T Nation

Bodyshots Underutilised


Hey guys,
Although I've never contributed to a discussion on the Combat forum, I've read most of the threads and logs for the last several months and have always been very impressed that, for the most part, the discussions stay objective and respectful and some great debates are generated.

My question is, why are bodyshots so seemingly underutilised. Especially on the street, they would seem to offer several advantages in a self-defense type scenario. In my experience (both giving and receiving them) a hard shot to the solar plexus often proves to be quite debilitating especially if the person you are fighting hasn't done a ton of abdominal work.

It (solar plexus) provides a relatively large target that can still produce a spasm of the diaphragm even if the blow lands a couple inches high or low. The resulting spasm is an involuntary physical reflex which should still be operational even if the opponent is drunk/high (ie. doesn't require a pain response to still be effective). Compared to the head, the abdomen is a relatively soft target so a bare fist should be less damaged from hitting it.

Finally, and, maybe most importantly in this day and age, the resulting "winding" while debilitating for 10-20 secs, almost never produces permanent or serious damage to the recipient. Thus, it should give you that separation time needed to quickly remove yourself from the situation (ie. run like hell in the other direction) without having serious legal repercussions.

Anyways, something I've thought about for the last little while that I'd like to get your input on. I know self-defense scenarios have been discussed ad nauseum on here so if you're not interested, just ignore.


Body shots are indeed very useful given the right context and technique.

One reason you don't see them used more often in real fights is because generally in real fights there is some sort of emotional component (anger, fear, or pride usually) and therefore the striker is trying to hurt the "person" they are fighting. What you may or may not have realized is that we as humans most closely associate individuals with their face.

For instance, if I said the name Hugh Jackman, the first thing that would pop into your mind would be his face. Even If I said a member of the opposite sex who you might more strongly associate with other anatomy parts like Shakira or Dolly Parton you would think of their face first.

Hence, when people want to do damage to a person's persona, they generally seek to damage the face or head region.

You have to realize that most real fights aren't between formally trained fighters, and even among formally trained fighters it generally takes a little while to break their tendency to "head hunt" while sparring/fighting.

In a real situation you also have to take into consideration clothing (if it's winter and the person is wearing several thick layers of clothing that will absorb some of the force of your strike), the opponent's size relative to yours (the body is a bigger target sure, but also a more massive one), the fact that you may only get one chance to surprise your opponent with a strike and you never know what their ability to take a shot to the body is), that striking to the body never completely renders an opponent unconscious (and therefore truly unable to continue fighting), and that it generally takes more knowledge of striking skill and accuracy to take someone out with a single body shot than a single head shot.

Again, I'm not saying that makes body shots a bad choice, they can ba great if you know how to really throw them, pinpoint targets, and either hit hard enough that no matter who you hit and what they are wearing a surprise one will put them down, or you use them only when you are sure they will be effective (and you don't need to completely render your opponent unable to think/continue to fight back).

That's my two cents anyhow.


Great response! I never considered the emotional component of head strikes but what you say makes a lot of sense. It reminds me of a thread on here a while ago where the OP was an article about striking versus grappling. It stated that humans' innate first reaction to an opponent was to grapple as opposed to strike as this generally resulted in fewer serious injuries and deaths and that this was better for the tribe. It went on to say that many animal species display similar nonlethal behaviour in shows of strength. It is fascinating just how much of our behaviour, especially in the context of fighting, seems to be dictated by genetics (eg. Ritualistic puffing out of chest, strutting around etc.).


Good post by Sento. Most regular dudes aren't going to use bodyshots - just isn't going to happen - but it doesn't take much training or know-how to make them really effective.

I've always loved them and gravitated towards them for a couple different reasons. First, I'm a short guy with short arms, so it's pretty convenient to hit the solar plexus, liver, and ribcage.

Secondly, I took many years of Goju-ryu karate as a kid, and they were HUGE on aiming for the solar plexus. My old sensei told us to aim three straight shots at the sternum, "One to crack it, one to break it, one to reach in and pull something out." He was a bad little dude, and I took what he said to heart.

Third, I grew up watching Rocky, and that old refrain of "Go to the body!" stayed with me. It might sound stupid, but when I tried it out, I realized that it was a pretty good way to level a guy. You knock the wind out of him, or catch him in the liver, and that pain just isn't like a head punch - you can't shake it off and you can't muscle through it. Knowing where to hit can really convince someone that you're ready to party.

I've used bodyshots sparring and got knock downs off them, and I've used them in real fights and it's probably why I didn't break my hand during the most crazy of my days. They work. But it's a well kept secret.


Definitely a great response Sento, and good food for thought.

I am a fan of the body shot, and have used it effectively 'in the street' on a number of occasions. I find it is very effectively where some moron squares up to you and spreads their arms getting in your face. You can put them down, make them look stupid, and as you say, not be all that likely of doing lasting damage. Fairbairn offered the uppercut to the SP as a legitimate fight ender in 'Get Tough'. A hook to the gut is also effective as a response to a swinging overhand right haymaker, in my experience.

That said, and as Sento alluded to, on the occasions where I've had to throw down against much bigger people, or against legitimately bad guys, I've always focused my efforts on the head. Mainly, this is because it is distracting, even if it doesn't end up debilitating, if you are getting fists in your face, and that can obviously create the time and space to escape or pick up a barstool. The other reason is that I know if I get a good clean connection along the jaw line, temple or neck, I am going to end the fight. That may not be the case through clothing or against someone legitimately nails if you strike them in the body.


Good points from both Irish and London. Height relative to your opponent will greatly influence whether body shots make sense. Against a taller opponent it's usually a good choice to go to the body first and then to the head. London brings up another good point about the decreased perception of damage/less chance of legal prosecution.

In regards to being able to fight through body shots, it depends on the person and what you mean by fight through it. Irish is absolutely right that you can't easily shake off body shots and continue to perform physically. But, they could still pull a firearm and use it effectively where as if your brain gets shut down by a strike to the head or carotid sinus on the side of the neck you will be completely incapacitated/incapable of inflicting any further harm. We have a saying that, "if you shut off the brain/hard drive all the software will become rendered obsolete."


Sento, I gotta say - and I'm not arguing for the sake of it here - but seriously, if you get the wind knocked out of you or take a real liver shot, you are absolutely incapable of using a firearm effectively until you can recover. It's difficult to even move, and your brain is on emergency mode. It's not as good as getting a knockout, I agree, but it's going to give you plenty of time to either follow that shot up or get outta there.

You take a huge chance every time you go to the head - the chance that you're not going to bust yourself up, and the chance that you're not going to outright kill the guy.

I have seen a lot of guys - most guys, in fact, except those that are outright knocked out - walk right through head shots in a fight. They might do the same for body shots as well, but my favorite saying always went something like "Kill the body, and the head will die."

Definitely agree with the side of the neck thing though - that shit works, even though I never knew it was the sinus that did it. Same effect as getting the wind knocked out of you or getting knocked stupid.


For your viewing pleasure:


I used to have such a good left rip to the liver, now I can't seem to really hurt anyone with it. I dont know what changed, maybe my accuracy is off or I'm just not digging it in. Too much sparring partner syndrome probably.


You'll be right man- just break it down step by step and have your queues.

With the l.hook body, I try to think systematically.
- rotate the rear foot. Weight now over lead leg.
- Front knee adjusts lowering base and selecting range.
- Start rotation from left hip.
- In sync; whip out the left heel (clockwise) and left hook.
- Bring it up at an angle- sneak beneath that elbow.
- Use the rear heel as a brake to limit your rotation.
- Reset stance asnd defense.

I drill this. Really drill it often and then in sparring I find I've fooled myself into thinking its natural.
I find if I can tick the boxes and say "yes, I followed all the steps correctly," then usually it was a good shot that had a telling impact.


Great little breakdown, especially the bit about using the rear heel as a break. I find the left to liver is a shot a lot of guys over commit to, even at higher levels.

Sparring partner syndrome is an interesting one. I have a few things in my bag of tricks that I will only use in sparring if and when my partner and I have agreed that we're going 100% (with the obvious limitation of not delivering KO shots if the other person is genuinely hurt by a setup shot). That's precisely because as essential as sparring is, some shots have to be thrown with real bad intentions for them to be effective. Drilling them to not hurt your sparring partner to badly will take the edge off them when used for real.

Case in point, I went through a phase where I lost the ability to deliver a mean, digging shovel hook to the floating ribs. I was previously very good at setting it up, and had great results with it. I ended up hurting friends in sparring with it though, when I was younger and less in control, and by forcing myself to deliver it lightly, developed a block in my mind that stopped me smashing an opponent with it. It took several years to get it back to where it once was. Even recently there were times where I'd throw it lighter than I should, and load up behind a hook or uppercut to the midsection, which was far less effective.


It's not you, it's McDonalds.One thing I hate about losing love handles in the summer, is it's easier for people to push me, and more things hurt.

OP Best time I've seen bodyshots used was when fighting more then one person. The group is usually more cocky and leaving all parts of themselves open. One on one it's usually different. Although I've never seen the kind of fights I've seen and heard about on videoes in here. People seem to be a lot more friendly square up and fight. All the ones I've seen have been heated arguments turned ugly which usually means the angry person lost it and is bullrushing you. Which leaves his head as a big ass target.

Trying to go for a bodyshot at that point would be difficult. The other instance is if the guy who got angriest first throws the first punch, he usually catches the other person in the face. At the point all bets brains and everything else is out the window. I've seen some very good street fighters like like 5 year olds after a solid punch to the face. Last most street fighters, wrestle for fun, or fight only when they get in the fight, and natural instincts keep their fist in front of their body ready to throw, if you go reaching for the body you can get cracked in the head. Far as fighting a good fighter, you generally know who a good fighter is before you get into a scrap with him, and plan accordingly.

All that being said - I'm not trained in any way, got into a scrap and the guy wasn't trying to let me get close, but didn't want to throw punches because my hands were faster and stronger. He had more solid legs and kept throwing a straight kick keeping me from getting close enough to punch, which is all I know. This went on for seemingly forever but was probably 2 minutes.

Good part, it kept both of us from hurting ourselves. The kick never did anything to me but I got tired of trying to break through. Later we're friends but if I ever start with him again I'm a be in range already. A million people a million ways to fight


Davo- great videos. As a relatively short heavyweight, I never thought Tyson used bodyshots as much as he could have.

Something I've noticed is that often times, when someone is dropped by a bodyshot, it almost seems to come out of nowhere. What I mean is that the punch doesn't seem to be excessively hard or any worse than the ones preceding it. I guess it's just a matter of good targeting and hitting just the right spot. Often the guy will absorb 3 or 4 gut shots and then a little 5th one will drop him to his knees


If your truly surprise someone with the shot, hit the solar plexus Liver or heart dead on and can generate a lot of force with the punch, then yeah, it can be a dibilitating strike. But, given enough motivation, adrenaline, possible chemical enhancements, and depending on the person, they can continue to think and retain at least some motor function. If you shut off the brain there is no conscious cognitive function and therefore no degree of motor skills are possible.

Totally agree though that strikes to the head are no guarantee of incapacitation either. Let's face it there are no 100% guarantees in a real fight. Also totally agree that the head is a harder/bony target and there is therefore a greater chance of damaging the fist if you hit it wrong.


Great example to illustrate that you will fight how you train (at least up to a certain point).


Your last sentence I think is the best summation for any discussion on style vs. style, situation vs. situation etc. in a street fight. It's impossible for one technique, style etc. to be completely 100% applicable in a fight of any kind; there's just too many variables. My opinion is that any kind of fight training is good as it gives you that fighting mentality so that you don't lose your shit the first time you get into it with someone. I'll never forget the first time I was punched in the face. Even though I knew it was coming, when it actually hit me I was stunned. Glad it happened in a controlled setting and not the first time I was in a fight because I would have been done at that point. Training any martial art (boxing, judo, wrestling, tkd, mt, bjj etc,) I think gets you used to being attacked and attacking so that when it happens for real, your mind/body don't shut down and you can function well enough,.


As the great Sugar Ray Robinson used to say, "it's the punch you don't see coming that hurts you." That's why "sucker punches"/ambush attacks are so effective. So, many times the body shot that drops someone was simply not seen/expected by the opponent (and sure, may have just been right on the button as well) and therefore they were not properly prepared to take the shot. Whereas with the shots that they took and didn't go down from they may have seen them coming and thus been prepared to take them.

There is also a cumulative effect to body punches. Over the course of a boxing match the damage done to the intercostal muscles and ribs makes breathing difficult along with the repeated trauma to the liver and/or solar plexus becoming more and more difficult to absorb. Boxers are often tough to "rip/ice pick/dig" punches to the body for this reason.

In a real fight you don't have numerous rounds to accumulate damage, but (at least with the initial punch) your opponent may not be prepared to be hit at all, this your punch may have as much if more effect than one thrown after several rounds of accumulated damage. But again, there are no gaurantees.


It has been a while since I have been online, so let me break the silence with a comment in this thread.

I think everyone agrees so far with what Sento said. I'd like to add that when sparring inexperienced boxers without the real threat of injury you'd expect in a street fight bodyshots where still under utilised to the point where the guy thought I did a bad job because I didn't hit him as much in the face. Many times I've had to explain my actions to a fighter after using bodyshots. And typically, these guys have never been hit so hard in the liver that they shat their pants and just have no idea how painful bodyshots can be.

So what I'm saying is, most of us have long lost our "liver shot virginity" and after that we are aware of the damage bodyshots can cause.


Good to see you back mate. Hope you're keeping well.


Quoted for liver shots that make you crap blood.