If you punch someone on the street there is a high chance that you will break a bone or bones in your hand. The head is a strong part of the body and it was designed or evolved that way on purpose as it protects the brain. This raises the question; should we avoid using punches or training in boxing so we don't break our hand on someone's skull?
Im not totally convinced one way or the other. I haven't been sold on either side of the argument as of yet. Should you punch on the street or use the open hand or palm strikes in stead? There are a number of considerations.
First, if you use punching a lot in your training, it is highly likely that you will use punching if you get caught up in a real altercation on the street because when the body is in this stressful environment, it behaves how it is trained to behave... generally. 'You tend to fight how you train' is a well used phrase.
This means that if you train a certain way, it is almost impossible to have the expectation that you will consciously be able to choose to fight in a different way in the heat of the moment. You cant, the body will just react, there is little to no conscious thought.
If you train regularly in boxing (as I have recently), you should expect that if you are forced to deal with a threat, you will throw punches. This can have implications as indicated above with a broken hand or hands.
Second, a lot of boxing defenses against the punch utilize the large area of the glove to block punches either by padding the punches down or simply covering your face with the large area the two gloves allows for.
This can have implications for the street. On the street you will not have those large gloves to interupt those punches coming from another large glove. This limits this tactic considerably on the street. Both the guard and the punches are too small for that boxing method to work.
Furthermore, holding the hands covering the face (where gloves would be held in boxing), leaves the naked hands open to being struck and injured as well.
And thirdly, if you were to punch someone in the head for real, there is a high chance that you will injure your hand on the attackers head. This will have implications if you use your hands in your work such as typing or using tools etc. It will probably not affect you at the time thanks to adrenaline, but it will have consequences later.
Sport to Street
So there are a number of factors to consider when looking at the merits of using punching in training such as boxing. This is one of the areas we must overcome when transitioning the superior methods of the combat sports into street practical strategies and methodologies. Of course some will take the position that it doesn't matter if your hand gets injured in an encounter, at least you have survived and maintained your health and safety. And this is a valid point. If this is acceptable to you, all the best. As long as you have considered the above points.
One simple method you can use to adapt the boxing defence measures is when you cover, raise your hands way up onto your head so your forearms and elbows intercept the punch, rather than your hands. The forearms and elbows are very sturdy parts of the body and can absorb a lot of impact. As well as this, fully utilise slips and change elevation.
This is a method I was introduced to by Ray Floro called the Crazy Monkey. This is just a small, tiny part of that system but is something that may be worth looking into if you have concerns about defending punches on the streets. It is also applicable when utilising the startle-flinch response as raising your hands up, covering your head and face is a natural thing to do.
Open or Closed hand?
And should you only use open hands to the head? It is a difficult thing to train for under pressure with contact which is one of the benefits of boxing. Can you train to use closed fists to the body and open hands to the face? That would be nice but is quite difficult to achieve though is definitely worthy of consideration.
I'm not proposing a magical solution, it is really down to the individual. I just wanted to highlight some areas for consideration.
It's in the Application
So I am not pushing one idea over the other. I just think it is worthwhile considering what is best for you. I will say though, it would be unwise to totally stop boxing for fear of injuring your hands on the street as that is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Boxing is a fantastic system which quickly teaches people how to APPLY techniques on a resisting opponent who is fighting back. That is an essential component of ANY system for teaching elements of low tech combat.
I am not really sure sure how I will manage this in my own training, but I do keep it in mind when training. I would be interested in hearing peoples opinions or ideas on this matter. Feel free to leave a comment below.