Just the other day I was showing a bunch of 7th kyu students how to form the hand. In order to demonstrate exactly what I could do with it, I proceeded to use the spearhand to strike their chest region. They were shoved backwards, some grunting was in evidence, and they started covering and guarding against further strikes. My fingers remained unbroken.
To be clear, I don't condition my hands very much at all, and I certainly don't condition the spearhand. I've got no time nor inclination to do so. Therefore, all the mythical and purported things you can do with the spearhand like separate the ribs, rip out the heart, or stick the weapon into the stomach ... well, I won't even contemplate the stupidity of my attempting it. I'd even avoid breaking boards or applying it on a watermelon - both of which I've seen done in demonstrations.
But the fact remains I can strike really hard with my spearhand, and I should be pleased I've received compliments on how I teach the spearhand (see CastleInTheMist Taekwondo's comment that former student Sonia's spearhand is a "proper spear-hand.")
To show the formation of the spearhand, I hold my hand upwards and pretend to "scoop rice floating off the top of the water." It's a very shallow 'shovel' with the middle three fingers squeezed together. I don't particularly like to get students to look down at their upheld hand and then force the fingers into position because invariably some hyperflexing occurs and that just ruins it. I also don't like thinking about bending the middle finger - bending it purposefully reduces it's ability to apply supporting strength to the other two fingers.
I prefer allowing the fingers to come together from a more-or-less relaxed but almost straightened position. The focus is on bunching the fingers together to form the spearhand, not straightening the fingers in a particular way. Also the impact has to be taken by the whole hand, and not just the fingers or the last one or two joints of the fingers. If you think of it that way the hand is gently curved and that prevents damage to your fingers.
For tactical advantage, I wouldn't really fire the spearhand from the hip. I know Do-san gets you to do this, but this part of form isn't telling you how to be tactically sound. From the hip, I would bring the spearhand as close to centreline as possible and then fire it from there. This means that you could potentially fire the spearhand from 'the fence' or if your hands are blocking or trapping. OR if you are being trapped. The spearhand can fire 'up and over' the obstacle and still hit the opponent's neck or eye region relatively easy. It can be held vertically or horizontally. No need to pierce watermelons on the way in.
Holding the hand vertical or horizontal depends on the guard you have and how you've got to snake around the opponent's arms. The vertical spearhand would however best be landed on the carotid artery, and the horizontal one can hit the opponent in the hollow of the neck above the sternal notch. Both of course can hit the opponent in the eye.
I have unfortunately used the spearhand unthinkingly before. As a youth I would take apart a form and practice it over-and-over again. While sparring with a school friend, the spearhand shot out, without my ability to hold it back. The only way it didn't blind my opponent was because at the last second I relaxed my fingers and allowed them to retract. I can't tell you how close I was to blinding my friend. So I'd offer you all a word of warning - apply such techniques with caution and always include more care when teaching young children.
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