Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Emerson Combat Series: How To Knock Someone Out With One Punch

Ernest Emerson Contributor
Font Size:

By Ernest Emerson, Emerson Knives

Everything you ever needed to know how to knock someone out with one punch you learned in your high school physics class.  Don’t get caught up in any of the hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo that is so pervasive in most martial arts systems.  It’s really all about physics, almost.

What we’ll do here is break down the knockout punch into its 5 basic components.  By dividing the power punch into these 5 individual components we can look at each one as a separate and trainable attribute that you can work on individually to dramatically increase your punching power, effectiveness and your ability to knock someone out with 1 punch.

I’m going to use boxers to illustrate these points since, well, boxing is all about punching.  Some boxers have it some don’t have it.  What is it?  The explosive power to knock someone completely off their feet.  The power to hit someone in the head and hurt them in their toes.  The explosiveness to jar your fillings loose – that it is the power knock out punch.

Why do some boxers have it and some don’t?  After all, in a bout the combatants are matched to the same general size and most of the time virtually the exact weight.  They are both using the same skill set and tactics, yet one of them knocks opponents out fight after fight and the other only rarely does so.  I have found that there were several things that the heavy hitters all had in common.

These are the ingredients that are needed to hit hard – real hard.

I have broken down the whole into 5 absolutely essential attributes that can be taught to others or enhanced in yourself that will increase your power dramatically.  They are as follows;

Body Mechanics – You must have proper body mechanics.  Most martial artists and many boxers have poor to marginal body mechanics.  Without going into too much detail, proper body mechanics must include footwork, violent hip rotation, proper shoulder/arm position and correct fist/wrist/arm alignment.  However, the most important aspect of proper body mechanics is efficiency of motion and economy of action.  In other words, no unnecessary motion or muscular action.  Think of it as your entire body being relaxed and only the muscles and motion needed to deliver the action (in this case a punch) are activated.

Speed – This is the simplest to understand and yet, maybe the most difficult to execute.  It’s really simple physics here guys.  Newton’s 2nd Law.  Acceleration times mass equals force.  The faster your punch travels the more power it generates.  Now most people assume they are born with a certain speed.  “I wish I could be as fast as John.  John is just naturally fast.”  Well, the truth is, you are born with a certain speed.  That speed is as fast as any other human who has ever walked the face of this earth.  You just have to realize it.  The activation of the muscle cells used to move the arm or any part of the body is the result of an electrochemical reaction.  It travels at a fixed rate just like electricity or the speed of light.  Barring some physiological abnormality or disease, your ability to activate your muscles is just as fast as the fastest person you have ever seen or admired.  However, if you are a slow thinker or a slow reactor (mentally) then you will never be able to realize your full speed potential because your thinking will be a beat or two behind your opponent.

In order to be fast – real fast – you also need to start training your mind to start thinking faster.  You have to look at speed thinking just like speed reading.  The faster you force yourself to read, the faster you can read.  It’s not just your arms or legs, your brain has to start moving faster also.  Now, having stated the above, there are two key elements to increasing your speed.

You gotta believe, brother.  You have to start thinking and convincing yourself that you are the fastest human being that ever lived – ever, and you have to start thinking fast.  I mean believe it – no self doubts – none.

The second key element is that you have to start moving fast, punching fast – punching faster.  Now I know it’s a little different when I’m standing in front of you screaming “Punch Fast!”  Faster!  Faster damn it!  But you have to push yourself on this one.  This is where the proper body mechanics start to become evident.  You can’t be fast if you’re out of balance or clumsy.  Remember efficiency of action, economy of motion?  You can’t be fast if you’re all tensed up and adding any unnecessary motion to your effort.  Think of a world-class 100-meter sprinter.  He practices sprinting, not jogging.  He practices sprinting at full speed.  There are dozens of drills and exercises to increase or enhance speed but the most important, really, is convincing yourself that you are that fast.  If you can do that, the rest starts to fall into place by itself.

Accuracy – All the power in the world is nothing if you can’t put it where you want.  The most powerful gun in the world is useless if it cannot hit the target.  Punching power is really all about the transfer of energy.  The more energy I can deliver to a target the more efficient and effective you are.

One thing you will notice is that, as your speed increases, your accuracy will decline.  You must practice accuracy drills at full speed to increase your accuracy at full speed.  It’s just that simple.

There are lots of accuracy drills, but here is my personal favorite.  Hang a piece of paper with a small black circle on it about the size of a ping pong ball or smaller.  Hang it so it’s suspended at about chin level and practice finger jabs or punches at full speed against it.  I hang it taped to the end of a chain so it returns faster.  Concentrate on moving at full ultimate speed and centering the target.  It will come with practice and you will see improvement the more you do it.

Timing – You have to put your punch where the target is – not where it was.  Think of it like leading a duck with a shotgun.  You’re not shooting where the duck is, you’re shooting where the duck will be.  Timing is not accuracy.  Accuracy is accuracy.  In simple terms, timing is accurate estimation and timing is experience.  Timing is developed by sparring.  It is developed by training against an individual who is moving in a spontaneous and unrehearsed manner.

Mental Intensity – This is when it gets a little voodoo.  You may know by now that I don’t believe in secret powers or any of that hocus pocus.  But, there is one component in developing ultimate that I consider the only x factor.  You have to want to hit hard, to hit harder than you ever have before.  Every time you train, every time you punch I want you to punch harder than you ever thought you did before.  You have to hit to hurt, plain and simple.

There are plenty of exercises and drills that you can do that will enhance your power but really the best – the best – is to stand toe to toe with a heavy bag and hit it like you want to rip it from the ceiling.  The heavy bag is the only place you can really hit something as hard as humanly possible.  And that is what you have to do.  Hit the bag as hard as humanly possible.

You can hit much harder that you think you can – really.  But, you have to do it.  It’s the same principle as when a spotter can scream at you to put that weight up, to grind out that last rep.   Something, someone has to push you to go a little harder.  You have to be that someone.  You have to hit harder, Harder!  HARDER!  Yes, I know you can sacrifice speed by trying to emphasize power.  But that’s for the amateurs.  A huge lumbering thump of a punch is not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about having a grenade detonate every time your fist strikes the bag.  And I’m talking about a grenade thrown by your arm with the speed of lightening.  Therein lies the difference – a big difference.

Mike Tyson said it in absolutely the best way I’ve ever heard it described.  When asked early in his career about his incredible string of knockouts, he simply said, “You have to throw your punches with bad intent.”

Bear in mind though, that you will need all of the other attributes to fully make use of true mental intensity and see its results.  At the same time, you could fully develop all of the first four attributes but still not experience your ultimate potential, if you don’t add the magic ingredient, “Bad Intent.”  You will need the correct body mechanics, speed, accuracy and timing.  Leave any of them out and you won’t be able to hit the bag as hard as you want and you will feel it.

The last thing I will cover is really not an attribute it is the target.  Now in terms of human physiology, a knockout (loss of consciousness) is simply a rattling of the brain, i.e. the brain hitting the inside of the skull.  Brain trauma = concussion.

There are several ways to make this happen but in terms of human anatomy the easiest way is to effect “a violent side to side rotation of the head.”  In other words a good shot right to the jaw.  It can be straight on or better yet, to either side of the chin.  This is the one punch that puts most fighters on the canvas no matter how big or how strong.  I would call it the #1 target for a knockout punch.  Targeting is really where timing and accuracy become so important.

But in the end I want you to understand that it is very hard to “just knock someone out.”  Outside of the “sucker punch,” you only get the chance to hit your target when it is there and it’s not there for very long.  That’s why flurries often result in a knockout.  One punch finally gets through, but when it does you want it to be a punch that counts.

I think I’ve gone on long enough for now and I hope you realize that this is far too brief to really describe all of the attributes and drills you could do, but these are the five essential ingredients for developing true heavy punching power.  Be creative, experiment, and develop and pursue the drills or exercises that enhance these 5 attributes and you will get the extra horsepower that increases your punching power.  I hope that you find what I’ve discussed here useful to your training.

In regard to the sum total of everything we’ve discussed here, the goal of developing the ultimate in punching power is really summed up in this statement.  “I want you to be able to hit so hard, that it doesn’t matter where you hit your opponent, you will still bring him to his knees.


Ernest R. Emerson is a knife-maker and personal combat instructor. Visit his site – click here to visit




Ernest Emerson