I know that Wing Chun has the chain punching that can target the chest / solar plexus so as to rattle the other guy and not provide any opportunity to recover. But why not do the same punches to the face?

Is there some benefit to punching your opponent in the chest that I’m not aware of? Is there much at all reality behind movies' depictions of someone being struck in the chest then coughing up blood or even dying?

I know that just about any technique could work, but why not go with the higher-percentage strikes which hurt the other guy more?

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    I think the problem here is that you think of chest/solar plexus interchangeably. The solar plexus, specifically, while on the chest, refers to a bundle of nerve tissue and ganglia, so punching someone in the ribs, while painful, will not create the reaction that punching the solar plexus does. It would be like treating "elbow" and "funny bone" interchangeably. Very different reactions to contact in those areas. Your entire body kinds of shuts down when the solar plexus is properly struck, so I'm not sure the claim of "more damage" is true for any head-shot. Aug 10, 2017 at 16:02
  • quora.com/… Aug 10, 2017 at 16:04
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    I had actually been thinking sternum, as that's where various Wing Chun actors on YouTube videos (I know... I know) seem to be punching. Sorry for the wording on the original question. Aug 10, 2017 at 19:31
  • Solar plexus is that soft spot right below the sternum, so maybe they are targeting it. I know that it's considered a target point in Hwa Rang Do, especially for a "knuckle punch." Aug 10, 2017 at 19:35
  • Me personally I think movie fantacy. But there is really no wrong anwser. Go with your heart if thats useful.
    – Lucy Clark
    Feb 27, 2018 at 18:42

4 Answers 4


Well, to start off, punching someone in the head is potentially harmful to the puncher. Skulls are made out of hard bone with few flat surfaces and several angles, which increases the risk of breaking your knuckles on contact. And that's if you're lucky enough to not make contact with something like the teeth, and also suffer additional lacerations. Frankly, the damage caused by punching a head is one of the major factors behind boxing gloves (the other major factor being preventing grappling, but that's a different topic). Compare that to the chest, which is largely flat, and therefore less likely to damage your hands. In addition, the head is a relatively small target, and one more easily moved away from the attacker than the torso, so it's going to be harder to target.

Lastly, yes, chest punches can be very damaging.

A chest contusion, or bruise, is caused by a fall or direct blow to the chest. Car crashes, falls, getting punched, and injury from bicycle handlebars are common causes of chest contusions. A very forceful blow to the chest can injure the heart or blood vessels in the chest, the lungs, the airway, the liver, or the spleen.

Pain may be caused by an injury to muscles, cartilage, or ribs. Deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing can increase your pain. Lying on the injured area also can cause pain.

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    +1 The solar plexus is a weak point, with just borders of the rib cage protecting vital organs, and no muscles to protect them (a in the abdomen). Aug 7, 2017 at 22:51
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    You can watch old bare knuckle and no rules fights, and see that broken hands aren't a big concern. Guys will continue to strike to the face/head, not caring that their hands break. I've done it myself (granted with MMA gloves). Broke my hand in the 2nd round, but it doesn't matter. Adrenaline keeps you fighting. That's how much of a massive damage difference striking to the face/head is, they're willing to break their own hands to damage the face/head, and hunt for the knock out blow.
    – coinbird
    Aug 8, 2017 at 15:37
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    @coinbird: You'll also notice that, in bare knuckle competitions, they generally avoid doing as many headshots, and they frequently instead strike with other parts of the fist. I will agree with you that people will keep fighting with broken knuckles in real fights. Then again, people will also try to break a beer bottle as an improvised weapon for a fight, or try to hold keys in their knuckles, both frequently leading to hand injuries. People in a fight aren't always smart. :) Aug 8, 2017 at 15:53
  • @SeanDuggan The evidence proves otherwise, see UFC 1-6 (and plenty of other promotions). Those were all bare knuckle, no rules fights, and you didn't see any more chest strikes than you would in modern MMA. There weren't guys using tons of palm strikes either. Note that these were tournaments, so after breaking their hands they had to fight MORE guys. Even then, dudes were swinging for the fences. I get what you're saying, breaking your own hands seems dumb, but the evidence proves otherwise. The best of the best fighters in the world consistently sacrifice broken hands to secure the win.
    – coinbird
    Aug 8, 2017 at 16:04
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    @coinbird And yet Irish bareknuckle boxing (the one with the "old-timey" stance people often parody with one arm extended) focused on palm strikes when hitting the head because they recognized the damage. And Lethwei has fighters purposefully moving their head to intercept fists with the forehead to damage the other person's hand. I think a lot of it has to do with different rules in different sports. There's a good article at fightland.vice.com/blog/… about why MMA styles differ. Aug 8, 2017 at 16:27

There are a couple of ways that a direct blow to the chest could cause damage, other than the freezing of the diaphragm from a blow almost anywhere along the line of the ribcage (Although the side edges and solar plexus are the more vulnerable points).

Breaking a rib

If you can punch around 3300 newtons of force, you have about 25% chance to fracture a rib, according to a Livescience article. A typical boxer can generate up to 5000 newtons with a punch. A fractured rib will impair both breathing and movement immediately, and depending on the break, a chance to rupture blood vessels running along the rib itself. (This also depends on angle of strike, bone condition of opponent, many factors. This is just a rough example).

Stopping the heart

A direct blow over the heart has a chance to stop the heart. The basic mechanism is that the blow strikes during the major repolarization phase of the heartbeat (Called a T wave on an ECG), and disrupts the rhythm. This is called commotio cordis and while rare and more prevalent in youths, it does happen in many sports, and has a mortality rate above 60%.

Why the chest?

As pointed out already, striking the face is potentially very harmful to the person doing the punching. Additionally, a punch to the face may do no more damage than a nosebleed and really enraging the opponent. Knocking a person out relies more on torque causing the brain to bang against the skull. There is no guarantee that you are going to be able to do that with a punch.

Add to that, the head is relatively small in area compared to the chest, and can easily be covered, or deflect blows coming at it. In comparison, the chest has a very broad area from front to back and top to bottom, and it takes a skilled person to guard that.

The final point - Against an untrained person, the typical reaction is to jerk the hands down in front of an incoming punch. An experienced fighter can target the ribs, potentially do damage and cause the hands to move, then target the face if desired once the guard is moved.


A little bit useful, a little more fantasy.

In the context of a real fight or an MMA fight, it's really only useful as a set up punch. IE, it's not a strike for damage, it's to open up the real damaging shots. There are much better set up punches, so they aren't used that often. Also due to the position of a traditional boxing or kickboxing guard, they're incredibly easy to defend.

I first need to define the "body". In fighting the body refers to strikes to the lower-outside ribs, lower ribs (below the solar plexus), stomach, and obliques (where your left hand liver shots hit).

Much like a body jab, body cross, and liver shot, you can get your opponent to think about their body a bit too much, and drop their hands. The same can be done with a chest punch. Here's the problem, body jabs, body crosses, and liver shots, and body hooks all do this better. They hurt more, do more damage, and most important, they cause your opponent to drop their hands lower to defend. This is key. The lower they drop their hands, the better time you have landing your follow up shot to the head. If you strike to the chest they don't have to drop their hands as low (if at all) to defend. It goes the same way for setting up body shots. The chest is too in the middle, so forcing someone to defend the chest doesn't do the job as well as head and body shots.

One could argue that an unblocked (good luck with that) chest strike could do damage. I've never seen someone hurt by one in all my years of MMA, and assume it would only work vs an untrained opponent, which isn't even worth talking about. Tons of ridiculous techniques work against untrained opponents.

  • @mattm OP is talking about punches thrown to your opponent's chest (pectoral and solar plexus area). It IS distinct from the "body shots" I mentioned, as body shots are (more effectively) thrown to the lower-outside ribs, lower ribs, stomach, and obliques. Is that what you're asking for?
    – coinbird
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:21
  • Yes, that's clear. Please edit that into your answer.
    – mattm
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:44
  • I tend to agree to most of this. However, I've seen some pretty damaging chest shots. Buddy of mine's had a broken sternum from a fight. Went back to training when the cartilage got on. Haven't seen anyone scream as much as he did on the benches when that cartilage broke. Another buddy got a back kick in the chest (accident from yours truly who didn't control his kick well enough...), moving and bruising the rib. He was out, checking his heart and catching his breath. The rumble the wing chun punches create must be devastating... if the chance opens. That's the main issue: getting the chance!
    – Raf
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:50
  • @mattm You deleted your original comment (or I can't see it?), so I don't remember what your question was. My reply is already essentially in the answer, second paragraph. I'm happy to edit if you think there's some specific detail that should be added though.
    – coinbird
    Aug 8, 2017 at 13:52
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    "I've never seen someone hurt by one in all my years of MMA" - wearing gloves/mitts? I've seen a bare knuckle chest punch cause a highly trained and conditioned competitor to glaze over and lose it completely for several seconds (TKO) during the All-Japan kyokushin karate tournament in Osaka a few years ago; Ochiai Kosei was the attacker - still, I've watched a lot more people get punched repeatedly by him with less dramatic results. It would be silly to expect it to be a fight-finishing move against a trained opponent.
    – Tony D
    Sep 2, 2017 at 5:32

I asked my instructor an analogous question once, when we were looking at a scenario where the defender has fallen and improvises by attacking the lower body. We started with strikes to the knees, and then to the groin. I asked why we don't immediately attack the groin to disable the attacker and secure safety for the defender ASAP. To answer, he tapped me on the knee just hard enough to prove that he could easily have caused me great pain.

Although obvious places to attack, such as the eyes, groin, jaw, and head generally, are important targets in a fight, there are other places in the body that are not as obvious but perhaps equally important. 3 more anecdotes to prove this point:

  • My instructor has a story that a well-placed hit on the clavicle by his instructor, done for demonstration purposes, caused him so much pain he nearly passed out.

  • The teacher that hit my instructor on the clavicle once flicked out his arm at me and knuckled me in the bicep for demonstration purposes. He took advantange of a nerve in the arm, and it felt like an electric shock. My elbow was stiff for 3 days. He related that the same strike with greater force could cause enough pain to render a person unconscious.

  • A sparring partner once got too excited and hooked me in the liver. I literally crawled out of the ring and started hyperventilating, and it took me at least 15 minutes to calm down. Another hit to the liver, probably not as hard, during boxing a few weeks later stunned me for around a minute, plenty of time that my partner then could have finished me off.

So it's not that it's wrong to think about hitting the attacker in the face, but if that is the only target you permit yourself, that is a disadvantage. Yes, there are other very worthwhile vulnerabilities in the body.

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