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One of the basic survival skills you must have in your prepper’s bag of tricks is knowing how to defend yourself with your bare hands, i.e. to throw a punch. When SHTF and you’ll have to fight without any defensive weapons other than your fists, you should at least be able to hold your own and keep threats at bay so you can escape. In this sort of scenario, throwing an effective punch at an opponent may seem like a simple exercise, but there are many ways it can go wrong; if not done right, you may even end up spraining your hand or breaking it. There are many different ways to punch, but for this article we’ll focus on how to make a straight, or cross, punch as taught in boxing.

Note that the tips detailed here are for right-handed punchers. If you’re a southpaw, refer to your “dominant side” as your left side, and the “non-dominant” side as your right, and assume you’ll be punching with your left hand.

Start with the Fist

To make a proper fist, begin by curling your fingers into your palm, starting with the little finger. Envelop your fingers (usually the index and middle finger, depending on the length of your thumb) with your thumb. Remember to position your thumb over and behind your fingers, and don’t allow it to rest past them.

It’s important to remember that you should never wrap your fingers around your thumb, since that’s the perfect way to break or dislocate your thumb once you throw a punch. Never allow your pinky to stick out. Make sure you make your fist just tight enough so it doesn’t unravel when you hit a target, but not too tight such that you cut off circulation in your fingers.

Throwing a proper punch begins with making a fist correctly. Don’t stick your pinky out, keep your thumb behind your middle and index fingers, and ideally you should hit your target with your middle and index fingers’ knuckles (WikiHow.com/Make-a-Fist#/Image:Make-a-Fist-Step-10.jpg).

Lock it In!

As for your wrist, you should keep it locked and aligned with your forearm. This may entail that you “drop” your wrist a little, creating a level plane stretching from your knuckles to your elbow. Doing this not only ensures that your wrist is protected from harm upon impact, but also that your punch is more powerful by channeling all the kinetic energy of your forearm in a straight line.

To make a proper fist, curl your fingers into your palm, then lock your thumb over your first two fingers. Drop your wrist slightly to align it with your forearm so you don’t injure your wrist when you punch. The two knuckles on your middle and index fingers are your impacting tools (GreekLikeMe.com/1dfec9/proper-punching-form-c97ce)

Put up Your Dukes

Now it’s time to “fortify” your defenses, i.e. your posture. Tuck your chin in and bring up your fists in front of your face. Keep your fists level with your cheeks, and your elbows slightly bent. By doing this you protect your face, as well as position your elbows close to your sides in order to protect your ribs and vital organs from counter-assault.

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Fighting Foot Forward

Once you’re in the proper defensive posture, you need to complement it with the right stance, one that maximizes the force of your blow. While it does matter if you have strong shoulders, arms and chest, most of the energy generated for your punch comes from your legs.

Face your opponent and don’t stand completely straight like a board, but don’t have your legs too wide apart either. Stand facing your opponent and place the foot of your dominant side behind you and at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees. You don’t have to be completely conscious of this, just stand with your knees slightly bent and your dominant foot behind you; stand in a way that feels natural.

Delivering the Punch

Now that you’re aligned properly to your target, it’s time to throw the punch. To do this the right way, follow these steps:

1. While facing your target or opponent, imagine a spot located well beyond your target; this can be a point behind your opponent’s chin or behind the punching bag; trying to hit something beyond your intended target will prevent you from “pulling your punches” and targeting this way will ensure you throw a more powerful punch.

2. Depending on your distance to your target, you may have to use your non-dominant foot to push off and “slide” forward to your target and, with your dominant hand, throw the punch. If your target is close enough, pivoting on your back foot while punching will be sufficient. It may seem like a simple move, but you should actually be “sliding” forward or pivoting with your left (non-dominant) foot, and at the same time pulling your left shoulder back, twisting your hips to the left slightly, and twisting your right shoulder forward.

3. As you bring your arm forward, squeeze your hand before impact. Don’t tense your arm or shoulder up and don’t squeeze your fist before the swing begins; these will weaken the force of your blow. Ideally, the knuckles of your index and middle finger should land on your target, and not the actual fingers themselves.

4. After landing the punch, snap your fist and your shoulder back. Don’t over-extend your punch or remain in the “finishing” position; this could leave you open to a counterattack.

5. Keep your hands up to defend against your opponent’s blows, then punch again if necessary.

NOTE: When in a real fight, before you throw your punch, you can jab with your other fist to calculate your battle distance and gauge your reach. Even in practice, don’t make any tell-tale moves, such as “pumping” your fists before you punch, this will only make you move slower and make your blows more predictable.

Here’s an old-school representation of how to do a good straight punch. Note that jabbing with your non-dominant hand is done to “probe” your opponent, gauge your distance and set them up for your straight punch (ArtOfManliness.com/articles/how-to-throw-a-dynamite-straight-punch/).

Practice on a Bag

For lack of a sparring partner, you can practice your footwork and punches on a punching bag. If you don’t have a punching bag, you can improvise one out of a duffle bag filled with sawdust or sand then tied shut and suspended from your ceiling, or pile up and tie four old tires together, and likewise suspend them from your ceiling.

Don’t have a proper punching bag? You can make your own with a few old tires and some sturdy rope or paracord. Suspend them from your ceiling and voila, instant training tool  (RossBoxing.com/2014/10/30/make-homemade-punching-bag/).

Final Notes

When it comes to punching, there can be a lot of misinformation and confusion due to urban myths, pop culture and the armchair “martial arts experts” online.

To acquire this simple yet valuable skill, don’t stop at this guide or rely totally on online sources. Find and join a boxing gym closest to you and learn from the experts. If possible, take the advice of any prizefighters you happen to meet, and if you can spare the time, train or spar with them. Knowing how to throw a good punch is one of most basic skills in life, and a critical complement to any firearms or melee weapons training.