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A 'palm strike' is quite simply any strike with an open hand that impacts with the palm of the hand. It is most commonly employed at ranges 2 and 3.

Two Major Methodologies

Palm striking usually falls under two main methodologies: palm heel striking and slapping.

  • Palm heel striking impacts with the bottom of the palm (the 'heel', by the bases of the metacarpal bones) and results in a very solid impact. This is usually employed along straight-line trajectories (such as straight forwards).
  • Slapping impacts with all of the palm, and often the digits as well, over a larger surface area (however, the main focus is still on the heel of the palm). This is usually employed along curved-line trajectories (such as sideways).

Considerations of the Palm Heel Strike

Palm Heel

Palm Strike striking surface

Striking with the palm of the hand has many advantages over utilising other striking surfaces found on the hand. In particular, the muscular tissue of the area close to the wrist is more prone to bruising than breaking in the event of accidentally striking a hard, bony surface (such as the cranium or cheekbones, for example) which gives the palm strike a significant advantage over striking with the knuckles or other bony areas. Despite the softer striking surface, however, the palm heel strike's striking surface retains sufficient density to be significantly impactive and can still be used for causing knockouts.

However, when striking with the heel of the palm in a straight line, the wrist cannot be straight and so a certain level of forearm strength to maintain the stability of the joint is recommended in order to avoid potential spraining. Palm heel striking is difficult to effect along curved-line trajectories, and so the range of potential targeting options is slightly narrower than that of slapping.

Considerations of the Slap

Slapping differs from palm heel striking in that it affects a wider surface area. Given the nature of the impact, it is usually employed more for a distracting or shocking effect than for causing lasting damage or knockouts. The wide surface area of the impact affects many nerve endings at once, causing significant levels of pain (usually) without lasting damage. Deployed to the face, it can cause the eyes to water which can impair the attacker's vision (and sometimes cause embarrassment too). The slap has a loud impact which adds to its shocking nature.

Deployed to the ear, particularly with a cupped palm, the semicircular canals of the ear can be affected which has an effect on balance and coordination. Cupping of the palm can serve to force air into the ear, which can cause further damage to the eardrum. The loud sound of the impact also adds to the efficacy of striking the ears.

Slapping is a highly versatile striking method, allowing for a great variety of striking angles and trajectories to be followed. Strikes can be employed downwards, diagonally (inside), sideways (inside) and backwards (upwards) from the perspective of the striker with relative ease and efficacy. Employed along curved trajectories, the stability of the wrist is maintained as it is straight.

Considerations of Palm Striking (General)

Advantages of Palm Striking:

  • Palm striking is a relatively safe striking method to employ, due to the relatively low risk of a striker fracturing any bones through the impact.
  • It is widely considered a natural and simple movement to employ, requiring relatively little training to do well.
  • Many find that it lends itself to more relaxed movement (especially in the case of slapping) than striking with closed fists.
  • When striking with an open hand, a combatant is not required to retract the striking hand at all before grabbing hold of their target. This allows for biomechanical manipulation for control to be employed very efficiently.
  • Open-handed striking generally looks much less aggressive to witnesses than closed-fist striking, which is beneficial when justifying your force deployment after an incident.
  • Open hands are generally less threatening than fists, and so palm striking is generally very effective when a pre-emptive strike is required.
  • Palm striking can allow for lower levels of force to be used (in terms of injury caused to the attacker) which is beneficial when justifying your force deployment (to yourself and others as well as legally speaking) after an incident.

Disadvantages of Palm Striking:

  • Palm striking does not generally result in high, lasting levels of damage as the transfer of kinetic energy does not usually go as deeply through the attacker's tissues as it would when striking with a harder surface (such as knuckles or elbows). Whether this is a disadvantage or not is subjective and dependent on the situation in question.
  • Due to the large striking surface, a palm strike may be easier to see coming than a closed fist. However, this may be negated by their speed due to the relaxed movement that they (usually) lend themselves to.