your forearm and your energy is going to be transmitted in a straight line (theoretically).

The problem however is that if you look at the palm side of your fist, it now slopes down quite a lot - increasing the risk of your wrist buckling on impact. If this occurs it not only renders your punch largely useless, but it is also is painful and injurious (I speak from experience).

On the other hand you could angle your fist/wrist so that the bottom of your fist is in line with the bottom of your forearm. The problem with this is (a) the risk of wrist buckling the other way (less likely, but more severe when it happens) and (b ) you'll be striking with the smaller knuckles in a kind of "bear paw" punch, not with the 2 main knuckles.

The solution is to see your fist as it is: a natural "Y" shape. In other words, neither the top of the forearm nor the bottom of the forearm lines up with the top or bottom of the wrist.

Even if your fist shape is such that this causes your small knuckles to protrude a smidgeon ahead of your big knuckles, what happens in practice is that on impact your fist compresses and the imapct is transferred almost immediately to the 2 big knuckles.

Do some knuckle push ups (on the 2 big knuckles of course) and look at your self in a mirror, noting the angle of wrist to forearm and you'll see what I mean. Without compression (either static or on impact) your fist looks very different, so be mindful of this.

To summarise: the fist and forearm have a "Y" shape. Neither the top nor bottom should be flush with the top or bottom of your forearm.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic