As an instructor of Krav maga and Israeli Combat Systems (ICS), I can tell you there are very specific reasons for not turning at the end of a punch.
Krav Maga and ICS are meant to teach people quickly and effectively defend themselves in a street fight. Unlike a tournament or cage fight, anytime you get into a street fight, your skills will deteriorate slightly from the way you trained them due to the stress of a real fight. Because of this, we teach people to punch with a vertical fist to insure that even under high stress situations, several things will occur.
You always hit with the top two knuckles:
- in just about any martial art, when punching, contact should be made only by the top two knuckles of the hand. The reason for this is they have much more structural support when it comes to taking impact. If you punch something hard with the bottom two, you will likely end up with a boxers fracture. When your fist is positioned horizontally, it becomes much more difficult to protrude the top two knuckles, and you may end up hitting the person with the whole hand. In the stress of a real fight, the fine-motor skills required to punch correctly while turning your wrist often fail. If you break your hand mid-fight, it will likely put you out of the fight, the consequences of which are much worse than in any cage mach. Putting your hand vertically allows you to more easily protrude the top two knuckles making for a safe, effective punch, even under stress.
You don't telegraph the punch:
- Punching with your fist vertical makes it easier to keep your elbow down, thus avoiding telegraphing the punch. The number one thing I see among new students learning straight punches is this exact mistake, The will bring their elbow up for what almost looks like a sort of convoluted version of a superman punch. I can see the punch coming a mile away, and so can any trained attacker on the street. If you were to do a punch with the fist horizontal, the correct way to do it would be to start out vertical until you're fist is about 2 millimeters away from the target, then you can twist. For higher levels, a horizontal punch is actually valid, however, it is not taught to beginners because for them, the difference in timing is too difficult to distinguish, and hard to properly execute without telegraphing under the stress and fatigue of a real fight.
Because Krav Maga and ICS are intended to be effective in real life scenarios, and not everyone has the ability to train in a more traditional martial art for decades, punches are taught with the fist positioned vertically, to minimize the risks of telegraphing and injuring the weaker knuckles under the high stresses and fatigue that will occur in a street fight.