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Collarbone is a desirable target because it's designed by nature to break easy. (Absorb impact and make falls more survivable.)

I practice a few techniques pakua and tongbeiquan that utilize the forearms, but these styles require extensive internal training, such that they're not practical for most, or in a general sense.

  • What are the most practical ways to break the collarbone, ideally not requiring specialization?

The accepted answer should focus on the applications are most practical and reliable for martial artists in general, but discussion of any techniques are welcome.

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    Give your attacker a bike and wait a year or two. :) – Steve Weigand Nov 19 '20 at 4:59
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    During fights, people often continue fighting with broken bones. They feel it later when they're recovering. The focus should not be on bone breaking. It's fine, but only in the context of your "core" strategy, which is to get yourself to a position where you can control your opponent and deliver damage reliably. If you have that, then you can go for these bone breaks and other things. But personally, I think you'd want to do a KO, submission, choke, or stun and run. Those win the fights. Collarbone breaks don't. My thoughts anyway. But I get that the question bypasses that issue. – Steve Weigand Nov 19 '20 at 17:22
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    @SteveWeigand Indeed. File under "It's not how hard you can hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep going." (I was taught that breaking the collarbone is not a finishing move, but part of longer strategy of attrition.) – DukeZhou Nov 19 '20 at 19:17
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    @Vorac There are two things that stop you from fighting with a broken bone. First is pain. Second is structural stability. During a fight, it's super common for someone to break their bones and not feel it. That's because of the adrenaline rush and the fight-or-flight phenomenon. You'll feel it after the fight, but not as much during the fight. Pro fighters break their ribs, fingers, and arms and still fight. Structure is the real problem. If a bone breaks in a way that causes a loss of structural stability, then you just can't fight even if you don't feel pain. – Steve Weigand Nov 24 '20 at 17:35
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    @SteveWeigand I fully agree. This was a bicycle crash, so nearly zero adrenaline - just loss of structure. To compare, a broken leg hurts a ton AFTER the adrenaline wears off of course. – Vorac Nov 24 '20 at 17:38
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OK, lets get a little science-y.

According to a study on biomechanics of the collarbone fracture, average axial (along the length) load before fracture was slightly over 1500 newtons. For reference, 9000 newtons is roughly equal to the downward pull of 1 ton. According to this article on Livescience, a human can generate ~ 5000 newtons with a punch, 9000N with a kick. (Just a note: I was not able to find corresponding newtons for a non axial load. As the collarbone acts as a shock absorber to break on point falls, most are concerned with said axial load before compromise).

So then, why aren't we breaking bones left and right?

Muscle, position, sharpness of the blow and resistance/lack of anticipation all play a factor. So look at the position of the clavicle, it's at the top of the chest. Any punch coming in would have to be extremely focused so as not to spread the technique against a broad area. A downward angle would give you the best chance, so that limits the techniques. Downward hammer fist, downward knife hand, downward elbow, downward axe kick are about the only really practical techniques to use.

Now that we've identified angle and technique, look at application. You are still aiming at a very small target, if you are too far in front you will miss (and now be in close range), if you are too close you either hit the neck muscles or miss entirely. You really are aiming at a point at most two inches square, which is very hard to hit in a moving fight situation. If you are in close for whatever reason, a downward elbow might work, but you stand a much better chance using that elbow across the face. Orbital fractures, nasal fractures, or just plain stunning are all much more likely outcomes than aiming for a small target that won't incapacitate anyone.

So while it's possible to do, it takes specific techniques aimed at a small target, and if you are actually able to break the collarbone, it is far from incapacitating. There are bigger, squishier targets that will inflict much more damage than a fairly inconsequential bone.

  • I like your answer, but why take anything off the menu? (i.e. if an attacker is good at defending the face and groin.) Collarbone strike can be used to weaken their guard. And, if you've already broken it, additional strikes to the target might even make the opponent flinch. I personally would use this, with level changes, to open up the eventual target of the knee or foot, to take away the opponent's mobility and end the conflict. – DukeZhou Dec 9 '20 at 23:49
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    Because you specified "...most practical ways to break the collarbone, ideally not requiring specialization...". Personally I'd never target the collarbone specifically, I'd be going after the pressure points in the neck, brachial stun, that sort of thing if I am attacking the head. A good hammer strike in that area can do a lot of collateral damage enabling further techniques. – JohnP Dec 10 '20 at 14:21
  • Thanks for commenting. It makes sense to go for the neck over the collarbone, if you can hit it, and attacking the nerves is more gentle than attacking the windpipe! (Probably many of those karate strikes I see that could be used for collarbone are neck strikes, as you explicate.) – DukeZhou Dec 14 '20 at 23:03
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I have no idea of its practicality, as I've never practiced it in a real-life way, but way back when in my Chuck-Norris-style Tang Soo Do classes (later, Chun Kuk Do), our teacher told us the best way was a double-chop, or double hammer fist, to the collarbone in the front on both sides, with the bonus being that you might disrupt the carotid flow enough to cause someone to suffer a brief blackout. In retrospect, it feels more like the description of what an actor might do in a film to signify breaking a collarbone.

I've only ever broken one collarbone in my life, and it was by regrettable accident. Another student and I were messing around. They were wearing an exercise band around their ankles (it was used to improve abductor strength through leg raises) and they were showing off how they could hop over leg sweeps. I purposefully feinted one, and then carried through, sweeping both legs (possible in part due to the exercise band) and they landed on their side. They seemed OK at first, but I later learned that their collarbone had indeed snapped. I felt incredibly guilty, particularly since the student, while a higher rank, was younger than I was. That said, it was exactly the sort of freak accident that leads to most collarbone injuries, and the fact that he didn't realize until much later that it had broken indicates that this is not generally a fight-ending injury.

  • I think the last sentence is the most important here: If we are speaking about real-life self-defense applications, breaking the collarbone is not a worthwhile goal on the first place. The same force, applied to the face, will probably prove to be more effective. – Philip Klöcking Dec 3 '20 at 22:52
  • Definitely not a determinative strike! But, if combat extends for a long enough period, adrenaline and endorphins may reduce, such that pain surfaces. And it definitely doesn't enhance the opponent's capability. – DukeZhou Dec 9 '20 at 23:51
  • @PhilipKlöcking I agree but see my comment to John P's answer on using it to open the guard for definitive strikes. Strategy is as important as technique, in my experience. – DukeZhou Dec 9 '20 at 23:52
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I'm going to get the ball rolling.

  • T'ai chi ch'üan has a technique called "back fist chop", which is usually thought of as a strike to the face with the back of the fist, but can be used, via the back of the forearm, as a collarbone strike.

But it would be hard to do that without significant internal technique, or unless the practitioner is very strong. (Also note that it doesn't work from the outside—the move typically begins from an "embrace ball", where the off-hand has countered a strike or push, and pulls the opponent's arm down while executing the back fist chop.)

  • Hsing I Ch'üan has many strikes that can be used to break the collarbone

Including moves that are similar to back fist chop—fast counter, pull/strike with maximum focusing.

Xing Yi Quan is more practical for most practitioners b/c it works pretty well even without a high level of internal technique. (It's sometimes called the easiest and the hardest internal art—easier to use for fighting earlier, but the high-level fa jin typically takes the longest to attain.)

A collarbone break would typically be Pi Quan, which is often described as chopping.

"Pi Quan belongs to Metal... because the movement of the hand is like an ax chopping."

[Trans: Yang Jwing-Ming, Liang Shou-Yu, Xingyiquan Theory, Applications, Fighting Tactics and Spirit ]

It can also be done with a Pao Quan like motion and stance, moving and striking obliquely with the bottom side of the forearm, where the fist is a hammer.


Side of the forearm is ideal for bone-to-bone contact.

An advantage to the forearms is it increases likelihood of contact with the target—extending in front of and behind the target area.

Here, the striker can follow-up by grabbing the back of the opponent's head, and smashing it into a knee strike, or simply putting the on the ground.

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