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Why don't karateka use hook punches in kihon or kumite? The basic technique exists (kagi zuki) and can be found in several kata eg: heian godan and the tekki kata but it is always performed as a kind of shortened mid-level straight punch to the side and not to the side of the head of an opponent in front of you like it is used so much in boxing.

Why is this?

  • Nice question! I assumed that the typical karate stance is too linear for a hook and a quick return. A kick might be easier. Eager to hear the experts. – AppliedAcademic Jun 8 '18 at 19:50
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The short answer is that it's generally not taught as one of the traditional techniques, so karate students generally don't practice it, and therefore it doesn't come to mind when they use techniques, and might actually be actively discouraged in a more regimented form of sparring that limits what techniques are considered legitimate to score points.

As to why Karate, as with many traditional Japanese martial arts, eschews the hook punch, this article puts forward some interesting theories but it basically seems to boil down to two (possibly related) themes. First, Karate is a traditionally linear system with power being generated with straight attacks. Even kicks such as mawashi geri are linear along the plane that they're delivered, and with a straight leg. Thus, hook punches don't quite fit into the philosophy. Add to that a hooking punch, particularly a windmilling roundhouse punch, is something that comes natural to many brawlers, albeit inexpertly and with much wasted effort. Thus, early karateka were likely disinclined to include such "crude" techniques.

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and can be found in several kata

Tsuki doesn't mean punch. It means thrust.

If you consider that a closed fist in a kata is likely to represent a grip on something, circular movements found in kata then may not be punches at all, but manipulations of your opponents limbs. i.e. arm locks or similar.

In Heian Godan, the circular movement at the beginning of the kata you're interpreting as a punch, dislocates your opponent's shoulder when applied as an arm lock.

In Tekki Shodan / Naihanchi, the movement positions the opponents arm into a "chicken wing" position up his back, which the subsequent foot stamp and uchi-uke turns into a a similar joint attack to the Godan one. In fact it attacks all 3 arm joints simultaneously.

Ok so why are hook punches commonly used by boxers?

Gloves.

There are 2 aspects to this. The protection that gloves give to the small and delicate bones in the hand, in particular the 4th and 5th metacarpals which are commonly broken.

Boxer's fractures require the use of gloves in sport, and the large gloves make hook punches necessary in order to get round them.

Sporting karate doesn't allow full contact to the head, and so gloves don't have to be so large to protect the hands, and so hook punches are less useful.

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  • Blatantly false. – TheBatman Mar 3 at 16:27
  • @TheBatman Without constructive feedback, comments are useless. Yours is bordering on being offensive. While some points of the post may be debatable (hook punches help against all kinds of guard, big gloves, small gloves, or no gloves at all), they have at least some merit, eg. bunkai not being about punches, but joint manipulation in most cases that "look like" hook punches. Therefore, I suggest either telling us what exactly is false and why, or not commenting at all. – Philip Klöcking Mar 5 at 12:27
  • @TheBatman - There's a progression in techniques used in Boxing which follows rule changes, from early Pugilism through London Prize Ring and Marquess of Queensberry Rules. The guards used changed following the introduction of gloves, and prevalence of techniques used changed to follow the guards being used. – Colin Mar 5 at 13:23
  • The idea that gloves are the reason that hooks are used in boxing is blatantly false. They are used in bare knuckle boxing and street fighting with great effect. A hook to the chin is even just as useful without gloves. This whole answer is nothing but nonsense. Nobody who knows how to throw a proper punch hits with their 4th and 5th metacarpals, even more nonsense there. Its not offensive to call bs for what it is, you should be offended that his guy is trying to pass off stuff he pulled out of his own imagination as facts. – TheBatman Mar 5 at 20:10
  • @TheBatman Boxers regularly fracture their metacarpals when they punch without gloves. Hence... Boxer"s fracture. Even world champions. latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-08-24-sp-897-story.html – Colin Mar 18 at 14:15
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For me, I don't tend to use hook punches because they just aren't - on balance - particularly good. I've trained in muay thai and threw a lot at the pads in the school's standard combinations - so I'm quite capable - but I find them slow, clumsy, weak, telegraphed and easily blocked compared to a haito uchi (aka ridge hand, reverse knife hand) strike. Hooks also leave you more exposed before, during and after.

There are different ways to deliver the haito uchi strike though - with various pros and cons - and I'd probably been a black belt for 10 or 15 years before I arrived at what I now do. I guess what I do is not common, because I can't find a youtube video demonstrating it the way I deliver it.

Kagawa-sensei demonstrates one version at https://youtu.be/wAaZailBD1A - more using the inner forearm. Make of that what you will.

I extend the hand more linearly - very much like a punch - to the side of the target, then the back and arm muscles sync with the hip rotation and drag/snap the strike viciously sideways. It's staggeringly strong - even with the hundred kg bags at my old gym, this would lift them into the air and snap them sideways like no other hand technique. It's basically the power of "clothesline" inner forearm swing (like you might see a Rugby player use illegally, or Bas Rutten's here, drilled to utilise fuller leg strength, explosive hip rotation, combined with plyometric principles to engage more muscles more fully. It's very strong even thrown with the front hand like a jab, and usefully strong even thrown from an already-extended position just 5 or 10cms to the side of the target. Because it starts linearly, you can needle it inside a wide guard and still strike the head sideways, or you can make a bigger arc around a guard - it'll happily rip through most traditional martial artists' guards where the hands are held forwards towards you, but tends to jar bone-on-bone if smashed into arms held about the head in a boxing style - won't be fun for them, but not much fun for you either.

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