How to… one inch punch

 How to... one inch punch

Lee's one inch punch

I literally stumbled upon a blog post concerning the one inch punch, specifically Bruce Lee performing the punch on a judoka.

Personally, I always thought it was a bit of a myth but did come across people who could indeed manage a one inch punch. People talk about ki expression when they try to explain the phenomenon. An old friend of mine showed me the one inch punch; he did tai chi and was able to propel someone across the room.

Later when training with Steve Rowe in Chatham I saw the one inch punch, or something similar, again. Unfortunately, for me anyway, the explanation of how to ‘one inch punch’ involved lots of Chinese terminology, such as fa jin, which confuses the hell out of me.

Learning the one inch punch

It wasn’t until I trained with Steve Morris that I understood the one inch punch. In fact, you could say that Steve Morris taught me the one inch punch, but…. without ever teaching me the one inch punch! Sounds a bit crazy but there you go. Incidentally, I always say Steve Morris taught me more about sanchin kata than anyone else and again that was without ever teaching me sanchin kata!

 How to... one inch punch

startle reflex

The first time I went on Steve Morris’s site I read about punches like dum dum bullets, punches that explode on contact. He calls this the finish and by learning the finish I unintentionally learned the one inch punch! Steve Morris wasn’t trying to get us to practice the one inch punch but he did want us to develop a finish to our punches.

This kind of thing is easier to show than describe but I’ll try. Morris will get you to imagine and perform the startle or withdrawal reflex. We all have been startled and we’ve all put our hand on something hot. What happens? You jump or pull your hand off, explosively. That’s key. Here’s an example of the startle reflex in action, it’s a natural phenomenon.

All you need to do then is transfer this to your one inch punch, practice this a lot. Actually, you don’t have to transfer it to the one inch punch, I didn’t. I did, however, practice transferring the reflex action to my punches (and kicks).

Pulling NOT pushing!

one inch punch How to... one inch punch

Jim Fung's one inch punch

It’s essential that you pull rather than push your punch. Karate punches tend to rely on a pushing action, if that’s you, stop it and concentrate on the pulling action of the non-punching side. Develop this and drop the push. You will also have to drop the urge to retract before firing the punch.

You need to have a good base to explode from, so ground reaction force can be transferred into the target. Play with this reflex pulling action on the heavy bag, ensure the punching side doesn’t ‘give’ and you will transfer the force generated.

It takes practice, but it is achievable. When you get it you will be surprised at how much power you can generate from one inch, or no inch even! Then you have to work out how you are going to use it, because it is of little use in itself, except as a party trick or if you are trick or treating (see startle link above)!

Originally posted 2010-04-25 00:22:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

19 thoughts on “How to… one inch punch

  1. Sounds like…a very superficial explanation of the one inch punch?

    I don’t know, I’m not saying that your post is bad, on the contrary I like it! That’s just my impression because very, VERY few people on this earth could pull off the one inch punch on Bruce Lee’s level (I certainly can’t).

  2. When I had the one inch punch demonstrated on me, it was actually a one thumb push through a pad against my chest.

    As I recall, Steve Rowe didn’t even jab the thumb into the pad. I can remember looking down and thinking ‘Yeah, right’ and, the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air to hit the wall 4′ behind me.

    The one inch punch itself may well be to do with startle reflex but, now that I study tai chi, I’m sure there is more to it than just that. I suspect that if you talked to David, he might be able to explain the energy thing in less mystical terms :)

  3. I’m not a big fan of the ki or chi explanation of energy, there are better ways of explaining phenomena IMO.

    Bruce Lee was just a man after all, a pretty exceptional martial artist for sure, but a man nevertheless. I probably wouldn’t perform a one inch punch exactly like he did but the punch itself is of little interest, the application of power is what I’m interested in. Being able to explode with power from no distance at all is useful. ‘Tacking’ this explosive power onto your techniques is the key.

    AA this may seem a superficial explanation but if you give it a go, and put in the practice you might very well get some good results.

    KB the reflex action is a big help, it’s improved my power immensely. There is more to do with it than just the reflex. You have to adapt it to a punch and have a good base to ‘fire’ from. And you have to be connected to allow the transfer of the power to the target, i.e. you can’t have any ‘give’ in your body.

  4. I have always wanted to learn the one inch punch. I bought a book on it years ago and found the book, not very well explained. I always felt the punch was slightly exaggerated.
    If it was that great, why wouldn’t the entire karate world know it by now? Right? After reading your comments above, maybe this thing is not a myth and maybe you could create the power from this short range move.

  5. I’m going to do a follow up to this post which will look at how the wing chung guys go about learnign the one inch punch, I’ve lost the link at the moment though, doh!

    Training with Steve Morris enabled me to do a one inch punch (as described) but without ever training to do it. We just trained to have an explosive ‘finish’ to our strikes. This explosive finish should be trained for otherwise the strike is actually decellerating at the point of impact, not so good.

    The use of reflexes to get a feeling for the explosive finish worked very well for me. And as a party trick you can use it to do a one inch punch, the real use comes in when you want to develop the skill and use it in other areas. Otherwise it’s just a party trick.

    As an aside, I believe that in wing chung they develop the one inch punch expressly to extend the “explosiveness” to skills other than the one inch punch.

  6. Considering you mentioned about training with Steve Rowe, I assume you’re able to get to Kent, if you are interested in developing short range power I recommend you visit my Sensei, Steve Martin,, some of what he teaches is so basic yet blows your mind, and the short range stuff can be very impressive.


  7. thanks for the comment adn tip Syrus, i appreciate it. I will bear it in mind. I am in Birmingham so it’s a bit of a trek to Kent….

  8. Cool stuff. Yeah, I remember when I started figuring this out on the punching bag. That snap back (As I call it) makes a world of difference. And I never learned it in Karate class.
    Rick Saxby recently posted..Act of Valor

  9. Hi Rick

    It’s a big eye opener and this was the start of a voyage of discovery which continues even today….

  10. The one inch punch was really more like a three inch punch when Bruce Lee performed it. Still an amazing display of body coordination.

  11. Thanks for the comment Kevin

    One inch or three inch or whatever, it’s the explosive action that’s the important part in my eyes, but then extrapolating it to your punches is what makes it useful!

  12. It can be difficult toget a handle on BUT it’s not impossible, far from it. It’s easier than most people think. And the whole point is to be able to apply it, or more precisely apply the principles of it – whole body explosive action from very close range. Once you can do that it becomes quite natural. If not it’s just a party trick as I said in the post

    Another point is Bruce Lee was performing this as a party trick, to woo the crowd. If he were punching someone for real he’d want hte force from the punch to stay in the opponents body rather than send him flying. That way he’d do more damage.

  13. Been teaching for decades. No ego to sooth. One inch punch. Fighting in close, visualizing the target 6-10 inches deeper than the skin, dropping weight (at knees), twisting and most especially turning hips as you connect foot to knee to hip to back to shoulder to elbow to wrist to fist. Physics. Its been in Shaolin Kempo or Chaun fa forever… frankly the hip connection is the core concept of Kempo.

  14. I call all that connecting structure and if it’s right you’re in! And I find that dropping the weight at the ankle joint is a little better than the knee as it ensures you use the feet correctly. The feet are key imo.

    I love using physics in teaching MAs as it’s also obvious and not mystical!

    And finally, the close range punching experimentation continues…. At the moment experimenting with the range of movement at the hip and using the waist power to explode as long as the structure is in place you can direct power in any direction, great fun. Thanks for you comment.

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