Resolved: Open handed strikes...

dancingalone

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are safer for the average martial artist and you should teach them as a preferred option to your students.

What are you thoughts on this? Do you think a palm heel or a sword hand is easier for the average beginner than the standard rotating punch? I do. I've been asked to teach a regular, recurring self-defense course, and I'm pretty convinced this is the way to go. It's not just a 1 day seminar, so I have leeway in what type of techniques I teach, but I just think you can build competence faster with open hand strikes.

To make this thread TKD-related, can anyone answer why every beginner form uses a close fist? Why aren't they open hand?
 

Manny

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Yes and no. First as little boys the first thing one learn is to hit with fists, it's natural for a boy to hit (wrong or rigth) with fists. Now, yes it's easier to hit well with a palm heel, in some cases this type of blow is stronger than the rotating or reverse punch. In my country we have "La Cachetada" trasnlation The slap hit with the open palm of the hand to the face, this blow is girly stuff that's the way the girls do their ways in a fight so for a male use a Cachetada is a sinonim of sissy boy, however let me tell you that a Big Powerfull Cachetada can harm and can be very useful from the male stand point, so put this straight in a street fight if need it I will use cachetadas, bites,even eye pocking or groing kicks, I don'y mind to be dirthy in the streets.

Manny
 

foot2face

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are safer for the average martial artist and you should teach them as a preferred option to your students.
What are you thoughts on this? Do you think a palm heel or a sword hand is easier for the average beginner than the standard rotating punch?
Like Manny, I have to say yes and no. I agree the with your thinking that the standard rotating punch isn’t the best thing to go with for a SD course for novices but I don’t believe that open hand strikes are that much better. I would prefer hammer fist techniques. They rely on a very natural moment that is easy to learn, can be both fast and powerful and easily combo-ed. I believe them to be much safer as well. The exposed fingers of an open hand strike can be a huge liability, particularly for a beginner. The closed hand of a hammer fist is less of a risk. Hammer fist also lead with the outside edge of the forearm which is naturally strong and a better place to take damage compared to the inside wrist portion of the forearm that is exposed when delivering a palm strike.
 

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I think the instinctive closed hand thing has a lot to do with the cultural influence of Boxing in the West.

I agree that open hand strikes are the best option for SD. Most people - and here I include fighters who use gloves - have no idea how easy it is to damage the hand and wrist when you're not wrapped and gloved. In my SD syllabus I put a lot of emphasis on straight rear hand palm thrusts to the head, power slaps (we call it the "bofetada" here in Spain; thanks for the alternative name, Manny), inward knifehand, outward/descending knifehand, lead hand palm hook, and various hammer, forearm and elbow strikes. I only use the closed forefist in straight rear hand punches and shovel hooks to the body.

There are a few reasons why there are so many closed fist punches in the TKD patterns, some of which are:
- They are heavily based on the Pinan set, in which Itosu is said to have hidden a lot of open hand techniques by closing the fists in order to make them less dangerous.
- WWII-era Japanese Karate and by extension the various pre-TKD styles were big on hand conditioning for power striking.
- The Asian arts use punches to attack the body more than the western arts do, and the forefist is good for this.
- A closed fist often indicates a grip rather than a strike.
 

exile

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In my own teaching I emphasize to students that what look like punches can have various interpretations that do not involve striking (e.g., part of a neck twist, or a throwdown); by the same token, a palm heel strike can be substituted far more safely for a punch when the target is at all bony. One thing that usually convinces them is that I can strike a cinderblock wall at close to full strength with a palm-heel strike and all that happens it a kind of mild, very temporary bruising and stinging from the impact; I then ask them to imagine what would happen to my hand if I did the same thing with a closed fist. They get the point very quickly!

Another point that I stress is that if you're using muchimi techniques properly, you should be prepared to move from a strike to a grab or controlling move with the same hand very quickly. The palm heel strike saves you what could be some very useful time: since your hand is already in very close to a gripping configuration at the time of the strike, you don't have to open it and then close it again as you do with a fist. I agree with f2f that a hammerfist is far safer as an option for the beginner than either a normal fist or an open hand tech that exposes the fingers to damage, and certainly for breaking, it's probably the safest way for people to get started.
 
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Laurentkd

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Since you are asking about a self-defense class, I am going to keep my response relative to just that (rather than looking at what to teach long term students).
I agree with a lot here that boys/men tend to prefer a closed hand technique initially (until they are taught the benefits of alternatives). However, when I am teaching a women's self-defense class I don't teach a punch at all, but rather a hammer fist, palm heel, and elbow as my hand techniques. Women usually have smaller hands, so a punch could definitely be more painful. Plus, lets face it, women are usually not very good at making a tight fist initially, especially if they have nails. I think a palm heel (and a hammer fist as it doesn't have to be a tight fist to be effective) is definitely a better option when your teaching time is limited and you are working with mostly women.
I also stress that in reality, I don't care what you use, if your technique is perfect, or if your hand is "just so" as long as you FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!
 
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dancingalone

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Since you are asking about a self-defense class, I am going to keep my response relative to just that (rather than looking at what to teach long term students).

Thanks for your response. While the impetus for this question comes from a SD course, I'm really asking if punching should be the primary method of striking with hands in a TKD class. I'm increasingly of the opinion that it should not be at all. Obviously, when you are sports sparring, the punches while wearing padded gloves are the way to go, but open hands just give you so many more options, as SJON and Exile have outlined above.
 

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Very nice post and very nices replies!! I have to agree with you guys/gals that open hand punches are very good in self defense esenarios, in fact permorming one step kyorugi I use the backfist,the back hand, the palm of the hand and the elbow to hit my oponent and Why? very simple, as I counterpunch y use my hands to grab my oponent to aply a arm/wrist/elbow block or for trowing techniques.

The technikes I most use in SD are the palm of the hand,the dorso of the palm, the hammerfist, the backfist,the elbow, I use the upper punch or the reverse punch not so ofthen cause the small bones of the nuckles.

When I use kicks I tend to use the side kick, the back kick and the front kick or the round house kick but ussing the shin insted the instep, why? very simple, the instep and the toes are small bones tha tend to break upon a wrong or heavy impact.

Manny
 

Manny

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I think the instinctive closed hand thing has a lot to do with the cultural influence of Boxing in the West.

I agree that open hand strikes are the best option for SD. Most people - and here I include fighters who use gloves - have no idea how easy it is to damage the hand and wrist when you're not wrapped and gloved. In my SD syllabus I put a lot of emphasis on straight rear hand palm thrusts to the head, power slaps (we call it the "bofetada" here in Spain; thanks for the alternative name, Manny), inward knifehand, outward/descending knifehand, lead hand palm hook, and various hammer, forearm and elbow strikes. I only use the closed forefist in straight rear hand punches and shovel hooks to the body.

There are a few reasons why there are so many closed fist punches in the TKD patterns, some of which are:
- They are heavily based on the Pinan set, in which Itosu is said to have hidden a lot of open hand techniques by closing the fists in order to make them less dangerous.
- WWII-era Japanese Karate and by extension the various pre-TKD styles were big on hand conditioning for power striking.
- The Asian arts use punches to attack the body more than the western arts do, and the forefist is good for this.
- A closed fist often indicates a grip rather than a strike.

Hola, veo que eres de Espa簽a, yo soy de Mexico asi que nos une la misma lengua es decir el Espa簽ol/Castellano. Efectivamente la Cachetada tambien se le conoce como Bofetada o Bofeton en mi pasi aunque la palabra que mas se usa es la cachetada.

No importando que digan que la cachetada es de ni簽as, yo la uso mucho en defensa personal, porque? muy sencillo, no hay nada que caliente mas a un hombre y que incluso le baje la moral en una pelea que recibir una tremenda y fuerte cachetada en plena cara sin que haya podido hacer absolutamente nada para evitarla, ademas una buena cachetada puesta en la mandibula puede por lo menos dejar viendo estrellitas al enemigo sino que noquearlo, ademas no hay nada mas efectivo que una bofetada doble a los oidos para incapacitar al enemigo no crees?

Saludos desde Mexico.

Manny
 

jks9199

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Since you are asking about a self-defense class, I am going to keep my response relative to just that (rather than looking at what to teach long term students).
I agree with a lot here that boys/men tend to prefer a closed hand technique initially (until they are taught the benefits of alternatives). However, when I am teaching a women's self-defense class I don't teach a punch at all, but rather a hammer fist, palm heel, and elbow as my hand techniques. Women usually have smaller hands, so a punch could definitely be more painful. Plus, lets face it, women are usually not very good at making a tight fist initially, especially if they have nails. I think a palm heel (and a hammer fist as it doesn't have to be a tight fist to be effective) is definitely a better option when your teaching time is limited and you are working with mostly women.
I also stress that in reality, I don't care what you use, if your technique is perfect, or if your hand is "just so" as long as you FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!
That's what I do when I teach a pure, quick self defense class, as well. Hands are palm (quarter palm which uses the area below the pinkie on the palm, and palm heel), hammer fist, and elbows. If I'm spreading the class over more time (3 or more weeks, one or two nights a week at a minimum), I may introduce some basic fist punches.

The two palm techniques are simple, direct, and adaptable. The hammer fist is a recognition of a not-uncommon instintive reaction, especially among women in my experience to "pound." Elbows 'cause they work! and are relatively easy to learn while still being naturally tough/resistant to injury and very powerful.
 

Deaf Smith

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If the person has small bones or for some reason fears breaking their hands or knuckles, then the open fist has lots going for it. But do keep in mind an open hand risk having the fingers broke or jammed (as most of us has experience when sparring.)

I perfer most people to learn to punch first. Then elbows. Later open handed strikes, jabs with fingers, and other hand techniques.

Deaf
 

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I agree with Deaf Smith. I think you should start by teaching the best ways of throwing a punch. The average person or beginning student really doesn't know how to punch properly. If you are hitting with the first two knuckles and your wrist is straight there should be little chance for serious injury. At the same time, I think it's pretty easy to injure the thumb or fingers using open hand moves, especially when blocking. I do think that the palm strike is a really good technique to show students, especially women and those with more fragile hands and wrists.
 

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Saludos desde Mexico.Manny

Un saludo desde Espa簽a, amigo. Te mandar矇 un PM en alg繳n momento, ya que a lo mejor le parece mal a esta gente si nos dedicamos a hablar en espa簽ol.

I think you should start by teaching the best ways of throwing a punch. The average person or beginning student really doesn't know how to punch properly. If you are hitting with the first two knuckles and your wrist is straight there should be little chance for serious injury.

I have to disagree there, Robert. True, most untrained people dont know how to throw a punch. Id add that most trained people know how to throw a punch, but only as long as its (a) against thin air, (b) with a wrapped and gloved fist, or (c) not a committed full-force punch.
There is a considerable risk of injury when striking bare-fisted using the two large knuckles and a horizontal fist, mainly due to the poor bone alignment that this format provides. It takes a lot of conditioning (and I mean the wrist and forearm) to be able to punch hard and safely like this. Just ask a class full of intermediate level amateur Boxers to lose the gloves and wraps and go at it hard on the heavy bag, then ask them how their hands and wrists feel.
I do think, though, that a straight vertical fist midsection punch is the best way to teach a beginner the body mechanics of power generation.

I do think that the palm strike is a really good technique to show students, especially women and those with more fragile hands and wrists.

Indeed. And not just for them. For me too, and probably for you, for precisely the reasons I mention above.

At the same time, I think it's pretty easy to injure the thumb or fingers using open hand moves, especially when blocking.

True. But then, its pretty easy to get injured full stop when someone is throwing body parts at you. This is one of the reasons "traditional" blocking is not such a good idea.

Great discussion, people.
 

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Open hands are more natural. In everyday situations, we use our open palms all the time. Getting up from a sitting position, in falling, or to catch our balance, the open hand is the first to assist. We wave hi, we shake hands, we interact all day long with the non aggressive looking open hand. Once the hand is closed it limits its use to bludgeoning alone. In a self defense class I teach that the hands stay open , the closed hand causes tension to flow from the fist up the arms into the shoulders. When faced with a dangerous situation, the non aggressive looking open hand will be allowed by the aggressor, to be raised, as in a jester of please, while gapping that distance to their face. Once raised the option to strike eyes, hit nose, grab hair, slap ears. are all open to you. These are all, and can be, set ups for the closed fist follow through. IMHO
 

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I have to disagree there, Robert. True, most untrained people dont know how to throw a punch. Id add that most trained people know how to throw a punch, but only as long as its (a) against thin air, (b) with a wrapped and gloved fist, or (c) not a committed full-force punch.
There is a considerable risk of injury when striking bare-fisted using the two large knuckles and a horizontal fist, mainly due to the poor bone alignment that this format provides. It takes a lot of conditioning (and I mean the wrist and forearm) to be able to punch hard and safely like this. Just ask a class full of intermediate level amateur Boxers to lose the gloves and wraps and go at it hard on the heavy bag, then ask them how their hands and wrists feel.

I agree with SJON on this one. World class boxers take great pains to wrap their hands & care for them before & after train daily. Yet most of them have trouble with their hands during their careers.

It stands to reason that throwing a punch to a hard target on the street wouldn't be the best 1st response. As TKDoan, we have other weapons with our arms & hands. Granted, they need to be trained as well. For the defenders physical saftey (post SD situation) a punch shouldn't be our 1st thought.
 

exile

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I do think, though, that a straight vertical fist midsection punch is the best way to teach a beginner the body mechanics of power generation.

Yes, definitely. I've toyed with the idea of replacing the standard karate punches that were carried over, along with much other baggage, into TKD, with vertical fist punches in my own teaching, because I'm pretty well persuaded that the wrist/forearm bone alignment issues give a decisive advantage to the vertical fist configuration. We're well past the days, I have the impression, when anyone takes seriously the idea that a bare twisting fist can do more damage, add more power from the rotation, etc. than a non-twisting fist (that was the explanation I heard when I was first exposed to karate in the 1960speople would intone this kind of story with quasi-religious solemnity, even though it was apparent, when I tried the punching motion they were demonstrating, that there was tension and discomfort in the action, and it didn't actually feel all that secure).


When faced with a dangerous situation, the non aggressive looking open hand will be allowed by the aggressor, to be raised, as in a jester of please, while gapping that distance to their face. Once raised the option to strike eyes, hit nose, grab hair, slap ears. are all open to you. These are all, and can be, set ups for the closed fist follow through. IMHO

If you look at Geoff Thompson's work on 'The Fence' pre-conflict hand configuration, it's clear that that 'appeasement' impression is part of the thinking involved. It looks distinctly nonconfrontational; but of course it's loaded with all kinds of possibilities for both preemptive striking, deflection and control, and so on. At a seminar with Gm. John Pelligrini near Cleveland that Drac and Father Greek hosted, we saw how Combat Hapkido exploits the Fence setup and followup strategies (including a lot of moves which look extremely similar to movement sequences from the Palgwe colored-belt form). And he emphasized the importance of keeping the hands open, which not only gives the defender a lot more range of choice in confronting an assault, depending on just what the attacker does, but also offers the possibility of keeping the confrontation cooler enough than a raised-fist fighting stance approach that actual physical violence can be avoided.
 

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And he emphasized the importance of keeping the hands open, which not only gives the defender a lot more range of choice in confronting an assault, depending on just what the attacker does, but also offers the possibility of keeping the confrontation cooler enough than a raised-fist fighting stance approach that actual physical violence can be avoided.

This I totally agree with.

The idea that open hand techniques are less likely to cause injuries than closed hands is the thing I'm not so sure about. I'll admit that I'm basing my opinion on mostly personal experience however. I've never really hurt my hands punching (people, targets, heavy bags etc.), while I have hurt my hand more than once using open hand techniques.
 

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This I totally agree with.

The idea that open hand techniques are less likely to cause injuries than closed hands is the thing I'm not so sure about. I'll admit that I'm basing my opinion on mostly personal experience however. I've never really hurt my hands punching (people, targets, heavy bags etc.), while I have hurt my hand more than once using open hand techniques.

It may be something I'm particularly leery ofabout three years ago I broke my hand punching into a three board stack of inch-thick boards with a slightly misaligned fist, and spend the next six months with my hand in a splint hoping it would heal OK. It was a break I'd done many times before, with no injury, but ever since then, the idea of punching something hard with my fist has made me... apprehensive.
 

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I would recommend starting beginners with a closed fist. Leave the open palm strikes to those who want to do them.

The reason I say this is striking with an open palm can lead to a rather nasty injury referred to as Ulnar Hammer Syndrome. Essentially a small wrist bone at the base of the palm is broken and is pressed against the ulnar nerve. This leads to numbness in the ring and little fingers, and grip weakness as the ulnar nerve innervates a few of the small muscles in the hand.

Not to say that closed fist punching is without injuries.....but a broken metacarpal head heals without such terrible consequences.

Just my 2 cents, and obviously shadowed by a career in orthopedics/hand surgery.
 

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I would recommend starting beginners with a closed fist. Leave the open palm strikes to those who want to do them.

The reason I say this is striking with an open palm can lead to a rather nasty injury referred to as Ulnar Hammer Syndrome. Essentially a small wrist bone at the base of the palm is broken and is pressed against the ulnar nerve. This leads to numbness in the ring and little fingers, and grip weakness as the ulnar nerve innervates a few of the small muscles in the hand.

Not to say that closed fist punching is without injuries.....but a broken metacarpal head heals without such terrible consequences.

Just my 2 cents, and obviously shadowed by a career in orthopedics/hand surgery.
Interesting...

But I still think that, for a narrow scope self defense class, with a short duration, the odds of getting a usable fist are slight. It's easier to teach them the two palms (quarter & heel), and they've got a better chance of using them effectively.

Of course, my opinion might also be shaped by the damage I did to the lower two knuckles of my hand when I was a barely-controlled teen who'd get mad and smash walls... Smashed up those knuckles so bad that I can't quite pull the pinkies in alongside the rest of the fingers. Not looking forward to the likely complications down the road, either...
 

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