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In my story there are a species of humanoid bipeds (i.e., two arms, two legs) that have a more-or-less human arm anatomy but differ in having non-retractable claws instead of nails on all five fingers. Some members of this species gets in several fights over the course of the story, but some of these fights are in a non-lethal context (sparring with allies, smacking someone to get them off of them but not kill them). In these cases it would make more sense to strike their opponents with a closed fist rather than trying to maul them with their claws. The characters are trying to strike someone, but they don't want to lacerate them and potentially scar them or cause them to bleed to death. Fists aren't exactly 100% safe, but they are less likely to cause permanent damage.

However, something occurred to me. Because of the way humanoid fingers curl up to make a fist, the claws of the fist are going to be pointing inwards towards the palm and the hand will probably not be able to fully close (making the fingers rather unprotected), even if the claws are only a few millimeters in length. And because hitting someone with a fist is going to push backwards on the phalangeal joints, hitting someone will cause the claws to dig into the palm and likely cut open the palm of the hitter. Not an effective way to strike someone at all.

Given this, I am wondering how a humanoid species with non-retractable claws could make a closed hand gesture or something analogous (i.e., hitting someone with a blow from an arm) to strike at someone non-lethally.

Additional Information

  • “Fist” is used in a loose sense here. Perhaps a more accurate descriptor would be "strike with a closed-handed blow from the upper arm". I merely use the term "fist" here because of familiarity (it's the reaction most people would expect in these situation) and to explain the kind of behavior I am trying to find an alternative for. I know some martial arts have different hand postures (or even strike with the elbow or forearm), but was not sure if any of them buttress the hand enough to be used as a replacement for a "normal" fist.
  • Kicks are not a useable alternative. Kicks have a habit of pulling people off balance (you have to break your stance to use them) and aren't great when you just want to smack someone.
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    $\begingroup$ Have you ever had long finger nails in your entire life? With long finger nails when you punch things, you don't curl completely the fingers but only the first falanges and rest your fingers straight on your palm and thumb. Or you could also just curl your fingers normally and strike with the knuckles instead of the fingers.... Depends on style. Personally I strike with my pinky so nails get in the way. $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 13 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ Also strikes while charging with the entire body and the arm almost tuck to your side is safer for the fingers than jabbing someone with a straight arm. So yeah probably your clawed humans won't be boxers. $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 13 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to show a picture of what you mean by "claw". Claws don't have to be needle sharp! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas May 13 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ Anyone remember the Sci-Fi war series about the Kizzen empire - a war-like alien culture of human-like intelligent lion-like creatures with claws? Fierce fighters all, their innate drive was to conquer all sentient life. Any thought of conflict caused their claws to come out. Only the strongest survived childhood socialization. They had to wrap their paws tightly with bindings to prevent tearing each other to shreds in close quarters on ships. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme the Second May 14 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Elemtilas I was thinking this would be a problem even with small claws. I.e., something like dog's nails or even claw-like false nails like you see with halloween costumes. It seems the issue primarily centers around the claw protruding beyond the end of the digit. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 May 15 at 3:07
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palm strikes

With a palm strike, not only you're keeping your fingers away from both you and (ideally) from your enemy, it is a great move in street fights and is considered by some to be actually better to execute than a punch, regarding overall damage to the opponent and to yourself. This will likely explain better how each one works, as well as explaining exactly how a palm strike can be better than a punch even for us, who don't have to worry about sharp claws on our fingertips.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 This is how cats take down rats (and rubber balls and dust bunnies). $\endgroup$ – elemtilas May 13 at 22:19
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Well it depends on the structure of their hands a bit and how tough their skin is versus the sharpness and length of their claws. Punching is only off the table if they drive their own claws into their hands. If the claws are too long though they wouldn't be able to bend their fingers enough to fully clench their fist. Instead their fingers would be laid flat; rather than rolled up against their palms. Resulting in them still being able to punch,but their version of a clenched fist would be different.

Otherwise backhands,chops,palm strikes and the use of elbows works fine. They could also just wear boxing gloves or wrap their hands. Allowing them to strike without worrying about gashing each other. If their claws are like a dogs they won't be too sharp to begin with,making most of this a moot point. If like a bear or worse a bird of prey's talons,then you'll definitely want to go with the above points to avoid injury.

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Karate Chop

With the knuckle at the base of the pinky finger used as the bludgeoning point, and the hand kept flat and rigid, they could use a karate chop to achieve something vaguely similar.

It's the knuckles that matter

When fighting bare-handed the thing that does the most damage in a punch (besides the force) is the fact that the force is behind your knuckles. Keeping your hand open (like with the tips of your fingers resting on the bottom of the palm) the punch is probably going to be softer and a bit more painful for the punch-er, but probably still be as effective. The idea is using the kinetic energy of the punch carrying through keeping the wrist straight and stiff so the energy goes into the point of contact and not into bending the wrist.

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Strike them with your enormous genitals.

raccoon dogs do battle using scrotums as weapons

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xlft8n

It is not an original idea but still one I think we do not see enough. Depicted: a battle in the movie Pom Poko where the raccoon dog heroes battle the police, using their own scrotums as weapons (also parachutes). The people in your world could do the same. Persons in your world who wish to deliver a punitive wallop but who are without scrotums for whatever reason (there are several possible) might use some other comparably hypertrophied secondary sexual characteristic.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this have the same problems as kicking, plus not be useable by females (and indeed, a lot of animals and even mammals don't have scrotums), plus have the disadvantage of hitting your enemy with a very sensitive, easily damaged organ? $\endgroup$ – user2352714 May 14 at 4:10

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