Forming a Fist: The Hidden Power of the Punch

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It was sometime in 2019 and I was standing in the open room with a handful of women, learning how to curl my open hands into fists. 

“No, it’s not just balling up your hands, though that’s where it starts.”

“Tighten that grip, place your thumb there, not there.”

“But it doesn’t work if the strike lands wrong, and if your fists aren’t formed well, they won’t serve you well.”

“Try again.”


“Not quite,”

“There it is.”

And there in that room, as my hands balled into weapons, something changed. I can’t quite explain it, but for the first time in my life I realized I could learn to defend myself. I could learn to be strong. This woman – still a little girl inside – could defend herself instead of looking around for someone else to save her.

The fist changed everything.

The Message It Sends

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Imagine a guy standing in front of you, dropped into a fighting stance, hands balled into fists. What’s your first thought? If you’re like me you’re thinking, “Oh no, this guy wants to fight.” I’m instantly on guard and frankly kind of scared. I don’t want to fight anyone, especially some guy who clearly knows what he’s doing. I mean, who puts up their dukes if they’re not getting ready to throw those fists?

Fists tell us we’ve got a fight on our hands. And that’s not always bad. Because the simple forming of a fist can cultivate strength from the inside out.

Some of its messages:

I will not yield

I am strong

I will defeat you

I will stop whatever you start

… and so much more.

They say I’m not only willing and able but I’m ready to take you on. And win. Fists convey incredible power. They can also get you in trouble.

Stan’s Unfortunate Adventure

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Stan stood about 5-foot 7-inches tall, weighed 135 pounds soaking wet, and had a bit of an ego problem. One day, at a high school dance, he decided to hit on Clint’s girlfriend. Now to be honest, Clint wasn’t particularly attractive, but man was he big. At over 6 feet tall, he carried about 200 pounds on his square frame. All solid, top to bottom. When he heard his girlfriend, Cindy, saying, “Stan, you need to LEAVE me ALONE,” he shot over to get between her and Stan. 

As Clint loomed over him, Stan had a choice. He could put up his open hands and quietly bow out (“Hey I’m sorry, I’ll be leaving now”) or do what he decided to do. Stan looked Clint over and balled his fists. He took a shaky fighting stance and said, “I have just as much right to be here as anybody, and I can talk to whoever I want, whenever I want. You gonna stop me, big guy?” 

What happened next could’ve come right out of a cartoon. Clint spun Stan around, grabbed his collar and waistband, marched him down the hall and out the school’s double front doors, chucking him out onto his backside. After skipping a couple times like a stone on a pond, Stan muttered something about “that coward wouldn’t even fight fair,” stood up, brushed himself off, and didn’t bother going back in.

Fists tell us we’ve got a fight on our hands. And that’s not always bad. Because the simple forming of a fist can cultivate strength from the inside out.

Start Here Before Activating Your Fists

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The thing is, while clenching your fists can make you feel strong, powerful, ready and able to take on whoever’s coming your way, those fists also show aggression. Because they can amp up tension instead of defusing the situation. wisdom dictates a calmer, more methodical approach.

If we’re not self-aware and self-controlled, our forming fists can mean our anger’s boiling up and getting ready to gush out and attack someone. Reactive abuse is a thing, and we don’t ever want to go there.

To be abundantly clear, we at Tigress’ Roar never advocate for assault. What is assault? Well, each state has its guidelines and it’s a good idea to find out what they are for your state. 

Generally speaking, according to Cornell Law School (see link below), assault is an intentional act (whether physical or not) putting another person in reasonable fear of imminent harm. The aggressor intends to hurt the other person and the victim is afraid they’re going to get hurt or worse. 

Now you may be asking, “Wouldn’t I be guilty of assault if I told the guy coming at me I was going to use physical force if he didn’t stop?” Here’s the thing. If you’re not the one starting the fight, and if you remain calm and in control, you’re not assaulting them. You’re giving them a fair warning. What they do with the warning is up to them.

Now you may wonder, “What about the physical component? Like what if the guy hits me?” That’s where the phrase assault and battery comes in. Often the threat (assault) is followed by a physical strike of some sort. The wrong act of physically harming someone is called battery. If the person’s coming at you without reason, they’re the offender. 

Defending yourself against an attacker isn’t assault and battery. Stopping the person’s incoming punch and putting them in an arm lock while you or someone else calls the cops is appropriate.

Stopping the punch, then throwing them to the ground and kicking their head numerous times is battery. And may go all the way to aggravated assault (causing serious bodily harm). Or worse.

Simply put, when our reaction outweighs the action coming against us, we go over the line. Assault is a lack of self-control. Assault loses its temper and unleashes fury on whoever triggers it. Assault can be deadly. 

The bottom line is, we need to learn how to calm ourselves down in the moment so we can quickly and effectively stop the threat. If our voices don’t stop them, we may need to use our hands, whether open or closed into fists, coupled with a strong stance and a plan.

Self-Control Is Self-Defense

So what do we do instead? We calm ourselves down. We assess the situation. We overcome whatever’s coming at us with skill, not force. And we choose to exercise self-control before we pull out any weapons, including the ones on the ends of our arms. 

We begin by using our voices. As we explored in our “From a Whisper to a Roar” series (see links below), if used correctly, our voices have the power and authority to command respect and can make the would-be attacker decide to back down.

So we curate our voice to match the level of aggression coming our way. And we choose to only use physical force when necessary. While we’re assessing the situation, we’re scanning for any other attackers, who’s around and watching, if there’s a place we can run to, how far away our car is parked. We slip our hand over our phone, ready to dial 911 if needed. 

If the person gets too close, we stretch out our arms, palms out (classic “stop” posture) and say some form of “Back off.” If they keep coming, if they ignore our warnings, we may ball our hands into fists and drop into a fighting stance. If they’ve taken it all the way to this, we’d better have some strategies ready to quickly take charge and nullify the threat.

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In our classes we train numerous scenarios. But these won’t be handy if we’re not continually training them. 

So remember you’d better have the skills to back up your stance, including those fists, or, like Stan, you’ll end up on your keister. Or worse.

You Decide

We’re here to partner with you in your journey as you move from a beginner to trained and ready to face whatever comes with confidence and competence. And because we realize it takes more than a few classes to get the job done, we’re with you for the long haul, encouraging and spurring you on to higher and higher levels of strength and ability.

At Tigress’ Roar we’re always learning, always growing, always finding new ways to develop skills to take on this crazy world and overcome. Our doors are open to you, and you’re welcome here.

Join Us.


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