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Ideally, the way to take a punch is AT SOMETHING. If this fails and you're trying to do it the other way:

a) see if you can get outside the range of the punch. This often leads to midpunch attempts to lengthen its range which is good for getting the puncher off balance, counterattacks, etc.

b) see if you can get inside the destructive range of the punch, in other words, clinch. It's much more difficult to deliver a hard punch to someone very close to your body.

c) see if you can deflect the punch, ideally by pushing the punching arm perpendicular to the direction of travel. This can also lead to good binds and counterpunches.

d) see if you can block the punch, ideally with a foreign object such a a two-by-four which will make the puncher feel regret and remorse and the extreme unwisdom of having tried to punch such a clever being as yourself...but your arm will do in a pinch. Ideally block with some opposing force so you don't just, e.g., elbow thyself instead.

e) FINALLY, if all else has failed and you are damn well gonna take the punch, do your best to move with it (in the direction the hand is moving)...move your feet, don't just lean. The impact will be lessened by your movement, and the follow through will work like a shove, so that if you're caught leaning off-balance you may fall.

(See also judo, How to fight and not get your ass kicked, or your local sensei).

A nodeshell challenge by antonylewis

Strictly speaking, I believe this node should be called how to not take a punch.. After all, being punched is a rather unpleasant experience.

As a quite avid martial artist (Jitsu, Judo and Kickboxing), I would like to add something to this topic.

DO NOT try to backstep from a punch. The entire motion that is involved when someone tries to punch you is aimed toward you, usually from the front. By backstepping (or by trying to move away from a punch in any way), you are only increasing the chance of getting hit. Your assailant will probably just take another step, gaining additional speed and momentum.

Getting in close is a much better idea. As mentioned, if you are close, hands are mostly harmless. Watch out for knees, headbutts and elbows, though - those are very effective on short distance.

Deflecting a punch should be your one-but-last last resort. If you are reading this, chances are that you have not had any, or just very little martial arts training - although deflecting punches is not all that hard, it should not be your first priority.

Blocking a punch is generally a bad idea. Yes, in cool martial arts movies you see they do it all the time. But they are actors doing a practiced routine. Actually, they are highly talented actors who are doing a very well practiced routine. If you have something to block with (say a book or something), why didn't you throw it at your attacker a long time ago??

The best way to take a punch, therefore, is this: Don't be there when the punch arrives. It sounds laughably stupid - but it works. Usually you see it coming at least half a second before the actual punch. Don't trust your eyes, trust your instinct. You know when somebody will punch (technically you see it from their body language). There are not many fighters who can hide their body language good enough to not show you that they will punch. If you would be facing one of those fighters, they would probably not punch you in the first place, but put a foot in your kneecap, head, or anywhere else they'd want to kick you.

In any case: When you feel the punch is coming, do a diagonal step forwards. You want to end up beside your assailant. If timed correctly (it feels odd the first couple of times, but it works in 90% of the cases), your assailant is punching thin air, and you are next to him/her. What you want to do now is run. "Live to fight another day" as they say (or "run away so you can run away another day", as I say). If you can't run away do one of the following: (yes there are far more dangerous ways to attack, but you don't want to kill. Killing is bad. You want to hurt - to stun just long enough to get away)

  • Fist in the lower back
    • You want to hit them on the side of their spine, as low as possible. This way you hit them kidney-ish, which hurts like hell.
  • Fist to the base of the neck
    • You want to hit the bend where the shoulders become neck. Insanely painful, but not really dangerous to the person you attack.
  • Fist to the nose
    • No explanation here. It hurts.
  • Fist to the ribcage
    • Just punch them wherever in the side. You'd be extremely unfortunate not to hit them somewhere that hurts.

After doing one of these, you should be able to stroll off (i.e run) while your assailant lays in a pile feeling sorry for him/herself.


Fists are actually not a very good striking device. They weren't meant for it, and it shows in their basic design. The hands are not structured to take a sudden impact against the first two knuckles, and as a result of this, you're more likely to break your hand than you are to do any serious damage.

Therefore, if someone actually moves to punch you in the "traditional" way, then you can use this to your advantage. Such a person is not likely to expect the moves discussed in this node.

SharQ's writeup is good, but a few notes to add:

  • In close quarters, elbows and knees are better than fists, particularly if you're right next to the guy. For one, your elbow can take more punishment than your fists, so you can hit harder without worrying about injury. You can substitute elbow blows for punches in any of the methods SharQ mentions, though which one you choose will be more dependent on just where you are in relation to the other person (in front, beside, or behind) and how tall you are relative to the your opponent. Knees are harder to work with, since you will have to be in front of your opponent in order to use them (you do not want to have to turn around to deliver your blow; unnecessary movement wastes valuable time). If you're far enough behind your opponent that you couldn't reach him without turning around, then just forget about hitting him.
  • The blow that SharQ mentions is more important than he realizes. You're not trying to knock the guy out flat: all you need to do is stun him for a second or two. Use that opportunity to get away: the important part of a stun-and-run move is run. Luckily, it doesn't take very much to stun someone. A light blow may only get you two or three seconds, but that's all you need.
  • As I noted above, fists cannot take very much punishment. So if you are fortunate enough to have a hard object on hand with which you could block the punch -or into which you could deflect the punch, such as a brick wall or car window- then it can be advantageous to do so. If a wall or similar object is directly behind you then you may not even need to block or deflect; simply move out of the way. Depending on just how hard the person was trying to punch you and how strong the object is, this may altogether eliminate the need for a stunning blow on your part. However, this is not very easy to do, so you should not try it unless you are very confident that you will succeed. Also note that trying to block an incoming punch with one of your own, as you may have seen in movies or anime, is a Bad Idea, as your fist is not likely to be significantly stronger than your opponent's.

Finally, if you need to know when someone is going to punch, do not watch their hands. Don't watch their eyes either. Many fighters can use false body language to fake a punch, wait for you to respond, and then react accordingly. A few, as SharQ mentioned, are good enough to catch you by surprise even if you look at these areas. So instead, watch the base of the opponent's neck. You will never face anyone who can feint from here or hide a punch from here.

I would like to comment a bit on the above writeups.

First, blocking a punch. I assume that by blocking, we mean "let the punch hit you on the outside of your arms instead of, say, the head or the solar plexus", as a deflection of the attack has already been mentioned. It might not be as good a solution as to not be there when the punch arrives, but compared to the alternative of having the fist connect to your face, it's a damn good one. It is also fairly easy, as we instinctively try to protect our head. It is not instinctive to step sideways towards an attacker, and the latter requires a bit of training.

Of course, when it comes to winning a fight (that is, walking away without too much injury), just blocking won't help you, as sooner or later, a punch will get through your guard.

On the subject of hit locations to stun the assailant, I will assume that SharQ is talking about the side of the ribcage, not the front. If you've stepped in so that you're in front of your attacker, instead of by his side, go for the groin, nose or solar plexus. The frontal parts of the chest can take hard punches without causing much pain, and if you're like me, and don't have all that much power in your punches, your opponent will probably just laugh and smack you hard in the side of your head with his elbow.

Even if you hit somebody with a lot of force in one of these painful areas, remember that a determined assailant with a large amount of adrenaline in his body (or high on certain drugs, I'm told) might shrug it off like it was nothing, with no seconds-long period of being stunned. I add this as cautionary information.

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