Can Pad Cause Blood To Flow Back To Upper Body Punching Drills – Form Or Function?

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Punching Drills – Form Or Function?

Many martial artists abhor what the fitness crowd calls “boxing drills.” The problem isn’t so much the incorrect hitting as the dangerous movement, period. When done correctly, boxing exercises build conditioning AND reflexes. Here are some exercises and tips to make your training sessions safe, fun and productive.


A proper kick takes place on the whole body and not just on the hands. I’ve seen too many seminars and aerobics classes where the kicks are more like random arm waving. It might get the blood flowing, but so will the risk of injuring your elbows and shoulders.

When punching, the fist should be curled into a tight ball and kept clenched during the punch. Hand wraps are a good idea when used correctly. Even one sloppy punch out of a hundred good punches can sprain an unprotected wrist. A pair of gloves is also useful to protect your hands. They are relatively cheap and protect the skin on the knuckles. I used to be very cheap with gardening gloves. I just got bloody knuckles and a repeat injury 10 years later.

Some considerations are to exercise without pads and gloves to strengthen the wrist and strengthen the knuckles. I have done both over the years and recommend using the equipment. I also recommend that you purchase and use your own liners and gloves. It’s much more hygienic and comfortable than rolling around in someone else’s sweat.

The point of view

The basic boxing stance is to have your feet shoulder-width apart, with one foot forward about one step. You should be standing so that your feet fit comfortably on either side of a 2″ x 4″ piece of wood. You want to have enough space between your feet to move forward, backward, and sideways. A common mistake is to stand with one foot behind the other as a skate boarder. This will make it difficult to use both hands.

Turn your body off so that you show the target about ¾ of your profile. Raise your arms or “guard” so that the front hand is about above the front leg. For a right-handed person, the front hand is the left hand and the back hand is the right hand. Leftists follow the opposite. The front hand is held with the knuckles up and slightly forward. The last hand is holding the chin. The next step is to strike from this position. With a solid stance and good body mechanics, you can punch faster and harder than average without hurting your fists.

Straight punches

Mathematically, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So, a straight shot beats a swinging “haystack” with a punch. The problem is that nature likes to swing. Cats and bears perform punching moves. Humans naturally do movements with clubs. So one has to learn the straight shot. When you program your body to hit correctly, you actually feel lighter.

The Jab

Start in your basic position, with your front arm forward. From here, extend your front arm (left for righties) so that your arm reaches about 95% of its extension. The elbow should be aligned with the fist. Then return the arm back to the ready position. Avoid overextending your arm. Young women in particular often have this problem of overextending their arm so that it looks like a boomerang.

Make the shot fast. Hit, hit, hit. It is a quick shot designed to set up the target for other shots. At first the stroke will be very tiring as you try to push and pull your arm back and forth. Eventually, it will snap back and forth quickly, like a snake.

A more advanced stroke is known as a straight left. This is when we push the left hand forward strongly with the body behind it. It is designed to deliver more power over a shorter distance. Some forms of martial arts, such as Jeet Kune Do and Hung Gar, use the front hand to strike hard. I once saw a friend of mine knock out a guy in a tournament with 3 straight left jabs. If you are left-handed, you can do this with your right hand forward. With training, you can develop enough strength with either arm forward. For now, just focus on hitting and do it quickly. It works.


The cross is also known as a straight right or sometimes called a “power punch”. This stroke is somewhat similar to throwing a shot put. Power comes from your legs, hips and shoulders. As you twist your body, extend your back arm and punch the target. After making contact with the target, return the fist back to the starting position. Again, beware of a hyperextended arm at the elbow.

You will usually follow up the kick with a cross. But if you see an opening, you need to put your cross in hard and fast. Since most brawlers like to finish with a “mower”, you need to know how to “beat them to the end.” You do this by training your cross so that it comes from near your own chin straight into your opponent’s chin, throat, heart, solar plexus or whatever.

I used the cross when the drunk came to hit me. He drew his right fist back. But, I got him first, straight right hand, on the chin and he went down like a sack of potatoes.

His friend grabbed me too close for straight punches so I had to use…


A hook is a close range punch delivered with a bent arm. Some trainers insist that the palm is facing down, while others say that the palm should be facing you. Either way, it’s important to keep your wrist straight. The palm down method is better for this.

To execute the hook, bend your arm at a 90-degree angle and, turning your hips and shoulders, swing the punch toward the target. Let your shoulders and hips lead slightly, like you do when you swing a baseball bat. Make sure you follow through and keep your arm folded.

Common mistakes are people straightening their arms during the stroke. They usually have to approach the target and keep their arm bent, even after making contact with the target. Another common mistake is for beginners to simply swing their arm across their body. They have to position their body behind each stroke.

Upper cut

The uppercut is essentially a rising punch. It is usually directed to the chest and sometimes to the chin. Like the hook, start with a bent arm, palm up. During the kick, turn your hips into the kick and lift your body into the kick.

Common mistakes of this shot are:

1. Raise the striking hand like an arm. This just creates power from the biceps and gives the target less of a slap.

2. Extending the arms during the stroke. This one is even weaker and gives the impression of a dance from the 60s.

Using focus tiles

Let’s work on straight punches before learning the hooks. Your training partner should be in a balanced position. Keep the focus pads on the sides of your head to learn how to hit a target that close. You also need to hit the far focus, which will force you to get closer to the target. Strike the focus pad on the opposite side of your training partner, with your left hand against his left hand and your right hand against his right hand. This will force you to twist your body into punches and work your abs as well.

Many people will hold the focus pads far away from them. This is fine for beginners who are shy about getting a putt, but it does little to teach the putt about distance. By holding the focus pads close to the head, the training partner learns to:

1. Don’t flinch at incoming blows

2. Stay alert

Many new practitioners make the mistake of holding back their kicks or just touching the surface of the pads. You have to train yourself to hit “through” the target. Again, when done correctly, you’ll use more of your “body” behind kicks and twists, using your waist more. You become more coordinated and practice more.

To practice straight shots, first make a putt. Punch until you get used to punching through the focus pad. Don’t just push the pads. Get a good snap on your shot so that when you make contact with the focus pad, it snaps away. Kind of like playing pool when the cue ball hits the other ball.

Once you feel comfortable with the stroke, move on to the cross. The cross will usually extend about 3 inches beyond impact (although it comes a split second slower.) Punch through the target again and return to the guard position.

Now you can mix your combinations. Try the following:

Jab-cross. Jab-jab-cross. Punch-cross-punch. Kick-kick-cross-kick. Kick-cross-kick-cross.

Try for 1 minute. Shake your arms and shoulders if they feel tight. Then work on it until you feel tired but relaxed.

Then proceed with hockey and upper cuts. For hooks, the training partner should hold the pad in the middle of his body, not to the side. For the uppercut, hold the pad at about waist height, close to your body, and turn your head away so the pad doesn’t hit you when it bounces up. For God’s sake, don’t hold the pad to your chest while looking down. You’ll find out why in an awful hurry.

Start with just the hooks and then just the uppercuts. Then start comboing with all the punches. Strike for a minute with a minute off. Extend the punching time to 3 minutes with a minute in between. Set a clock or use a timer. We used to use an electric timer or a tape recorder with music playing for 3 minutes and silence for one minute. I quickly learned to take a sip of water and brace myself for when the music started again.

Once you gain the speed and endurance to hit the pads consistently for 3 minutes at a time, you can move on to reflex exercises. The training partner can change the position of the focus pads and hold them for about 2 seconds at a time. The hitter must react quickly or miss his chance. This is a great drill bit for open hole operation. It’s usually a little comical at first, as the puncher is almost always confused at first and will deal blows rarely seen on the planet. The training partner must remain consistent with the positions of the focus pads to avoid confusion. The pad holder also needs to be careful, as the kicker can sometimes get confused (or frustrated) and hit the training partner. I speak from experience that it is rare, but it does happen. So, “stay alert, stay alive.”

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