punching sound effects cover art

Pow Pow! Punching Sound Effects in Film & TV

By Ezra Sandzer-Bell

Punching sound effects play a crucial role in every great fight scene, be it in a film, show or video game. They’re typically built from a combination of foley recordings and post-production sound design. When executed carefully, they can make the combat feel more immersive.

It’s fairly common to hear secondary sfx combined with punches, like whoosh sounds. In real life, it’s unlikely that someone’s fist would ever move fast enough to make an audible sound. But as every experienced sound designer knows, it’s the emotional impact of a sound that matters most.

In this article we’ll cover a variety of different sounds and nuances that could otherwise be overlooked. Our team rounded up a collection of 20 royalty-free punch sound effects for you as well, embedded in the audio player below. Download the wav files for free and use them in any of your commercial projects.

punching sound effects album art

Punching Sound Effects


Released 05/21/2024 · 20 Tracks ·

#Track NameGenreKeywordsDuration
1Boxing Gloves Punch 2FoleyBoxing...
2Boxing Gloves Punch 1FoleyBoxing...
3Swoosh 2FoleySwoosh...
4Swoosh 3FoleySwoosh...
5Swoosh 1FoleySwoosh...
6Swoosh 4FoleySwoosh...
7Bloody Punch 2FoleyGory...
8Crunchy PunchFoleyGory...
9Bloody Punch 1FoleyGory...
10Face Punch 3FoleyFace...
11Face Punch 4FoleyFace...
12Face Punch 5FoleyFace...
13Face Punch 1FoleyFace...
14Face Punch 2FoleyFace...
15Slow Motion PunchFoleySlo-mo...
16Body Punch 2FoleyBody...
17Body Punch 1FoleyBody...
18Body Punch 4FoleyBody...
19Body Punch 3FoleyBody...
20Body Punch 5FoleyBody...

There are three primary considerations for designing punch sounds. You need to think about who’s throwing the punch, where the punch is landing, and the intensity of the blow. Body punch sounds are an excellent starting point for studying this topic.

Above is a trailer from the video game Mortal Kombat X (2015). Notice how each heavy punch is prefaced by a short whoosh sound and combined with some secondary sound. At the 0:27 marker, an uppercut is delivered directly to the opponent’s elbow and we hear a horrifying crunch sound as the bones appear to break.

Video games often make use of catastrophic sounds and visuals, like breaking bones, for emphasis rather than realism. The opponent continues to fight as if nothing happened.

This second example from the 2001 film Rush Hour highlights a second possibility. When a high volume of punches are being thrown during a long fight scene, we tend to hear low-intensity foley that sounds more like a slap. Loud impact sounds are used sparingly, at the end of a combination of punches. This helps to emphasize the final hit and provides more dynamic variation.

Vocalization is another secondary sound effect that tends to accompany punching sounds. Like every great martial arts fighter, Jackie Chan can be heard shouting as he delivers each karate chop and body hit. It’s part of the technique and can be seen as a form of intimidation. His enemies, on the other hand, are letting out groans of pain as they’re tossed around.

Southpaw, Rock II – punching bag sounds

Punching bags come with their own, unique set of sounds. They can’t express pain and have no bones to break (obviously). Instead, we hear material noises like the rattling of chains and the treble frequencies of plastic being smacked. Let’s have a listen to some examples below.

This scene from the movie Southpaw (2015) features some of the most important sounds associated with punching bags. Each hit includes the mid-range note of the fist punch combined with the higher register of the plastic material.

He begins the scene with low intensity strikes, which accounts for the type of sfx. Notice the secondary sound of his feet squeaking across the polished floor. The footwork might not be a punching sound effect but it’s directly connected to the activity nonetheless.

Around 2:30 into the clip, his coach lets go of the bag and we begin hearing the sound of the suspension chains rattling with each punch. As the strike intensity increases, we hear him blowing air out through his mouth as part of his breathing technique. This is a common alternative to the more aggressive shouting we heard from in the next example.

This scene from the 1979 film Rocky II features a more intense and energized sound collection. It’s an almost cliche “transition montage” of his training and preparation for an upcoming fight. The muted thud of each strike against the punching bag is combined with the familiar rattling of chains.

Around the 5:18 mark, he transitions from a large cylinder bag to the much smaller, tear drop bag. The sound effects associated with these blows are rapid, louder and more intense. His final hit is sound aggressive that it sounds almost like a gunshot, with a reverb tail that echoes in the ambience of the resonant training gym.

Baki – Cartoon punch sounds

Cartoons tend to embellish punch sound effects with an almost sci-fi flavor, to make them larger than life. There’s no obligation to use realistic noises and in fact, otherworldly sound design can help separate make the animation feel fun.

The following episode of the Netflix animation Baki (2018) offers a prime example of unrealistic fight sounds that enhance the audience experience. This is a pivotal fight between father and son, so each strike carries an enormous importance.

As the first swing misses, we hear a sci-fi swish sound resembling a plasma gunshot followed by a phaser effect. It’s accompanied visually by an equally unrealistic streak of blue light. This dramatic miss sets up the importance of the punch that follows.

The son retaliates with a face punch. A swoosh is followed by a deep and almost understated thud on impact, with a shimmering reverb tail. The sound of rushing wind can be heard as the animation continues to depict the rush of his strong punch, even after it’s already been delivered.

The Raid 2, Afflicted – Punching a wall

We mentioned earlier that impact materials are just as important as the punch itself. This is particularly true when people are punching walls, as they tend to crumble or break in response.

As this prisoner rapidly punches his cell wall in The Raid 2 (2014), we can see the surface materials begins to fall away. In reality, it should take a moment for the chips to fall and hit the ground, but the sound design couples these crumbling sounds with the actual hits. This helps to bind the two in the mind of the audience.

Another example of wall punching can be found in Afflicted (2014), as a character loses his temper. The massive thud of his initial impact is followed by the sound of drywall flying across the room. It explodes in all directions and several different timbres of material impact can be heard, including a large chunk of debris hitting the floor at the end of the sequence.

Pro tips for processing and mixing punching sounds

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1. Select Your Source Audio

  • Start with a high-quality recording of your punchy sound (e.g., a kick drum, snare, or bass hit). Ensure it’s clean and free of unwanted noise.

2. Apply Saturation

  • Plugin Recommendations: FabFilter Saturn 2, Soundtoys Decapitator, or Waves J37 Tape.
  • Technique:
    • Insert the saturation plugin on the track you want to enhance.
    • Adjust the drive or saturation amount to introduce harmonics. This will add warmth and make the sound fuller. For FabFilter Saturn 2, start with the “Warm Tape” preset and tweak from there.
    • Use the mix knob (if available) to blend the saturated signal with the dry signal. Aim for a balance where the added harmonics are noticeable but not overwhelming.

3. Apply Compression

  • Plugin Recommendations: Universal Audio 1176, Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, or FabFilter Pro-C 2.
  • Technique:
    • Insert the compressor after the saturation plugin in the signal chain.
    • Set a fast attack and medium release to catch the transient and control the tail of the punch. For the 1176, start with an attack time of 3 and a release time of 7.
    • Adjust the ratio to around 4:1 or higher for more aggressive compression.
    • Use the threshold to control how much compression is applied. You should see the needle move but not slam to the bottom constantly.
    • Adjust the makeup gain to compensate for any gain reduction, bringing the overall level back up.

4. Fine-Tuning

  • Parallel Processing: If the sound becomes too squashed, consider using parallel compression. Send the signal to an auxiliary track with heavy compression and blend it back with the original signal. This retains the dynamics while adding punch.
  • EQ: After saturation and compression, use an EQ (e.g., FabFilter Pro-Q 3) to shape the tone. Boost frequencies around 60-100 Hz for a kick drum or 2-5 kHz for a snare to enhance presence.
  • Multi-band Compression: For more control, use a multi-band compressor (e.g., FabFilter C2, MeldaProduction MDynamicsMB, etc) to apply compression to specific frequency ranges, ensuring each part of the punchy sound is treated optimally.

5. Automation and Mixing

  • Automation: Automate the saturation and/or volume to align the peak accent point with the impact on-screen.
  • Mixing: Ensure the processed punchy sound sits well in the mix. Use volume automation, side chain compression (e.g., with Xfer LFO Tool), and stereo imaging (e.g., with Waves S1 Imager) to place the sound precisely where it needs to be.

Example Workflow in a DAW (e.g., Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Pro Tools):

  1. Insert Saturation Plugin on the desired track.
  2. Adjust Drive and Mix settings to taste.
  3. Insert Compression Plugin after the saturation plugin.
  4. Set Attack, Release, Ratio, and Threshold as per the guidelines above.
  5. Fine-tune with EQ as needed.
  6. Use Automation to enhance different parts of the delivery.

By combining saturation and compression thoughtfully, you can bring out the best in your punchy sounds, making them stand out and adding professional polish to your mixes. This approach not only enhances the sonic characteristics but also ensures that your sounds remain impactful and dynamic within the context of the full mix.

Download your own royalty-free punch sounds

Now that we’ve covered best practices for punching sound effects, let’s get you set up with some audio to begin practicing on your own. Scroll up to the top of the page and click download to access the collection of 20 royalty free wav files that we’ve assembled for you.

Need access to more impact sounds and some of the secondary foley we’ve mentioned? Sign up for a free trial of Audio Design Desk 2.0 to access 100,000 high quality audio files and royalty-free music. Visit our pricing page for details on the different subscription tiers and terms of service.