Ax Hand

In Combatives, the Ax Hand is a very useful addition to your technique toolbox.  It’s very easy to perform, especially under survival stress, and extremely versatile.  We usually teach the long and short ax hand.  I like Kelly McCann’s description of how to form the Ax Hand.  Extend the fingers and the thumb, which makes the hand very rigid.  He explains that extending the thumb helps to keep the hand from cupping.


We usually use the Short Ax Hand to the trachea as part of an attack sequence.  Project the edge of the hand forward, without cocking it.  We use a little stomp that others call the “drop step”.  This gives you more power with the strike (the foot falls after the blow is dealt).  I’ve never been able to find consistent information on how much pressure it takes to crush the trachea, but suffice it to say, you will get someone’s attention and it will HURT.


We use the Long Ax Hand within an attack sequence, as well.  The body is turned slightly, as the hips are engaged to generate power.  With a chopping motion, we generally strike to the side of the neck, around the Brachial Plexus Origin.


Kelly McCann applies the Ax Hand from two separate starting positions.  The first is what he calls the “subservient stance”.  The hands are folded together, resting against the body at the area of the groin, and the chin is tucked.  From here, he loops the Ax Hand around in an arc towards the side of the neck.  He also utilizes the drop step (same leg as striking hand) here to add power to the strike.  He emphasizes bringing the other hand up to a guard position.  The other starting position is one we also use: the Jack Benny Stance.  Like with our version of the Long Ax Hand, he turns the body a quarter turn as if turning away (shoulder comes up here) and strikes, in an arc again towards the neck/brachial plexus region. 


By the way, if you don’t know what a Jack Benny Stance looks like, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.  This is Jack Benny, and the stance looks just like this!  J




Rex Applegate, in his book, Kill or Get Killed, describes the edge of the hand blow (i.e. the Ax Hand) as “valuable because it can be utilized at vulnerable spots of the body which would not be susceptible to blows from the fist or heel of the hand.”  He keeps the fingers together and the wrist locked.  Like McCann, Applegate also emphasizes keeping the fingers and thumb extended to avoid “clenching” the hand.  In application, he states that the elbow should be bent, and that the strike be a chopping motion, with a hit and retraction, in order to localize the force within a small area.  He explains that this increases the effectiveness.  This makes a lot of sense when you look at the targets: forearm, windpipe, base of skull, under the nose, bridge of nose, base of spine, and of course, the side of the neck.  Above all targets, he prefers the testicles.  As a final note, he recommends that the edge of hand blow be used with the strong side arm, and with the same side leg leading. 


On Dennis Martin’s Combatives Forum,, he has a quote by E.A. Sykes, describing the Ax Hand:


The most deadly blows without weapons are with the side of the hand.
All the force is concentrated in one area.  The effect of these blows is obtained by the speed with which they are delivered, rather than the weight behind them.


This is right in line with Applegate’s thoughts on the subject.


Dennis believes that the Ax Hand is highly underestimated (probably more so in recent times, I imagine).  He also utilizes and highly recommends the Vertical Ax Hand: “like the Hammerfist, it can be used to a crouching assailant, targeting the neck, spine, kidneys”.  Some practitioners complain that it hurts to train the Ax Hand until the meaty part of the hand is conditioned for it.  I find this is true for me, though I usually grin and bear it (the Thai boxer in me).  It especially hurts training it on a BOB.  Dennis explains that hitting a person is a bit different from hitting pads.  He has devised a special cylindrical pad to train it, which better represents a human target.  He also recommends training it on focus mitts.  Thai pads are particularly unforgiving.


We use the Vertical Ax Hand on a different target—the top of the shoulder, close to the neck.  My instructor, a big Star Trek fan, talks about Captain Kirk using this chop in fights on the TV show.  There is a nerve motor point here: the Suprascapular.  I can attest to the fact that this one hurts.


So there you have it–the Ax Hand from many different perspectives.  As with any technique, train it in a multitude of ways, find what works for you and your body, and tuck it into your toolbox.  The Ax Hand is brutally effective, tried and true; keep in mind that the simplest techniques are always the best when you’re under pressure.  Keep this in mind, ALSO: some of these strikes can distract with pain, some can cause temporary motor dysfunction, and some CAN CAUSE DEATH.  Remember: even with empty-hand techniques, you are a deadly weapon, and you must accept full responsibility.  Train safely and responsibly.


1 Comment

  1. […] Here is the original: Ax Hand « Gutterfighting USA Weblog […]

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta