Hand To Hand Personal Defense: 5 Tips For Open Hand Defense


Clichés exist for a reason. One of the most commonly heard one is, “I don’t need any hand-to-hand training…I have a gun.” This is usually expressed with serious bravado but couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always the chance that you will end up having to go “hands on” with someone long before a firearm gets involved. If you don’t have at least some fundamental open hand skills, you could end up in a very bad situation.

Keep in mind that you do not need to be a martial arts master. With that, let’s take a look at 5 solid tips for open hand defense.

If your line in the sand is crossed, one of the most natural things for us to do is strike out at the adversary. How we strike though is important. Unless you have trained and conditioned your hands, a punch to their jaw can damage your hand. As a rule, I teach that we strike hard objects with soft objects and soft objects with hard objects. This translates to hitting them in the head with a palm strike for example and a clinched fist punching the soft stomach area. Regardless of how you strike, you need to do it with great intent and follow through. Just like golf or tennis we want to strike through our target to get the most power into the shot.

Bruce Lee was an incredible martial artist and was able to kick people in the head at will. The brutal truth though is that we are not Bruce Lee. Trying to kick someone in the head without extensive training and skill will end up as a viral video of you falling on your butt. Kicking can be very effective especially if we attack the knees and ankles. Just like a punch, we need to kick through our target. One other tip on kicking is to make sure your hips are in it. A kick bearing the full power of your hips can destroy a knee and ankle allowing you to escape.

We now move into the more unnerving set of skills. If things are desperate, you can grab parts of the assailant and begin to tear at them. Targets like ears actually tear off very easily and provide painful psychologically devastating results. In this same theme we can grab a nostril, a lip or even an eyelid and remove it from our attacker. Without a doubt this is a gruesome skillset, but it is also very effective. It is also a good litmus test for you regarding just how far you would go to defend yourself.

If you are in tangled close quarters, you might consider a choke hold. Chokes can be divided into two primary categories: “blood chokes” and “air chokes.” A blood choke disrupts blood circulation to the brain, while an air choke disrupts breathing. Blood chokes can be applied to efficiently cause loss of consciousness. For our situation blood chokes are preferred. They constrain blood circulation to the brain. This is accomplished by compressing one or both of the carotid arteries and/or the jugular veins, ideally with little to no pressure applied to the airway. The best way to get this is to work your way behind them, wrap an arm around their neck with your elbow centered at the middle of their throat. Now apply pressure with both your forearms on one side of the neck and your bicep on the other side. It is best to lock your hand behind their head and lower your weight. Dig in and hold on.


Our day-to-day environment is full of improvised weapons. All we need to do is take a step back and really look at what we have at our disposal. Now understand that some of these tools I will classify as weapons of opportunity. They are not something you would carry, but if available you can grab it and fight. Some of the best are stabbing weapons. They are anything rigid with a small enough point to puncture flesh. One of the best improvised stabbing weapons is a metal or solid construction pen.  Held firmly in the hand with approximately 30% of it protruding, it can be a devastating weapon. As with any improvised weapon, we will need to focus on the best targets for our new tool.  With a pen, it is best to focus on the soft tissue surrounding the neck. This area of the body is dense in veins and arteries as well as being sensitive to pain. Pens are popular and there are several companies now manufacturing “tactical” pens that are designed to be used for self-defense if needed. Another effective stabbing tool can be a screwdriver. In fact, law enforcement faces their fair share of screwdriver attacks every year. For defensive purposes, a screwdriver is a solid choice because it is metal and includes a preexisting handle. As with the pen, targets around the neck will yield the quickest results. If the day comes that you are forced to stab with an improvised weapon, technique will be important. The human body is resilient, and stabbing will be more difficult than you may imagine. To get the quickest results, stab at right angles.  This is especially true with a pen because they run the chance of breaking. Use your entire body to strike and drive the weapon in. Done with intent and focus, your improvised stabbing tool will stop even the most dedicated attacker.

These are some fundamentals of open hand defense. In the end I highly encourage you to seek professional training. Be as serious with your open hand skills as you are with your firearms skills!



Fred Mastison

By Fred Mastison
Mr. Mastison is a national magazine contributor, author, professional firearms & combatives Instructor and executive protection provider & trainer. He currently writes for 16 separate national magazines. He has been teaching in the industry for over 30 years and has divisions in the US, Ireland, Germany, and Mexico.




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