Self Defence Techniques: 5 Punching Secrets

Everyone thinks they can punch but the reality is that most people either have a weak punch and / or if they actually connected they would injury their hand. 

Here are 5 secrets to using punching in self defence:

1. Proper Hand Position

In a self defence situation you won’t have gloves on. There is a big difference between hitting a hard target with your bare hand and hitting a soft pad with gloves on, and the difference is that if your hand is not formed correctly you will injure your knuckles and/or wrist, potentially breaking a bone. 

This is especially a problem for people who have boxing training (real or fitness) as you have hours of training with a loose hand position and you can get away with it because of the padding.


  • Roll the fingers up tucking the fingers in tightly
  • Thumb goes across the front near the middle knuckles
  • Wrist is straight
  • Hit with the 2 top knuckles near the the thumb

2. Aim for the Correct Target

Targets on the Head

Further to the comments above, if you are punching without gloves and you hit bone in the attacker’s head your will damage your hand even if it is formed correctly.

Most of the head is hard bone so we have to be careful… the safe target on the head is the chin / jaw region which will cause a knockout or a breakage if strong. 

The nose would be ok but if your punch is high from inaccuracy or if the attacker dips their head you will hit the forehead which is very hard. 

Other Targets

The other easy to hit target on the body for a straight punch is the solar plexus… the area just below the rib cage on the front. 

A strike to the solar plexus will “wind” the attacker causing immobilising them for a period of time.  However, note that it is possible for certain people (especially trained) to withstand this punch.

3. Punching with the Front Hand - Speed and Range

In boxing the front hand a “jab”…. its fast but not so powerful so it annoys and opens up the opponent rather than doing major damage.

In self defence we want to finish the situation with one combination.  So the main purpose of the front hand is to establish the range and create opening to the rear hand knockout. 


  • Fast strike to the target with hand in correct position
  • Some forward movement of the body
  • Fast recoil
  • Rear hand follows immediately (in fact it starts before the front hand has fully recoiled)

4. Punching with the Rear Hand - Power Comes from the Body

The rear hand is the power punch but the power in the punch comes more from the body than the arm. 

As an instructor the first thing I look at with a student is the movement of the feet, hips and shoulders.  The simple reason is that if you move the body in the direction of the target you have the body-weight hitting not just the speed of the arm.


  • Drive off the ball of the rear foot (however, keep it grounded)
  • Hip moves forward
  • Core is tight
  • Shoulders rotate (rear shoulder comes forward and front shoulder dips a little)
  • Strike with correct hand position
  • Fast recoil

5. Recoil Fast

The final secret of strong and fast punching is a fast recoil.  This will increase the impact by about 20%. 

This is because the force is increased if the impact is over a shorter period of time, and surprisingly the brain will unconsciously know the muscles will provide a safe breaking mechanism to avoid injury.  

Conclusion & Legal Consideration

The Straight Punch is a foundation of technique for many Krav Maga defensive techniques as knocking out an attacker is a guaranteed way to stop an attacker (not all strikes will be effective if an attacker is hyped on adrenaline or drugs).

However, note that from a legal point of view, knocking somebody out and/or breaking their jaw is a pretty strong response. 

“Street fights” are particularly problematic as these tend to escalate from verbal to physical and it is often ambiguous as to who is/was the aggressor. There are many cases where punches have dropped people to the ground and the actual fall has led to serious or even fatal head injury resulting in the person who made he punch face assault or manslaughter charges. 

To stay within the law our actions must be “reasonable” for the threat so the context is extremely important, e.g., a woman striking a man trying to abduct her is completely different to a man knocking out another man in a argument over a parking space.

Hence why scenario training is an important part of Krav Maga.

Sign up for our Newsletter