Stop Using Your Fists

I haven’t been the observer of a lot of street and bar fights, but the ones I’ve seen all start the same way. At first, there’s a lot of shoving and then out comes the fists. I suppose people have been watching boxing matches for so many years that they think they can do it. Of course now, there’s MMA, and a lot of people think they can do that also, because they’ve watched it on TV.

Damian Ross, CEO of the Self Defense Company, and creator of the Self Defense Training System, feels that fist-fighting is just a way of opening yourself up to injury. Here’s a recent video he did on the subject.



Here’s a recent blog post he wrote on the subject. I thought you might be interested to read it:

“In any military based system, the use of a fist is impractical and dangerous. Any system that advocates using a fist and is taught as self defense or in a military context should be re-examined as to it’s authenticity in real world situations.

The reason that ko-ryu (old school) systems that were used to train samurai in hand to hand combat never used a fist and relied heavily on grappling and joint locks combined with limited edge of hand and heel of hand strikes when it came to hand to hand combat was because the person they were fighting was most likely wearing armor and the risk of injuring your fist to the point where gripping a weapon was impossible was a risk they did not take. Modern warriors both civilian and professional, should do the same.

Even the Okinawa fighting arts known for their development of the fore fist in the use of the reverse punch, avoided striking the head. Even though they advocated heavy fist conditioning, punching to hard areas of the body were ill-advised due to risk of severe injury or worse, infection. Before antibiotics and decent dental hygiene a cut on your hand from shattering someone’s teeth may wind up turning septic and killing you. Even to this, traditional knock down karate restricts punching directly into the face. I realize that the modern reasoning for not punching the face has more to do with safety and sport, traditionally punching above the neck was avoided due to the a fore mentioned reasons.

Even western culture bare knuckle boxers from the Greeks and Romans forward would not only condition there fists by punching gravel and sand, but would go as far as to brine them to toughen the skin. The results were still not spectacular and the development of hand protection began to emerge to extend the careers of both the guy getting hit and the guy doing the hitting. After all, what good was a soldier who couldn’t hold a spear if he broke his hand in training?

Once the glove came about, the physics of the punch changed completely. As glove technology evolved along with the use of wraps, punching became safer and became the number one mode of self defense in western worlds due to it’s prevalence in modern sport. We live in a sporting society. Boxing, kick boxing and MMA all drink from the same fountain and to be honest, in the ring, with gloves, punching is the superior method. But in the street or in combat, it’s a completely different story.

A soldier who is taught to punch in hand to hand combat is being lead down a slippery slope because the target you will be punching will be wearing some form of military gear, from a rifle sling to a helmet. I assure you that mashing your fist against either one of these is going to leave a mark and busting your knuckles in a fight renders your hand useless. Even a mild fracture will limit the use of your fingers and losing the use of even just your forefinger is a huge problem.

When you punch you focus on making contact with the first two knuckles of your hand, the index and ring fingers. When you break the knuckles of those two fingers (I know, I’ve done it three times) you can’t grip anything with those fingers. That means you can’t operate a firearm, hold a knife or a club. That hand is useless. But it’s not just the first two fingers that are exposed.

Your thumb can be easily dislocated as well. Anyone who has ever sparred with little foam gloves will complain about their thumbs being sore or injured. Make a fist and look at it from the front as if you were being punched with it. You’ll see the top of the thumb is on the same plane as the punching surface of the fist. while you go through great lengths to make sure your knuckles make contact first, the thumb will almost always catch an arm, an elbow, the side of a cheek, anything other surface will take power away from your strike and place it on the back of your thumb, dislocating it.

Now imagine trying to rack a hand gun or even pull the trigger when even your index finger is broken. It doesn’t matter which hand you break either since you still have to pull the rack to put a round in the chamber.

The edge of hand the obvious and time proven method for empty hand striking in real combat. There is still a chance you will dislocate a pinky or even the pinky and the ring finger, but even with that injury you still will be able to operate a firearm or hold a weapon because the forefinger and the middle finger are protected by being on the other side of the contact point of your hand. Whenever you engage in physical contact you run the risk of injury. The trick is to limit your exposure through methods that offer the lowest chance of injury to you and the most injury to your target. The samurai knew this and now you do too.

The heel of hand is another great method of striking. Here’s a little test, go to a brick wall with a fist, start lightly (I mean really lightly) strike the surface with your knuckles. Increase intensity until you feel pain. Now do the same with the heel of your hand. You just answered your own question. Add to that the position of your fingers, pulled back and out of the way in a position that will allow the fingers to move and adapt to any change in surface level.

Sure, you will always run the risk of injury and yes, you can definitely punch somebody in the head and walk away, but it’s the percentages that make a difference. The choice is yours, train in a way that runs a greater risk of injury, or begin to train practically and tactically in a manner that puts the odds in your favor. The truth is, most every self defense system from Krav Maga, Target Focus Training or “experts” like Jim Wagner and Kelly McCann advocate punching to the military personnel they train…I can’t explain this.

The reason the SDTS was created was for one purpose only, self defense. If a fist was the most efficient and practical way of striking with the hand, we would be teaching it.”

It’s interesting to note that even the US Army is still teaching the use of the fists. Here’s a chapter on Strikes from the US Army Field Manual – Combatives, p.173. Now, to be fair, they do say that strikes are an inefficient method of ending a fight.

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