Knuckle conditioning for martial arts is a controversial topic. Criticism of the practice smacks of reason (pun intended), mainly claiming that it’s dangerous for the practitioner, it’s unnecessary, and it’s a waste of time.
Still, I do it. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to include it in this series.* Reiterating for the sake of anyone new here: strength-training is one of my New Year’s resolutions; I learned last year that documenting my resolution efforts has a positive effect. (“Strength-training” now broadened to “any and all manner of garage gym work-outs” as far as documentation goes.)
So knuckle conditioning is “dangerous for the practitioner, unnecessary, and a waste of time.” Why do I do it, then, assuming that the claims are true?
Because I enjoy it.
Because I like knowing that if I have to punch someone in a situation, damage to my hands would be minimized since they’ve been conditioned to sustain impact.
Because I have no aspirations to work as a hand model, anyway.
Here’s a slew of snipped pics from video footage of my latest knuckle conditioning garage gym session. There are probably many methods and apparatuses that people use… in this session, it’s just me and my trusty MMA dummy and a heavy, solid piece of particle board covered in wood veneer (which I’ll refer to as a “wood board” for ease).
Pardon the snipping-tool ghost that appears in most of these images! I’ll make sure to avoid that next time.
Bare-knuckle hard punching on the MMA dummy:
I don’t have a rock-solid heavy bag, but the MMA dummy is heavy enough to do the job. Here I’m showing clips of work I did on its ass end, but I work on all areas of the bag. There’s variation in its density from end to end.
As you can see from the position of my non-punching hand, all of the strikes I threw in this session were chambered punches (i.e. Tae Kwan Do/Karate, as opposed to boxing).
I start the set with the dummy close to my body. Each punch pushes it back, but I stay in the same place. This allows for striking at various distances, from close-range to fully-extended punches. I also vary the height of the punches, aiming for low, middle, and high targets. If I wanted to punch at eye-level, I’d lean the bag up against the wall and kneel in front of it.
I usually do 5-8 sets of however many punches it takes to push the bag beyond my reach, alternating slow punches with speed punches from set to set.
Next, what I call “knuckle-walking” on the wood board. This is where I “strike” (but nowhere near full-power, of course) the board with my bare knuckles. I do this from a kneeling push-up position.
This board is an extra shelf from one of our large IKEA bookcases, by the way. They’re not making that particular bookcase anymore.
I hit the board with each fist alternately, walking my punches from bottom to top and then back down again.
I’ll also do sets where I twist my wrist from horizontal to vertical as I go. There are many variations on this that keep it interesting, and variations are always beneficial.
One knuckle conditioning exercise I practice regularly is knuckle push-ups, which I do because push-ups flat on my palms are uncomfortable due to my wrist inflexibility.
When I do knuckle push-ups for knuckle conditioning purposes, though, I do them on the wood board. I like to do a slow push-up and hold the position for about 10 seconds at each level:
That was all I did in this session. You know I had to include that silly shot of me walking back at the end…
Weather report in the garage: it’s heating up! This session wasn’t unbearable, though. We haven’t deployed any fans yet. For now, I’m just keeping the door open.
*The usual disclaimer applies: I’m not a trainer of any kind, and I do not recommend doing anything in this post without the supervision of a qualified instructor.