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Self Defense/How does punching vertically decrease the chance of fracturing your hands?


You wrote in your article on the evolution of boxing that bare knuckles rarely broke their hands and among the reasons was that they punched vertically instead of horizontally. Indeed many Kung Fu styles that emphasize punching such as Wing Chun have an overwhelming amount of vertical punches, if not most punches are thrown vertically.

I am curious how does this prevent getting boxer's fracture? I tried hitting my heavy bag this way and it hurt like fuck and I got a red hand and some calluses after one hour of training so I stopped experimenting with vertical fists.

Did bare knuckle boxers have methods of conditioning fists  much like Asian martial arts do?

What physics and bodily mechanics are involved that is supposed to prevent broken hands when throwing hits vertically?

It's a lot more complicated than that.

First off if do a "from the hip" karate punch, you'll see something interesting (unless you were taught to do some very specific things for reasons most don't understand). If the rotation of the punch runs through the entire punch, you'll see something really neat. At the beginning and in close range, it's an upper cut (thumb up). In the middle and middle range, it's a vertical punch. At the end and far range, it's a knuckle punch (thumb down)

Vertical punches are actually safer to throw at small hard cylindrical targets in middle to close range. If you take them past that you run into problems. The vertical fist against a small cylindrical target also lessens the chance of the punch being off center (so the pinky and ring knuckles hit instead -- that's one of the major causes of boxing fractures)

Then you get the hard to soft/soft to hard striking rule. Hit hard targets with open hands and soft targets with fists.

Finally you get different body mechanics between modern boxing and old style. In many ways the movement of modern boxers is to move the extra weight of the glove without the boxer getting tired. This has the side effect of -- with equipment -- allowing modern boxers to hit harder. Often exceeding the structural capabilities of the fist. There's a lot more circular motion in modern boxing than there was in bare knuckles. This also increases the chance of injury without gloves IF you try to hit with closed fists

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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