To Punch or Not to Punch?

Devastated by a Single "Jersey Shore" Punch

In the discussion on Jeet Kune Do, Dan Inosanto, Ted Wong, Teri Tom and the straight punch, reader Miguel Gutierrez of GEACOM S.O.U.T. reminds me of an important point –punching may not be the most effective street technique.

Miguel explains that after fracturing his hand in a street altercation, his talks with bouncers and others who had fought in real life revealed that hand injuries are more common than many people realize. His answer is to go to the WWII era combatives, and the methods found in classics like “Kill or Be Killed,” which rely less on punching.

Even though in real life people do get knocked out on the street with punches, like in the “One Shot” Jersey Shore episode, it is still a valid question: Are punches valid on the street? Does punching pose as serious a risk to the puncher as to the person being hit?


Is punching better suited to the ring than the street? Is the effectiveness of boxing as a style

Old School Hand Conditioning

dependent upon some type of hand protection? This may be why so many of the classical styles emphasized hand/fist conditioning, like the makiwara board.

In downtown Cebu City I train in a small gym. The equipment is basic and much of it is handmade. There is a punching bag, but it’s harder than a rock. I wrap my fists, but I still have to go easy on my punches because it’s too easy to injure my knuckles. However, I find I can do my rear elbow shot  repeatedly, full force, without problems. The lesson for me is that if it comes down to combat on the street and I am trying to shut someone down via blunt force trauma to the skull, an elbow is a better choice than a fist.

Let me raise an idea that might not have occurred to you. As I write this, there is snow on the ground, and it is not out of place for a person to wear gloves. Why not buy gloves that enable you to hit harder?

Gloves with Hard Knuckle Protectors

For instance, at Amazon, you can buy Kevlar gloves with hard knuckle protectors. With these, you could punch freely with less worry about injuring your hand. You can also buy cut -resistant gloves. I also saw a protective, cut-resistant sleeve. Citizens can buy knife and bullet proof jackets and clothing.

Should these items be on your Christmas wish list?


6 Responses to “To Punch or Not to Punch?”

  1. Hello Darrin:
    Thanks for your reply and article.
    The gloves are good to hit the bag and whether he wants to self-protection in winter too, but in summer and indoors it is rare to wear gloves.

  2. jimmyfatwing Says:

    Punching – for many I think it’ll be instinctive, it’s what we all see on tv growing up.

    So maybe think about “where” you can / want to punch v. where you don’t want to – squishy belly v. top of the head for example.

    I do like edge of hand, hammerfist etc. but I also train punches. Sometimes they just ‘happen’, I’m only human ;0)

  3. Here in Illinois, gloves with hard knuckle protectors would be considered too similar to “brass knuckles” and as such one would find one’s self arrested if used in an altercation. Body armor is also prohibited to civilians here.

    • Ron,

      Your situation reminds me of when I lived in the People’s Republic of California, where everything was illegal. I suppose that I should add the caveat that one needs to make certain items are in accordance with local laws.

      I also think that we as martial artists need to advocate for laws that are friendly to the law-abiding citizen, but tougher than hell on predators.

  4. I was at a friends class today (a young fellow with no official training but he is still pretty good) and we were going through JKD footwork, straight blast, etc. All punching was done with the fist and as he asked about different knuckle orientation I told him it really depends on your targets. At the same time I showed him plam strikes that are often taught in women’s self-defense class because these women don’t go to the dojo week after week and that is why they attend these one day self-defense workshops, so they get neither the conditioning nor the education on how to punch properly.

    Gloves? If you use gloves they become a crutch, what if you don’t have them? You will still revert to your punching.

    Me, I use a mix of open hand and fists, this may not be a good thing under stress when I go, “Ah fist? Empty hand? Ah fist?” and then WHAM! I get hit with something, I don’t know what cause I got distracted and stalled. 😦

  5. PUNCHING is essential…understanding how , when , where is the key. Hard target ( Fore head) = Open hand . . Soft target (temple, gut ) = Punch. Conditioning of the hand also not need the Higoana Sensei extreme but some good bag work, makiwara etc. will pay dividends. Both sure fire teachers if you screw it up. Learn how to coincide upper and lower bodies…a punch is useless if it doesn’t have the proper mechanical generation to kick the engine. A boxing class works there…

    Nothing says good night like a ripping liver shot…learn the body and use target discrimination… works..

    A punch is a tool..that’s all..might as well make it a hammer.

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