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.
- “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.