Sir, I wanted to point out two facts in reference to your article “Horizontal vs. Vertical Fist”. You said, “Therefore, boxers are always seeking ways to prevent hand injuries, and they train to develop the most powerful punches. They pay trainers thousands of dollars to find and train them in the best punching techniques. This being the case, why don’t boxers use the “safer” “more powerful” vertical punches, since they are permitted within the rules of boxing.”
If you look into the history of boxing you will find that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s most (not all) bare-knuckle fighters used a vertical punch. John Lawrence Sullivan, the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing under the London Prize Ring rules used a vertical fist.
In addition, I would ask you to read Donald Walkers 1840 text "Defensive Exercises", the illustrations clearly show and the words describe a vertical fist. You can read a scanned copy on-line at: http://www.angelfire.com/alt/wma/Walker/You can find a list of other manuals from the 1700 to the 1900's based on bare knuckle boxing that show a vertical fist being used:http://stickgrappler.tripod.com/wma/onlineboxman.html
In modern times, many people who study and actually have had full contact fist fights use a vertical fist, Bruce Lee was one of them. I am another. I personally think there are tot many variables to say which provides more power, but I know from my actual street fights that you are less likely (only less likely) to hurt your wrist and hand with a vertical punch. I have seen many a knuckles broken on the human forehead. I have seen many wrists buckle under the force of a punch hitting a body.
Why did they use a vertical punch? Because punching with a vertical fist provides for two things – fewer places in the arm for energy to “get lost” (like a bent elbow or wrist), and more protection for the arm as a whole and the fist. More kinetic energy is realized as force, and is distributed evenly across the fist. (This is what they say)
The reason why modern boxers don’t use a vertical fist to punch? Because the benefits of punching with a vertical fist are neutralized when wearing gloves. The hand is already protected. Blows can be thrown with more power because they have the increased energy of momentum behind them, as well as the weight of the gloves themselves. Gloves can weigh anywhere from 8 to 20 ounces, which is significant when adding power to a punch.
Additionally, because boxers needn’t worry about breaking their fists, they can afford to throw with increased power.
Second, you said. “I have never seen or heard of any professional boxer or fighter who uses any soft martial art techniques in the ring.” Both Judo and Jujitsu are “soft” style martial arts and both are used in MMA. I personally don't think any martial arts technique is "soft", but that is a matter of definition.
Thank you for your well thought out reply to my article. I have to decipher most emails to figure out what the writer is even talking about.
While there are certainly a few vertical punch proponents around today, they are far outnumbered by the horizontal punchers. Just because something is old or different does not make it the best thing to do. I once had a poll on my TKDTutor web site that asked which type of punching, vertical or horizontal, readers used, and the horizontal punchers won 90% to 10% (but then most of the web site viewers were probably Taekwondo practitioners).
The article already describes the vertical punch as it was used in the early years of boxing, but I added links to the two references you provided.
As explained in the article, horizontal punching is natural to humans. If told to hold their arms up in front of their bodies, most people will hold their arms up with their hands in a horizontal position; this is the natural position. It takes conscious thought and physical effort to rotate the hands and hold them in a vertical position.
Animals, as well as humans, may be taught to perform unnatural actions, such as elephants standing on their front legs, dogs “shaking hands,” or martial artists using unnatural body positions. If a person trains enough in any style of fighting, he or she will become proficient in fighting in that style, but that does not mean that style of fighting is the most effective or the most efficient. A good high school wrestler could win a fight with any average person, but that does not mean high school wrestling is an effective and efficient fighting system. I wouldn’t want to get punched by a tennis pro who has used his arm to swing tennis racket for hours a day for years. In TKDTutor, I criticize many of the techniques taught in Taekwondo as being archaic and useless other than for their historical value.
Anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of vertical punching does not mean that it is indeed effective. For every story about how it works, a story may be found about how it does not work. I don’t know of any reputable scientific study that has looked into the differences in effectiveness between the two punching methods. Barring that, all that is left is to use science, logic, and reasoning to judge their effectiveness. Knuckles will break if the fist is not closed tightly and its hits an non peneratable object with too much force, no matter whether the fist is held vertical or horizontal. While punching, either vertical or horizontal, if the wrist is not locked, it may buckle even when the striking force of the punch is relatively light.
I’m confused by your saying that the vertical fist has more power since it provides fewer places in the arm for energy to “get lost”, while you also say that, due to the use of gloves, boxers needn’t worry about breaking their fists so they can afford to throw horizontal fist punches with more power than vertical punchers. First, you say the vertical punch has more power than the horizontal punch, and then you say that boxers can punch more powerfully with than horizontal punch than with the vertical punch. Whether the fist is vertical or horizontal has little to do with the possibility of injury to the fist, as long as the fist is held tight with the thumb tightly folded outside the fist.
Any power advantage gained from the mass of gloves would be the same for both vertical and horizontal punchers. Boxing gloves are primarily revenue builders; hand wraps do more for protecting the hands from serious injury than do the gloves. Hand wraps help hold all the fragile hand bones in place and pad the knuckles. Without gloves, there would be very little increase in hand injuries. Boxing gloves lessen the chances for cuts to opponents’ heads, which lessens the amount of blood flow in a match, which makes boxing more palatable to the public, which increases revenue for all involved. Gloves, by lessening outward injuries to heads, allow fighters to fight more often, which increases revenue. With the advent of gloves, boxing became a mainline, highly profitable, spectator sport. However, gloves allow a boxer to receive more punches to the head before becoming incapacitated, which means his or her brain gets rattled more times in a fight than it would in a bare-fistedfight. This means that many long–time boxers develop brain injuries latter in life, i.e. punch drunk.
Soft martial art techniques include using deflecting soft blocks rather than using hard blocks that stop an attack. I never see MMA fighters using deflecting blocks. I rarely see them block at all, like boxers, they usually bob and weave and slip attacks, or get hit. Soft martial art techniques include stepping to the side to avoid an attack and then using soft attacks such as wristlocks, wrist and arm leverage throws, or pressure point attacks, as used in Aikido. I never see MMA fighters using these techniques. MMA is basically just punches to the head, kicks to the thighs, knees to the head or body, and a few arm and leg locks or chokes and strangles that lead to submissions.You are right that Jujutsu may be considered a soft style due to its use of locks, bars, chokes, and pins, so I modified my statement in the article to include Jujitsu. However, MMA style fighting was created to highlight the
Brazilian version of Jujitsu and the rules are biased toward the use of Brazilian Jujitsu techniques, just as Taekwondo tournaments are biased toward Taekwondo techniques.Kano created Judo as a sport and it is still a sport. It has roots in Jujitsu, but, while certain aspects of it may be used in self-defense or fighting, it is still a sport. Just because a MMA fighter has trained in Judo and sometimes takes an opponent to the mat, it does make the throwing technique a Judo technique.
I agree with your statement that all martial arts are basically hard. While Judo (the gentle way) is a soft art, since it uses no punches, kicks, or blocks, there is nothing soft about being thrown to the mat and having an opponent of equal weight land on you.
I enjoyed discussing the subject with you.
As for the Vertical vs. Horizontal fist debate, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. However, I just can't let it go without clarifying some of my ambiguous comments. I don’t want my main point to get lost in all tverbiage. My only point was this. You implied that because boxers don't use a vertical punch it stands to reason that it is no better than a horizontal punch. That sounds reasonable to me since punching is a boxer’s profession.
I was pointing out that in fact when boxers fought bare knuckles most boxers did use a vertical punch. It was only after gloves were added to the sport that horizontal punching became the norm. To show this I included links to boxing manuals from that time. Following your reasoning in the article, I would assume that there was a reason for that? Can you tell me why they punched vertical before gloves and horizontal after? Is it because those old guys who just did not figure it out? My belief is that it was to protect the bare hand and wrist (based on my experience, with bare knuckle fights) what do you think the reason is? I'm not saying it is good because it is old, but punching bare knuckled was their profession, why would they do it vertically? Lastly I just want to clarify; I conceded that personally I do not think it is possible to say which is more powerful. There are too many variables in a given situation. I was only giving the "standard" explanation that Bruce Lee, and others give. That is that less energy is lost through the elbow with a vertical punch. (Again, I won't say that because it depends on to many angles, movements, positions bla, bla, bla...
Why did early boxers use vertical punches instead of horizontal punches? One reason was because they were taught to punch that way. People naturally punch with a horizontal fist; they have to be taught to punch vertically.
Who taught the early boxers the vertical punch? They were taught by trainers who were taught to use the vertical punch by their instructors. Just as in the martial arts today, students perform and believe as they are told to by their instructors? In addition, just as today, there were charlatans, frauds, and pseudo-masters around in the 1800’s. People who wanted to feel important, so they proclaimed themselves experts at a new way of doing something that did not need changing, and, and according to them, a way that was better than the traditional way of doing things.
Another reason the used vertical punches was because early boxing was a gentleman’s sport to be performed in a gentlemanly manner. If you did not box in the prescribed manner, you were ostracized, so all boxers fought in the prescribed manner. In addition to vertical punching, early boxers stood upright with their heads held high, they rarely blocked or used bobbing and weaving, they used very little footwork, they trained very little, they smoked a lot, and they partied and got drunk before fights. If the vertical punch as their great innovation, it was certainly the only one.
Even if every boxer in the world used vertical punches in the 1800’s, it still does not mean much. You and I were taught that there were nine planets, Pluto being the smallest. That was the consensus of the experts in astronomy for decades. Now we are told that there are only eight planets, and that, while Pluto exists, it not really a planet. So, is Pluto is still a planet because science books of years past say it is, or do we accept the science of today. If you look around the world today, people are doing all sorts of stupid things and believing all kinds of weird, illogical, and unreasonable things, just because everyone else is doing it or because some “expert” said it was the right thing to believe. People either want to fit in or be different; there is little original thought. Most people are sheep and regrettably, there are few shepherds to protect them from wolves or themselves.When people try to rationalize their beliefs, they tend to pick and choose what they feel supports their beliefs and reject anything that does not support their beliefs. Police investigators search for and present facts, no matter if they help the prosecution, or the defense. When analyzing any martial art’s way of doing things, we should look at all the facts, ones that prove the martial art’s contentions as well as those that disprove them, and then draw conclusions based upon the gathered facts and current science, not just believe what some proponent of the martial art says.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; people perceive the same thing in different ways, which is why eyewitness testimony is so unreliable. People also tend see what they want to see. Ancient two-dimensional images on temple, vases, etc. (depicted in a flat “South Park” style) of two warriors facing each other with their arms up may be perceived as two friends about to hug, two dancers, two happy soldiers, or two opponents ready to fight. Since some of the images appear to be have vertical fists, some vertical punches see these images as proof that vertical punching had ancient roots, not that it was simply the way the artist depicted hands. Some modern sculptors find it difficult to sculpt realistic looking hands, so they hide the hands of their statues behind something. Some future civilization may unearth these sculptures and conclude that people of our time did not have hands, or had deformed hands that we always hid.
When it applies to the martial arts, I always say, “If it works for you, then use it.” I once had a student who performed a round/roundhouse kick without ever turning his support foot. While I usually train people to rotate the support foot to add power to the kick, since he could bend a punching bag in half with the kick, I did not bother to correct his technique; it was obvious he did not need to rotate his foot. While the benefits of horizontal punching far outnumber and benefits of vertical punching, I would not try to convert a vertical puncher who was effective at vertical punching. While I primarily teach new students how to use their natural horizontal punch more effectively and efficiently, after they become proficient at horizontal punching, I will also show them the vertical punch, since there may be an occasion to use it.
The medical profession has precept known as Primum non nocere, Latin for "First, not to harm." As a martial arts instructor, I also use the precept “First, do not harm” when teaching new students. A student who naive to fighting who walks in the school door already instinctively knows how to punch horizontally. If he turns around and immediately walk out the door and is attacked, he will at least know now to instinctively punch and defend himself. If he stays until the end of class, and then is attacked after walking out the door, I don’t want to have taught him something that might cause him more harm than may have occurred without my instruction. If I taught him to ignore his instincts and force himself to punch vertically, and he was attacked as he walked out the door, he would not yet be effective at vertical punching and would probably use some hybrid punch that would be ineffective, meaning that my instruction had done him harm. I don’t think students should be taught vertical punching as a primary weapon; it should only be taught as a specialty weapon, such as the knife hand or hammer fist, to be used in special circumstances.