Open or closed hands whilst fighting or sparring?

Ivan

Brown Belt
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Messages
441
Reaction score
169
I was in my session for Taekwondo the other day, and it came time to spar. As we were told to take our fighting positions in front of our partners, one of the two instructors (fourth rank black belt, possibly fifth can't quite recall) told me to keep my hands closed in my position.

Now, I have been sparring and fighting with my hands open ever since I remember. This is mostly for two reasons.
  1. I feel like with my hands relaxed, in a natural and open position, make my movements faster
  2. I like to deflect incoming strikes and kicks in a sort of "slapping motion" to redirect the opponents limbs in manners that make it impossible to follow up with another strike or to put them off balance - I mainly use this for kicks
To accurately describe my hand position, I urge you to lift your hand in front of you, outer ridge facing forwards, and to completely relax it. Another motivation for doing this is that when I keep my hands closed, I often misjudge my blocks or deflects and I end up getting hit in the nerve point in my forearm, causing my hand to spasm and stopping me from striking with it for a few crucial seconds.

I humored my instructor until the sparring session was over and then went to ask him for the reason behind his advice. He showed me his hands, specifically his right hand. It was absolutely ******. He had no motion in his middle finger at all, and couldn't make a straight palm. The muscle between the thumb and the index was swollen, and his knuckled and fingers had scars on them, as well as a long scar running down the ridge of his outer hand. He claimed a large amount of injuries and surgeries would have been avoided if he didn't hold a fighting position with his hands opened and relaxed the way I did. A specific case he cited was when in a competition his opponent ended up kicking his, bending his fingers back and breaking them. Another case was in a street fight, where his opponent took control of his wrist, took him to the ground and snapped his fingers.

He believes that if he had his hands bunched up into fists, he could have avoided at least some of the injuries, like not getting his fingers broken in that competition. This is a lot for me to take in, and I am conflicted, since I have never held a stance where I constantly kept my hands clutched into fists, except when I am forced to by boxing gloves. What are your thoughts and personal experiences with this? What advice would you give me?
 
Last edited:

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
5,749
Reaction score
1,417
It varies from art to art. In Taekwondo, we have our hands always in a knife-hand (not a relaxed open hand) or a tight fist. In many arts, you are supposed to relax your fist and tense only at the moment of impact, so you don't waste energy holding your fist tight. In Hapkido, we generally have a wide open hand so we can grab easier. Then there's the "palm strike vs. punch" discussions....

To accurately describe my hand position, I urge you to lift your hand in front of you, outer ridge facing forwards, and to completely relax it. Another motivation for doing this is that when I keep my hands closed, I often misjudge my blocks or deflects and I end up getting hit in the nerve point in my forearm, causing my hand to spasm and stopping me from striking with it for a few crucial seconds.

This sounds like 2 training issues:
  1. You misjudging blocks with your fists closed is hard for me to understand. You should generally be blocking with your forearm either way, and your fists don't affect that.
  2. If you're blocking with the nerve, then train your blocking so you block with a different part of your arm that isn't the nerve!
If you are going to use a slapping motion, then relax your hand for the slap and put it back into a tight fist. It takes time to build the habit, but it will come.

I humored my instructor until the sparring session was over and then went to ask him for the reason behind his advice. He showed me his hands, specifically his right hand. It was absolutely ******. He had no motion in his middle finger at all, and couldn't make a straight palm. The muscle between the thumb and the index was swollen, and his knuckled and fingers had scars on them, as well as a long scar running down the ridge of his outer hand. He claimed a large amount of injuries and surgeries would have been avoided if he didn't hold a fighting position with his hands opened and relaxed the way I did. A specific case he cited was when in a competition his opponent ended up kicking his, bending his fingers back and breaking them. Another case was in a street fight, where his opponent took control of his wrist, took him to the ground and snapped his fingers.

We've had broken fingers in my dojang from kids who don't keep a tight fist during sparring. They'll get kicked in the hand and their fingers are done. It's not just about protecting your hands when you punch, but also when you're in your guard position.

Also, @mods, I'm confused about the censorship on this site. In another thread, I posted the title of a movie that has the a-word in it (meaning butt) and it got starred out, but here the f-word comes through bright and clear. What's up with a PG word getting the smackdown but an R-rated word being fine?
 
Last edited by a moderator:
OP
Ivan

Ivan

Brown Belt
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Messages
441
Reaction score
169
It varies from art to art. In Taekwondo, we have our hands always in a knife-hand (not a relaxed open hand) or a tight fist. In many arts, you are supposed to relax your fist and tense only at the moment of impact, so you don't waste energy holding your fist tight. In Hapkido, we generally have a wide open hand so we can grab easier. Then there's the "palm strike vs. punch" discussions....



This sounds like 2 training issues:
  1. You misjudging blocks with your fists closed is hard for me to understand. You should generally be blocking with your forearm either way, and your fists don't affect that.
  2. If you're blocking with the nerve, then train your blocking so you block with a different part of your arm that isn't the nerve!
If you are going to use a slapping motion, then relax your hand for the slap and put it back into a tight fist. It takes time to build the habit, but it will come.



We've had broken fingers in my dojang from kids who don't keep a tight fist during sparring. They'll get kicked in the hand and their fingers are done. It's not just about protecting your hands when you punch, but also when you're in your guard position.

Also, @mods, I'm confused about the censorship on this site. In another thread, I posted the title of a movie that has the a-word in it (meaning butt) and it got starred out, but here the f-word comes through bright and clear. What's up with a PG word getting the smackdown but an R-rated word being fine?
I was weirded out by the censorship too. I thought it would correct to asterisks. I will amend it now. Apart from that, thanks for your insight.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
9,254
Reaction score
3,266
Location
New York
It is very easy to jam your fingers if you keep your hands open. Pretty sure when my friend broke his finger, it was a result of opened It's also easy to accidentally poke someones eye (it's happened to me and I've done it to someone else). Personally I prefer to keep my hands semi open so I can grab more easily when I need, and I was taught to close them at moment of impact, but I can absolutely see why from a safety standpoint an instructor would have a rule to keep them closed while sparring.

As for the misjudging blocks/difficulties from closed fists, most of that's likely just something that you need to adapt to, and will go away once you do it more.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
9,254
Reaction score
3,266
Location
New York
Also, @mods, I'm confused about the censorship on this site. In another thread, I posted the title of a movie that has the a-word in it (meaning butt) and it got starred out, but here the f-word comes through bright and clear. What's up with a PG word getting the smackdown but an R-rated word being fine?
It's supposed to be censored/autotransposed to the word love. I'd assume that the bold messed with that. Ivan already edited it, but I'm also going to go through and edit your post to match his edit.
 

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
5,749
Reaction score
1,417
It's supposed to be censored/autotransposed to the word love. I'd assume that the bold messed with that. Ivan already edited it, but I'm also going to go through and edit your post to match his edit.

So you'd have to be pretty bold to swear on this site? A-hahahahahahaha!
.
.
.
I'll see myself out.
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
18,351
Reaction score
5,220
Location
Pueblo West, CO
The hands should be opened or closed. Yes.
Having said that... a lot of TKD schools, especially if they're sport oriented, will harp on keeping the hands closed. Because open hands will result in the refs calling you out for grabbing. It's a rules thing.
 

drop bear

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
20,974
Reaction score
5,838
I was in my session for Taekwondo the other day, and it came time to spar. As we were told to take our fighting positions in front of our partners, one of the two instructors (fourth rank black belt, possibly fifth can't quite recall) told me to keep my hands closed in my position.

Now, I have been sparring and fighting with my hands open ever since I remember. This is mostly for two reasons.
  1. I feel like with my hands relaxed, in a natural and open position, make my movements faster
  2. I like to deflect incoming strikes and kicks in a sort of "slapping motion" to redirect the opponents limbs in manners that make it impossible to follow up with another strike or to put them off balance - I mainly use this for kicks
To accurately describe my hand position, I urge you to lift your hand in front of you, outer ridge facing forwards, and to completely relax it. Another motivation for doing this is that when I keep my hands closed, I often misjudge my blocks or deflects and I end up getting hit in the nerve point in my forearm, causing my hand to spasm and stopping me from striking with it for a few crucial seconds.

I humored my instructor until the sparring session was over and then went to ask him for the reason behind his advice. He showed me his hands, specifically his right hand. It was absolutely ******. He had no motion in his middle finger at all, and couldn't make a straight palm. The muscle between the thumb and the index was swollen, and his knuckled and fingers had scars on them, as well as a long scar running down the ridge of his outer hand. He claimed a large amount of injuries and surgeries would have been avoided if he didn't hold a fighting position with his hands opened and relaxed the way I did. A specific case he cited was when in a competition his opponent ended up kicking his, bending his fingers back and breaking them. Another case was in a street fight, where his opponent took control of his wrist, took him to the ground and snapped his fingers.

He believes that if he had his hands bunched up into fists, he could have avoided at least some of the injuries, like not getting his fingers broken in that competition. This is a lot for me to take in, and I am conflicted, since I have never held a stance where I constantly kept my hands clutched into fists, except when I am forced to by boxing gloves. What are your thoughts and personal experiences with this? What advice would you give me?

That is partially the reason I do it. And so not to poke my sparring partner in the eye.

I found in street fights people tend to wave their arms around a bit wildly and that catching a finger risk goes up.
 

Buka

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
11,741
Reaction score
8,371
Location
Maui
Up to the individual I would think. And I'll bet that a lot of folks do it either way, open hands/closed fists, depending on the situation or whim.

I've always kept my hands open, fingers loosely together and cupped. IMO there's really only one important thing when punching. Hitting with a straight wrist and only using the front two knuckles. I purposely say that as "one thing" rather than two, because it's a must.

Yeah, yeah, everybody knows that, but most dismiss the practice of it, both on and off the dojo, because they think of it as a beginners thing. But it's an everyone's thing.

I learned a lot about hitting from Tadashi Yamashita. Damn, he's quick and strong.


You don't have to watch all of the clip above, but the first ninety seconds gives you an idea of how he moves. And, yes, I know this isn't against resistance, but I've seen him do this against resistance, several times. Same results.

He has small hands, soft like a kid's hands, and keeps them loose and open even when he hits. I've watched him demo that in rather interesting ways. He'll keep a loose fist, and smash the hell out of cement, wood, your chest - just so you can feel it - and then open his hand to show there's an egg in his fist. Which he'll have you break into a bowl so you can see it's real. One time I watched him smash some cement, a lot of cement, then open his hand and have a Japanese White Eye bird fly out unharmed. This is done to show that you can hit just as effectively with an open, soft fist. I realize those are just demo party tricks, they are - but if you ever get the chance, have him pop you one in the chest. It's rather unreal, feels like a crow bar. Just don't blink or you'll never see it. Damn, that man can hit.

Open hands for me, ninety percent of the time anyway.
 

Headhunter

Senior Master
Joined
Aug 26, 2016
Messages
4,765
Reaction score
1,592
Depends on teacher really. I don't like open hands....I like my fingers to stay unbroken but it depends on who the teacher is
 

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
5,749
Reaction score
1,417
Up to the individual I would think. And I'll bet that a lot of folks do it either way, open hands/closed fists, depending on the situation or whim.

I've always kept my hands open, fingers loosely together and cupped. IMO there's really only one important thing when punching. Hitting with a straight wrist and only using the front two knuckles. I purposely say that as "one thing" rather than two, because it's a must.

Yeah, yeah, everybody knows that, but most dismiss the practice of it, both on and off the dojo, because they think of it as a beginners thing. But it's an everyone's thing.

I learned a lot about hitting from Tadashi Yamashita. Damn, he's quick and strong.


You don't have to watch all of the clip above, but the first ninety seconds gives you an idea of how he moves. And, yes, I know this isn't against resistance, but I've seen him do this against resistance, several times. Same results.

He has small hands, soft like a kid's hands, and keeps them loose and open even when he hits. I've watched him demo that in rather interesting ways. He'll keep a loose fist, and smash the hell out of cement, wood, your chest - just so you can feel it - and then open his hand to show there's an egg in his fist. Which he'll have you break into a bowl so you can see it's real. One time I watched him smash some cement, a lot of cement, then open his hand and have a Japanese White Eye bird fly out unharmed. This is done to show that you can hit just as effectively with an open, soft fist. I realize those are just demo party tricks, they are - but if you ever get the chance, have him pop you one in the chest. It's rather unreal, feels like a crow bar. Just don't blink or you'll never see it. Damn, that man can hit.

Open hands for me, ninety percent of the time anyway.

Gonna go out on a limb and say he's got really strong fingers.
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
18,351
Reaction score
5,220
Location
Pueblo West, CO
Depends on teacher really. I don't like open hands....I like my fingers to stay unbroken but it depends on who the teacher is

I think the risk here is overstated. Yes, it's possible. No, it's not common. Personally, my worst hand injury in ~50 years of sparring was a 4th metacarpal fracture that I got by goofing up a block on a kick. With a closed hand...
 

Kung Fu Wang

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Sep 26, 2012
Messages
10,982
Reaction score
2,878
Location
Austin, Tx/Shell Beach, Ca
Open or closed hands whilst fighting?

One of the best street fighting (not sparring) skill is to use your 5 fingers to slide across your opponent's eyes with your palm facing down. The chance that one of your fingers can hit on one of your opponent's eyes can be high.

In sparring, I prefer to use half closed fist.
 
D

Deleted member 39746

Guest
I can attest to it lovely hurting if you chop somones kick (dont do it)

Second, i belive for most people open hands move faster than closed, if not everyone.

Recalling back some time, i just opened my hands in a normal fighting guard. Its natural for me to punch, so its a mixed bag to do open handed things.



Open or closed hands whilst fighting?

One of the best street fighting (not sparring) skill is to use your 5 fingers to slide across your opponent's eyes with your palm facing down. The chance that one of your fingers can hit on one of your opponent's eyes can be high.

In sparring, I prefer to use half closed fist.

if we are talking street, you should use a open handed fence anyway, its not threatning, open hands are faster and you can also jam your fingers into their eyes or what have you. and if you get the knack down you could easily close your hands before impact to punch them, or convert into a tradtional stance. Oh and you can also grab them and push them back easier.
 

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,828
Reaction score
3,030
Location
Michigan
I have had my hand broken while trying to block a kick with an open hand. However I tend to keep my hands open anyway for the reasons given regarding parties and deflections.

If I am sparring someone who keeps causing me to jam my fingers, I'll close them. But not tight, that drains energy.
 

mrt2

Brown Belt
Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
408
Reaction score
230
Back in the day, I remember a lot of MA students fighting with open hands, some even moving their fingers rapidly as they sparred, supposedly to distract their opponent. But my current school teaches us to spar with closed fists. I found out why early on. I went to block, and got kicked in the hand bending back my fingers. Fortunately nothing broken, but it hurt for a couple of weeks.
 
Top