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Kravate101's picture
Why aren't there more hook punches in our Katas?

Hi all- as a self defence instructor and doorman-I live in the realm of big right hooks (not my own-if I can help it- I hasten to add). I see that it is the weapon of choice of both the trained and the untrained when they are worked up and emotional, and apparently many monkeys and children will fight this way too. 

So why is it that the straight punch has such pride of place in traditional Karate (which I also train, teach and love). Yes I know its effective-and I'm sold on the step through if need be- but I'm also sold on the power of my big right hook. So why is there not more hook punch training in Karate? Why are n't they there in the Katas (save for the Tekki/ Naihanchi katas perhaps...)?

Can I also please give my Facebook page a plug- Real Life Protection- posting video clips, ideas, dates and venues.. I live in remote County Kerry so it'd be good to expand the circle of interest-keep the thing alive. 

Thanks all!

Wastelander's picture

Well, I can't claim to know the historical reason for the preference of straight punches over hook punches, but I can say that I hate hook punches. In the course of my training I have been taught how to throw hook punches, of course, but they just don't seem to work well for me, personally. Compared to my straight punches, they are slow, they are weak, they have less reach and I inevitably hit with my fingers more than my knuckles half the time unless the target is absolutely stationary.  If I'm close enough to use a hook punch, I'm close enough to use an uppercut, forearm strike or elbow strike instead, and I hit much harder with those.

Zach_MB's picture

I would argue that hooks are in contrast to one of the major original concept that the kata's are based on. One of the major revelations of the old masters was that if they moved their bodies in a linear fashion when striking, they could supstancially increase their power.

I would venture to say that because circular motions were the norm at the time, they didn't feel llike they needed to include them in the kata because other people were already teaching circular movement. I can't back this part up with specific evidence, it's just one of the conculsions that I feel exists.

Th0mas's picture

As I see it, there are two themes here:

The first is defence aganst wild swings and punches..which I believe the kata deal with very effectively... and the predeliction for a good well trained straight punch in karate -  is because it is going to be much more effective in the chaos of a real fight than wild untrained swinging hooks etc

Secondly, The perception of really effective and skilled Hook punching, as most people recognise it (by that I mean the great unwashed general public), has probably been heavily influenced from watching movies and boxing matches (especially in the west).

The problem with that is the first is very unrealistic; and the form of the second is an artifact of the sporting rules of boxing, including the wearing of protective gear and fighting in a ring. Many aspects of the boxing approach, methods and techniques are therefore infludenced by the need to "win" within a very constrained set of rules and environment..

If you are training for self-protection you will not be worrying about having to come up with strategies to defeat assailants wearing large head guards with 16oz gloves on... You will focus on effective techniques against wild swing punches, "rugby style" take downs, grabs and headlocks, head butts etc..

Finally I also think that we, as in the more traditional karateka, can get a little strung up about "hook" or curved punches. The mechanics of a "classic" reverse punch, still apply if you just happen to curve the delivery a bit to get it around an obstruction...

Kravate101's picture

Thanks guys-yes I don't intend to abandon the straight punch-but I know that my right hand hook is my knock out punch- I'm told it and I know it- perhaps its slower, more telegraphed-but hey its one of the closest things I have to a fight finisher-and most of us humans are the same. There must have been  reason for the Okinawan masters etc to largely neglect this most obvious of all punches (the primate punch) in their katas. I mean if you train a good right and lift some weights-you have a great tool at your disposal-natural as breathing in an affray.

Can I also please give my Facebook page a plug- Real Life Protection- posting video clips, ideas, dates and venues.. I live in remote County Kerry so it'd be good to expand the circle of interest-keep the thing alive. 

Jr cook
Jr cook's picture

Here's my take.

I feel like hook punching is the more natural strike as discussed above, kids, primates, and emotional adults commonly revert to this punch. If you can reverse punch well but get a little sloppy, you can still hook punch pretty effectively. 

I've been working the heavy bag a lot and noticed that as I get tired a short time into the workout my straight cross (reverse punch) becomes more and more of a swing. Maybe a little less efficient but not too terrible and I'm OK with it. I still throw from the hip, with a tight fist, body weight moving forward and so on. And to be clear, a good hook punch is still nothing to laugh at.

Looking at the kata we have a sort of outline of the ideal techniques. We can learn to generate speed and power and correct mechanics and see each them overlay onto the kata techniques. Now mix in a little situational chaos (adrenaline, shortness of breath, etc.) and go for maximum power. This will not look exactly like the kata but the skeleton of the techniques will still be there if our training holds up. It's Ok to train for bullseye (perfected technique) and miss a little high or low when the pressure is on. The goal should always going to be a higher standard than the reality and I think we see that with the katas. 

On the other side of the coin we are training to defend against said swinging punches. This doesn't imply that we have to do them. The katas give us a variety of answers to the problem of swinging strikes. If it is natural to strike in this way it makes sense that the kata creators assume we as fighters can do that at a base level.

I use and love hooks, uppercuts, and even the occasional overhand punch along with my straight punches. Use the tool that fits the job. Base the mechanics in what you learn from martial arts and test the techniques to see which works best for you in varying situations.

Too early, not sure if this makes any sense...

Kravate101's picture

Great answer-thanks. I like the idea of straight punches getting on the inside of the swinger. Also I see that we have a combination of forces in the Karate oi-zuki:- step through as a dynamic push that also destabilises the opponent, rooting the striker; hikite to pull the guy into your fist; a corkscrew punch (bunned in boxing) to cause extra damage on impact. Plus its quicker when perfected-so you might get two in for the price of one! 

Thanks for sharing ideas on this everybody

JWT's picture

As quite a few people have said, there are a large number of good defenses (including IMO stylised flinch defences) to the standard swinging right straight or hooking haymaker in Kata.

I don't think we see right hooks and whaling haymakers from trained and untrained people in real fights because they are a great tactic.   We see them because lashing out with the arms is a natural aggressive response/alternative to cowering and holding the head.  So while it can be effective, that doesn't necessarily make it the best or safest tactic.

I think the paucity of high level right hooks are reflective of the types of positioning vis a vis attackers that seem to frequently crop up once you start developing bunkai against HAOV.  Personally I like a straight right palm cross as one part of my ststem's preemptive arsenal, and as part of my mid game/end game arsenal while chasing a target.  I don't opt for a head hook because it is slower and easier to stop and generally my  positioning makes it

1. Slower as a preempt.

2. Awkward to land against straight strikes as a mid fight tactic.

Having said that I do hooking punches to the body, Kage zuki style (as per Heain Sandan, Heian Godan, Tekki etc - although there are other non ballistic applications for the same movement) because I often find myself on the outside in tactile contact, with the head out of reach due to the shoulder, and the body closed off by the near arm to diagonal/linear forearm strikes, and the leg positioning not quite right to get a good knee in with either leg. In that position often a Kage zuki can just whip round and give the abdomen/chest/head a great wallop as an effective circular technique.  As such I don't think that the hook was an ignored tactic, I just think it was employed in a different way.

John Titchen

MykeB's picture

Most of the better points have been covered already, which happens a lot on this forum.  Other than the timing factor of a straight punch being a very solid responce to circular attacks by offering advantages of speed, angle and defense I think it's about what karateka were facing.  If you are facing attackers throwing big looping punches those same punches don't represent the best responce.  There isn't a lot of advantage in adapting the same techniques even if the tactics are different.  Altering the angles and range you can attack from, which straight vs. hook punches does, give you pretty good tactical and strategic advantages. 

I've never had a problem with using a hook or generating power with them.  They have their place and karate katas have more of them tucked away than most people think.  However, they aren't a primary weapon because they are what karate's founders where combating.

Paul_D's picture

I have no idea, but if I had two guess a couple of things spring to mind.

Firstly the shortest distance betwee two points is a straight line, so straight punches would certainly seem to have an advantage in this aspect. 

Secondly, it may have something to do with the person you are hitting finding it harder to perceive the approach of a straight punch, along the lines of Bruce Lee's undefendable punch, which Michael Jai White explains beautifully here:-

but as I say, I am ony guessing.

Kevin73's picture

Sorry, I'm a little late to the party to post, but I was just recently reading something that might shed some light on the logic.

It was a discussion of the old bareknuckle boxing methods and how they fought.  It made mention that there were not a lot of hook punches thrown because of a couple reasons

1) Due to how it is thrown, it increases the risk of breaking your hand

2) Due to the closeness needed to throw the hook, it was too easily countered by the hip throw and purring kicks

So, putting it back into the old kata, I would say that these were probably the same reasons on why it was not used more in okinawan karate.

PS anyone else have to enter the captcha code umpteen times to get it right?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Kevin73 wrote:
PS anyone else have to enter the captcha code umpteen times to get it right?

This forum gets a lot of traffic and hence has become a target for spammers. We recently had to up the level as the auto recognition software spammers use had improved and we were getting hundreds of fake applications a day … none of which got through my human checks; but it was getting very time consuming. One of the problems of our success I’m afraid and there is no way around it.

All the best,


Kevin73's picture

I understand the need.  I just REALLY stink at getting it right the first few times. LOL