The Inverted Counter Punch

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate
17 Dec 2007

You may be asking what an inverted counter punch is and why you would turn your punch upside down? Let break down what the goals are in a counter punch.

  1. Get out of the way of the attack or cover to miss the power of the attack.
  2. While the opponent is still close – attack back.
  3. Reach the opponent with your counter attack.





Most beginning students learn how to throw a counter punch early on in their sparring training. The students learn how to step a half step back and then twist their body to follow a counter punch. The move works especially well if an attacker over extends his punch. As you can see in the picture, not only has the back counter punch extended but the whole body twisted (from the rear leg to the shoulders) behind the punch. You get power from the loose twisting motion as well as the punch.  


The reason a fighter learns the inverted counter punch is to gain extra 4 inches of extension in their punch. You might be wondering why bother… 4 inches is the difference of just barley contacting an opponent’s gi (karate uniform) and knocking the wind out of him!    


When I started sparring in the studio, I learned the counter punch. I was able to take out many people with this move but I had to learn how to loosen up. Beginning students are tense when they start fighting because the adrenalin rushes into their systems. Seasoned fighters do not get the same rush… they are able to relax during the fight and only expend energy when actually attacking or defending. No nervous energy is expended.


My instructor, Dick Willett, taught me the inverted counter punch after I had mastered relaxation and full extension of the traditional counter punch. I was able to gain the extra 4 inches and connected more often in matches.


The inverted lunge punch was my signature move. This is like an inverted counter punch but using initial movement the punch starts and the body follows! I enjoyed having learned body punches in the lower belt divisions because when I got to brown and black belt – everyone was a head hunter! I mean that for many black belts… the body did not exist. I was able to attack relatively unabated in black belt divisions, with my lunging inverted counter punch, much to the surprise of many!


I remember one such incident when some folks from another school came to our sparring class in the San Diego (then Tracy’s) American Kenpo Karate studio. There was one really big guy (I’m 5’11”) that no one wanted to fight. I volunteered and lined up. I noticed he had no respect for my moves early on so within a minute I threw an inverted lunge punch! He went down and could not get up for a minute. I have never regretted learning the old fashion way of body punches only in the lower belts. I think it has made me a better fighter.


Even in this day of kick-boxing, MMA and UFC… karate basics still have their place. I’ve knocked more people out with the counter or lunge punch than any other move. The beauty of a counter punch is it does not take a lot of effort to do and because of that – I should be able to mount an effective defense into my retirement years (and yes I will write about it if I still have this blog going by then :-)

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