Punching to the head in the street....why you shouldn't do it

Vovchanchyn Fan

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May 3, 2002
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I've been doing a lot of research on MMA as it applies to street fighting, and found this article regarding the reasons you don't want to punch to the head in the street (use palm strikes instead):


Some relevant excerpts if you don't want to read the whole thing:

When knuckles meet skull during a confrontation, the skull will always win. I don't think anyone will argue that former heavyweight Champ Mike Tyson is an accomplished puncher. When Mr. Tyson punched former Heavyweight contender Mitch Green on the head, Tyson's hand broke. Neither man wore gloves for the bout. The fight took place on a Harlem street corner. You can see why boxers pay someone good money to tape their hands.

My question to those in law enforcement is: If men who get paid lots of money to punch people, who train constantly to develop their punches, break their hands in street fights what makes you think it won't happen to you?

Strong hand injuries are the number one arrest-related injury in police work. This will continue as long as defensive tactics are strongly influenced by martial arts (this includes boxing) that emphasize fisted strikes.

"The most common injury occurs when you strike with the last two knuckles. The 5th metacarpal breaks (between the knuckles of the middle finger and pinkie), commonly referred to as a boxer's fracture," states James Prattas, MD of Metropolitan Hospital in NYC. Dr. Prattas, also a martial artist stated, "I can't think of any reason to strike with a fist over using a palm strike."

The Medical Doctors, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists the author interviewed all agreed that with the palm strike done correctly the chances of injuring the hand are slim. "The position of Maximum Boney stability in the hand is the close-pack position which is full extension of the hand. Full extension of the hand is the palm strike position," according to Bill Partridge, Physical Therapist of Nassau/Suffolk Physical Therapy in Syosset, NY.

"The skin on the Dorsal side (top of the hand) is easily cut because it is very thin. The opposite is true of the skin on the palm," says O.T.R. Faye Grant.

According to Dr. Kandel, "When you open your hand from a fist tendons pull back. If the knuckles are cut when a full taut fist strikes teeth the act of opening the hand pulls bacteria in. Serious infection can set in 24-48 hours later".

Germs do not fester as easily in the fleshy palm of the hand as they do in the knuckles. There have been cases where cuts caused by human teeth on knuckles resulted in the hand being surgically removed to stop the spread of Gangrene.
parallax86 said:
Clinch And Kneee!@!!

Yeah, actually I agree that this (along with elbows if needed) is probably the best approach. But, I normally use punches to enter into the clinch in training, so that will have to switch to palm heel to gain entry into the clinch on the street.
punch him in the face then. lots of soft tissue there to cushion your hand. lol
I've hit plenty people in the face in my day and never broke my hand.
parallax86 said:
Clinch And Kneee!@!!

done this a few months bk in a night club because my shoulder is fucked worked like a charm before i picked up and thrown out by the bouncer, oh dont punch head punch the jaw or nose
King Kabuki said:
I've hit plenty people in the face in my day and never broke my hand.
In the face, yeah, but I'd stay away from hooks and there is always a chance of hitting the side or the back of the skull, and then it's quite possible to break something.
I am a grappler, lurking in the striking section. I prefer to throw someone and leave, rather than throw punches. If they get up after that, they are due for a choke-out (blood choke).
In the face, yeah, but I'd stay away from hooks and there is always a chance of hitting the side or the back of the skull, and then it's quite possible to break something.

Nah, never had a problem with it myself. The way I see it there's just as much danger of doing any one technique over the other. Looking to come away from a street fight completely unscathed being an exercise in futility. The more you look to come away un-injured, to me, is what increases the chances of coming away injured because it could bring about hesitation and mis-timing. In the streets primal instincts rule, strike first, strike hard, end the fight as fast as possible. If you come away with only a jammed finger your pretty lucky.

I've seen tons of things go wrong, guys attempting to throw guys who just brute-force overpower them and end up getting the throw reversed and knocked unconscious. A 10-year Martial Artist loosing to someone who was just plain stronger and in the right surroundings. I've seen guys get sucker-punched (even though in the streets I believe in no such thing, all is fair), and though he's a good fighter with a strong chin and plenty of skills, the punch lands just right and he's out cold. I've also seen grapplers get stuck in bad positions and end up getting stomped or thrashed when going for a textbook choke or submission on a person it should have been relatively easy to do.

Limiting yourself in the streets should be only limiting yourself to what has worked best for you the most times, and leaving some room for adaptability. Everything is variable usually.
Destroying your fists is one reason that a lot for traditional styles do not use fists.
The idea, however, is that most punches can be very easily turned into palm strikes without losing much in the process. This is not the first time I've read this, there were many people hanging out on rec.martial.arts about 10 years ago, who advocated exactly the same thing.

I've actually seen punchers break their fist on a guy's skull because the guy instinctively turned his head to protect his face.
Heh heh, yeah it happens. Just me personally, I almost never punch to the face when the opponent is expecting it. If they're expecting to get hit I'd rather hit to the body if I'm going to be throwing blows. It hurts more and guys don't usually just walk through it on account of adrenaline. If I throw a punch to the face in the streets it's typically while the guy is still talking shit (more of a chance of breaking the nose or jaw), or while he's stunned from a body-shot.
See, you break your fist (even trained boxers) when you make contact with last two part of the knuckle. If you punch with the first two, it will almost never break, assuming you are a serious mofo who frequently hit heavy bag.

I've had a lot of street fights, and never broke my fist. Why? Because I punched with first two.

I've done TKD for many years, and trained my knuckle, and even when I boxed for amatuer, wearing gloves, I always trained my knuckle.

Before you call knuckle training bullshit, I will tell you a little secret how to punch with first two K. only.

This is not my discovery, I learned it from a book written by Mas Oyama, who should be considered as a king of bare knuckle contest (killing a bull with a single punch, anyone?)

When you make a closed fist, just tighten up your pinky only. Pinky is the only position where you should tighten it up. Rest is almost relaxed. Now, do you feel like you can punch with first two only? Tightening pinky only is a pretty easy way to make a closed fist, isn't it?

Thank Mas Oyama.

pS when you throw a hook on a street, vertical fist is always better than a horizontal one if you don't want to risk breaking your knuckle. Again, horizontal fist allows you to make contact with last two K.
whenever i fight i always try to punch my advesary right in the tip of the elbow. also, i like to kick (with my foot-not shin) right on their hip.

the effect are awesome. you should try it.
I trained in krav maga for a while before transitioning to MT. We were taught to use palm strikes and hammer fist a lot, but also to punch with the first 2 knuckles (index and middle fingers) as primary points of impact. I've never broken a hand fighting.

Oh, and Crimson tiger perfecty explained how I've been taught to throw bare-knucle hooks.
A good general rule that I learned in the last martial art I took..

Hit with hard where it's soft, hit with soft where it's hard.

Anyway, I learned a lot in a thread awhile back that talked about palm strikes in a street fight. I can't find it now but if you search it'll be there.

I remember someone saying that there is more velocity in a close area like the clinch when your hand is open because it has more distance to travel in comparison to a fist. Also, palms give a concussive (sp) impact than a focused impact.
In that aspect, a nice palm hook to the temple is a good KO strike, along with a whip palm strike to the back of the head.
kabuki is right..never limit urself, anything can go wrong..any technique can fail; a fight is not like an mma match it,s not static and neither is the environment...

i have been in fights w/trained and untrained people and never broken my hands/knuckle etc and that is w/landing good clean shots; it might be because i pick my shots a bit and never ever throw wild, i would rather not throw than just start slinging shots.

an to back up kabuki if ur trying to win w/out getting hurt..ur gonna lose, u have to be willing to get hurt get koed or just get beat up even if u win... But most martial artist (esp) grapplers think their skills will keep them from being put in a bad situation; that is what the whole bjj phenomenom is built on, the idea u can beat up a larger or skilled opp in 30 seconds 2 min w/out getting hit. Boxing.. real karate kung fu and muay thai..require u take as much as u give..that is why people don't do them.

i have seen skilled grapplers shoot..against a bigger guy..then get power bombed...i seen judoka try a throw slip and fall w/the dude on them and end up get koed... i seen skilled strikers get koed by a guy who is just so tough they walk through everything and ko them.. i saw a guy knee someone to the head and hurt his knee than stumble around and get koed...anything can happen..all training does is give u more tools to solve a problem, not a guarantee solution to the problem. By not punching ur taking away tools and limiting ur ability to win.

also i agree w/ kabuki...there is no such thing as a sucker punch
Good points.

One thing I recommend is that you don't punch a guy on the mouth while he's talking to you. My friend did this in self defense where the other rushed him while talking crap. The guy went down with one punch, but my friend ended up with the skin on his middle knuckle ripped off. A scab the size of the quarter is where his knuckle should be.
Tyson did pretty well for himself in his street encounters including the one with two men one of whom supposedly pulled out a knife.
If I am not mistaken, he broke his hand while knocking the other guy out...a fair exchange in my mind for a street fight.
i guess im simple but i think id always start off with a kick. Either a front kick to the solar plexus (those are nasty as shit and sneaky) or round kicks to the floating ribs. Then i think id throw a right straight to the face or the body. If my hand breaks it breaks.

Back when i did kung fu i loooooved palm strikes. And they are quite vicious.