How to Throw a Perfect Punch

What you need to know to make your first blow the last.

The fist is man’s oldest weapon. A clenched ball of bony joints and knuckles at the end of a capable arm has been doing damage since before we’d quite figured out the use of tools, and continues to serve as our go-to medium for inflicting pain.

But although most people would like to think their punching ability is enough to send a would-be assailant toppling backwards, a quick survey of any internet street fight compilation will tell you this isn’t the case. Boxing is the sweet science, and if you haven’t done your homework, you might find yourself painfully unprepared on the day of the test. Here’s everything you need to know to help you put the other guy down for the count.

1. The Stance:

Your stance is the foundation of all the power you’re going to be putting into your punch, so you’re going to want to make sure you get it right. The punch we’ll be outlining is called a straight right, or just a cross, and if you don’t have your stance together you’ll be out of the game before it’s started.

Stand with your power hand in the back (for our purposes we’ll say the right hand), and your feet roughly shoulder width apart (diagram below). You should be standing on the balls of your feet for quick mobility, rather than flat-footed. Your fists should be raised to face level to protect your head, and your elbows should remain in by your ribs to protect your body. Weight distribution will be about 55/45, with slightly more weight on the back foot. Lastly, bend your knees a bit and “sit down” with your hips. You’ll feel your center of gravity sink a little toward the floor, rooting you in preparation for the devastating knockout blow you’re about to administer.

Once you have the basic elements of a stance together, you’re ready to actually throw your punch.

2. The Twist:

Most people think the power in a strong punch comes from the arm. This is completely wrong and has left thousands of would-be fighters disappointed, beaten, and probably short a few teeth. So where does the power actually come from?

Here’s the twist: The force of a punch really begins in the feet. Pivot on the ball of your right foot, rotating your foot, hip, and shoulder into one smooth powerful movement. You’ll feel each muscle group rolling together into a single dynamic delivery service for your clenched fist. You’ll wonder why you were ever punching with just your arm muscles in the first place.

3. The Extension:

Time is moving in slow motion. You’re standing in your textbook boxing stance, and you’ve just performed what you consider to be a pretty beautiful twist. You register your attacker’s bulbous, grotesque face hanging in the air, unprotected, and know that now is the moment to extend your earth-shattering attack.

When you let loose your punch, don’t let your elbow flare out to the side. Rotate your fist so that it extends out from your body in a straight line and none of the power is lost in translation: your shoulder is behind your elbow, which is behind your wrist, which is behind your knuckles. Your arm muscles should remain as relaxed as possible, until the last moment before contact, when you can tighten up and brace for impact. That’s because straining to create force will contract your muscles, limiting their freedom of movement and ultimately slowing down your punch.

When Bruce Lee was asked about his kung fu punches, he responded, “a karate punch is like being hit by an iron bar – whack! A kung fu punch is like being hit by an iron ball swung on an iron chain – whang! – and it hurts inside.” We have a feeling he knew what he was talking about, so we’ll take the advice.

4. The Impact:

Time to bring this thing home. The moment of impact is what a punch is all about – the rest is all necessary to get there, but at this point, it’s all just hype. The impact is what we’re here for. So as you’re experiencing the sweet, cathartic bliss of a clean connection with some schmuck’s jawline, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

One is striking surface. You want your striking surface to be as small as possible without sacrificing solidity. The reason for this is basic physics:. If you minimize the area of your fist that makes contact, you maximize pressure output on the other guy’s face. The ideal way to do this is by making the striking surface your first two knuckles (pictured). This way, you can be sure that all your power is going to be concentrated in one place, and that it’s going to hurt.

The last thing to remember, as you administer pugilistic justice to your adversary, is follow through. When you’re punching someone, don’t just punch at him, punch through him. Imagine you’re really trying to punch a few inches behind his head, or that you’re trying to punch through his face and into the back of his skull. With this in mind, you’ll have no problem creating the sustained, explosive impact needed to knock someone out.

CRACK. The pleasing sound of bone on bone. You watch the other guy’s eyes roll back in his head, and you know he’s out before his crumpled, senseless form reaches the ground. Well done.

Punching isn’t easy. That’s why some people get paid millions of dollars to do it right. But with the right know-how and maybe a little practice, you can definitely punch better than the average guy. And at the end of the day, that’s all you really need. Keep your hands up and happy clobbering.