Consider this. A car is stopped at a stop sign. A speeding truck hits it from behind. What happens? The rear of the stopped car begins to crush and the car is jolted forward. At some point, the crushing stops and the car is pushed forward by the truck until all the energy of the crash is exhausted. Once the car starts moving forward with the impact, the damage stops. If the car does not strike anything else, it is not damaged any further, no matter how far the truck pushes it. As for the driver of the car, his or her only chance for serious injury is at the moment of impact, which is why an air bag inflates and deflates in a microsecond.
The same holds true for a punch. Once the body deforms from the initial instant of impact, it starts moving with the punch and is not harmed any more. Boxers wear gloves. They must punch through the absorbing material before their knuckles may damage the target, so many tend to follow-through with punches. Bare-knuckled punchers do not follow-through, since it is not necessary. They make short, quick punches.
When students are breaking boards, you hear instructors telling them to punch through the board. This means to focus the punch behind the board so it will flex and break. It does not mean to try to punch through the board and continue the punch until you lose balance or hit the board holders.
As a counter attacker, I love to fight push punchers. When they miss and overextend, I have ample opportunity to counter attack with numerous techniques that score. When a focused puncher misses, the punching arm returns to its guard position so quickly that a counterattack is difficult to get through for a score.
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