You are here:

Self Defense/How different is the gap of damage from punches vs weapons (and other weapons vs other weapons)?


Sorry if the heading question sounds clumsy and the last time I tried to ask this question (I understand it was fucking sloppy and I overextended the details).

I'm going to assume that ou at least remember some of the details so I'll try to keep it short and concise ASAP.

As I mentioned last time, mainstream journalism, biographers and popular media always make it a fuss that Mike Tyson  can throw blows with such high PSI that it can break through tanks  and how Mas Oyama can chop through a live aggressive bull's horn with one hand.

But this leads me to a big question As you rightfully pointed out, pro fighters throw hundreds and hundreds of punches despite how journalists always write about Bruce lee having the power to kill a man with a direct roundhouse.

Yet complete amateurs who never even played a game of baseball can easily KO a muscular man with strong chin in one swing, even knocking his teeth out and you mentioned that without any training at all, an obese nerdy waste can get a $5 hammer at a local store and seriously fuck up a knight's well made plate armor with one sloppy clumsy swing.

Is the gap really that great and why so? I mean the fact an old man using a 12 ounce stick can easily make someone like Klitschko brothers seriously bleed  if he simply throw his stick at the face is making me severely confused and curious.

And its not just unarmed powerful blows with PSI measured  by the hundreds, I also am wondering about how different the gap in damage is for different weapons. I mean despite weighing the same and weighing much lighter, a frying pan can knock out someone far easier than say a sai or other Japanese martial arts weapon (esp if amateurs tryt o use either).

Why could a  pillow do far more serious damage from a nobody like me than a boxing punch from George Foreman which is measured as being strong enough to pierce car doors?. I use pillows because I was shocked as fuck to learn that adults who play in pillow fighting have gotten not only bleeding nose and mouth but even broken chins or gash wounds when their kids hit them with the pillow. NOT LYING this happened to my uncle and from a child who is so weak I can carry his whole body with one arm.

I apologize if this is irritating you but it shocks me so much that an untrained person can simply throw a Gatorade drink at someone cand cause a broken nose right away,something that pro boxers have difficulty doing even to out of shape untrained accountants!

Shouldn't Tyson be in jail for murder  since his punch should have killed random drunks who pissed Tyson off at a local bar? Since his punch should be able to wreck a tank apart? But a mere glass tin metal drinking cup can knock out Ricky Hatton in an instant? (YES this incident really did happen in a bar)?

Is there something sports journalism. martial artist biographers, and TV documentaries seriously leaving out everytime they write about Marciano punching door stalls apart or Brock Lesnar being able to break through a fence by tackling because his recorded sprawl is so full of force?

Please tell me what I have to research if I'mm missing basic knowledge behind understanding this inconsistency in effective damage from kicks and punches vs smashing a computer modem over someone's head?

Okay, a little less sloppy, but maybe it's workable this time.

First off, let's talk about journalism. An actual journalist working on an actual news story is a 'reporter.' That means he -- and this is important -- should report the facts of a situation and the claims of either party involved 'equally.'  (My wife, who ran a newspaper for twenty years, often says "A good news story pisses everyone off because it reports all sides equally.")Facts are facts, but even then they need to be checked. Claims... well they need to be checked. At the very least, ID'ed AS claims.

You need to know that to understand 'a feature' or article about someone. Usually a feature is promoting someone. So it's kinda slanted towards the person. So the writer is trying to find something to spin it or will uncritically report claims to make things look wowie kazowie. Really Mike Tyson can punch through a car door? Yeah right bullshit. Can he punch with the same psi that -- if he was swinging the spike end of a pick--  he could drive the spike through a car door? Sure, except I did that as a 10 year old.* So the journo is going to twist shit around to make it sound a lot cooler and more impressive, because he wants to excite the reader. So just because it's in print doesn't mean it isn't a BS claim.

Moving on...

Many people have tried to apply physics to striking -- including myself. Straight up, it's like try to nail Jell-O to a tree.  In other words, good fuckin' luck. I'm going to limit the following to punching ONLY and by the time I'm done you'll see why it would be too big of a subject otherwise.

Here is the end answer: You can apply an understanding of physics, math and measurements TO A PARTICULAR PUNCH. What you cannot do is apply it to punching in general.

There are things called "variables." In a particular moment in time, for a particular punch, they can be measured -- after the fact. They CANNOT be predicted or completely controlled before or AS the punch is happening.

And that right there is both the crux of your question and why it's impossible to answer your question the way you want it answered.

All I can do is give you the parts that you can use to understand how punching works and what makes a particular punch more or less effective.

Let's -- for the sake of explanation -- say that a 'perfect' punch has 10 different elements that, if each are a (positive) 10, you'd get a perfect score of 100.  If everything works just right you get that ultimate power you're thinking great punchers magically have. (That would be Tyson punching through a car door)

The problem is not only is nobody likely to get that perfect score anyway, but giving the whirling chaos of changing circumstances, things are constantly changing. Let's say that the perfect range for a punch is the spike. Too far out, too close and you lose power.


I'm REALLY extending this out timewise, but let's call each of those lines one second. The first flat line is too far out. That's the one second the guy is moving through that range. You can reach him, but there's very little effective power delivery there. (6) The / is one second where the guy is coming into range, but not in the perfect spot yet. (8) Yeah, there's more power, but because the range is wrong, it's not quite all that it could be. The peak is the one second where the guy is in perfect range for maximum power delivery (10). The \ is too close and there's power reduction (back to 8). The next line is down to 6 again because he's too close.

Like I said, this is ridiculously over extended time wise, but it's to show you that WHEN your blow lands (somewhere in those five seconds) is going to have a LOT to do with how much power is going to be delivered. It's called hitting a moving target.

And guess what? In real life it's actually happening within two seconds. How well can you get your punch to that 'sweet spot' within two seconds?  Hell, could you even recognize when those conditions are developing? That's why boxers practice.

Now make a list of 10 things that could add or subtract power. Things that some the puncher can control, others he can't.  That's why you can measure a particular blow for those elements AFTER it's happened, but not before.

At least in a fight.

A lot of the demos that you see are people controlling those elements to do a wowie kazowie demonstration. The guy who punches down through a pile of bricks looks awesome, but the downward angle into the earth and the construction of the stack of bricks makes it do-able. If he was moving and the stack was up in the air and moving, he wouldn't be able to do it.

So without those specialized circumstances is he 'able' to punch that hard? That's a simple question, but it is why saying someone can 'punch that hard, all the time' is bullshit. The ability to punch hard requires certain conditions.

Now let's go back to something I said that (I hope) struck you as weird. I said "...if each are a (positive) 10...". The reason I said it that way is that, the other person can actually turn things into negative numbers.  Yeah what you're doing would make it an eight, but what he's doing can reduce it to a negative three.  If he does this, it will be 8. If he does that, it will be 2, but if he does this other thing you're down to -3. Eight he'd be hurt, 2 not so much, -3 not at all.

Again, this is why it's impossible to predict force using physics. You can only measure it AFTER the fact.

You asked about an adult getting a bloody nose in a pillow fight. Ever watch kids in a pillow fight? If you do, you'll see a lot of the time they dodge or move with the blow. Still other times, when they get hit, they turn and move to present their backs as where they take the hit. This is the whole numbers up and down thing I've been talking about. Moving increases or decreases the force.

On the other hand, you'll see the an adult -- assuming he can take it -- just standing there. This ups the chances of more power being delivered. So yeah, getting hit in the face, while not moving could cause a bloody nose. But it's not so much the power the kid is swinging the pillow with, but the adult creating conditions where the maximum force could be delivered.

So yeah, anybody who is talking about how powerful a puncher someone is is going on about that person doing it in ideal and controlled conditions. Which in case you ain't talking about doing it on the fly.

*We got to trash a car. So I can speak from person experience about puncturing a car with a pick.

Self Defense

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

See CV

Too numerous to list here. My CV (for my expert witness work in court) is at

Read "In the Name of Self-Defense" the streets don't give a Ph.D in scuffle.

Awards and Honors
See CV

Past/Present Clients
See CV

©2017 All rights reserved.