Written by Vladimir Vasiliev 2003
"In my understanding, there are stages to skill development.
In the initial stage, we learn the technical components while generally being focused and tense more than needed. This commonly produces the traditional fist where the thumb covers the index and middle fingers while the whole fist and forearm are tense. Moreover, because it is hard to localize tension it usually spreads all the way up the arm. Tension in the arm greatly reduces precision and that tension makes it very difficult to estimate the right striking distance. Tension also makes it impossible to deliver the right dosage of force in a strike. (As we know, excessive tension is totally counterproductive, it comes from fear and causes fear.)
On the next stage of training, our whole body becomes more relaxed. That leads to the fist being held more loosely as well; and you may loose some fist structure, the position of the thumb can begin to vary. When you train properly and become more calm, the whole arm may become too loose. At this point, you are acquiring freedom and power but the thumb can move to the side.
I sometimes used that fist position in demonstrations in order not to hit hard and to illustrate the loose hand positions. Also, those of you who are teaching will notice that when you are talking and explaining something to your students, you fist will automatically loosen up. It is natural that when we talk our hands and fingers move as well.
On the third stage, due to certain drills (such as fist placing, pushes and proper striking) you may start to attain what’s called the “alive fist”. Such fist has both sufficient power in it, you can control it independently of the rest of the body and at the same time, the structure of the fist is solid and collected. Everything falls into place comfortably, to the extend that it will be just as easy for you to hold a closed fist as an open hand. At this stage, the thumb is placed in its traditional classic spot. In real fighting when you wish to avoid injuries the fist has to assume the form that protects it the most. Correct technique without tension – power and precision without injuries – this is what we want. "