Open Palm Striking for Self-Defense – It Packs a Punch
One very common misconception when it comes to self-defense striking – even at the highest levels of martial arts and real world scenarios – is that closed fist striking is the best and only way to be effective. When students first enter our mixed martial arts (MMA) or self-defense classes, they immediately go for the closed fist strike, almost as if it’s habit, even though most new students that come in have never actually thrown a punch in their lives. It’s in all the movies…and everyone wants to find their inner Rocky. But, despite what you see or imagine (we all know you’ve had dreams of sucker-punching someone at some point in your lives – don’t worry, no judgment here), the closed fist strike is not the only way. In fact, an open palm strike can be both more effective AND safer for the one throwing it.
Open Palm vs. Closed Fist. Maybe it’s not instinctual when you first begin, but open palm striking is pretty easy to learn. Unlike the closed fist (where does that thumb go? and long nails…forget it), anyone can open their hand. This way of striking also results in lower risk of injury to the striker. According to Moshe Katz, renowned Krav Maga instructor, unless you’re wearing boxing gloves, its very easy and common to break your hands when punching, even if you’re an experienced, well-trained fighter. And while for many a broken hand is a nuisance that will heal with time, for some it can be a safety hazard. Katz gives the example of a police officer who has difficulty using his gun after breaking his hand with a punch.* The open palm strike is not only easier to use and relatively risk-free, but it can be equally if not more effective than a closed fist punch. With the risk of getting gory for a moment, the open palm strike can effectively break noses, cause severe lacerations, and even knock an opponent out. With open hands you can also more easily grab your opponent to throw, submit, or restrain them.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t also use caution when employing an open palm strike, and understand the risks. Anytime you’re in a combative situations there are going to be risks, no matter which striking technique you choose! It is possible to breaks fingers when using open palm strikes, if they get caught in hair or clothing.. Some even argue that you can break your wrist if aiming at the wrong target, or that the open hand strike is minimally effective on some areas of the body.
Get proper training. When learning and perfecting your striking and fighting, it is important that you work with a well-qualified trainer with a background in some of the top self defense techniques in the world such as Krav Maga and Muay Thai. When defending yourself your body is – and should be – a weapon, but only with appropriate and safe training and practice.