|A standard balled fist|
The balled fist is a fairly standard tool in martial arts and it is a fairly natural method for forming your hand to strike someone. That doesn’t mean it is the only method, or even necessarily the best method. I would like to introduce two other methods–Shuri-ken and tate-ken. The word ken we know to be Japanese for “fist”, while Shuri is the old capitol of the Ryukyu Kingdom and tate means “North-to-South” (this is how judoka would recognize it) or “vertical”.
|My poorly-drawn rendition of Shuri-ken|
The Shuri fist (Shuri-ken) is an old Okinawan method for forming the fist to make it as tight as possible, and has the added benefit of pulling the second knuckle of the index finger closer to the palm so that it doesn’t stick out as far and end up jammed or broken. When I form this fist, I feel as though I am gripping significantly tighter than I do with a standard fist, and the tendon that runs over my first knuckle on my index finger lays flatter. I also notice that it is much easier to align my fist properly, as the index finger lines up with the radius bone of my forearm. I typically use this fist for most of my punches and it feels very strong. That said, there are some situations where I do not use it.
The vertical fist (tate-ken) is most popular in Chinese martial arts and the karate style of Isshin-ryu. The thumb is stacked on top of the fingers and serves to pull them in tight. This also helps keep the index finger’s second knuckle from sticking out too far, but lines up the wrist differently in a way that is best served by keeping the fist vertical (hence the name) which means that it can also more easily slip between a person’s arms if they are raised to protect their face. I like to use this fist for backfists (uraken-uchi), hammerfists (tetsui-uchi) and my jab. Since it fits nicely through people’s guard it makes a great jab, and the alignment of the fingers makes for a very sturdy hammerfist. As for the backfist, I find that doing a backfist strike with either of the other two methods (a standard balled fist or the Shuri fist) causes uncomfortable pressure on my index finger from my thumb, and the vertical fist eliminates that problem.