While sparring, Taekwondo students wear hand protectors. In class, they strike padded bags, padded target paddles, and padded body shields. When breaking with hand techniques, most students prefer to use elbow, hammer fist, or palm heel, avoiding the fore fist punch. None of these things prepare the student for punching something hard with a bar hand. When sparring, most students use the fore fist punch, so, on the street, most will use a fore fist punch to the head. When this happens, the knuckles, hand, or wrist is usually damaged more than the attackers face. For self-defense purposes, students need to learn to punch with bare knuckles.
Humans are really the only animal an opposing thumb. This position of the thumb provides increased gripping which is why grappling moves are much more natural than punching ones. Humans do not need training on how to grab, pull, pinch, nip, yank hair, hold etc. However, they do need instruction on how to punch properly. When young children hit, it is usually with open slaps or hammer fist type strikes, rather than forward punching.
Look at the structure of the hand. It is designed for gripping, not punching. When you make a fist, there is a small but discernable gap in the finger/palm area. This is because nature intended some object to be in that gap. To hold a tight closed fist requires a great degree of muscle contraction. The natural position of the hand is a relaxed ball not a tight club. Proper punching requires a properly formed fist, not a deformed fist. Deformation by building large calluses on the knuckles may be achieved but is almost impossible to undo.
The late Karate master Masutaru Oyama, founder of the Yukushinkai karate style, was well known for the development of his fist. He was known for his breaking prowess, and his ability to knockout bulls in the bullring. He developed his fists using ancient iron hand training until his first two knuckles looked more like a single knuckle so that later life he was unable to pick up small objects. He gave up dexterity to develop what was essentially a club at the end of his wrist. This training was acceptable centuries ago, when being a warrior was a way of life. However, now we like to write, type, and use the television remote. There isnooreason to develop this type of fist since you may never use it and it is detrimental to normal daily use.and it is detrimental to normal daily use of your hands.
Nowadays, we prefer to learn proper punching techniques so our hands are not deformed. Punch training involves impact training, the use of 'rubs', and an understanding of correct punching technique.
If you want to see natural punching movement, watch a 4 or 5-year-old child throw a small stone. The child picks up the stone, draws it back, and steps forward on the non-throwing leg side. The order of movement is opposite leg, throwing side hip, shoulder, arm, and finally the hand.
Impact training, such as punching the makiwari, is not to develop the fist but to strengthen the wrist, which must be locked at the moment of impact to prevent injury. However, there are easier ways to develop the wrist, such as push-ups on spread finger tips and wrist curls with weights. Punching sand bags or bags of pebbles will harden the outer skin of the knuckles but it hampers knuckle movement so it is not recommended. Board breaking builds confidence in you punching ability but it only teaches you how to break boards. To learn how to punch a person, watch people who do it for a living, such as boxers.
Karate style punches were created to penetrate the wooden armor of the Bushi (only the Samurai officers could afford metal armor). If punched with the first two knuckles, the wood broke and the broken ends would possibly stick into the soldier. This first two knuckle style punch is the one used in Taekwondo. Some think the impact area should be the last three knuckles. In this position, the top of the fist is not parallel to the floor but angled downward about 45 degrees toward the little finger. Is debatable which way is best, so the method you are taught by your instructor. If you practice both ways, when you are suddenly attacked on the street, you will end up using something in between the two that is ineffective.
Old bare-knuckle boxers rubbed sheep urine and alum crystals into their hands after punching practice. A better substitute is mentholated spirits. After punching only a fairly rough surface, such as a heavy canvas punching bag, the knuckles will be reddened. Then rub in the spirits and let it dry. It takes about a month of three or four times a week, and your hands get quite tough.
When punching start with the fist relaxed and just before impact squeeze the fist tight. Practice punching from a normal stance as you would have on a daily basis. From this position, suddenly punch the target, coordinating everything to get maximum power.
Last Bare-Knuckle Prizefight
John L. Sullivan was devastating puncher who toured the United States offering $1,000 to anyone who could last 4 rounds in the ring with him. He had flattened 59 men in a row, most in the 1st round, none in the fourth. However, he drank a lot, so when he faced a well-conditioned fighter from Baltimore, Jake Kilrain, there was a doubt about his winning. Kilrain was not a slugger but had endurance and he was a good wrestler. Wrestling skills were useful in bare-knuckle fighting, where a fall could be almost as punishing as a knockdown blow. Sullivan was champion by popular acclaim; while Kilrain was champion by the decree of Richard K. Fox, publisher of the Police Gazette, who ignored Sullivan's claim and awarded the Gazette's championship belt to Kilrain.
On July 8, 1889 at 10 A.M. in Richburg, Mississippi, in 100-degree heat, the two faced each other in the ring. A crowd of about 3,000 had gathered. Since bare-knuckle fighting was illegal in all 38 states, most of the crowd had come by train from New Orleans.
Kilrain's fight plan was to avoid toe-to-toe slugging and to sidestep Sullivan's rushes. By the 4th round (which lasted over 15 minutes since a round ended only when a man went down), these tactics drove Sullivan into a fury. In the 7th round, as the fighters clinched, a Kilrain hook to the head and brought blood from Sullivan's ear. Referee John Fitzpatrick called "First blood, Kilrain," and money changed hands in the crowd; betting was always heavy on first blood and first knockdown.
In the 8th round, Sullivan scored the first clean knockdown. The blood soaked fighters fought on, until 30th round when Sullivan seemed to be gaining an edge. Kilrain was tiring and Sullivan was now scoring all the knockdowns and most of the falls. Finally, in the 75th round, after 2 hours and 16 minutes, on a doctor's recommendation, Kilrain's corner tossed in the sponge and the fight was over.
Soon after this fight, bare-knuckle rules were replaced by the modern Queensberry rules and gloves were used in prizefights. Three years later, Sullivan lost his crown to Jim Corbett in a glove fight. Kilrain lived to be a pallbearer at Sullivan's funeral in 1918 and did not die until 1937 when he was 78.