Punching with a Crooked Wrist

I'm getting old. At least that's one explanation for my getting tendonitis. Or of course you could say my students have been bashing me up, and that's why my joints are inflamed. Nevertheless, this was what I got recently ... and which earned me two steroidal injections to resolve.

In treating my wrist a little more delicately, I thought to share what I communicate with my students regarding the drawback or pullback hand as a taekwondo technique, and the manner in which we punch. On chambering at the side of our ribs, the hand is aligned with the hammer fist or blade of the hand straight with the outer blade of the arm. This is more like how a wing chun practitioner would hold their wrist and fist in their lead guard, and how they would fire off their punch.

When we corkscrew our forearms forward, past halfway our fist -while rotating - flexes so that the front two knuckles are drilled into the opponent. The blade of the hand is no longer aligned with the outer blade of the forearm. The two knuckles face the opponent. The fist strikes differently to how it was thus chambered.

At this point in my class, I typically would stop talking, stare at my students in turn and ask them ... what are the implications of this for our style, our art, and for all the other taekwondo techniques we do. I present some information but I want my students to think about this peculiarity and what it means to us.

So I ask you, dear reader, ... what are your thoughts on this?

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BSM said…
I've heard of styles that chamber up high by the ribs. The guy in my chin na class trained at a school that chambered that way. My old school chambers at the hip like a gunslinger.

I assume your fist starts horizontal with curled fingers at the top? Then rotates to horizontal fist with knuckles up?

Not sure what you mean my implications...

I would guess that a high chamber gives you a quicker high block for one.

After watching a few traditional kung fu classes I can say that there are many ways to generate a power punch. Taekwondo does it one way which is still effective if it's taught for the way it was intended: self-defense.

Related to this: check out

This post.

The video near the end shows a traditional technique being used in self-defense.

Colin Wee said…
The more I practice, the more it made sense to me to chamber higher on the ribs than I was initially schooled.

If the main objective of Taekwondo's pull back hand is to drag something or someone back towards you whilst hitting them hard, then muscle dynamics dictate a higher than gunslinger chamber. Think of it like this - if you're doing a tug of war, when you grab that rope, you're grabbing it and holding on to it at rib height.

My question wasn't about the power of the strike, but a focus on the relaxedness of the wrist, position of the hand 'in flight', and the life cycle of the punch.

I'll talk more after more people tell me their ideas. :-)

Thanks for the response, Bob.

Patrick Parker said…
we were taught to chamber at the bottom of the ribs - right where the elbow rubs against the ribs. Higher than this and the forearm has to drop some before it can rise into a high punch or block. lower than this and it's hard to do the pulling in motion.

we also chambered vertical fists
Colin Wee said…
we were taught to chamber at the bottom of the ribs - right where the elbow rubs against the ribs.

Yep - that's the region where we chamber our fist. But we do the horizontal upturned fist. We only do the vertical fist when holding on to sai. But you are right - the angle corresponds to all our blocks, and thus like Bob says, it gives you a quicker block, given that the blocking arm is already structurally 'there'. Colin
supergroup7 said…
I'm sorry to hear about your wrist problems. I do not believe that it is age that is talking to your body, but more that your body is warning you about constant unhealthy pressures that are being placed upon it. You are being wise to assess what is happening, and how to remedy it.

Kyokushin karate ka chamber higher up near the armpit. When I first started doing this, it felt awkward, but now there is almost a "correct" feel to it. The elbow, wrist and fist are all in line when I'm in a chambered position. To send a strike, I only need to extend forwards. There is no additional swinging upwards movement of the elbow, or bending of the wrist to compensate for the height change. The movement of the arm ( from elbow to knuckles) goes forwards only and the shoulders, back, and biceps do the most work.

As for the rotation of the fist at the end: There have been many discussions on it on various Martial Arts forums, and it's pros/cons. Biologically, a full rotation actually works against the bone alignment. It is a 45 degree turn that will bring all of the bones in line. But I have read many reasons why one would want to have a full rotation. I would encourage you to look more deeply into this, and perhaps consider the vertical punch/ or an angled punch as an option in your current training to reduce the amount of stress that you place upon your wrist for the next years as you work towards healing whatever is causing it pain at this moment. I strongly encourage you to look into supportive wrist stretches ( as I have seen done by Aikido artists) to help your wrists heal, also.

One of the ideas of chambering this high is about the pull back hand being used to control the opponent's balance by pulling them in as you strike. ( Just as you mentioned in your second comment, Colin.) Also, the other concept provided by this chambered position is an elbow strike to an opponent at the back. One would want a straight back momentum with as much reach as possible ( hence the fist ending up close to the armpit.)

Here's offering you much positive thoughts, prayers, and supportive energy as you work through this issue.
Colin Wee said…
Thanks, Mireille. These all will heal, and they do.

What I am focusing on is not the rotation nor the location of the chamber. These two issues are talked about constantly.

I am referring however to the fact that the fist is chambered one way, and *whilst* it is rotating, has to change position in order to strike with the first two knuckles.

The key thing here that I talked about was that when on the ribs, the fist position is no different to the wing chun vertical fist. This is something interesting which I was hoping that a chinese practitioner like Bob would pick up on.

My studies show that the basic theories of the martial arts have hidden lessons that help the practitioner-student. Many instances of our basic movements paint a framework or the parameters to help maximise striking force or reduce the risk of broken bones. The front kick, the roundhouse kick for instance, points to the horizontal and vertical axis for which are the end points ... and all angles between which are legitimate kicks in themselves.

For this post I was trying to see if people would talk about the 'life cycle' of the punch. Meaning -- what is the punch to the beginner. Is it only the last bit when our entire body tenses up to transmit linear momentum into the front two knuckles? That's very limiting, isn't it?

The way I approach it, I like to prompt my students to think of the various different punches that can be drawn from the linear two -knuckle punch at each stage of it's extension.

To strike a closer person, you punch upwards into the rib cage - with the 'box' of your hand. A little further away, you might strike with the vertical fist! Then at full extension it is with the front face of your knuckles. Extending this, if you get caught in a head lock you could also hit with an inverted fist over the shoulder.

The main takeaway lesson is that for the hand to modify it's structural position, there has to be a significant amount of relaxedness that has to occur even when the body is gearing itself up to meting a deadly force. This relaxedness allows the strategic fighter to pull back in case his target evaporates, or if the opponent presents a formidable barrier to his strike.

Such relaxedness allows this kind of strategic fighter the wherewithal to pick and choose from different weapons, and indeed to decide whether or not he needs to strike his opponent at all. I believe Pat from Mokuren dojo is going to come up with a Aikido v Karate post which may paint karate-ka or taekwondo-ists as practitioners that have a narrow range of functional effectiveness. Well, if you think only with the fist at the end of your arm ... he may be right! (see my post on Taekwondo v Aikido).

supergroup7 said…
OH I see where you are coming from now Colin. I always like to think of my punch coming from my toes. By bringing my mind downwards towards my center instead of outwards towards my fist, I find that I can engage my hips, and also legs into the movement better.

My husband, Arnie, would like to add his concern about your wrist problems, and his words. He would encourage you to look at your daily work habits at your job, and see if perhaps there are other moments that may be putting stress on those joints, especially since your employment does involve working on a keyboard often. It might be that you could improve on the ergonomic manner that you work.
Colin Wee said…
Thanks for the concern, Mir and Arnie. :-)

The movement should start at your toes and hips, you're right. I think my perspective is that whatever you ultimately strike with or do with the power is dependent on your circumstances and the objective driving you. Such is why it is interesting to look at the lifecycle of any particular move to dissect it and see what else can plug into it.

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