Instead of easing into the realm of self-defense, we’re going to jump right in with the hotly-debated subject…
Should you punch in a fight?
Proponents to punching say it is one of the most natural fighting instincts we have and it’s incredibly effective at dealing damage to an assailant.
Opponents claim the risk of injury is too high and it could leave you trying to finish a fight with a bum hand.
So which side is right?
Well both are. Discussion over. See you all on Monday.
Ok! Ok! I was kidding. I’m not going to cop out on you like that. So what EXACTLY is the truth behind using the punch in a self-defense situation?
Yes, punching is a basic, instinctual method of attack, BUT if done incorrectly, can result in broken knuckles or a sprained wrist.
Like any other technique, there are multiple ways to throw a punch and different considerations you need to take.
Let’s cover some of these considerations and I’ll add my take on each one.
Many martial art systems teach to strike with the first two knuckles (pointing and middle finger). The reasoning behind this is the first two knuckles are the biggest and thickest of the knuckles and therefore can take the biggest beating without breaking.
They’re right….but they’re neglecting another factor.
Kung fu teaches to punch with the last three knuckles (middle, ring, and pinky finger).
What in the world could be the advantage of that?!
Well, let’s look at this from a bio-mechanical point of view. For anyone that’s broken concrete, the first thing you are taught is to make sure you have your bone structure lined up behind the striking implement. This ensures maximal force and decreased risk of injury.
For example, if you perform a downward palm strike on a concrete block and your arm isn’t directly above your palm, your wrist is going to bend back (and likely break) when you hit the concrete. Same reason we hit with the heel of the foot on side kicks; because it’s backed up by the bones of the shin and thigh.
Let’s now look at the punch
As you can see, the red box outlines the area of support provided by the bones of the forearm. Notice how the first knuckle isn’t supported. This means that by striking on the first two knuckles, I am receiving less structural support from the forearm and arm therefore less likely to keep my wrist in line (as is illustrated in my pretty picture by the yellow arrows).
You can test this out for yourself. Make a fist and push against the first two knuckles with your other hand. See how the wrist wants to bend inwards?
Now make a fist and press against the last three knuckles. No bend. Solid as a rock.
That’s the argument for striking with the last three knuckles.
So which do I prefer?
My style teaches striking with the first two knuckles so that is what I’ve always been taught. However once learning the other method of punching, it makes more sense to me to punch that way for a variety of reasons.
- You’re less likely to hurt your wrist. I have had wrist sprains so bad that I was in constant agony for weeks (not fun driving stick shift one-handed) and I’ve busted my knuckles up so badly that my hand was black for 3 months. I honestly wasn’t sure if it’d ever go back to normal. Out of the two, I’d take some busted knuckles over a busted wrist any day.
- Less likely to learn bad habits. If you focus on striking with the first two knuckles, you’re more likely to overcompensate by turning your wrist out a bit to ensure you’re hitting the correct striking area. This prevents you from locking your wrist in place and increases the risk of injury if you don’t hit just right.
- Makes sense bio-mechanically. It just feels more natural because my wrist, knuckles, and forearm line up to provide maximum support without me having to focus too much on it.
Regardless of which style of punching you prefer, there’s good targets to aim for and bad ones you should avoid.
The simplest rule to remember where to punch is you don’t strike a hard surface with a hard striking implement. Knuckles against bone isn’t fun. This is especially true if you don’t regularly train in punches. Your wrists simply won’t be able to take the punishment. Some generally safe targets for punches are soft areas like the ribs and kidneys as well as nose. Take care when striking to the face however. A person’s natural reaction when they see a strike coming to the face is to duck their head down. If they do that, you run the risk of hitting the dense bone of the forehead.
Say bye-bye hand.
My final verdict
For self-defense, I personally would be hesitant to throw too many punches. Part of the reason is because I know from first-hand experience (see what I did there?) how easy it is to sustain an injury while trying to execute a punch. They definitely have their place, but I wouldn’t solely rely on them for my hand strikes.
I believe that most people will have better success with attacks like palm strikes to the nose or chin and eye gouges as opposed to getting into a boxing match with someone on the streets.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the discussion on punches. As always, leave a comment and provide your experience/insights on the subject. If you feel I am in error, tell me and we’ll discuss it. Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone!
***Also, we’ll be having a big release this Sunday morning! Be sure to check back then!***