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Why twist your punch?

The majority of traditional Eastern martial arts use the straight punch which starts at the side of the body, palm up, and finishes with the arm extended, palm down. This requires a corkscrew-like twisting of the fist, which is the hallmark of most Kung Fu styles, as well as Karate and Tae Kwon Do.

This is quite a complex movement, and takes a relatively long time to learn to execute properly, but it has found its way into literally hundreds of different traditional martial arts. So there must be something clever about it. (Surely…?)

Protecting your elbows

Once again, a very important reason for the twist is preservation of your body. Remember that decades of training are needed in the journey towards mastery, and the fewer injuries received along the way, the better.

The elbow joint is another “simple” joint, similar to the knee. It bends and straightens in only one direction. Once it becomes straight, any further extension will lead to the elbow hyperextending and can cause injury.

By keeping the elbow pointing downwards throughout the punch and turning a linear extension of the elbow joint into a rotation of the fist the movement acts to protect the elbow from hyperextension.

This means you can practise more, punch more, and keep your body going for longer!


Another reason for adding the twist into a straight punch is the additional impact force created. As well as the direct force of the impact we are adding a twisting force into the equation.

On impact the surface tissue is compressed, and the twisting fist then stretches it in the direction of rotation before impacting the bones or organs underneath. This serves to make a more solid impact as the surface tissue is in tension on impact.

The impact force also becomes a spiral because of the rotation, and this can be much more effective in terms of the damage caused and the penetration of force into your opponent’s body.


But there has to be more to it than just protecting your elbows and hitting someone more effectively – and of course there is!

Remember that although the movement is called a punch, the applications of the movement are really only limited by the brainpower of the martial artist.

If someone grabs your wrist, your arm can be either extended or withdrawn in order to release your opponent’s grip. If the wrist is twisted at the same time, the movement becomes dramatically more effective. If the other hand is used simultaneously to knock the opponent’s hand away, it is even more so.

Hence the twisting and the push-pull movement have much more application than just punching your opponent.

Of course, there are many more applications and reasons that the movement is done this way, and it would be a shame for me to spoil the fun you will have finding them out. Remember, the depth of your understanding is only limited by you. Train and train and train, and wait for the light bulb to come on!