What Is the Right Way to Make a Fist?


When you train in the martial arts, one of the first skills to learn is how to correctly make a fist. The objective is not only to effectively strike an object with force, but also to avoid injury. The bones and muscles in your hands are delicate and, if not used correctly, can break. A common mistake is to over-tighten and ball up the hand, spreading the knuckles. However, a correctly formed fist is firm but supple.

Curl and Curl Again

  • To make a basic straight fist, extend your arm in front of you with your palm facing away from you. Curl your fingers at the first joint, or the joint below your fingertip, pressing the tips of your fingers against your third joint, or the joint at the base of your finger. Curl your fingers again so they tuck into your palm, bending your hand at the knuckles. Tuck your thumb under the second, or middle, joints of your forefinger and middle finger. Keeping your wrist straight, note how your first two knuckles line up with your hand and arm. When you strike an object with your fist, use only the first two knuckles. Keep your pinkie tucked in. If you let it dangle or protrude and strike a target, you can break it. The top of your hand should be level and square, according to “Tae Kwon Do: Secrets of Korean Karate” by Sihak Henry Cho. Martial arts practitioners regularly perform knuckle pushups, which condition the first two knuckles and wrists for punches.

Variations on the Fist

  • Martial artists use variations of the basic fist to target specific objects. For example, in Karate, you can use an “ippon-ken,” a one-knuckle fist, or a “hiraken,” a fore-knuckle fist, according to “Karate Basics” by Robin Reilly. The one-knuckle fist is used to hit small targets, such as your solar plexus. By extending your forefinger’s first knuckle and pressing your thumb against the side of your forefinger, you can narrow the striking surface to a narrow point. In the four-knuckle fist, all four knuckles of your hand are used as the striking surface. Holding your hand out straight, you bend your fingers back at a sharp ankle, extending all four knuckles and mimicking the shape of a sledgehammer. Keep your thumb tightly pressed to the side of your hand. The fore-knuckle fist is also used against small targets, such as the larynx.

Squeezing the Knuckles

  • By comfortably squeezing your knuckles together to form a fist, the bones in your hands act as stabilizers, working together as a single unit. If you clench your hand too tightly, which causes your knuckles to separate and spread, this movement proves counterproductive. In this position, the bones in your hand can buckle when it actually hits a target. In addition, if you squeeze your hand before striking, the action can impede your striking momentum. Keeping your hand clenched after striking a target will make you vulnerable to a counterattack by an opponent.

Thumbs In

  • The placement of your thumb can be flexible and often depends on the martial arts style that you choose to practice, according to the FightingArts.com website. For example, in Isshin-Ryu, a style of karate developed by Master Tatsuo Shimabuku in Okinawa, martial arts practitioners press the tip of the thumb against the fold of the forefinger’s second knuckle. In other styles, the thumb remains relaxed and tucked under the third knuckles of the first two fingers. If your thumb is too stiff, it can pull apart the bones at the bottom of your hand, which can result in injuries of the wrist and the lower part of your hand.

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