5 Useful Open Hand Strikes for Self-defense

Last week I wrote a post about the usefulness of open hand strikes vs. punches for self-defense. This week, I’ll discuss 5 specific open hand strikes that I teach for self-defense and how they are useful.

Here is a video of the 5 open hand strikes I will discuss:

1. Straight Strike. A straight strike using the base of the palm is best used to the bridge of the nose. This can cause a lot of pain, as well as the tear ducts to empty. It can also break the nose. In a social situation self-defense situation in which you don’t want to injure a person seriously, you can place your palm on the tip of the nose and vigorously press it back and forth as you push your palm into the nose. The resulting pain from pushing into the many small nerve endings in the tip of the nose can be an effective way of pushing someone away.

2. Open-hand Hook. The body mechanics of this strike are similar to that of a hook punch. It looks like it’s just a big old slap, but it’s much more than that. The difference is that you get greater reach and that it causes knock-outs in a different way. This strike causes a concussive effect on the brain, which can effectively stun a person or knock them unconscious. Think of the skull as being like a pickle jar, while your brain is the pickles. When you hit the skull hard it rattles the pickles against the inside of the pickle jar” (i.e. your brain on the inside of the skull), which is what causes the stunning effect. Also, if you happen to hit the ear, you can break the ear drum and cause a lot of pain. Even if it lands only on the face and not the head, the resulting “smack” can be distracting enough to give a person pause.

3. Ridge Hand Strike. We most often use the ridge hand strike on the brachial plexus origin, a nerve motor point that results in stunning and potentially knock-outs when struck. When attacking this area, we use the inside of the wrist bone, rather than the hand itself. A ridge hand strike using the inside knuckle as the striking surface, can also be used to attack the nose when on an angle or the temple from straight on. Warning: a strike to the temple has the potential to be a fatal blow and should only be used in life-threatening situations.

4. Back Hand Strike. We use this strike also on the brachial plexus origin, using the back of the wrist bone.

5. Open hand Uppercut. This works in much the same way as a traditional uppercut. You need to close to your attacker to use it. When you strike the jaw right on target, the impact can stun or knock a person out, as is evidenced in many professional fights. It is said that this is caused by the temporal mandibular nerve, located directly behind the “hinge” of the jaw. Essentially, the jawbone slams back against the nerve, basically causing a form of sensory overload that can shut down the brain.

Comments (6)

6 thoughts on “5 Useful Open Hand Strikes for Self-defense

  1. Very good Post with a well demonstrated video. The striukes you have included are all great and very effective. One that may also come in handy is the knife hand strike to the throat/cartoid arteries. It is very dangerous though and should be used in the most extreme situations.

  2. Hi Lori,

    It’s been a while since I last visited your site and I thought it’d be a good idea to drop you a comment. I must say I liked your last post and especially the video: you have good control, sense of distance and excellent body-mechanics. Wat a woman! (Lol) Even while delivering open hand strikes it’s quite obvious you’ve had proper training as a boxer. Wat you said and wrote is perfectly true of course but I’d like to add a few other options we use alot in our dojo (I’m sure you’re familiar with them): shuto or knife-hand to the neck (in my opinion much more powerful than a haito), nukite or biu-gee (spear or fingerstrike, extremely effective against the eyes or throat), tigerclaw to the face (the Japanese term escapes me for the moment, good thing my sensei doesn’t read this or I would be in a World of trouble) and kuma-de or bearpaw to the same general area although I’ve never quite understood what advantages kuma-de would have over a plain old teisho. Anyway: we train them quite alot on punching-bags and since my sensei trains in JKD too he teaches them in a particular form: it’s basically the same as Wing-Chung chain-punching but with open hand strikes. Basically you launch the First strike, then drop the hand and then launch the second one over the first (repeated over and over) while keeping both hands on the centerline. It’s extremely efficient at short-range: the opponent simply cannot keep up, especially when you start mixing them up. A good example would be two teisho’s to the face, left shuto to the neck, right shuto to the same side, again left shuto followed by a right palmheel-slap to the ears on the right side. You get the idea.

    As I said interesting post, with most blogs usually I start losing interest fairly quickly since the content is usually quite similar but you manage to capture my attention and stay fresh in your posts. Too bad you live so far way, I’m sure it would be interesting to see you in action in person and train together. Maybe I should plan a vacation to Canada some day but certainly not this year.


    PS: do you know anything more about your MMA-prospects?

  3. Thanks for all your additional comments. Yes, I have used all of those strikes in the past having trained in Karate. If one were going to use a strike to the throat in self-defense, a shuto would be my vote for most practical.

    As for my MMA career, my training is on hiatus right now since I’m doing a lot of special abilities work as a warrior for a movie that’s being shot locally. It eats up too much of my time, making it very hard to maintain a consistent training regimen when combined with all my other responsibilities. We’ll see what happens after I finish that work though.

  4. Great video an post. I like the simplicity. The post is straight to the point and something a reader could put to use today if they needed to.

  5. Very good techniques, i tend to use slaps alot in addition to palm heels and edge of hand. Im a guy but i am physically weak so i fight like a girl. Greetings from japan.

  6. I’m new to your site…to any Martial Arts site truth be told. The use of open hand striking is of great interest to me for a variety of reasons but, personally age and strength.

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