T Nation

Evolution of the human fist


"The studies center on the thesis that the human hand, with its relatively delicate fingers, long thumbs, and short palms, may have been driven into its strange shape by fighting between males."

"A fist allows for twice the force of an open-palmed slap before bones begin to break."

Consider me a skeptic, having seen many boxers fractures in ERs. I thought punching without wraps was a pretty easy way to break your hand if you didn't have great accuracy or were just unlucky with angles. Palm/open handed strikes seem a whole lot safer. Seems like a silly reason to develop a hand shape.


Such sociobiological arguments are generally wrought with problems.

But, it does actually make sense that a correctly thrown and landed punch would generate a higher transfer/concentration of kinetic energy upon impact as compared to an open palm strike due to the rigidity of the structure.

Like you said though, accuracy is the primary issue and targets can move suddenly and unexpectedly during combat. So, it’s really a judgement call that each of us has to make based on our own training, physicality, and the opponent. If you are slight framed, then palms might be a better option. If you have thick dense bones, then punching may be better.

Finally, regarding boxers fractures, much of those are the result of:
A) people with little to no actual fighting skill (accuracy, timing, technique, etc…)

B) people with skill but who become overly dependent on their protective gear (wraps, gloves, headgear, etc…) and thus never really develop the strength in their supporting structures or even really learn proper bare fisted punching mechanics to begin with.

C) bad luck, as again sometimes Murphy and his Law butt in at just the wrong time

Just my two cents.


My hands work pretty awesome for grabbing stuff.

What the first great human offensive move?

-holding and biting
-eye gouging
-wrestle them down and choke hold

  • or just grabbing stuff to use, weapon style