The Open Hand or the Closed Fist

There is an old Martial Art axiom: Soft against hard, hard against soft. It has a lot of interpretations and possibilities, such as using soft and flowing defenses against hard attacks, and hard penetrating defenses against soft attacks. However, the most obvious meaning is to use soft parts of the body against hard body parts, and hard parts of the body against soft body parts.

Punching bone, while effective, may also be more damaging to the puncher. Think about punching an elbow or knee, for example. The result is more likely a broken hand rather than a broken knee. For most martial artists, this seems obvious.

Yet for some reason, especially in Wing Chun, we continually train our chain punches and similar techniques toward the opponent’s head. It does not make sense. Punching a head, which is almost nothing but bone, is a bit ridiculous. It is effective and it has a satisfying quality when you think about it. However, you have just as much chance of breaking your hand as you do the bad guy’s face. What happens if you break your hand but your punch does not knock the person out?

Why do we train this way? Perhaps it comes from TV and movies. We see the winning head punch so often, we simply train for it. Perhaps it comes from that feeling of satisfaction – the belief that such a punch is always a finisher, and how cool is that. Perhaps it comes from the inclusion of Boxing into many martial art systems. Boxers wear gloves, so the risk to the hand is minimized, but you are not likely to be wearing padded gloves as you walk the streets.

For whatever reason many Wing Chun practitioners train punching to the head, even though we know it is not a smart thing to do. What you practice is what you will do. If you only practice punching the head, what will you do if you get into a street fight? You will punch the head of course. You will probably also make a trip to the hospital to get your finger bones set. You may also find out that the gash in your knuckles from the bad guy’s teeth means you now have HIV or Hepatitis.

Remember the old axiom: soft against hard, hard against soft. At KDA Wing Chun, we are constantly training to open the hand if the strike is high. It is safer for you, still devastating to the opponent, and gives you more possibilities of control. Likewise, if the strike or technique is low, toward the legs, it is also open handed. There are not a lot of soft spots down there. Meanwhile, if the strike is toward the middle and therefore toward the body, strike with a closed fist. This is where your chain punches (Lin Wan Choy) are affective – the solar plexus, the liver, the abs, the groin.

We do what we practice. Maybe some of us should start changing what we practice.


About Sifu

I teach Wing Chun, both traditional and practical, at KDA Karate Academy. I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager. In addition to being a Martial Arts Instructor, I am an author. My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge".

Comments are closed

  • Training Assistance Online