Forgotten Fight Science: The Vertical Straight Punch
One of my favorite things as a hoplologist is looking at martial arts from different regions and eras, stripping them down to their basics, the comparing what techniques remain: the techniques that transcend time and location. The vertical straight punch falls in this category.
First let’s dispel the common myth that “all martial arts developed in Greece and were spread by Alexander the Great’s army”. This is simply untrue and there is no “mother of all martial arts”. Various cultures developed similar combat techniques, despite having little to no contact.
The most common technique is the vertical straight punch: one where the knuckles are aligned one above the other. For the past 100 years, the horizontal fist, where the knuckles are side by side, became the norm. Before that, this was almost nonexistent. There’s a very logical reason as to why this happened, but was it for the better?
The ancient Greeks and Minoans used hand coverings for boxing. The Egyptians and Mesopotamians did not. Despite this contrast, when comparing the surviving artwork from the era, both employed the vertical straight punch.
In 1719, when the pugilist, James Figg, declared himself Champion of England, English fighters understood what the Ancients knew: that proper skeletal alignment makes for a more secure punch. The vertical straight punch dominated the English Prize Ring.
The best argument for the vertical straight punch was made by Jack Dempsey in his seminal book, “Championship Fighting” in the section on “Line of Power”. In it he explains that by properly aligning your knuckles and wrist bones with that of your shoulder, you create a single, solid line of power. Think of a battering ram, a long structure used for direct impact. If there’s a slight bend in the shaft, the integrity is reduced. It’s the same with a straight punch.
Today, with the amount of tape and padding, the vertical straight punch is not necessary in modern boxing. With the rise of MMA and reintroduction of bare knuckle boxing, I fully believe that it is time to re-examine the benefits of the vertical straight punch.