Open Vs. Closed Hand Striking
The question is often asked; what is better in a self defense situation, to hit with an open palm strike or a closed fist, i.e. a punch?
The fact that one is asking this question is a good sign, it means one is thinking about self defense and exploring one's options. It is important to note that different solutions might be effective for different people. Factors such as mentality, strength, size, and training must be taken into account
This question, fist vs. palm, has been asked and answered many times. Naturally there are two sides to this argument, some favoring the open hand and some favoring the punch. The arguments are as follows;
The Plus Side of the Punch
• With a good punch you can knock out your opponent.
The punch seems very natural to most of us. It is as if we have been
born punching. To switch to another technique would be unnatural. This might cause us to hesitate.
• You are using your bones, the hard knuckles. This is very powerful.
The Down Side of the Punch
• Difficult - Many people, especially women or non-combatant types, actually do not know how to make a punch. As a Krav Maga instructor I can tell you that teaching someone for the first time how to make a proper fist is a challenging task. Sometimes I will say, "Let's just go with the open palm strike, it is easier to learn".
• Broken Hands – Many people in real life situations actually break their hands while punching. Even experienced boxers have broken their hands in street fights. Without the protection of a boxing glove the hand is rather fragile. If your fist meets the person's hard head, for example, the fist loses and you break your hand. If you are a police officer this means you will have trouble shooting your hand-gun.
• Choosing the Correct Targets - Using a punch effectively involves training and understanding where a punch can work and where it can not. As noted, certain body parts are not good targets for the punch, such as the top of the head.
The Plus Side of the Open Hand
• Using the open hand involves almost no risk of injury to your hand. If you strike with your palm you cannot break your knuckles or fingers. Thus, it is relatively risk free.
• Almost any part of the head or neck can be an effective target and little training is necessary to use the palm strike.
The Downside of the Open Hand Strike
• For people used to punching it may be difficult to adjust to an open hand strike.
The best solution is to train with an experienced Krav Maga instructor, learn how to strike effectively, learn a few simple drills and then see how it feels on your body. As long as you are thinking about this you are on the correct path.
If I am teaching a self-defense seminar or working with a brand new student (on street self-defense), I teach only open hand striking. As a student progresses (in regards to street self-defense), we add closed fist strikes but never eliminate palm striking as it is an extremally valuable tool...not to mention that is safer and requires little thought or precision in execution.
It is a great question and one that my students and I discuss very regularly! If forced to choose, I choose the open hand as it serves the "greater good".
Amy Jo Giles, IKI Black Belt, instructor, Springfield, Il, USA
Maybe insignificant, but I just wanted to add my observation that the closed hand strike also gives about 4-5cm extra range
Hugo Frøystad, Norway
Interesting blog on an age old subject. Open hand is a very big part of our core Wing Chun and as such I often prefer that type of contact.
Your dead right on the fist/punch aspect though. Fist to bone alignment in conventional boxing places stress on the hand and arm placement especially under impact.
Therefore, many trained and untrained combat athletes suffer damage to the hands during training. Correct bone alignment.
WC prefers to use the vertical fist, it gives a more natural line to the arm. A horizontal fist twists the arm, try it.
The Chinese have a saying; fist to the body - open hand to the head, this doesn't always follow to the letter but if think you can get the gist of it.
All the best
Bob Jamison, Wing Chun, Krav Maga, United Kingdom
One comment for you about the blog. Down in Soutd Africa we talk about hard/soft, soft/hard striking in combat. What we mean is when striking a hard area of the body (i.e.-skull, ribs, etc.) use a soft area of your body (i.e.- open palm, thigh, etc.) and the reverse; strike a soft area of your opponent with a hard area of your body. This helps to maximize damage to the opponent and minimize damage to yourself during the encounter.
Tyler Collins, IKI South Africa
I use the same principle as Bob, I say soft (Hand palm) against Hard (the head) and hard (fist) against soft (body). When we train in using the fist we use the kung fu fist (vertical) better alignment off the bones but it's also a much quicker blow and when your opponent is with hands standing like a boxer then you go straight through his defense. When you have your attacker on the ground and you on top I say use the Palm strike to his head because when he moves his head to the side you will hit the concrete and break your hand.
Al het beste,
Fred Heins, Netherlands
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