Monday, December 22, 2008


Do The Math
Here's an example- closed fist strikes to the head.  I know, personally, five people who have been sent to the hospital for broken hands after closed-fist strikes to the head. A total of nine incidents (two of them were not fast learners).  One of them had been a trained amateur boxer. How many people have I known who needed medical treatment after receiving a closed fist strike to the head? None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Falling and hitting their heads? Yep. Being directed into a wall or piece of furniture? Sure. Head butting? Both accidental and deliberate. Even slaps (I didn't go to the hospital but should have, dizzy and puking for almost three days) C did, with a ruptured eardrum as well as a mild concussion.

So is it a good technique/system whatever if you are far more likely to be injured by using it than the bad guy? (BTW, two of those people have permanent disability.)

Another example, "In the old days a good day just meant everybody made it home alive." Trouble is I know exactly how many people died doing that job. Then there is the math- if good is better than average and good means no deaths and nothing more, than an average day involved deaths. He was probably trying to sound tough to the rookies, but he just wound up sounding ignorant to anyone who had either done the job or could do simple math.

It's a beautiful day here- windy and sandy with a sky that looks like polished steel.
< onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="">First picture upload!


ush said...


Kami said...

My sister and I went to an aquarium shop a couple of times a month--we had a saltwater aquarium and some really big fish that needed feeder fish to keep them healthy and well-fed. Anyway one day we came in and the regular sales guy, a very early 20's male, had a cast on his hand. What happened, we asked?

He got in a fight. Punched the guy in his head. Broke his hand.

I noticed there was no bragging about 'you should have seen the other guy.'

Master Plan said...

Didactic? (or didacticism)



or...perhaps you've recently become a drill instructor?

Master Plan said...

Ah, so, having heard this hard hands to the heavy head != a good idea several times....whence hath is sprang?

glove sparring?

monkey dance?

Just a kind of unquestioned formality which perpetuates because most folks never have to find out how it fails to work for them?

Simply culture cuing? I can remember at least two movies I had seen when younger where in the young lad is shown by his father or whomever the "right" way to make a fist and this plus so many many fist-fights in cinema and the television...bleeds over?

Conversely I've seen few reasons not to use an open hand more or less all the time, are there any particularly good ones ?

Steve Perry said...

Soft to hard, hard to soft -- though as I understand it, making a fist is one of those hardwired things. Probably easier to adjust your aim than the reaction.

sophie said...

Makes complete sense to me, having punched one or two bovine heads in my time (possibly lucky not to have caused my all-important hands serious damage).
It's possible to safely hit the soft areas. It's also illegal (though definitely the only way to get a bull off a cow quickly).

Up until this post, I've been swithering between 'I'm doing it 'rong' or 'fist fighting makes good fiction'...

Anonymous said...


Master Plan said...

Fists seem pretty awesome to me for fictive purposes. Lots of deliciously layered cultural iconography there.

I've certainly heard "soft\hard, hard\soft" before (seriously is there a MA out there that doesn't 1) tell you this the first day in tones of enlightened wisdom and 2)go the other way?(hard to hard, etc...))but then too I've mostly seen elbow strikes directed towards the head and otherwise harder bits of anatomy.

My experiences wearing a large padded suit and getting pounded by adrenalized semi\un-trained weirdos do seem to indicate that open hand it teachable and effective.

These here are quite solid as well:

And I've met a least one Bagua guy who could do a very solid kinda "back fist" open hand shot as well.

If you're doing some nutty Indonesian stuff, happen to be holding a knife (Silat players? With knives? Surely not!) that might be fist-ish, if you miss with the blade. But..otherwise...are there really good uses for the closed fist?

Eyes, throats, stomachs? The soft target options? Less flapping phalanges to get grabbed and jammed?

Of course I am know-nothing dojo monkey, perhaps that ugly old bitch reality has her own opinions.

Anonymous said...

500, 501.... is that how many posts?



Mark Jones said...

Heh. This discussion in the comments reminds me of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee. Who said, "You hit the soft parts with your hand. You hit the hard parts with a utensil."

Molly said...

Thanks for the picture. Beautiful, and impressive (that you learned to post one so quickly) More, more. I know most people read this for the insight - I read for the connection. Love You!

Webmaster said...

Last time I broke my fist was during sparring a few years back. I threw a left hook to the chin and the guy tried to weave under it. I was a little faster or him a bit slower, dunno, and landed on his forehead. Instant broken knuckle despite the 12OZ gloves. You live and learn. :-)

Steve Perry said...

Useful or not, relatively speaking, the reflex to make a fist is primitive, and present at birth. The Moro Reflex, and the associated Palmar Reflex both fade, but that they are there indicates that nature thought they were useful.

See those mountain gorillas thumping themselves on the chest with their hands closed? I wouldn't guess they took boxing lessons to learn how to do that.

Under stress, a lot of folks instinctively make fists, and if you are gonna do that, might as well know how to use them.

There are times when slapping is good, but there are also times when you will snag a finger or thumb and do more damage to yourself than you'd like. Speaking here as a man who tapes up his thumbs because at this stage in my life, I have more scar than connective tissue left there. I can -- literally -- sprain my thumb taking my socks off.

Times when a fist works better and is safer. A punch to an attacker's solar plexus might be done with stiffened fingers instead, but it's riskier to the striker.

Plus there is that knife thing, which needs a fist with a blade poking out one end ...

Anonymous said...

Not really a good example's a bit like saying how many folks got killed by cobras .where I live none, but I do know that cobras kill a whole load of folks in africa and other out of the way places.punching is common place in the West.and let's be honest no karate man has ever beaten a boxer, MMA guys do boxing , and MT do boxing..somebody tries to bitch slap a boxer he'll get blown into next week...although I do know of a rated boxer who got in a streetfight and the next day his hand swelled up to the size of a football.when he went the hospital the doctor dug a tooth out of his fist

Rory said...

Our version of hard to soft, soft to hard is the "big bone little bone, rule": The little bone is usually the one that breaks.
"Master Plan"- There has to be something else to call you, Master Plan sounds like Dr. Evil's pet gerbil. Steve's right on the genetics (with a problem, see later); and the cultural factors all come into it. Boxing has been called "The Manly Art" for a very long time, but it was very different in the pre-glove days. Not just a very different sport, but a very different way to fight, too.

Sophie- I don't know you, so I checked your profile. You write some very insightful stuff. The you that you have created is pretty cool.

Steve- this is cool. We have the fist reflex (but Desmond Morris describes it as a gripping reflex, something monkeys riding moms need to hang on when things are scary enough for mom to run. The cool part is something I ran across in one of Robert Smith's books. He contends that almost every culture has an indigenous wrestling system. I know that several of these contain slaps. He contends that no stone technology culture has ever had a systematic striking art. I haven't found a counter-example, but it seems that the fist as a weapon never arises until after the advent of metal tools. Interesting, if true. Thoughts?

Mark-Use a tool. The most often overlooked system of power generation in the martial arts. Even a chimp will use a stick.

Hey, Wim. We gonna do that interview soon?

Steve2: I had a theory for awhile about fingerlocks in jujutsu. They are absent in battlefield styles, prevalent in slightly newer systems and then disappeared until Small Circle. Possibly a reaction to armor, no armor and the introduction of closed fist systems? Pure speculation.

Hi, sis! Mom's on Facebook. definitely a new millenia.

Anonymous. Sigh. Where to start. Never? Not worth arguing. Do the google search yourself. And cobras? Do the math. If a cobra bit a mouse (what the bite is for) and the cobra was ten times as likely to die as the mouse, cobras would die out. Humans can make myths to keep stupidity going for generations that would die out if it was based on merit. Japanese, karate, BTW also relies on the fist and it is an equally bad technique when they do it. FWIW I've fought (not sparred) three golden-gloves ranked boxers that I know of, one of them I know had some pro fights. I didn't use a closed fist in any of the encounters. The only one who gave me a problem was my dad.
But, hey, what do I know? I just have to call ambulances when my people make mistakes.
The 1970 Captain Weber Days Karate Championship in Stockton, the MT professional was beaten by the TKD guy (that had to be embarrassing)

Steve Perry said...

Two reflexes in this discussion, Moro and Palmar. The latter is the hanging-onto-mama thing that newborns have, the former a reaction to a sudden noise or thump. Healthy babies are born with both.

I'd be interested in how Smith -- a pioneer in MA writing -- knew what prehistorical cultures did vis a vis fistfighting. Can't be any evidence yea or nay by definition.

Stretching the question, why would a metal tool make for fist-work more than a stone-one? Grasping goes with climbing and our simian connection, and yes, even the chimps know how to use tools, but I can't see the connection. A stone axe or obsidian knife would need the same moves as an iron one, yes? Sticks are still sticks.

Yell "Boo!" at a bunch of guys and spook them, some will clench their fists. Some of this might well be cultural -- which would speak to the notion that training makes a difference -- but some of it will happen among guys who have never had a fight and no training.

Bare-knuckled boxers didn't hit as hard as guys today wearing gloves because it would break their hands and they all knew it. Watch some of those old fights, you can easily see it.

But a fist to the solar plexus has useful applications -- knocking the wind out of somebody might buy you a couple of seconds. A short punch with the hips driving can be pretty powerful without causing damage to the puncher, aimed right. A slap to the temple can topple somebody like a chainsawed redwood, but to get that whip-like action, you might need more room.

A stiffened-finger jam with any power is counter-intuitive, because anybody who has ever jammed a finger would rather avoid that unless there isn't another way.
A fist might be the way.

Flat-punch is structurally stronger than a twisted one and faster if it isn't chambered.
A punch to the nose doesn't require much power to cause pain, and sometimes that's enough to stop the fight. Sometimes not.

And the bigger-bone-to-smaller is a good notion. Elbow to the temple doesn't require so much juice that the elbow is more likely to break than the receiver is to go unconscious. Generally.

There is an article on the heel-of-the-hand strike in one of the zines in the last month or so -- BB or IKF -- and it speaks to the idea of a straight line strike. It's an interesting if incomplete piece, and it makes the point that it doesn't feel natural to most people when they first try it.

And Happy Christmas ...

Anonymous said...

"Do the Math"
There are no studies that I know of that compare fist strikes to open hand strikes.....I wish there were, so anything said is anocdotyl rather than empirical ( but thanks for sharing).......that is my only point, really..big bone against little bone sounds good.....thanks

Master Plan said...

Yes, Master Plan is a artifact of Blogger pre-Google buy out.

My name is Jonas, but please, call me jballz, we're all friends, or at least friendly, here. :-)

Steve Perry said...

We could get into the whole notion of what is "natural," since almost nothing we do in our day-to-day lives has much to do with the ways the Paleolithic folks danced in the Old Stone Age.

The idea that a natural startle reaction is a good place to start a fighting reaction seems valid on the face of it. Might be quicker to turn that instinctive move into something useful from the git-go.

Then again, if you survive the initial onslaught, how fast do you need to be? Is a learned response drilled until it is almost automatic quick enough?

It would seem that the goal of a fighting system would be, like Stonewall Jackson's Dictum, to get there firstest with the mostest. Past the threat analysis, once the go-button is punched, would it not seem that a tested principle that has been honed would be more effective than a purely instinctive duck-and-cover or monkey slap?

Webmaster said...

Got a little busy during the holiday Season but the Qs for the interview should be in your mailbox right now. Looking forward to your replies,


Anonymous said...

I had a lot of fights when I was young. All Monkey Dance stuff really. Sometimes I went beserk. One of those times I ducked a punch and came up with a backhanded hammer fist to my opponent's temple. No thought, no plan, no skill. He went away with a concussion.

Punching people in the face only causes cosmetic damage, thank goodness, because I got punched in the face a lot. It didn't even really hurt. I just threw my head with the punches if I didn't duck in time.

I'm not a martial artist, just interested in surviving.