Landing the Spinning Backfist

Ota Eihachi Sensei demonstrating Pinan Sandan

The spinning backfist, or hammerfist, can be used in both self defense situations and sport fighting, if it’s used correctly. These are usually seen in kata as hammerfists (which I actually prefer to the backfist), and the kata tells you precisely when to use them in self defense. This brief article is going to focus on the use of spinning backfists/hammerfists in sport fighting. While it isn’t super popular, I do see this technique tried in MMA on a fairly regular basis, but it almost never lands.

Chael Sonnen attempts a spinning backfist against Anderson Silva

In the animated GIF, above, you can see an extreme example of how spinning backfists are usually thrown in MMA. Typically, they are thrown coming forward, with little to no setup, when the opponent has the space to move in any direction. Often, even when they don’t fall into the cage, they drop their hands after throwing it, and end up getting counter-punched. Spinning techniques are big–they take a lot of motion to use–which means that setup and timing are vital. You can land them going forward, of course, but it takes more work to set them up. Personally, I prefer to use them on the retreat.

Emanuel Newton knocks out Joey Beltran with a spinning backfist/hammerfist

Last Friday, at Bellator 124, Emanuel Newton knocked out Joey Beltran with a spinning backfist–you can see it in the animated GIF, above. This is pretty much exactly how I like to throw my spinning backfist/hammerfist, although it would have been better if he kept his hands high. You bait your opponent into attacking you, and when they start, you take a small step to turn your body slightly away from them. This shows them your back, and makes them think that you are running away. In MMA, this typically results in your opponent rushing in with punches, leaving their hands down. At that point, a quick, tight turn will whip your fist into the side of your opponent’s head, and you are set up to immediately step backward or sideways.

Something to keep in mind with techniques like this, is that you can’t throw them repeatedly against the same opponent. Since it takes so much motion to execute, it’s easy to counter once they have figured out what you did. All they have to do is keep a hand high on the side you have further away from them and move in close to jam it, or move back out of the way. If you start using it in sparring, you’ll notice that, after landing it a few times, it will start getting blocked just about every time you throw it against your training partners. Even so, be careful with this strike! Even someone who knows that it’s coming and counters it can end up getting caught with an elbow, or on the back of the head, by making a mistake. Take care of your training partners and look before you throw, and keep the power under control!

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.