Any decent self defense instructor will tell you that open hand strikes are superior to punches in a real self defense situation. I should know, as I’ve been quoted as saying that, should your self defense instructor try to tell you to make a fist, its time to get a new instructor!
But why is a closed fist a bad idea in a self defense situation?
OK, first of all, there are two weak links in the boxer’s punch:
1. You can break your knuckles or the small bones in the back of your hand.
2. Your wrist can buckle and you can damage the soft tissue that provides stability in your fist, commonly known as “breaking your wrist,” although its normally not a bone that’s “broken.” By the way, that’s the main reason why boxers wrap their wrists.
There are also two major reasons why the boxer’s punch isn’t as effective as an open hand strike:
1. You only have one chance with a punch – you hit your attacker and either end the fight or you don’t.
2. You can’t control the direction of force with a punch as easily as with an open hand and controlling the direction of force is the key to a knockout.
So, what would be a less dangerous and more effective alternative?
What some people seem to think when they hear the term “open hand strikes” is a spear hand kind of technique with the fingertips. Although I am a strong proponent of using the fingertips, especially the thumb to cause pressure on certain vital areas, I only recommend that for extremely close-quarters fighting, as an alternative to grappling or judo-type techniques while in a clinch or on the ground.
For long and medium distance striking, the best replacement for the boxer’s punch would be a palm heel strike.
Why? For the same reasons why I don’t recommend using a closed fist:
By opening your hand and forming a 90-degree angle between your hand and forearm, you effectively take your wrist and fist out of the equation. The striking surface of a palm heel is padded with muscle, unlike the knuckles and won’t break. Breaking the fingers or small bones in the back of the hand is totally out of the question, because they don’t play any role at all in a palm strike.
The palm strike can be used to not only strike a target, but also form around it, allowing you to “lead” the direction of the energy of your strike, while a fist is just a blunt object that can only be used to hit like a club.
Now, its always nice when you can end a fight with one strike and that’s very possible when you know how and where to hit, but, let’s be realistic – it doesn’t work every single time.
If I hit you with a punch and it doesn’t knock you out, all that I can do is hope to be able to land another punch, with better results.
Do me a favor right now and place the heel of your palm upon your chin, fingers pointing up. Now, close your hand around your face.
Where are your fingertips?
Exactly, pressing directly against your eyes!
Now, if I hit you and you fall into a heap on the ground, good.
But if that doesn’t work, I still have the opportunity to grab your face and head and, using the pain caused by my fingers in your eyes and the fact that the strike at least stunned you to completely control your head and totally disorient you. Controlling the head is very important because, as any gymnast will tell you, where the head goes, the body follows.
There are many other open hand strikes available to you to use and targets to use them against, I just wanted to use the palm heel as an example because it is most similar to a closed fist and easiest to understand.
Christopher “Bob” Roberts is an ex-soldier who relocated to Europe and now earns his living as a tactics and close-combat instructor for military, police and private security companies.
For more information about armed and unarmed self-protection, subscribe to his free newsletters at www.extreme-measures-institute.com and receive access to an exclusive video interview series, where he explains the fundamentals of truly effective self defense.
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