T Nation

Palm Strikes vs Punching


Yes, I know you were being humorous in your comments about me needing a hug. My statement about my son was true, but my comment about your “offer” was meant to also be humorous. I don’t take too many comments made by strangers on Internet forums to heart, so don’t worry, no offense taken or meant.

Regarding the Foreman fight, yes it was a classic, but again, not really directly related to this thread’s original topic and I for one don’t really want to hijack the thread to talk about it.


What about using the “safe” palms/fingers to the face to set up the “effective” straight punch from the other hand?

Are guys in fights setting things up, or is that more for sports like boxing?


Yes, definitely setting up strikes should be part of self defense situations just it is a part of sports like boxing. The biggest differences are:

  1. the position of delivery/starting position

  2. the possible element of surprise

  3. the possibility (probability in certain areas and types of situations) of multiple opponents

  4. the lack of prior knowledge about the opponent’s experience, skills, habits, strengths or weaknesses to allow one to “game plan” for them which increases the unpredictability of the opponent’s reactions

  5. the lack of “rules” which might prevent use of certain types of attacks or targets

  6. the legal and moral repercussions of fighting

  7. the goal of the altercation and what might be considered “winning” could be very different

So for sure, setting up a punch to make it likely to land on your desired target will give you the best chances of not hitting an undesirable target (like an elbow or the top of the head). But even then, there is minimal padding on certain “desirable” targets (like the temple or even the chin) and depending on the individual’s bone density or the opponent’s mass compared to yours, you might still choose an open hand strike to minimize chances of injury.


I think some limited set up is extremely useful in a real violent encounter although I think you rarely if ever see the chess game that you see in a sport fight. More initial survival response-fast distraction strike-fight stopper kind of thing.


Totally agreed. ^^^

Although, it’a not impossible that a fight could go into a “chess match” Active Combat phase. It’s just much more likely to get broken up, have multiples enter the fray, or get finished before that point.

But something like:
-Finger(a) to the eye(s)
-speed hand to the forehead to stabilize the target
-power straight rear palm to the side of the chin
-power circular lead palm to the temple/chin

Is much more likely to have a chance of landing. You really never know how someone will react though, which is another reason I like palms to the head over fists.


Just saw this. In a lot of systems (like the one I do) slaps are much preferred. There are several reasons. First off is that the mechanics of slapping are much like the mechanics of grabbing, so downward blows can and do have a lot of body mass behind them without much work. Also, striking hard things is apt to break bones. The litmus test is how hard you want to strike a brick wall. You can slap one much harder than you can punch or even elbow it.

Finally there is what blows do. I do a classical (Japanese) jujutsu system. in Ye Bad Olde Days everyone clanked around in armor, so punches were a terrible idea. Slap, however, could knock people off balance or derange their structure making them ineffective. These also work against much larger people (that 6’ 8" sumo wrestler with 200 lbs on you). Strikes in other words, set up other things, like takedowns, throws, locks, chokes etc. and the like rather than doing the damage themselves.

Oh and ever hear of the Ottoman Slap? That was the preferred hand to hand combat techniques of the Turkish army and was very much feared. Looks probably a lot like this:

Note that the guy who did it is a pro. He turned the receiver on his side to prevent choking in case he vomited while unconscious.


Literally the hardest I’ve ever hit anybody was a slap. The guy was trying to box me and had more game that way than I did so I just hauled off and slapped him. He never saw it coming. Damn near knocked him out on his feet and was probably a bit demoralizing as well. Then I started dropping downward hammer fists on his head. Just went full Donkey Kong. No technique, pure instinct. Worked out alright, but it wasn’t my finest ‘combatives’ moment.


If backs really against the wall I find this is a good technique to have in back pocket…


Palms protect people from the dangers of striking.
A well conditioned fist is dangerous to more parts of the body. Additionally, a ‘few inches’ in the hands of an elite striker is lethal, and in many contexts could make a huge difference.
A chin jab (horribly powerful, efficiently effective) can be learned well in about 6 hours.
A proper, DANGEROUS cross? Months and months, plus set up, plus time to condition hand.
Chin jab is pretty much just the head. Body shots with the palm (on jaw) take a similiar lay lengthy time to develop akin to fists.
A conditioned fist, thrown correctly, can strike skill, chin, stomach, liver, etc. the margin for error though, even to a fist conditioned by 20+ years, will be damaged without proper alignment vs bone.

Overall, I think the fist is more versatile in targets and range, but is a much, much more technical weapon.


Good points.

Individual variances regarding things like bone structure/density (in both the striker and their opponent[s]) will also greatly determine the practicality of utilizing Closed fists vs open hand strikes. I know people with naturally extremely dense bone structures to the point where it actually hurts other people when they Leg kick them (once their Shin penetrates through the muscle and makes contact with the femur). They have also been in countless real fights and never once broken their hands.

That’s a talent that can’t really be taught though. Yes, you can condition the bones and body to be able to withstand impact more effectively/at greater intensities. But, just like the rest of us could train our entire lives and never have the speed of someone like Roy Jones Jr or Bruce Lee, each of us has a predetermined genetic ceiling and some people are simply gifted by having a much higher ceiling.

The big advantage of Closed fist strikes IMO is that they focus the force into a smaller area, making acute damage (cuts/tissue damage) more likely. This is useful if you want to draw blood/cut your opponent, cause acute tissue damage to interfere with proper function (ripping up the intercostals to make breathing more labored/painful), or to penetrate deeper into the target (like a liver hook). Open hand strikes generally disperse the force over a larger area making for more target displacement but generally less acute damage (with the obvious exception of incidental/intentional eye attacks while using them).


^^^Bone density is a factor a lot of ppl don’t take into account and is highly genetic. Good insight sento