Learning to Punch for *Fighting*

This article is going to present some info that should be self-explanatory, but you know how we FMA people like to over-complicate things. While most FMA people I’ve met are also Bruce Lee nut-huggers, they violate his most basic tenet: a punch is just a punch, and a kick is just a kick. Ask an FMA guy, a punch is also a knife technique, is also a stick strike, is also a whip snap is also a disarm, to a trap to a sweep, to a bite to the kitchen sink. For a genre of fighting styles that love to claim simplicity and practicality, we sure have gotten flowery and un-practical lately.

Take a look at the following “typical” clip:

Never mind. I was just offered some upgrade for $59, and I’m not taking it. But here’s the clip, so just check it out and then come back. I’ll wait. Grrr…


Apparently there is a boxing style in the Philippines called Panantukan, that is supposedly derived from the knife and it sure looks like Wing Chun mixed with sloppy boxing mixed with kung fu disguised as Silat mixed with Muay Thai. The usual line up for an “FMA” seminar that supposedly has everything in it already. The only trouble is, you have to find an American, or an American-trained FMA guy to learn it. You know how we Filipinos love to hide our secrets.

We FMA people love exotic, flowery, complicated-looking stuff, and if it’s some shit we don’t know how to do–it comes off as “deadly”. (Wait, I thought we were simple, to-the-point, direct and brutal? More on that later) So rather than waste precious seminar time on developing skills, we’d rather spend it “drinking from a water hose” and trying to retain all those neat tricks and drills they demoed at the seminar. Thank God for DVD.

The sad thing is, the one thing our FMA boxers are not doing is Boxing. We are coming up with counters to jabs that are longer than a kenpo technique on meth, and somehow our fighters forget that the average puncher will punch by combination. And here’s a little piece of info for you “I-only-fight-to-the-death-not-in-sport-event-so-I-won’t-spar-for-shit” types:  The combination they throw often come so fast, one of you won’t have time to complete what you planned to do. If he throws all three punches of a three-punch combination, you won’t be able to throw your shots. If your shots make it in, he won’t get out all three of his combo. That stuff you’re showing can be proven ineffective in 3 short minutes. If any Panantukan experts make it to the Sacramento/Northern California/Bay Areas, stop by; I’d be glad to show you what I mean.

There is a very simple formula to learning to punch correctly–that is, learn to punch for FIGHTING–that is so simple and effective, if you followed it, 90% of the stuff your Guro shows you will be completely useless against you. Don’t believe me? Go into a boxing gym and pay for one day of training, which is usually about $12, and ask to spar three or four guys. I don’t even know you, and I guarantee you will get whipped three or four times. Well worth the $12 bucks.

Problem here is that we spend too much time learning neat counters and combinations and pad drills, but very little time is spent actually learning and developing the punch. The attack combinations are not well researched and tested in fighting. After all, you’re training for the street, right? Does your Guro fight in the street? The counter combinations are even worse. For safety purposes, your partner is not supposed to really try to clean your clock. So you are practicing your defenses on everything but malicious punches. There is very little cross-training into rival gyms (dare I say NONE?), so every time a guy is in front of you, he is a training partner–never an opponent. Trust me on this one; you’re not learning to punch. And you damn sure aren’t learning to stop a puncher.

But this article is not about strategy, it’s about learning to punch, and learning to punch for FIGHTING. Without further b.s. from the always loquacious (got that from my 11 year old, who looked it up after hearing the word at a spelling bee) thekuntawman, here is the formula that you need:

  1. You must learn proper form from someone who knows how to punch. Trust me on this; boxing is not so simple that what you think you’re looking at is how to punch. That’s the problem Bruce Lee made. He was a horrible boxer. And generations of JKD guys learned by imitation, of a Wing Chun guy who studied Muhammad Ali videos to learn to box. Ali violated darn near every rule of boxing. But he could get away with it because he’d boxed most of his life, he’d fought most of his life, and he had the speed, the timing, and fighting experience to pull that stuff off. The few JKD guys who broke away from the box-by-seminar mold and actually went into a gym are now learning to box, and they are leaving  the majority of the JKD/Kali world in the dust. Wing Chun is Wing Chun, and it has it’s place. Boxing is Boxing, and it has it’s place. If you’re going to try and box, then really learn to box = Is all I’m saying. Learn proper mechanics and execution, and then excel at it. Stop going along with martial artists-in-boxing-gloves. You’re only fooling the ignorant.
  2. Although it’s a punching bag, you’re supposed to move around it. You never stand in a small spot in front of the punching bag and think you’re developing punching skills for fighting. Yes, you are developing a powerful punch (that’s what the bag is for). But what is power if you cannot connect? What is power if you don’t have the footwork to land that punch? Surely, you didn’t think your opponent would stand there like he was doing a drill with you? Opponents move, bags don’t. With the bag, you move. It’s only there for you to have resistance when you hit.
  3. Focus mitts are overused in the FMA/Martial Arts-in-boxing-gloves world. Mitts, my friends, are not for accuracy–contrary to popular belief. Mitts are so that the puncher can work his combos and have (1) a connect point, (2) sound feedback when he hits that thing right, (3) a living, breathing, moving body as a reference point when he throws a punch (helping to gauge distance) and has to move while “combinating”, and (4) to have that living, breathing, moving body throw punches at him, block, slap, grab, blah blah blah. It is so you can work the same combos over and over with a semi-cooperative partner/opponent. Most people outside the boxing world either have a partner who is too close (not making him reach or step) or too far (not giving him the right distance to have an opponent at).
  4. A mirror is really needed–or a teacher who will stand directly in front of you to tell you if you’re doing it right. I’d actually prefer a mirror. I didn’t put mine up because my students weren’t focusing. But they already knew how to punch. But best believe I am ultra picky about my student’s performance. They still need a mirror while shadowboxing to connect what’s in their mind with what they see.
  5. Finally, a speed bag. The term “speed bag” is a little misleading, because it isn’t “speed” we are trying to develop on it; we are trying to develop timing and accuracy. Now, the surrealist martial artists will try and say that they aren’t punching like one would punch in a fight. That’s because you are trying to teach yourself. Go into a boxing gym, homeboy. A real boxing gym. Youtube won’t teach you what you need to know, and neither will some silly blog written by a guy who can’t spell well enough to write his own stuff. (lol) I cannot emphasize this enough.

Okay, we just passed the 1,300 mark and we still have to edit.

Let me close by saying this. Folks, this is entertainment. Some of you martial artists are more sensitive than one of my 6 ex-wives. You’re supposed to be tougher than that. I have had far more people challenge me on my views than you can imagine, even had a few try me out. Trust me, I did not get this way on poor fighting skills. And I am not talking out of the side of my neck. This is why every article on technique on this blog offers, “come over and I will prove that my theory is valid”–I can and will prove every word I say. But if you aren’t man enough to come and check it out in person, then shut up and stay in your chat rooms and dojangs and dojos and run your mouths there. You know how you like to brag that your Guro has had a whole bunch of matches under his belt? Well I’m one of them. If you’re not willing to be the next, then stop spamming me or talking behind my back–I am very easy to find. I write these articles because there is a side to the FMA that you won’t get on the mainstream, and I don’t say it, very few people will. 15 years ago, I said that Kinomutai is not a real art in the Philippines, Kali was not the “mother art”, and drill-based art is not practical. Y’all cried like a kid who just found out Santa was dead, but you’re here right? How many of you really think Kali is the mother art now, besides Leo Gaje? Or Lito Lañada really invented Kuntaw from Spanish word and a Chinese word? You know what? The truth hurts. So suck it up and take it like a man. Arguing with boxers on youtube saying that Panantukan will destroy boxing is just juvenile and dare I say it, “pussified”. It makes the FMAs look bad; all of us. Put your money where your mouth is, and do what you challenge people to do all the damned time: prove it. Go into a boxing gym, and fight a boxer. See where your hands really are. It’s the only way your empty hand skill will really develop. The truth is, your FMA Guro was NOT the champion of all the Philippines. He never fought in death matches. You don’t fight in street fights, nor do you test your art. You don’t really have confidence in your art, that’s why you still take seminars and try to learn something that will give you confidence. And you know damned well those stick/knife counters won’t work empty handed. If you fight with your FMA empty hands against a real machete-wielding attacker, he will kill you.

So take some practical advice, swallow your pride, and shut the hell up and learn. Unless you are willing to come to my gym in Sacramento and show me that I’m wrong. You’ve read about those old men who have had more matches than he can remember? Well, you’re reading words written by of them. And I’m still young enough to prove it.

And if there is anyone in the area who would like to clarification on this or anything else I present on this blog, please contact me and I’ll even go a round or two with you. Thanks for visiting my blog.


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

12 thoughts on “Learning to Punch for *Fighting*”

  1. Moe, I would love to be there to witness if anyone ever did walk into your dojo! It was always a pleasure watching you fight, and these articles are just as good (bring your ass back to the East Coast, we love ya out here). Please let your readers know that ALL technique can be tested, and the boxing gym, another man’s dojang, or the backyard of another fighter is the best place to do it. Keep spreading that knowledge my man! Peace!

  2. Greetings, from Laurel MD. Salaam brother. Your gym/website looks good, you look even better! Make sure to stop by next time you come back this way! Wife and lil B (maybe we should say BIG B now) send their salaams too…

  3. yeah send them over, we got something for em. you been sayig it for years, karate people be teaching themselves. they just got to spend a year in the gym and learn them basics, and they can get those hands nice, go back to karate and do some damage. MMA be doing that too, making up they owned skills, but nothing beats learning it right the first time and then get them rounds in. once you do that, you’re good after that. let them know what its really like in the squared circle, it’s not as easy as it looks, and damn sho dont look like them youtube clips. 🙂 nothing beats hard work and clean technique. good to see you Moe hope your gym is making that money. “MONEY MONTY”

  4. If MMA and karate people want to develop their hands, they should start with getting a good coach and then spending time sparring. If they learn how to hit and stay on they’re feet, they can win more fights by knockout without wrestling. Karate is all about fighting irregardless of size and weight, and nothing will erase a size advantage faster than pumping them punches faster than a big man can catch them. And nothing levels the field like a lightweight who punches like a middle or even heavyweight (much respect to Pacman). Learn the right mechanics, and you can beat anyone. You just shared some good advice here, I hope they listened.

  5. What kind of FMA are you? Boxing is better than our Empty Hands? Are you crazy? I’m wondering who certified you, and where you get your informations. Out of all the masters and grandmasters, you think they all got it wrong huh? Well if you’re so good, maybe you should enter some full contacts so we can see what YOU are made of. Once your arm is broken, you will need some backup skills. If you only box what do you have left? And what about Kuntaw hands? Are they inferior to boxing also? This arts have been around since the days of Megallan, and if they are so bad, we would all speak Spanish instead of Tagalog. Even Ali learned his boxing skills from a Filipino, what are YOU talking about? Maybe you should stop teaching FMA all together!

  6. Traditional empty hands, like you say, have their place. And they all have limitations including the sport of boxing. The key is to learn the proper way to punch and then train those skills to perfection. I like your 5 items, and esp #5. Never thought much about it, but I have avoided the speed bag because I never learned to use it. But I do all the others. Lots to think about, thank you for a good read.

  7. Do you ever record any of your fights? I would love to watch them. Btw, this was well written for the most part. I always enjoyed your writings about technique. Will you do a full blog on Kung Fu? I would love read more about your views on how kung fu people train in the TCMAs. Saw the youtube clip (jow ga form in the 80s), your skill as a teen(?) was impressive. You should post some FMA clips as well.

  8. Great read but a tad cynical, sarcastic and dare I say “angry”. I’ve always taken the position that all of the arts are effective if you learn it correctly. I do agree that there’s way too many technics, counters, sets, blah blah blah. I rather that one learn a couple of things really really good, versus having an arsenal of mediocre crap. I also believe that you need to take away from other arts and incorporate them with your training. Like you said, a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick

    1. thank you! i have the same opinion, that all arts are practical if you make them practical. but it is also true that there is better ways to do many things, and worser ways to do them also. in the case of martial arts-as-boxing, we usually go for the less effective ways, because most martial artists who make up their own boxing styles, do not really learn to box. so what they are doing is worst than beginner boxing, they are reinventing the wheel as a square, and selling it as the real (circle) thing.

      and you are right, there is sarcasm and humor in my writing, and sometimes anger. but not in this article, i was mostly trying to be funny.

      oh the last part, yes, i get nasty emails and insults all over the place from some of the articles. and this one, so i added the last part. see the funny thing about the martial artists today doing the Filipino art. we say that we challenge, we fight, blah blah blah, even putting down tournament fighting as “sport”. but then a teacher in the same town will go on facebook or forums to trash me, when I am only a 15 minute drive away to say what needs to be said. that does make me mad. i have to live with these women in my town every day. but the article was done to educate and even to make some folks giggle while learning something different concepts. thanks for your comment!

  9. This looks like a whole lot of bullshit to me. While it might be true for sportfighting, reality is different. for example, there is no such thing as an unarmed fight. there is always something that can be used as a weapon. if you do not know this, i seriously doubt you’ve learned any martial art. sport fighting maybe, but no combative system.
    about your five points:

    1. no, you do not need to learn how to punch “properly” from anybody. once you now the general stuff (keeping your wrist straight, not locking the joints, staying relaxed) you can learn the rest by simply punching a target. of course, it is quicker if you are shown the right way, but there are way to few people who actually can. sport fighters are trained to strike with gloves in most cases (and in a way that can’t be used with weapons) and most tma guys have never punched full force. learning by yourself is often the only option.

    2. depends. some techniques are useless if you’re circling around your opponent (example: shoulderslam-takedown)

    3. can’t disagree with you here, as i’ve never seen anybody use focus mitts (might be that other schools overuse them – mine clearly doesn’t). why would we if we can practice against the real thing?

    4. the best way to see if you’re doing it right is sparring.
    mirrors are useless unless you know how the technique looks when YOU execute it, just trying to copy somebody else won’t work most of the time. same with somebody watching you, they can only tell you how others do it but not how you should do it.

    5. speed bags are useless for the close distance most fma use, they are meant for the middle to long distance used in boxing.

    did you really learn any kind of fma? because either whatever you learned is a lot different from all i’ve ever seen in fma and military / police training (which makes me doubt it’s effectiveness – if it’s better, why don’t the guys who actually fight for their lifes use it?), or you are just making shit up.

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