Self-Defense with Knife Hand Strike

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Every martial art has knife hand strikes because they work!

Many people call it the judo chop or the thousand-hand strike. It's in almost every kata and martial art from karate to kung fu.

So how did this time-honored martial arts technique become a punchline? How did a secret technique become something your granddad did?

In 2002's movie, Goldmember, Austin Powers' patented “judo chop” cemented the death of the edge-of-the-hand strike. It's been outmoded, ineffective, or simply neglected since then.

However, there is still a small handful of dedicated practitioners who know the complete background and how to accurately administer the maneuver, described as “the most deadly blow without a weapon” by American close-combat pioneer Col. Rex Applegate.

Applegate and other close-quarters fighting professionals understood the edge-of-the-hand strike's effectiveness while working in China in the early 1900s, and they proved it in combat settings. It's been put on hold due to the rise of Western boxing, kickboxing, and now MMA.

While the strike has little use in the ring, it is useful in close fighting and self-defense. It's the most adaptable stunning style, and it's also the easiest to learn.

With its fragile bone structure, the hand's edge and heel are the only regions that can naturally absorb a beating while sustaining minimum harm.

In contrast, a blow without hand wraps or gloves often results in cracked knuckles or dislocated fingers if a head or elbow is struck.

To throw a good punch, you need to condition your hands, which can take months or years. After a few weeks of practice with your knife hand, you'll be able to hit any target on your opponent's body and inflict maximum harm with minimal or no injuries to yourself.

It can be used from any angle or posture. On your feet, it protects your head and neck while you take ground, keep your victim off balance, and attack.


On the ground, it helps. The edge of the hand is quite effective when dominating. If you try to punch a moving target, you risk breaking your knuckles. If you hit an elbow or the head, you risk shattering bones in your hand.

The edge-of-the-hand strike's arcing course reduces the risk of ground impact. That allows you to unleash a number of forceful, rapid strikes without fear of injury.

Even on the ground in a grappling match, you can distract and defend yourself from an attacker's attacks. You can protect yourself while trying to improve your position by swaying with your chin tucked, head lifted, and elbows raised.

Experts, including the Marine Corps and Navy SEALs, agree that to survive, you must deal as much harm to your target as possible while retaining your bone structure. This concept relies on the edge-of-the-hand shot.

It allows you to strike anyplace with a tremendous punch, resulting in startling strikes or fight-ending blows. A martial artist may make an outstanding strike that works in a variety of settings with the same amount of training as an average person.


The judo chop is making a comeback as more people see the necessity for no-nonsense self-defense tactics. It worked in Shanghai in 1910, and it still works in America's cities and towns today.

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