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Palm Strikes vs Punching

So what do you guys think of using palm-strikes for general self-defence instead of normal punching? I never really seriously considered it, but after playing around with it for a bit I’m not seeing any real downside.

  1. It’s much harder to hurt yourself/ break your own bones doing it
  2. It’s easier to transition to grappling
  3. It’s harder for your opponent to read what you’re doing
  4. You don’t have to worry as much about working angles
  5. I find I can actually hit harder because I don’t have to worry about breaking my metacarpals
  6. You can rake the shit out of their face on the pullback

Sure, you lose a couple inches in reach, but that doesn’t seem worth the tradeoff.


Much of the reality based training I’ve had encouraged the use of palm strikes on hard targets e.g. face/head and closed fists on soft targets e.g. ribs/midsection. The rationale is kind of self-evident. Even if your bones tolerate the impact, the likelihood of cutting your knuckles of someone’s teeth is fairly high and I, for one, have no desire to exchange fluids with many of the people I may be required to punch. Only problem IMO is overcoming the natural tendancy in a real fight to ball your hands into fists.

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Batman hit it on the head , Bas Rutten was expert at it. Before he came to ufc he fought in pancrease i believe, and close fist striking wasn’t allowed he would palm to the face and mess people up.

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Yeah, I agree body shots are still probably better to use closed fist strikes on, since it’d be awkward palm-striking someone’s ribs and likely wouldn’t do much damage.

Good post by Batman. I mostly agree.

I think it also depends on the individual. For people with less dense bone structures (children, most women, smaller men, and people who have not put in years of bone conditioning to make up for a lack of “natural born gifts”) I actually think open hand strikes are tactically advantageous regardless of the target. There are some closed fist strikes (like hammer fists) that are more durable than others as well; so it’s not just about “open hand vs closed fist.”

For people with either naturally very dense bone structures or who are willing to put in years of bone conditioning to essentially make their fists into “rocks” punching with a closed fist focuses the forces into a smaller surface area, meaning more acute damage (chances of cutting, bruising/local tissue trauma, etc…) and of course less dissipation of force at impact before the bone structure makes contact with the target. As Batman also mentioned, balling up the fists is a natural response to stress and/or aggression.

One other “advantage” to open hand strikes is the possibility (or intentional use) of getting a/multiple finger(s) into the opponent’s eyes. You see this accidentally happen in MMA all the time due to the open fingered gloves. It’s obviously an illegal and usually unintentional tactic in a sporting event like MMA, but a great tactic for self defense since the eyes cannot be conditioned to take strikes and are a very sensitive and vulnerable target.

One possible disadvantage of open hand strikes is the possibility of small joint locks. This wouldn’t be a weakness that many people would be able to exploit of course, but if you happened to run into somebody who could, you’d be wise to prepare for it or else you might find yourself without properly functioning hands in very short order.

Great information from everyone. One thing to always have in the back of your mind, it is very, very, hard to almost impossible to manipulate any type of weapon with broke fingers. Protect your hands at all costs, breaking you fingers/ wrists, knuckles and then have the situation escalate into lethal force will more than likely leave you DRT. (Dead Right There).

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I punch with a closed fist, but that’s because I box and during an immediate threat I’m sure that’s what I’d revert to.

Not saying it’s correct - palm strikes are probably safer for the aforementioned reasons - but it’s what I do.

Closing the fists is a natural response to stress or being startled. This is the primary reason why “indexing” is taught in firearms training to prevent the accidental discharging of a firearm upon being startled (it’s called the “sympathetic reflex”). Some argue that it is actually hard wired into use as humans and must be trained to be over ridden.

That said, next time you have access to a double end bag try a round without gloves where you are throwing straight “palming” shots on the bag or even just palm smashing/“speed handing” the bag and tell me you didn’t land just about every (if not every) strike absolutely squarely. They go back to punching it and tell me you didn’t notice a decrease in accuracy. The head is a mostly round target and trying to hit it with a fist actually requires a lot of accuracy, especially if it’s moving. Open hand palm strikes simply “fit” better around a round target and have a higher percentage of accuracy (in addition to the other advantages already noted above).

Also, if you don’t know what a “Speed hand” is, here is Rich describing it:


I’d never thought of it in this way, but this makes perfect sense. We’ve all seen less trained people throw multiple headshots in a a real fight without ever really connecting. I can see how the larger, more flexible surface of the palm would help mitigate this.

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And, I’m not gonna go to the whole “your hand is shaped to perfectly hold a banana, therefore we were designed to eat bananas” route, but it is true that a natural “palming/pushing” motion will create a somewhat concave shape in the hand, which fits more naturally to the convex shape of the head.

A fist makes at best a small flat surface (one more reason I prefer the "3 knuckle contacts model over the traditional Karate “2 knuckle” model in most cases) and at worst a round surface. Just think about how much harder it is to hit a round object (a ball for instance) with another round object (a baseball bat for instance) squarely as opposed to hitting one with a flat surface (tennis racquet for instance) or even moreso with a concave surface semi-flexible surface (like a palm in say volleyball).

Again though, there are inherent advantages to closed fist punches and inherent disadvantages of open hand striking. The important thing is to know the strengths and weaknesses or both and to choose the best tool for the job based on physical, positional, tactical, and situational factors.


3 knuckles all day long. No questions.

Oh wait…a real answer on the topic? I don’t have one because they’ve already been written down by sento and batman lol. good posts guys

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Ed O’Neill agrees. Bas Rutten does not:

Anyone have more thoughts on hammer fists? Sento touched on them briefly before.

Decent compromise between power and hand health? Or too slow, too odd angle with no real straight line of attack?

I used to prefer teaching them as the next go-to after palm strikes because, as was said, bare knuckle punching isn’t something Average Joe/Jane can handle. But because of the striking surface, they don’t always lend themselves to immediate deployment because they need to be relatively-cocked back before striking and/or require coming in at a wider angle (when attacking the head, for example).

I broke a fresh 2x4 fairly easy palm strike, years ago against grain, and for a physical strong guy with little striking training like me if some drunk high fuck gets in my face after the strike the push and my bodyweight would hope fully put on ass most guys even his boys see that they get buddy out, if i was to have use in close quarters i would go upwards chin on taller person downwards nose on shorter. 95% of time i walk away even if you call me names, but if a freind or a weekling is going to be their next target i dont. I was shown the bruce lee 3 inch punch from a dude who claimed to have trained jeet kon do he was 185 i was 270 he struck me in my arm and it rocked me .

Like O’Neil mentions, Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Lewis (Joe, not Lennox) all advocated and used the 3 knuckle contact alignment due to the superior wrist alignment and larger surface area it provides. As much as I respect Bas, he can’t hold a candle to any of those names when it comes to KO power or striking knowledge.

That said, there are certainly well respected strikers who use the first two knuckles and KO people with that alignment.

Regarding Hammer Fists, they have their uses, but lack the leverage and musculoskeletal advantages of straight line strikes or even Circular/Angular strikes. So, unless you can utilize your body weight heavily with them (Ground and Pound situations for example) or you can accurately target very sensitive targets (groin for example) I wouldn’t put much stake in them being fight enders. That said, they can be nice “set up” shots or intermediary shots to buy you time to land a powerful linear or circular/angular strike. I personally much prefer them to Backfists though, unless I am targeting the eye socket or want to potentially cut someone.

That’s a cool story, bro.

Hey sento you know your shit fighting , maybe you need a hug, ok sento break down ron lyle George Foreman fight, look it up.

I was working wall teams with a bunch of Mexican and was not keeping up, so they were giving me shit, in construction if you see a hazard nail sticking out board to take nail out so nobody steps on it , so i was pulling a nail out of a 2x4. When a co worker said the Mexicans say im all fat not muscle, so i saw a place to brace it , the 2x4 about 2 feet wide and with a downward palm hit it and broke it. Then they stopped giving me shit, any that next week got a much better job, wall team’s suck.

If you are seasoned boxer yeah it is a natural instinct to punch closed fist as well as gives you a three inch reach over palm strike. A palm strike is more straight forward, as untrained folk try to wind up punch by pulling back before striking. But body shots definitely closed fist.

Haha, thanks (I think). Lucky for me I get hugs from my 3 year old son every day, so I’be got that covered, but thanks for the offer anyway. :wink:

This thread is about punching vs Palm strikes for self defense, no need to hijack it critiquing a professional boxing match.

No i wasn’t offering a hug, (you need a hug) was ment to be funny, after your thread which you offer a boatload of information on combat. I not someone who is intentionally talking smack to or saying something out of the way. I just have a different sense of humor. Ive been on forums where people insult or make outlandish claims, i am not one of them. As for the ron lyle George Foreman fight just thought i would bringit up. As it was a classic.