Yes Sensei, I did read about what happened with Mike Tyson a while ago. More recently, former K-1 and Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem had a bareknuckle altercation in a nightclub and almost lost his hand due to infection.
Sort of frightening Mark, don't you think? We had a case in Uechi; in fact it was to one of my former students, the late Allen Moulton.
He cut his knuckles in an altercation over the assailant's teeth, sepsis set in…his arm swelled up like a balloon…he made to the hospital just in time…where he was told…a few hours more and he would have been dead.
In karate however, we are taught to really distribute the impact on the knuckles of the index finger and middle finger for good structural support. This is further reinforced with regular knuckle pushups (on those same 2 knuckles) and some wrist strengthening exercises.
Very true, Mark. However the human brain was designed by nature to be enclosed/protected by the cranium which is as strong as a brick wall.
Once in Florida, where I had been invited by the visiting Okinawan masters[about 1974] to join them in a demo during a tournament, I broke four one inch boards with a head butt. Something I never did again and do not recommend because of the obvious dangers from the brain splash. But it demonstrates how 'wall like' the cranium is.
Furthermore it can be argued that only very few practitioners will take the time to condition their hands to an extreme extent. The average student will not, and so we must play the percentages.
Additionally, in the chaos of combat punches usually aimed at the softer spots on the face have a pretty good chance to end up striking the forehead as the opponent shifts and ducks, so chances of actually hitting that precise target and at just the right angle, are not high. Look at a boxing match and we see most punches to the head miss the intended target more often than not.
I found this to be true when fighting tournaments and trying to score hits to the face.
But the most frightening aspect of this is
unfortunately, wounds of the hand and foot are more likely to become infected due to many tendon sheaths, fascial planes and compartments that promote persistence and spread of the microorganisms which can come not only from your victim's mouth, but from the surface of your own skin as well.
A wound left untreated for three hours has a potential bacterial proliferation of more than 1,000,000 organisms/gram of tissue. Presence of even large numbers of organisms (up to 100,000 per gram of tissue) doesn't necessarily mean there is an infection, but in the case of high risk sites like the hand, joints, and bones, the potential complications are so serious (extensive tissue destruction and gangrene) that if bites and contamination with saliva are involved, most doctors will advise a 3-7 day prophylactic course of antibiotics whether there is clinical evidence of infection or not.
If you have erythema (redness), pain or tenderness, swelling, heat, and pus, then you have an infection.
That means there are a lot of microorganisms where they normally wouldn't be and shouldn't be. They will continue to double approximately once every 20-120 minutes, limited only by physical space and nutrient supply. You are eventually going to wish you hadn't punched that guy after all.
Your body will fight back. Fever is an attempt to create a temperature that inhibits the growth of the bugs. But it also causes tissue and organ damage and if high enough long enough can scramble your brain cells. You will also feel "unwell" and won't want to eat.
That isn't good because you'll be consuming 13 % more energy for every 1 % increase in body temperature. When you are malnourished, your immune system can't produce adequate numbers of T Lymphocytes, which increases your risk of infection and the severity of the infection when it happens.
Now, as to the effectiveness of the punch v. the open hand…well the open hand can be conditioned to be a lethal weapon. I saw a demo of Mas Oyama sensei at the John Hancock hall in Boston years back. He would break bottles and stones with his open hands.
However, we see that in many situations the fist emerges by instinct.
Under stress a human being regresses to primal states and the hand clenches into the fist of the ape-man!
When you watch TV and doze off holding the remote in your hand, you wake up to a different channel after squeezing the unit involuntarily.
One theory is that under fear of falling out of the tree when falling asleep, the primate [us] clenches the hands into a fist to hold on to that tree limb.
Also, when under the influence of the chemical cocktail, as the blood drains from the extremities and rushes to the major muscle groups, the hands move into a somewhat “numb” state and the fist clenches automatically in trying to regain some feeling!
Additionally, as the muscles of the forearms tighten along with the rest of the body, there is an initial sympathetic reaction affecting the fingers!
As the fingers tend to initially clench to form a fist, we lose manual dexterity, we drop things, and we cause involuntary discharges of firearms if our trigger finger is kept inside the trigger guard!
This is the main reason Glock went to the “NY trigger pull” for guns issued to cops__ a twelve pounds pull...in an effort to avoid accidental discharges by police under stress.
What this means is that it is very difficult to deprogram the instinctive clench of the fist, a situation exacerbated by the 'operant conditioning' of practicing techniques where the punch is used over and over.
Punches to the body are more effective that open hands to the body…so we want to make sure that any practice takes this into consideration…body punches..yes…head punches…No.
Then hope for the best.
But it has been argued that most of us are only kidding ourselves that we will have the luxury to “selectively” use our weapons in the time segments allotted to us in a real fight vying for immediate psychological and physical control!
We will flail, and we will mentally “shut down” and throw windmill PUNCHES!