Karate punches are famous throughout the world for their unusual power. This is not by accident. Through centuries of study, practice and application, karateka (karate practitioners) learned how to incorporate as much of their body mass as possible into their punch. They understood that force, or energy, is a product of mass and acceleration. Maximizing both of these factors increases the amount of force delivered by a punch.
The biggest element in generating force in a punch is the proper use of the hips. The hips are the connection with the largest and strongest muscles, which are contained in the lower part of your body. Without proper use of your hips, you are punching with less then half your available body mass. It is a fairly easy concept to understand but requires a great deal of practice to make effective. The karate punch is executed as follows:
- The punch begins with your hand in a chamber position. Palm up and tucked along your hip or under your shoulder, depending on your style. The palm up position helps maintain contact between your latissimus dorsi, or back muscle, and your shoulder. The elbow extends straight back and is pointed at the ground. Think of the chamber position as a rubber band, the tighter you pull it, the more velocity is created when you let it go.
- To initiate the punch, you use your legs to push your hip forward on the same side of the punching hand. The hip will be connected to your shoulder through your latissimus dorsi driving your shoulder forward. The shoulder in turn drives the elbow forward, which pushes the fist. Do not lean forward. Your upper body should remain upright throughout the strike. You are merely rotating around a central vertical axis running through the middle of your body.
- The arm should remain as relaxed as possible other than aiming the strike. The more tension, the slower the punch, thus reducing one element of the equation. The best analogy I know of is those little drums with the beads on a string that you roll in your hand except instead of the string (your arm) flying out to the side, it is guided straight forward to ensure no energy is wasted.
- As the arm is driven out, the hand remains palm up as long as possible. This ensures continual muscular contact between your fist and your legs. Also, the elbow should remain pointing at the ground throughout the punch. This is very important to ensure maximum force is directed towards the target. As the fist approaches the target, it rotates to a palm down position.
- Lastly, your wrist must remain perfectly straight. If you are able to generate all the force this punch is capable of, you could easily injure your wrist if it buckles. For this reason, when striking something solid, begin slowly to ensure your wrist is properly aligned and strong enough to absorb stronger blows.
Is this all there is to a karate punch? Heck no! Masters spend their entire lives trying to perfect this punch. These guidelines will merely ensure you get off to a good start with your punching. Also, you should seek out a good instructor. You will waste a lot of time trying to learn this on your own. Just keep training, and I'll see you in the dojo. Usss!