View Full Version : Knuckles - first two versus last three
10-02-2009, 04:50 PM
I originally come from a first-two knuckle striking background - karate and (most) chinese martial arts - but in the past few years, I have been exposed to and trained in methods that emphasise the use of the last three more. Anatomically speaking, the first two knuckles have always made more sense to me - direct connection through the carporadial joint to the shoulder. Functionally, however, I've always found first two-knuckle striking a bit of a gamble at best, and last three-knuckle a lot more stable and strong.
This has been especially evident when boxing or otherwise training with gloves and wraps on, which make it just about impossible to punch with the first two knuckles. Case in point - yesterday morning at muay thai, I was doing pad and bag drills, which I haven't done in a long time, but I found myself landing solid, structurally grounded strikes even with gloves on, which I normally stink at. And each time, I was striking with the last three knuckles. The only training specifically for striking I have been doing lately are Systema callisthenics, and those not very regularly either, and those aim to train distribution of force over the surface of the entire fist, but with emphasis on the last three knuckles.
Any Flowfighting coaches want to weigh in on this topic? All comments and opinions much appreciated.
10-02-2009, 09:45 PM
The last three knuckles with a horizontal fist?
It's a good way to break your hand.
10-02-2009, 10:02 PM
I would have thought so too, Coach Ilano! Though you mentioned a horizontal fist specifically - what is the anatomical justification, if any, for last-three knuckle punching with a vertical fist?
10-03-2009, 12:28 PM
amd here I come from a Wing Chun kung fu background; in which the vertical fist/last 3knuckles is the medium of choice for delivering love!
If you look at the clubbell flag position with all the componets (shoulder pack/grip/elbow pit up'hip rec/ leg drive) you can get a clear indication of the mechanics behind the WC punch.
when punching from this base the counterforce is held thru the whole body; its a surprisingly solid structure, and in many years of punching using last 3 knuckle I have never injured my hand. Try pushups from this position as well; elbows tucked tight against your side, you will see wht I mean.
technically; in WC the vertical fist is favoured due to its superior 'pinning' ability when used in close quarter context. The forarm is used to trap/pin the opponents arms whilst striking..yet this is only a basic use and understanding.
in WC we dont use a horizontal fist to punch at chest/head height; but it is used as a 'downward' punch to say; the lower abdomen; then the knuckles are still aligned with the wrist; the elbow rotated inward to keep the shoulder pack in place.
hope this gives further insight
10-05-2009, 08:45 AM
This is a topic with no short answer. Here's why...
When you're talking about the normal, natural structure of the hand, wrist, forearm etc focusing on the first two knuckles of the hands is uniformally superior. This is UNIFORMALLY true and indisputeable in the "untrained hand".
What I mean by "untrained" is that the structure supplied by the first two fingers of the hand is more stable. The bones larger, the tendons thicker and the opportunity for alignment is naturally easier to grok. Mistakes or misalligned punches have less of a chance to cause damage (and mistakes happen for everyone master or novice).
However, punching with the lower three knuckles is far from uniformally bad. Likewise many "specialty" punches and hand configurations can be trained - but it takes time, attention to detail and skilled and competant teacher to tell you when you've let things go south.
In boxing or modern Muay Thai (anything with thicker gloves) the emphasis should be on center mass of the fist. Properlly wrapped, your hand should be flat. The most common hand damage in boxing occurs as a result of the lower three knuckles hitting the target with force while squeezed too tightly. What happens is that the flat of the fist becomes misalligned and all the force is pushed back into the the smaller bones and tendons resulting in serious problems. This is especially problematic nowadays for grapplers becoming strikers because of their experience and greater emphasis on grabbing. A secure grip for grabbing onto a gi can be detrimenal when one starts to pursure striking. The position of mechanical advantage for grabbing equals the position of least mechanical advantage in a strike.
When you remove the gloves, other hand positions can be as (or even more) beneficial as the top two knuckles. However, like I said above these require a lot of training with a competant teacher. Virtually any part of the body can be weaponized but it's not as simple as emulating somone else. There are a lot of things going on "behind the scenes" that have to be incrementally trained, conditioned and applied over and over again and in a variety of situations from static to fluid to dynamic before a person can (or should) be able to apply them without danger to themselves.
The common misconception today is that an "unorthadox" punch is merely a matter of mimicing what is seen. In truth, that is far from the case. Each and every fist/hand configuration must be trained ad nauseum with attention paid to a lot of very specific things. Over time these skills can be developed but it's far from simple.
Push ups can work well in the beginning for developing something like a lower three knuckle punch (as well as a top two) but only if done with the correct intent. Most people simply do push ups one their knuckles and call it good. The point is to create structural alignment not to do a bunch of push ups. Even if this IS done correctlly you have to move to being able to create that alignment ballistically and in a more dynamic situation - something that MOST martial artists are unable to do unfortunately.
My advice to anyone would be to stick to what you're being taught. Don't improvise or use your own judgement. Every skill requires time, experience and quality training in order to get right.
Since this post is already pretty long, i'll make it a little longer by describing what "typically" happens in regard to martial artists and the training of "specialty" punches...
Typically, a student comes into a school to learn a specific art. The way that the art is taught - in almost every case - is a progression of more gross motor actions to fine motor and more and more details are added over time. Most students attend a school for less than the amount of time needed for them to really get into the nooks and crannies. They then leave thinking they they "get it" when in truth they haven't been shown the all-important detiails that make those things actually work. Those have to come later when the basics have been thoroughly learned otherwise it's just too much information to digest all at once.
A good example of this is something called the "pheonix-eye fist" which is prevelant in many Chinese martial arts. In my experience, about 80-90 percent of martial artists who believe they can use this type of punch effectively and without hurting themselves in the process CAN'T. It isn't a matter of holding your fist in the particular configuation. It's about finding the structure, developing the strength in both muscle and tendon as well as "chaining" the connection from the tip of the knuckle through the shoulder, spine and down into the ground. Then, as you get better at the latter, continuing to increase the former so that it can "keep up" with the added stress.
The basic point is not to extrapolate and not to mimic. Don't try to copy something you've seen but rather stick to what you're being taught until you have the chance to "look behind the curtain" and see the thing in it's entirety. Remember, a lot of these specific skills were developed back in the day and even then perfected by very few. Those few were training for hours a day - every day, for years and years, under the watchful eye of their teacher.
Hope that helps.
10-06-2009, 02:36 AM
Thanks for all the input, folks. I'm going to take my time digesting this, that's for sure!
Hi all, good topic....hey coach Jones, I know you alot about boxing so I wanted to ask you this. I read Jack Dempsey's book 'championship fighting', in it, Jack advocates hitting with the lower three knuckles, according to him , although the first two knuckles are bigger, hitting with them is dangerous b/c it requires a bent rather than straight alignment of the fist and wrist. He says, hitting with the lower three knuckles provides the best structural alignment of fist and wrist(the power line as he calls it)and b/c the force is distributed over three or even four knuckles it gives the best protection to the fist when punching, esp for bareknuckled fighting. He also advocates hitting with a vertical fist for stepping straight punches and only uses a horizontal fist for hooks and straight punches without a step (as the weight shift w/o a step is always circular). Do you think that maybe the style of punching in those days required a lower three knuckle landing? Why did the old school boxers advocate lower three knuckle landing and in modern boxing the upper two?
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