Taekwondo Spear Hand

Do-san Step 6 is an open palm block and spearhand - which we talked about previously vis a vis opponent height. I'd like to take a step back and talk about the weapon itself.

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.

Stay safe!

Karate and Elvis
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Colin Wee
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SooShimKwan said…
Nice post.

Interestingly, the ITF version of the spearhand thrust in Do-San Tul is not done from the hip either. Instead it fires from about chest height, and at an angle, rather than the centreline.

The hands are brought up into a "see, I have no weapons"-position and from there the downward palm block and spearhand-thrust occurs.
Bob Patterson said…
In the style I learned the spear hand was stuck in the forms. It never was practiced in the self-defense steps. I've seen the videos of those who condition their fingers and can break through wood. However, I really did not appreciate it until I started in kung fu. There I was exposed to all sorts of finger eye pokes (not the spear hand per se). Though as taught in KF they are not done with hard style power.

I have a piece of wood mounted on my garage wall. I still occasionally practice eye pokes on it. The key is to find the right balance between hurting an opponent's eye and NOT hurting your fingers (too bad) if you miss and hit their head!
Colin Wee said…
As I said ... and fortunately I had good reflexes, I have used the technique on a friend when we were messing around. I nearly blinded him - and that was without a lot of effort. It doesn't take a lot.

A few years after that, I so happened to train with a chinese martial artist that was showing me some really cool stuff with his 'snake fist.' I totally loved it! It was much more versatile than the 'piston action' fired from the hip which we've learned in hard style systems, and is something I've taken away with for use in close quarter fighting.

Thanks for the insight. Let me ask ... would this technique be part of your arsenal if you had to use it in a bad situation? I mean you'd pummel a person, but would you think of going for the eyes?


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