What are your end goals? Unconsciousness or inner-ear damage? Or both?
Will you use:
- a somewhat flat, slightly curved hand strike, or
- an oddly-shaped, hollowed-out palm, a canoe-like, curved, suction-cupped hand?
Both are distinctly taught in various quarters. I think the old official manual word "cup" causes some confusion.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, I think the primary goal is smacking the head and splashing the brain. I say take a pass on the extra canoe-shaped hand config and use the flatter palm. The flatter, only slightly naturally curved hand will blast the side of the head and some of the face with better force, and also quite probably clap the ear, too. The hollowed-out, like-a-suction-cup, palm hand version will not be this versatile. And remember we are often fighting moving targets.
Maybe the above photo series helps explain what I mean. The natural palm shape is slightly curved anyway. I have attended martial and police classes where the suction-cupped hand was used to strike not only the ear but the side of the neck, the liver, etc. Why?
Also, remember that all experts since WW II's Fairbairn state that the inner ear injury at best is only a possibility. No guarantee. You may or might hurt the inner ear, and to then what degree? None of these martial and military instructors are ear doctors. And the doctors treating concussive ear injuries from fights in emergency rooms and in their offices cannot state the exact shape of the striker's hand when their patients were hit.
When I was in Army basic training way-back-when in the early 1970s, we had a palm-strike and ear-strike pattern to work on in conjunction with eye-attack finishes.
1. Right palm strike to the left ear, eye gouge the left eye with the right thumb.
2. Left palm strike to the right ear, eye gouge the right eye with the left .
3. Double ear strike, double eye gouge with both thumbs.
I still teach this three-part pattern above as an introduction to the idea, standing and ground, too - as I have added it to the ground for topside, bottom-side, and downed side-by-side exercises for an introduction and for familiarization.
There are both hooking palms and thrusting palms. Thrusting palms usually strike with the heel of the hand, and this may look also like some form of a semantic "cup hand" as in the chin jab or chin push, confusing accolades.
1. The primary goal of the strike is to blast and slosh the brain. The lessor and secondary goal might be to concuss the inner ear. An added benefit? I don't know. The success of the concussive impact on the ear varies and is way less of a priority.
2. Any palm strike that surrounds and seals the ear significantly could cause damage to the inner ear. No special, odd, unnatural hand configuration and extra training is needed to do this. A simple, natural, palm strike will do.
3. The added extra-shaped, hollowed-out, cupped position suggested by some is an odd and a bit unnatural position when compared to the simple palm strike. The added hollowed-out hand position requires more training and makes for less of a power shot.
4. Cupping. The word, the term. The official "Cupping Hand Strike." Is this really just semantics? I mean, just how cupped do some people want us to go?
Does this photo contain the real, original "cupped hand"? The true definition? And we somehow have bastardized it through the years into being the curved-canoe hand position for a suction-cup strike?
Palm strike the side of the head in a natural position. If you get the ear with your palm, you may well still have a shot at the concussive damage. This natural hand position still offers a flatter hand sealing over the ear and is better than an extra-cupped hand where air will escape and which will probably not offer any kind of a seal.
Pre-constructing a pre-hit, special, suction-cup, hollowed-out hand position for a force-air strike bubble and the extra training for that position is really unnecessary when you spend a few moments to think clearly about it. This is not some kind of myth-busting big deal. This is a small observation, but that is why I don't teach that version of the hollowed-out, "cupped" hand strike to the ear.
Here's the deal, I think. People who make and market part of the business and draw their fan base from being connected to the marketable mystique of "World War II Combatives" material have to actually "raise the flag" up once in awhile. One way to do this is to teach the cupped hand strike.
Post Script 1:
In South Korea in the 70s, my partner and I were on a foot patrol "walking the beat," and he had his pistol snatched right from his hand right in front of me when he decided to arrest an uncooperative knucklehead.
My partner drew and pointed the pistol, hip-high, at the guy when he decided to arrest this problem child and he resisted. The guy (untrained missile jockey) reached out with two hands and twisted the pistol right out of his hand and pointed it right back at my friend. My MP friend instantly double-ear slapped the guy. The guy fell to one knee and dropped the pistol. His jaw dropped. Eyes went lifeless. He "left the universe"; and if we hadn't grabbed him, he would have fallen over for sure. Like a slo-mo TKO. But I swear the entire thing was about three seconds.
We half-carried him back to our little security headquarters, where he remained jacked up for some time that night. This was no special, suction-cupped-shaped hand. Just two flat hands to the ear.
I don't want to get into the pistol issue here, because I have no answers for you. The gun was aimed right at his chest when he ear-slapped the guy! Very dangerous! (But was there a round in the chamber? The rule was "no" in those days. Safety on? I don't know. Should have asked about this but was too dumb to.)
I can't say I know anything about the guy's medical condition as a result. I do recall he was back in the village creating trouble again and up and running his missile-jockey boards again - I think the next day. So he recovered.
Post Script 2:
Right after publishing these notes on the palm strike, I received hate mail from WW II Combatives' corners as well as their fan-boys. One described my "ignorance as disgusting." Another declared that he had to take his son to an emergency room once because he was struck with a cupped hand to the ear on a school bus fight. "It works!" he declared.
Then I asked the dad, "How could you possibly know that the hand was cupped or flat?" No answer, of course. He doesn't know. He doesn't know how shallow his thought process on this is.
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