It is common training with law enforcement officers to teach palm strikes and avoid punching. Officer’s are told not to punch because 1) they can easily break their hand and not be able to access their handgun or other weapons and 2) punching is against a lot of department’s policies. Well, for years I taught like everyone else and dissuaded law enforcement officers from punching. Then, out of the blue, I realized that I am an adult who can think for himself! If I believe something will keep officers safer, even if it’s against conventional wisdom, I better be teaching it.

Let’s look at that number two reason first, it’s against policy. I have heard of several departments that consider an officer punching to be a use of lethal force but for some illogical reason don’t consider someone punching at their officer’s to be using lethal force. I can certainly understand not punching in most instances but when an officer’s life is on the line he or she must know that they have permission to punch! When the USKMA teaches law enforcement seminars we mainly show lethal force scenarios. We show handgun, long gun, knife and blunt object disarms. If an officer in that situation is legally allowed to fire on the assailant it is certainly legal for him or her to punch. A palm strike has to hit the assailant in the nose or throat to have much of an effect but a punch cuts and does tissue damage wherever it hits. When we punch during weapon disarms our goal is to knock out the attacker. This video is from a blog a few weeks ago. Watch what a realistic knife attack looks like;

If an officer is faced with that attack the options are few. If he/she decides to access their handgun while being attacked they will take several stabs before they can fire. What the officer should do is block the weapon with their left forearm and attempt to knock out or otherwise disable the attacker with their right hand. In that situation why would you want to use a palm over a fist? It is much easier to knock someone out with a punch than a palm strike. When was the last time you watched the UFC and saw a palm strike lead to a knock out? I’ve seen plenty of punches do the trick, however.

Now, about those hand injuries. You can certainly get a boxer’s fracture from punching a skull but palming isn’t exactly guaranteed to be injury free. If you throw a palm to a skull or torso you can sprain or otherwise injure your wrist fairly easily. While palming you can also catch your thumb wrong and tear the thumb ligament. A boxer’s fracture isn’t going to keep an officer from accessing and firing his handgun. The officer will likely not even feel it until much later when the adrenaline dump has dissipated. We would have to fracture most of the bones in our hand to keep us from accessing and firing a weapon. Fractures from punching are almost always the metacarpal bones on the pinky side of the hand. The pinky doesn’t have much of a function when firing a handgun. I had a boxer’s fracture years ago that I got at the beginning of a third degree black belt test in the martial art I was in at the time. I went on to test for a few hours afterwards and, other than pain, it didn’t affect anything that I had to do with my hands.

I have had a few officers tell me that the reason they aren’t allowed to punch is that if they break their hand it means six to eight weeks off of work and someone having to be paid overtime to replace them. This I believe!

When an officer’s life is on the line he or she needs to know that they have permission to punch! We have to punch in training if we expect it to come out under stress. BE SAFE!



  1. “When was the last time you watched the UFC and saw a palm strike lead to a knock out?”

    How about when they used bare hands?
    Watch this Bas Rutten highlight reel.

  2. I am not totally sold on the idea that you “should” use a palm strike for the following ideas. Watch a child get angry. Do they make fists or flare their hands open in a palm heel strike? They make fists. If you require a person to use tools that require training to overcome natural reactions to fear and danger you are asking them to overcome ingrained response. Who slaps on the front door when your locked out in the pouring rain. Many of us pound on it with a closed fist. Admittedly some slap at it…

    That said I like the open hand strikes for the following. They can be delivered on different angles without getting too technical. The boxers hook and upper cut require that the knuckles, wrist, forearm are lined up properly. An upper cut to the face of a bent over attacker, (bear hug,weapon grab, tackle, leg grab) is difficult at least but a upward palm strike to the face is much easier to deliver.

    Bone to Bone / Fist to Skull=bad,
    Bone to Meat /Fist to soft targets= good
    Meat to Bone / palm to skull= good.

    If you have never seen a palm strike knockout watch UFC fight Yarborough vs. Hackney Hackney takes Yarborough off his feet with a palm strike. Later in the fight he punches the head of Yarborough and wins but can not go on in the night due to a broken hand, ironically both points made in a single fight. While your at it check out the greatest hits from Bas Rutten. Lots of palm strike finishes.

    Both open hand and closed hand strikes can be effective. If in LE and your policy says you cant use a fist or calls that lethal force you have bad policy. Sure, strikes to the head with hands are higher level of force but not lethal. If they are punching you fight back.

    A common quote is “get violent enough fast enough.” If you wait to see how this is gonna turn out before you get serious about your fight your in, you will certainly find out. Studies have shown the longer your in a fight the higher the chances your gonna get hurt.

    Matt Kissel

  3. You have made my point. You had to go back to Bas to find someone knocking people out with a palm in the UFC…I saw a fist do it just a week ago. If palms had more force and knockout power all the fighters would be palming, not punching.

    “The longer you’re in a fight the higher the chances your gonna get hurt” is excellent! Especially with a weapon. This is why we want to end things (knockout the scumbag) as quickly as possible.

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