November 8

Warning: Stop Teaching This Self Defence Technique Because You Will Get Hurt

16  comments

Bloody Knuckle

This article is really going to upset a large amount of the self-defence community and to be honest, I don’t care in the slightest. Because you need to know!

You need the truth, not being spun a yarn and in this article, I am going to explain in detail why you should stop teaching  a technique that is now virtually obsolete and will get your ass kicked.

So what technique am I talking about?

Slaps and open-handed strikes.

Now you have two choices here, you can be so outraged that you press the back button right now or you can actually put your ego and or experience aside and listen to what I have got to say.

Still here? Great, let’s start.

Why Slaps Became So Popular

A few decades ago if you told someone you used slaps or open handed strikes in a fight you would be laughed at.

Then all of a sudden their use became really popular. It made sense, the human hand was not designed for punching and as such it broke a lot when used in self defence situations.

All of a sudden the open hand slap provided a solution. It was a large area (ie the whole palm of your hand) and this made landing a strike easier. In addition, the ‘power slap’ became a hugely popular method of instruction. Largely because you could really feel the power when used on a pad.

The world went ‘slap happy’!

Doorstaff, police and security guards across the world started to believe in the technique because they ‘felt the power’ and guess what it works.

Yes, power slapping works.

However, even though slapping works it is a technique you should ditch today!

Let me explain why.

Why You Should Stop Training Slaps And Open Strikes

I saw 2 videos recently of different self-defence instructors from different parts of the world.

The first was a doorman teaching open-handed strikes and the second was a krav maga/self-defence instructor teaching slaps and open-handed strikes.

I could drop both of these guys into any MMA school and say ‘try that shit in there’ and guess what would happen. They would have their asses handed to them.

I am not really sure why self-defence enthusiasts thunk they can bypass training in MMA, Boxing, Wrestling, BJJ or even Muay Thai with a few slaps or open-handed techniques.

Open-handed techniques and slaps are designed to work on the guy with little or no skills or a drunk.

They are not to be used on skilful people.

But why you might ask?

Well because a slap or open-handed strike is only designed to knock you out and for that to happen you must have a clear target which is stationary.

The minute you introduce a moving target or one with good footwork, reflexes and defence it is all over. You throw a slap and they return fire with a salvo of heavy punches.

Each breaking your nose and jaw as they land.

Sparring: The Ultimate Test Of Your Slaps

Whenever someone tells me how great slaps or open-handed strikes are I say to them, OK, you need to go and spar and use them against someone throwing punches.

I am yet to see a single person show this on video (albeit a few try and say they have).

One of my favourite videos to show the power of punches is the old guy who destroys the younger boxer in a sparring match. Now put this into perspective this is an ‘old man’. Sure he is an ex-pro boxer but that isn’t the issue, it is the destructive power of his strikes that do the damage.

This is the real issue.

When faced with a trained opponent that can punch your slaps mean sweet f### all!

And guess what there are more and more people trained out there.

With the rise of white-collar boxing and MMA people have skills. Heck, the younger generation even settle fights at school with MMA rules these days!

But you still think your open-handed strikes are going to work?

But how do you know who is a trained fighter?

How To Spot A Trained Fighter

So we are back to the pre-fight area, that moment where a guy or girl wants to attack you.

But how do you know if they are any good? How do you know if they are a trained fighter or not?

Perhaps the stance, what they say and how strong they look. But ultimately you simply cannot judge anymore.

The skill base out there is extensive, you could be fighting a guy who has watched some MMA or is a grappling black belt. It could be a Thai boxer with a truckload of bouts to his name or maybe a guy who has some white-collar boxing behind him.

You just don’t know!

Back in the golden day of pubs and clubs, most people had zero skills. They were interested in football and that was it. These days where combat sports are ‘cool’ and people are taking more steroids than ever before you need to bring your ‘A Game’ or face the consequences.

I know there are doubters out there, but don’t fall for snake oil training.

Don’t Fall For The Romance In Training

Do you train in those full face head guards? You know, the ones with those covers?

If you do then your instructor will have you using open hand strikes, and guess what you get rattled if you spar because your head is inside the helmet!

This sensation leads you to believe that open-handed strikes work, trust me they are like bringing a water pistol to a gunfight.

Don’t believe me, spar hard with your training partner and ask them to throw fists. You will immediately feel like you are outgunned.

However, let me say this there is a time and place for open-handed strikes and slaps and I am going to share that with you next.

When To Use Slaps

So do I still teach slaps? Yes.

However, not to knockout, I use open-handed techniques to open my opponent up, provoke a response from them and then deliver a power shot.

I want to line them up, I give an example here:

My slaps are only setups for harder punches.

Conclusion

I have no doubt that people reading this will be up in arms and start to critique the post and disagree. To them, I say ‘grow up’!

The self-defence community needs to adapt its views to understand that ‘just because they like doing something does not make it the best technique’.

When it comes to the lives of students you owe it to them to give them the best advice and that is to develop a heavy artillery of punches, hammers and elbow strikes that you can deliver with speed and power (along with some good grappling).

But my slaps are really powerful!

I don’t doubt that your slaps would knock out a Rhino, if you are still thinking this after reading this article you haven’t grasped what I am saying.

It doesn’t matter how hard you can strike if you can’t land the strikes. Stop thinking your attacker will be useless drunk, that shit ain’t real anymore!

Your attackers are going to have skill and as you get older this is only going to increase. Guess what, bad guys learn how to fight, it comes with the territory.

If self-defence is worth teaching it is worth teaching right!

Thanks for reading and stay safe

Andrew Holland


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  1. There is nothing that shows your utter contempt for someone like a good open hand slap across the face. Super insulting! But other than that, slaps seem only situationally useful, like any other tool in your martial art box.

    1. Hi D. You are right, I was talking about this subject to a pro boxing coach I know last night and he made a great point. “If you slap me in the face you better be sure you knock me out because I will return fire with a barrage of punches that will rock your ancestors” He stole the tail end from Rocky but it is true.

      Thanks for commenting

  2. Excellent article Andrew… I too believe that people have gone too far with extolling the value of a slap as opposed to a meaty strike with a fist!
    Many instructors teach the slap to those not trained in any fighting arts believing they are unable to punch correctly. It’s a bit like being in a head lock and being taught to pinch the inside of someone’s thigh cuz it makes them jump and squeak in training rather…wouldn’t really deter someone who’s trying to snap your neck. Better to teach someone if they can reach the groin to rip their attackers nuts off!
    Good stuff mate keep it coming!

    1. Thanks Rob , you get the article bang on. Sadly instructors do teach slaps because they can’t punch/ never learned and have talked themselves into believing that this is the way forward. It isn’t. Sadly many of the people doing this ‘teaching’have yet to experience any real violence and base their opinions on ‘theories’ or what works in a dojo with a compliant partner. Thanks again for the comment

    1. Hi Gilles Thanks for the comment

      The Diaz style is very interesting and ‘rangey’. But these guys have a really well rounded skill set both on the ground and are very tall. Joe Calzaghe was a top boxer who was often accused of slapping in fights. However Diaz still bases his strikes around punches with the closed fist first and foremost and this is the issue, self defence instructors are actively telling people nott o punch and that is a very dangerous methodology

  3. Nice article Andrew,in my opinion open hand strikes work rather palm strikes work eg of this Bas rutten used them all the time on pro MMa fighters and knocked plenty out ,also lee morrison ,Geoff Thompson etc have used them to great effect and my self included a straight palm strike is very effective ..but I would agree that on someone trained my first shot would be a closed fist to the jaw.

    1. Hi Mark Bas is a really bad example, because the rules forced them to use slaps. Interestingly enough UFC 9 was a headline show between Shamrock and Severn but neither fighter did anything because punches were barred. Ruttens fight against Kevin Randleman left him the victor but facially destroyed. The issue is not that strikes cannot be effective at times but if people are only teaching them it leaves them totally unprepared for real violence imho.

      Thanks for commenting

  4. Thanks for posting – I have asked this same question. I have a background in grappling sports such as wrestling, BJJ and instructor of judo but dabble in my club’s Krav program. Our Krav instructors all cross train in boxing, Muay Thai and BJJ. I asked our Krav Maga instructors why they teach open handed strikes and they explained that they are designed to get a first strike in when surprised in a self defense situation. For example, the attack comes from the side unexpectedly and the open palm strike may be delivered to the groin or face to hit first when your hands are not in position to deliver a punch. The slap is immediately followed up by flurries of more powerful punches, elbows, kicks, clinch, etc. In other words, these guys would never use open palm strikes once they square off in, for example, an MMA match. The way they teach if you are in fighting position when attacked they almost always prefer a knee or kick to the groin. Based on their explanation, observation and trying during class instruction, the open handed strike is a solid tactic in the right circumstances. Also, I do not believe fighting in the ring or the cage is the gold standard for self defense. I just experienced a multiple aggressor attack in the DC subway system (Google search for DC + wolf + pack + attacks). Going to the ground (a viable MMA tactic) to disable one attacker would have been a very bad idea for a variety of reasons. Once on the ground you would have to essentially apply deadly or extreme force immediately in the hope of getting up fast to avoid a kick to the head. Since the fight had not escalated to what may be considered a “deadly” situation, that means the victim (me) could be prosecuted for excessive force, particularly in view of our current racially charged environment. Always keep in mind that even when defending yourself you are one bad news spin cycle away from a criminal conviction. Look at the police officer in Ferguson who shot a robbery suspect who attacked him and went for his gun when he was still in his police cruiser. If there was ever a time to give a police officer the benefit of the doubt that was probably it, but no, the city burned and the officer is out of a job and permanently in hiding. In any event, I ended up using judo grips and shoving/positioning to negate punching hand and prevent anyone from getting behind me until police were on the way. That worked but I was probably lucky. If you want to evaluate self defense tactics during these DC subway attacks, there was one guy who used Krav style fighting to fend off 10 attackers who seemed to have come out of it with no more than some bumps and bruises while six of the attackers were arrested. https://www.fox5dc.com/news/83032804-story . Fighting skills or not, that is a guy that I want on an airplane with me during an attempted hijacking.

  5. Interesting that I should read this on the same day I found thishttps://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uou-dmp101615.php. Basically scientists found that a clenched fist reduces risk of injury than an open-hand slap. Just some more evidence for using punches.

  6. Good stuff. Keep it coming. I train security guards in Canada in tactical (noncompliant) handcuffing and edged weapon defense, and while I always stress disengaging if they feel overmatched when possible, sometimes it’s not possible. My techniques do not involve striking, as it has bad optics for uniformed guards who are constantly being recorded; I create “positive witnesses” to the guards verbal skills and restraint when dealing with idiots. Mostly securing the lead arm, grounding, and creating compliance through wrist and elbow locks. Very effective when done properly, and very “camera friendly”. I’m enjoying your material for when everything breaks down, as it sometimes will, and it becomes a survival scenario. Well done.

    1. Hi Don thanks for taking the time to comment. I am a huge grappling fan and for cops and uniformed guards striking looks terrible I totally agree, sounds like you really know your stuff. Thanks again for your feedback its really appreciated

    2. Don’s point about teaching “camera friendly” martial arts is a good one – please see my post on liability/politicization of law enforcement and self defense conflicts. Disengaging is also an important point. A law enforcement officer who may believe that his gun could be taken by a powerful suspect should be trained to retreat until backup arrives. Again, we could use Ferguson as an example of when an officer should retreat for his own safety and so that deadly force is never used against an unarmed suspect.

  7. I agree. Everything depends on your opponent. Slaps could work on some people if it hurts them they might back down and acoind a full on fight. Can say though I’ve never been taught slaps and I do traditional kung fu.

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