Kidney Punch and Other Devastating Strikes

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Kidney punches have powerful and crushing effects. Although their use is illegal in most competitions, they may be a great technique for self-defense. Body strikes may not seem as dramatic nor theatrical as head punches, repeated and precise techniques by a skilled practitioner can 

If we consider our body as a computer, and the brain as the CPU, our organs are the vital supporting components. Biologically (for evolutionary and survival purposes), the major organs in human body are contained in the torso. This area is also protected by extensive musculature and ribs. Hence, aimlessly striking your opponent’s torso will have little to no effect. 

In this article, we will go over a few devastating strikes to the body – mainly kidney and liver punches. We will cover the anatomy of the organs, the effects of such strikes, striking techniques, and defense strategies.



What Are the Kidneys?

Kidneys are two vital organs located on your lower back, below the rib cage. They’re shaped like a bean and are no larger than a fist.


kidney location


Their main function is to filter the blood to remove toxins. Every day, they’ll screen 150 quarts of blood, from which only 1 to 2 quarts become urine. When they’re damaged or don’t function properly, these toxins remain in your bloodstream.

They’re also responsible for regulating body fluids. Kidney malfunction often results in puffiness, fluid retention and abnormal urination. 

In addition, they help control blood pressure and participate in producing the needed red blood cells to feed your muscles with the required oxygen.

There isn’t much padding around the kidney area. And so, that coupled with the above information — can you see how a kidney punch would take a fighter to the floor.



What’s a Kidney Punch?

A kidney strike is a localized and powerful strike right above one of the two kidneys. 

To throw a punch in the kidney, your opponent needs to expose his or her back to you. Alternatively, you can reach your competitor’s weak point by stepping to the side.



Kidney Punch Technique

Because a kidney punch can come in handy for self-defense in an unforeseen street fight, here are some guidelines to land a kidney punch. To open up your attacker’s kidney area, you need to know and use the right tactics. Unlike a liver punch, which we touch on later, it can’t be thrown while facing your opponent. 

Yet, you don’t necessarily have to turn your competitor around. Let’s have a look at the two primary approaches to a kidney punch:

  • Stand-up fighting.
  • While grappling.


hook punch practice on heavy bag


During a Stand-Up Fight

While standing in front of your opponent, you need to use the proper technique to move closer, then to reach their lower back:

  1. Take a step towards your opponent, towards the right side.
  2. Lock your rival’s arm with yours to prevent a potential punch.
  3. Meanwhile, slightly rotate their torso to expose the side and lower back.
  4. With your right hand, punch the kidney area as strong as you can. Use your knuckles and don’t let your opponent’s arm get free.
  5. To avoid retaliation, follow with other body strikes. Any punch would do, but sidekicks are the most commonly used as you’re already standing on your opponent’s side.


During a Clinch 

At this time, you’ll be body-to-body with your attacker. 

  1. Grab them by the back of the neck, slightly rotating the hips to reveal the lower back.
  2. To avoid kicks, block your opponent’s leg with yours.
  3. Strike the kidney spot in a sharp punch.

In either approach, always have an escape route. To reach the kidney, you need to get closer to your opponent, which means that you’re prone to counterattacks. 




Consequences of a Kidney Punch

This type of punch can vary in terms of pain level. A weak punch can hurt, but be bearable. A strong one, however, can lead to an instant submission. 

You’ll see internationally renowned fighters are able to take dozens of punches on the head. Yet, one kidney strike takes them out of the fight.

The consequences of such a strike can vary from simple soreness for a few days, to extreme fatigue or urinating blood for days. Sometimes, even breathing can hurt.



Is a Kidney Punch Legal in Competition?

In most competitions — including Mixed Martial Arts and boxing — kidney punches aren’t allowed. You can kick the side of your opponent as much as you like, but intentionally hitting the lower back is illegal.

Keep in mind that any penalty decision entirely relies on the referee’s decision. If your opponent can continue the fight, we’ve seen a first kidney punch being forgiven, and some points deducted. A second one, however, usually leads to a warning, while a third one would generally disqualify you from the competition.

What creates this grey area? A kidney punch is only forbidden when there is a clear intention, which isn’t always easy to decipher. The tactics we’ve described earlier are on-purpose kidney strikes.

Let’s take an example. You might be planning on hitting your attacker’s core. If they turn at the last instant, opening up their kidney area, and that’s where your strike lands, it’s considered an unintentional kidney punch. 



How to Avoid a Kidney Punch

Because your rival won’t always be punished for throwing a kidney punch, it’s best to do everything you can to avoid one. Boxers may use unfair tactics to fit in a kidney shot here and there. For them, the risk of getting caught is worth it.

The number one rule is to avoid turning your back at all costs. If you see the punch coming, here are a few tactics worth trying before you’re hit.


Footwork Response

The best response to an upcoming kidney punch is to adapt your body position to avoid it. Move your stance in a 90-degree angle, or throw a counter punch when your opponent expects it least.

Sometimes, punches are too fast to be expected. If you’re caught off guard and don’t have time to move, lean your body forward or use your elbows and arms to protect yourself. In boxing, the slightest change in a position can be significant in avoiding or reducing the impact of a punch.

Always keep an eye on your opponent’s fist. With experience, as soon as a punch is thrown, you should be able to anticipate where it’ll land. With the proper footwork, you might be able to move past the punch.


Rabbit Strike

This punch is a punch aimed at the back of the neck. Reaching for the kidney, your opponent’s neck gets exposed. Keep in mind, however, that any punch thrown at a fighter’s back is illegal, and a rabbit strike makes no exception. 

Just like other illegal strikes, a rabbit punch penalty will depend on the thrower’s intention. The severity of the hit will also be taken into account. Finally, when this strike keeps repeating after a warning or two, you’ll likely be disqualified.




How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Kidney Punch?

Depending on how hard you were hit, symptoms can vary. A kidney injury generally causes bleeding inside the organ, which can be confirmed if you see blood in your urine. You may also feel pain and soreness, and your skin color may even be altered.

Extreme cases can cause internal bleeding, a decrease in blood pressure and even kidney failure. A mild kidney bruise can take up to three weeks to recover, while more severe injuries can keep you out of the ring for up to 12 months.



Kidney vs. Liver Shot

Unlike kidney shots, liver punches are legal in most competitions. Both strikes are effective at hurting your opponent; however, they differ in many ways.


Accessible Organ

To start, the liver is located towards the front of the torso, on the right side, just below the rib cage. It can be reached with a regular punch, a low left hook, or even a left uppercut. 


liver location


The location, coupled with it being one of the largest organs in your abdomen, makes it an easier target.


Instant Repercussion

As soon as a fighter is hit in the liver, blood pressure tends to decrease, and the heartbeat slows down. Curling up as a reaction of a liver punch is a natural reaction, going into a survival mode to protect oneself.

A powerful liver punch may end combat on the spot. Even the slightest blow — 16 feet per second — can cause liver injury, and even rupture a liver. An average fighter can punch as fast as 30 feet per second.




Knocked Down

Although kidney punches shouldn’t take place in an MMA or boxing competition, understanding what they are and how powerful they can be is essential. When necessary, a kidney punch could be used for self-defense. 

Besides, you never know who you’ll be competing against, and unfortunately, not all fighters play fair. Knowing how to avoid a kidney punch should save you unnecessary pain and serious injuries.

Understanding how efficient, but also dangerous this punch can be, is critical to your career as a fighter or boxer.

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