No matter what style of martial arts a person studies, the question which are more effective, open hand strikes or punches? is always encountered. When involved in serious situations, people tend to resort to wild punching, even experienced martial artists! Have you ever thought why? The answer lies in the way most people are brought up.
1) Boxing has always had a lot more coverage than martial arts, therefore a Childs first experience with competitive fighting is generally boxing.
2) It is instilled in many young boys not to pull hair or slap, as these are said to be female fighting methods, which men’ do not use.
3) Slaps or open hand strikes to the face have many more psychological meanings, as opposed to the single meaning behind punches (which is to hurt). Slaps and opened hand strikes are often used to degrade, humiliate, and shock as well as to hurt. Obviously, each type of strike has a situation where they are best employed. Therefore, there is no point in saying that a heel-palm would be better than a punch. This article is not trying to prove that open hand strikes are better than punches in general, although it is showing that in certain situations, open hand strikes are more effective.
As mentioned earlier, psychologically inexperienced martial artists can resort back to flailing of the fists. More aware martial artists can realize in a situation that if their initial subconscious punching is not getting the desired effect, than the less subconscious open hand techniques may be tried (e.g. eye pokes). Well-rounded martial artists use subconscious flurries of open and closed hand strikes.
HEEL-PALMS AND HAND-SWORDS: These are useful to strike with before and during grappling. There is no time or energy wasted by having to open or close hands. If the fingers also claw or poke the eyes simultaneously with the palm strike, then it becomes a very destructive strike. A heel-palm can also be followed by a ripping action. It is also easier to parry when using heel-palms and hand-swords.
SLAPS AND FINGER WHIPS: The effectiveness of these strikes is a result of the psychological reaction. They are not knockout strikes, but they can set up an opponent for defeat a lot faster and more effectively than punches. When I talk about a slap, I mean a full force, heavy-handed palm and five-finger strike that leaves a big red imprint on the opponents face. Slaps freeze the brain from thinking properly for a longer period than punches. When someone receives a proper punch to the face, the brain registers the pain, it knows the face has received a punch, and it understands that this means fight or flight’. All this happens in less than a second, and the decision of what to do or what not to do is put into action. When a person receives a proper slap to the face, the brain registers pain, then confusion. The reasons for this are as follows:
1) The type of pain from a very hard slap confuses the brain. Most people know what it feels like to get punched, but few people know what it feels like to be slapped (reasons are mentioned earlier).
2) The situation confuses the brain. The brain may only remember feeling this type of sensation from a parent or a partner (if at all). Thus, it does not immediately relate the feeling to a fight or flight’ situation. Once the brain registers the slap as a violent conflict, it immediately registers the fight or flight’ response.
EYE POKES, GOUGES, CLAWS ETC.: These lethal strikes need no explanation they are both affective as well as dangerous. If someone threw something at you, you would normally catch it or swat it away. This proves that open-hand manoeuvres are more natural and precede a closed hand response. Also, 90 percent of daily tasks are performed with open hands. The best way to practice practical open hand strikes, is not with set techniques and forms, but instead to spontaneously incorporate them into shadow boxing’. You can also try, shadow boxing with only open hand strikes. Remember, physical situations are not set. The more versatile you are and the more options you have, the better.