The Power Slap

 One of the dangers of striking to the head of a human being is that the skull and jaw (with teeth in it) present some very real dangers to the striking hand.  One can easily break a closed fist when hitting the skull.  Punching someone in the mouth can cut you badly — or leave the other party’s teeth embedded in your hand.  (Nasty infections can result from that kind of thing.)  Even if no serious damage is done, the pain of striking a hard surface with a clenched fist can cause you enough shock or distraction that you’ll lose the initiative.

A great technique that solves this problem is to use your palm to slap the opponent.  This is not, however, a simple slap to the cheek, which does no real harm.  Instead, we’re going to use a power slap — a technique that starts from the low line to take the opponent by surprise, delivering serious force that should take him off balance and may even knock him down or knock him out.

The photos below are captures from a video sequence in which I perform a power slap. From a neutral stance, I let my right arm fall to my side (if you’re just standing there, your arm is probably already in this position) as my left arm comes up to guard.  In this photo I’ve already got my palm ready to strike the right side of the opponent’s face, just over the ear and upper part of the jaw hinge.


 My arm arcs up, extended, starting to bend as my palm reaches the side of the opponent’s head.  In the photo below, you can see the head of the Body Opponent Bag (BOB) compressing as the shock of my strike travels through it.  My body has begun to torque to my left as I step into the strike and twist.


 An instant after the strike lands, my arm is starting to pull through the slap…


 …and you can see it start to slide down and off the opponent.  I’m still twisting, turning through to my left.


 When I’ve completed my follow-through, my arm has retracted and is up in a guard position, while I’ve completed stepping through the strike and am now oriented at a forty-five degree angle to the left (compared to where I started, facing the BOB straight-on).  You’ll notice also that I’m much lower now than when I started.  It is this sinking into the strike as you turn and torque that makes the slap quite powerful. 

Comparing BOB’s position from photo to photo should show you that he moves significantly from this slap to the head — no small thing considering how high-up he’s been struck.  (He’s returned to his resting state in the last photograph.)


Slaps of this type are used in many martial arts, such as Silat, and can be used to good effect without undue risk of injury to the practitioner.  With a little practice you can deliver these strikes without telegraphing them and while generating a great deal of power.

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4 thoughts on “The Power Slap

  1. Slaps like the one you display are one of the most effective and under apreciated strikes there are.

  2. One of the techniques i learn early in my career as a bouncer and bodyguard was the slap. The mission was to “bitch” slap a person with the center of your palm to the cheek bone of the face. This accomplished 3 possible scenarios.

    1: they get hit, they react by cowering with, “ok man, i’ll go!” …… You’re in control.

    2: they get hit, they react by getting hit in disbelief and get pissed and charge you. ……You’re in control because they are not.

    3: they get hit, they don’t react and take a step back to size you up. …’re still in control but will probably have a fight on your hands.

  3. We use this type of strike, though we have a cooler name for it Panther paw(lol) if you land it on the ear or temple it is a very disorientating strike, Ive even landed a few knock outs in full contact sparring secessions. Nice to see someone who actually understand the usefulness of this strike.

  4. Dear Mr. Elmore,

    I first read of the power of this technique in a book published in the ’60’s, called (I think) “Secret Fighting Arts of The World”. Decades later, as a Texas Peace Officer, I had occasion to use it in response to a “family disturbance” call, when a very large (“Orca fat”) female slapped me from behind on my right ear (still have hearing deficit). My response was a perfectly executed “cupped” hand strike to the side of her head that dropped her, unconscious, to the floor. Thanks for your article.

    Mike Russell

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