View Full Version : Vertical vs Horizontal Fist

1st June 2002, 01:49
What are the arguments concerning the use of the vertical fist, versus the horizontal fist, in full hip twist striking?

The following arts seem to be proponents of horizontal fist:

1) Most Modern Arts (Boxing, Muay Thai, Vale Tudo)

2) Karate (it is the preferred punching method but I believe their are too many)

The following arts seem to be proponents of vertical fist:

1) Wing Chun

2) A lot of Chinese Martial Arts actually

3) Jeet Kune Do (American-Chinese)


Physiologically, the following arguments seem to support vertical fist:

1) Keeping your radius up keeps your elbow turned down (not flared out) resulting in a more neutral to slightly externally rotated position of the humerus, which results in greater stability and integrity of the shoulder joint.

2) If you relate the hand position while doing a one arm dumbell press at decently high weight (half body weight in one hand) the shoulders are kept externally rotated or neutral (at lockout). It would wrench your shoulder apart otherwise. This translates to a vertical or inverted fist.

3) It is a more relaxed position. If you hang face down, arms dangling, your arms tend to be vertical fisted.

4) The weighing scale test says vertical fist is more stable at lockout. **


But the following tell me horizontal fist rocks:

1) It FEELS MUCH BETTER. But I'm a boxer, so I've trained this way for years.

2) It seems to have a better landing surface when you punch the head.


Some people say you use the power of a vertical fist drive, then twist it over at the end (as late as possible). But if it is true that vertical fist is more stable at lockout, why ruin the stability at the point of impact?


I am a horizontal fisted fighter. But I am wondering if there is a point to all this vertical fist stuff.

On mma.tv, someone told me that in the bare-knuckle boxing days, people fought vertical fist. Interesting...


BTW If you guys have the time, please try the following at home. Get a weighing scale (bathroom type) and put it on the wall. Place your body in the position right before impact, and push your knuckles into the scale, and take the average reading (it fluctuates). A three second hold should be fine. Then without changing your body placing, compare vertical to horizontal fist.

1) Vertical Fist, Lead side.
2) Horizontal Fist, elbows turned out, Lead side.
3) Horizontal Fist, elbows down, Lead side.
!, 2, & 3) Rear side this time [cross] for the reverse punch.

I haven't done the rear side, but with lead, it comes out to be vertical fist at a definite advantage. This is odd cause I never do vertical fist.

Help guys! This is very important, me thinks. ;)

1st June 2002, 02:00

You might want to check out this older discussion on E-Budo on the Vertical versus the Horizontal Fist.


I think this will be helpful for your discussion.

If you use e-Budo's "Search Function" at the top of the screen you can find other discussions too.

Victor Smith
Bushi No Te Isshinryu

2nd June 2002, 01:00
Originally posted by antonsevilla
But the following tell me horizontal fist rocks:

1) It FEELS MUCH BETTER. But I'm a boxer, so I've trained this way for years.

2) It seems to have a better landing surface when you punch the head.

I cannot comment on punching in karate (I'm judoka), but I've always been into boxing, even the bare knuckle days.

What I see and read concerning the old boxing days (The Great John L.) and a little before) is that most trained fighters showed the opponent the back of one's fist so that when launched and contact was made, the punch turned naturally into the horizontal punch. I haven't read enough or understand it enough to say this was the case in, well, most cases, but I have seen pictures and have read descriptions of fights in which the punch, at its greatest extension (they left the jab punch out there pretty far anyway), did result in the punch landing horizontally. The turning of the punch was pretty rountine in those days, and the jab hasn't changed much with the introduction of the gloves, at least at the end of the punch.

But it also leaves a questionmark in fights which went beyond fifteen, twenty rounds, IE, is that the most effective and efficient use of the punch? The modern, gloved jab is nearly always turned horizontally in Queensbury (English) boxing rule of play. It can be seen when most fighters who measure the punch, using the off hand, do keep it horizontal (this also could be owed to the "trick" of eye-gouging which hasn't changed much, even today with the glove thumb connected to the rest of the glove, "thumbing" is still very useful). The last of the great thumbers was Larry Holmes. While he meaured his punches, it was nearly impossible for him not to gouge. Old habits die hard, but his reign led to the work on the gloves with the first change was the completely thumbless glove (these lead to an increase in hand/knucles injuries and more likely, injuries to the thumb like there weren't enough before), then back to the older glove with the thumb tied to the rest of the hand.

Anyway, in boxing, it would seem that the jab or straight right (left, there is a difference between the jab and straight punch in boxing) was usually turned at the moment of "delivery" of the horizontal punch.

That seems to be the norm when the jab is chambered up high, covering the face, but those who are fast enough to leave the arm hang low, may or may not deliver a vertical or horizontal punch. In fact, some just throw the punch from there, waiting to counter the jab of the other fighter, and actually land with the knuckles with no turning of the punch at all (techically, the fist is horizontal when thrown in these cases). Not much damage, but it scores.;)

My two cents on the boxer's punch.


the Khazar Kid
2nd June 2002, 17:47
Here's one of the best articles I've seen on why many Western Pugilists prefer the Vertical Fist to any other Fists or Open Hands:


And here's some old manuals of pugilism using the Vertical Fist:


In addition to it's use in many Chinese and Chinese-based arts, the Vertical Fist is also the favorite Fist of many Burmese, Indian, and African fighters. The Vertical Fist may have been the original method of the Egyptian and Nubian Boxers, and of the nomadic Aryan Warriors who founded civilizations of Europe and India, the original Indian and Chinese Temple Boxers, the Keltic, Greek, and Roman Pankratiasts and Pugilists, and the Bareknuckle Pugilists of the last few centuries.

Jesse Peters

Jussi Häkkinen
2nd June 2002, 23:40
Some karate styles and teachers have also taught the diagonal fist (i.e. version between the vertical fist and horizontal fist) as a preferred tool. It seems to combine the best of the both worlds - elbow can still be held down doing this. According to some doctors and medical licenciates, it also is a strongest form for the bonestructure when punching.

Kyan Chotoku (according to his students) taught a diagonal fist as a handform for basic punching. Some of his students have omitted this fist form for various reasons, but generally they have verified that Kyan used to teach a diagonal fist. From styles still alive, at least Shorin-Ryu Seibukan uses this form of a punch.

3rd June 2002, 01:47
Its a matter of use. If you are punching solar plexus or above, the best way is to punch with your fist vertical (palm in towards center).
If you punch lower, turn your fist over and punch horizontal.
Why? A number of reasons.
1) Structure. Its pretty generally accepted across most styles that a bend in the wrist at contact is a bad thing. The joint is weakened and the puncher has a greater risk of injury.
2) With the structure in mind, do a little test. Simply extend your arm out to the wall with a fist, vertical. Pay real close attention to your wrist (making absolutely positive it is straight) and you'll find that the pinky and ring finger knuckles make contact first. This is your striking surface and that is good. Why? Because striking with these 2 knuckles puts the force of the impact on your radias, the larger of the 2 bones. Your arm is better able to receive (and deliver) the force from your blow through the radius bone. Try this test with an uppercut, hook, straight etc and you'll find that if you really do keep your wrist straight, those two knuckles make first contact.
3) I was taught originally that by turning the arm over on impact so your fist is horizontal is a way to generate extra force, or tork, in the punch. The extra force generated by doing this is negligable and not enough to counter the potential for injury due to mis alignment of the wrist from turning your fist (Journal of the Martial Arts, Volume 9, Number 1- 2000.)
Now, keeping those 3 reasons in mind, structure for support, structure for force and a combination of the two, the horizontal punch is effective for abdomen and lower punches. Why? Again, because the best striking surface for that type of punching is the knuckles of the pinky and ring fingers. Why? Because those two knuckles place the force of impact on the larger, sturdier bone. When punching low, turn the hand over and you make contact with those knuckles. When punching level or high, keep the hand palm in towards your center.

3rd June 2002, 03:16
ever do knuckle pushups?

the body automatically takes on the more favorably structured position, which, in my case, is the so called "diagonal" fist

Jussi Häkkinen
3rd June 2002, 03:54
Mushin: Indeed. Valid point made, that's exactly what I mean.

3rd June 2002, 13:21
That may be true for knuckle push ups, but I do not punch with the same structure I use in knuckle push ups. I punch to my center, staying behind my sword, so to speak. This angles the arm in a way that knuckle push ups don't.
Though, I'm not saying the diagonal punch is not valid. It has its place/use just like the horizontal or vertical punch does. Again, its a matter of use and application.
For the 3/4 punch, though, I've found its use and proper application have been much more limited.

4th June 2002, 05:37
For maximum impact, you must lock all the bones and muscles in your body, so that little or no force is sent back from the opponent into you. You want to create impact, not absorb it.

The lock is even stronger when centered. Try it, in the pushup position. You can feel every muscle, from the tri's, bi's, pec's, to the lats all pushing, all locked into place.

We do a lot of impact generation exercises at my dojo, and when the punch is left on the target, for a split second longer, and locked, there is more than a substantial increase in impact. It is the difference between a little thwack and the kind of jarring thump that gives you a headache, even when hit in the chest!

4th June 2002, 07:20
you can do knuckle pushups with the fist vertical and horizontal
I prefer them horizontal.. if you put your arms really close to your body the only way to go is vertical though...

Anyway I think that most people will go down after a few punches, horizontal or vertical.

I think this discussion is a bit like discussing if a fountain pen is better to write with than a ballpoint, everyone has his own preferences.

the Khazar Kid
5th June 2002, 22:30
Khahan, when I throw punches vertical or horizontal at the bag, post, wall, etc., I usually try to connect with the big knuckles of my trigger and middle fingers, since those seem to me to be the biggest hardest and pointiest, and the ones I do pushups and headstands with. I've heard that Wing Chun prefers the pinky and ring knuckles, what is the advantage of this method?

Jesse Peters

6th June 2002, 00:34
i'm no expert, but they snap the wrist upward i think, to generate more power with little room and telegraph

6th June 2002, 10:44
Originally posted by the Khazar Kid
Khahan, when I throw punches vertical or horizontal at the bag, post, wall, etc., I usually try to connect with the big knuckles of my trigger and middle fingers, since those seem to me to be the biggest hardest and pointiest, and the ones I do pushups and headstands with. I've heard that Wing Chun prefers the pinky and ring knuckles, what is the advantage of this method?

Jesse Peters
I went over most of the advantages in my previous post.
Basically, if you punch with good structure and wrist alignment, the pinky and ring finger knuckles are actually the surface on your hand that makes first contact for mid section and higher punches.
There are also minutae of physics involved. For instance, the index and middle knuckles tend to protrude more and be separate knuckles. Ever seen anybody lay on 1 nail? Ever seen anybody lay on a bed of nails?
The pinky and ring finger knuckles tend to be flatter, forming a single surface, and a smaller surface. You can deliver the same amount of energy or force through a smaller surface area (equates to more lbs per square inch).
Those last two are of course on a smal scale. For me, its the structure of the rest of the arm that matters.

the Khazar Kid
7th June 2002, 22:04

Great site by the way. One of the few places I've seen with serious discussion of African and Native American martial arts and warrior traditions!

Jesse Peters