injuring hands in street fight?

I want to preface this by saying that I am not a regular street fighter, but I train to protect myself when that need should arise.

I broke both my 4th and 5th metacarpals in a typical "boxer's fracture" when I was in high school. The 5th MC was significantly angulated and the orthopedic surgeon opted not to straighten the bone and it has healed with about 30 degrees of angulation. Since the initial injury I have broken that same bone at the same place EVERY time I have been forced to hit someone without gloves. I have broken that bone 4 times subsequent to the first injury.

I train in boxing and MT and wear gloves that protect my hands in training, but I am very concerned that if I should be forced to fight again that I will break the hand. Psychologically this is very limiting and it has undermined my confidence in my ability to defend myself. Initially I tried to focus on hitting "soft spots." I broke my hand on the guys cheek the last time. I try to think of using open palm strikes or elbows, but I don't know how this will work or if I will be able to remember when/if the time comes. I try to tailor my "street situation" training to NOT use closed fists, but it is difficult at times.

Any recommendations or thoughts from others with similar problems.

Many boxing punches can be tweaked and used with an open hand. Try experimenting on the heavy bag or focus mitts, but strike with the palm instead of the fist. A very good friend of mine is a police officer with the LAPD and he has used boxing based palm strikes on numerous occassions with good effect.

A slap, delivered with all of your bodyweight can be a devastating shot. I know of several people who have scored MANY KO's in street situations with this shot.

A "chin-jab" is another popular open hand shot that was used quite frequently during WW2. It is basically a palm strike under the jaw.

Hope this helps

Just open your hands up and keep using your boxing combos and techniques.

On a side note i broke bone in my wrist/hand in my last fight because i punched the top of the guys head when i was Ground and pounding and i had my head down and wasnt looking where i was punching. Hurt like a bitch still does.

What did i learn? Punch for the neck, that way you are likely to hit the chin and worst case nothing hard.

30 degrees? Really? Like degrees degrees? That's a lot, man. I'd never punch a guy again with that hand if I had that.

There are a lot of folks who believe in never striking with a closed fist in the street. For a guy with a smushed-up metacarpal like that I'd say that goes double for you.

I mean, whatever. That's just what I'd do.

If you were to get into a streetfight it would happen so fast that nothing anyone could advise you would work, you wouldn't be in thinking mode. That being said, you are a trained fighter, so you should be fine with the other weapons you have at your disposal.

p.s. Try not to let these thoughts haunt you. Street fights are uncommon unless you look for them, and usually like I said it all happens so fast it's more like an assault than a fight. Look at it this way, you worry more about this than being in a car accident right? Or getting the flu and having pneumonic complications? Yet your chances are greater of either of these. Live well and be happy, and have faith in your training bringing many more rewards than self defense...


If you're really concerned about it, then open-handed strikes are the way to go (gotta love that bitch slap). Just be sure to SPAR using them - otherwise chances are you'll revert to closed-fists in the heat of the moment.

One of the guys I train with practices a lot of open-handed strikes, but when it comes to sparring uses closed-fists. He ended up getting into fight outside a nightclub and - you guessed it - hit the guy with a lovely right-cross. It wasn't that he chose to use closed-fists on the night, just that when under stress he went back to what he always did in sparring.


Thanks for the input. I try to spend some time training with open palms, but most of our bag and pad work is done with gloves and I revert to closed fist.

Yeah ironmongoose, it's really about 30 degrees. Looks pretty jacked up. Both of my 4th and 5th knuckles are gone. I've made a conscious decision that I should never hit someone with an closed fist again.

1groovyunit- In most of the streetfights that I've been involved in I've at least had a few seconds or so to set up. Even when I've been blindsided, I still made time to get set before I went after the guy. The last time I was even saying "hit soft spots" in my head while I was pounding on the guy. Didn't work. I still broke my hand on the guy's cheek or temple. next time I'll just have to say "keep the fist open."

Point well taken Tim/Poorlittleguy. I need to make it habit to practice with open palms.

I just ordered Rodney King's "street boxing" DVD. Hopefully I'll find some useful stuff to accomodate for my "handicap."

Thanks and keep 'em coming. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with this problem.

Hands, why not make using your elbows more a habbit? If you are close enough for tight hooks or uppercuts you could be elbow the snot out of somebody.

Of course you should mix elbows into about 1/3 of your techniques/combos if you want them to be reflex.


How do you spar using palm strikes and slaps? Just use the empty hand with or without headgear? Are you concerned about a finger accidentally hitting the eye? What about the possibility of a slap rupturing an ear?

Use ridge hands and ninja death touches.

Richard Dimitri, Tony Blauer and Peyton Quinn generally reccomend palming hard targets and punching soft targets.

Excellent post, shen!

Bas Rutten covers some palm strikes in the first tape of his "Extreme Pancrase" series.

There is one interesting thing I would like to bring up. Bas says that when you throw a "hook"-type palm strike you shouldn't actually strike with the palm at all. Throw the hook like a regular boxing hook with the thumb up. Instead of trying to hit with the palm, hit with the part of the wrist just underneath the fleshy part of the palm and aim for behind the jaw, or if you are more close, behind the ear. Bas also says that when you are grappling and there is little space between you and your opponent you should use palm strikes to get more power because you can move your arm a longer distance than with a fist.

There is also an interesting article called "Advantage of the open hand" in the Pekiti-Tirsia europe site, (check out the articles section).

Good posts shen and Membrane.

Awesome posts, shen and membrane. A classmate of mine told me he saw a fight of Bas's where he knocked the guy out with a body shot...with an open palm! CRAZY!!

I'd also go with tacticalfighter's recommendation in that you use your naturally harder and denser weapons: knees and elbows. Considering that you have MT training, you have much more to your arsenal. I wouldn't even think about striking with that hand if I were you.

Use your healthy hand to probe, to set him up for knees and elbows.

Of course, best way to get out of a "streetfight" is avoidance. An assault is a different thing altogether, though.

If you want to spar with open hands... try reversing your boxing gloves, ie, with the padded part over your palms, if you have small hands, they will fit... and protect your sparring partner...


Another great post. I agree very much with Shen.

I believe that training methods from combat sports ("alive" methods) definitely belong in the new wave of RBSD training but need to be modified to be more specific to the tools that are going to be (or should be) used in the actual situation.

Maybe Ray Floro can tell us his opinions about open hand striking and training methods. (Are you reading this, Ray?) I believe he uses them exclusively, even though his stand up system is boxing like.

How do you guys feel about elbows in a self defence context. In muay thai elbows (as I have been instructed) should be done with the very tip of the bone, so as to open a cut on your opponent. Another version of the elbow that I have been taught in kali is to use the part of the elbow closer to your hand to create more of an impact instead of a cut. This makes sense to me, especially in the day of deseases like AIDS. In the street having an attackers blood on you won't be a good thing.

There is also another part of the body that can be used in a boxing like manner: the forearms. Try throwing a "straight", hitting with the outer part of the forearm bone. Another worthwhile way to use the forearm would be to throw a "hook" when you are close to your opponent and hit them in the back of the neck with the inside part of forearm bone.

I think I'll try sparring with the gloves reversed, though shen and membrane make excellent points about training with "dead equipment." It seems to be standard fare in martial arts and self defense courses for people to train striking using gloves and other hand protection. We train to punch the head and other hard targets with impunity. Anyone who has ever hit such a hard target without hand protection knows that it isn't anything like hitting a bag or sparring with gloves. I think this is a serious deficiency in self defense training that I am only now becoming aware of. Shen makes good points about the need to evolve with this deficiency in mind.

Great thread.

Shen wrote:

"I think we are coming to a nexus where
RBSD/Combatives & Combat Sports are going to
become more enmeshed with one another. RBSD
can help to ground combat sports in reality, while
combat sports can help to functionalize
RBSD/Combatives. Hopefully, new combat sports
that more closely mirror real fighting will evolve
from this conflux. I think training opened hand
striking to the head is just a small part of this
process. "

Shen that was one of the best and most grounded
posts I have ever read between RBSD and
Combative Sports.

RBSD and MMA (Combative Sports) are a perfect fit
for each other; I would go as far as to say they are
missing big gaps without each other. The problem
lies with separating the two and then being on one
side or the other screaming that they are complete.

Without a solid delivery system that is developed
by boxing and wrestling for example, RBSD is
reduced to undeliverable strikes and tactics.
Without the pre-contact psychology and
scenario-specific training of RBSD, MMA
regresses back to the mat.

If you are reading this and thinking, "Well Duh," you
must be already training in a fashion that deals
with both aspects.

Great topic!