Combatives Technique – Chin Jab


One of the techniques we teach in combatives is called the Chin Jab. The Chin Jab is essentially a palm strike, and there are various and sundry palm strikes in many systems. I think this is a very special flavor of palm strike that is perfect for fights that are extremely close range. It is particularly effective for women who, according to Melissa Soalt (aka Dr. Ruthless), tend to be engulfed by their attackers. As is true for most combatives techniques, a practitioner does not have to rely on tremendous skill or accuracy to make the Chin Jab work, which is precisely the idea! Many of the classic WWII combatives strikes had to be taught very quickly to soldiers shipping out to war. Efficacy and ease of acquisition were very important, as you might imagine.

As its name implies, the Chin Jab is applied to the chin, with the heel of the palm. Kelly McCann likens the hand orientation to that of palming a grapefruit. The strike comes from below the field of vision, which means you are pretty darned close to your target. While driving up and through an assailant’s centerline (though you can deliver it from an angle and it is taught this way, too), as Dennis Martin describes, move “your body in the strike”, accelerating through the target. The elbow remains bent, and McCann recommends keeping it pointing downward. He also checks the opponent’s right arm as he moves in for the strike. In the classic text, Kill or Get Killed, Rex Applegate recommends that the fingers of the striking hand be extended to keep the palm rigid. The blow is most devastating when the chin is protruding forward, and when the strike is applied more directly under the chin.

The Chin Jab is categorized as pre-emptive, and McCann states that you might use it while the aggressor is talking. I can imagine this has added benefit-the guy is probably going to sink his teeth deeply into his tongue upon impact. The main idea is unconsciousness, or the “6 inch KO.” The chin is a sweet spot for a knockout, and Dennis calls it an effective lever for “moving the cranium” and essentially rocking the brain inside the skull. Whether it actually moves the brain in a spiral, I have no idea, but the end result has been witnessed over and over again. There is some discussion about the Chin Jab possibly causing damage to the cervical spine, as well. Applegate depicts the simultaneous action of grabbing the belt with the left hand and pulling the body forward at the moment of impact on the chin, thereby causing neck fracture.

Additionally, Applegate describes another combination: the knee strike to the groin with the Chin Jab. It is likely he will bend forward after receiving a devastating blow from your knee, thereby producing the ideal target for the Chin Jab: the chin protruding very far forward. We find it difficult to do both techniques simultaneously.

Think of the Chin Jab as a surprise, close quarters strike, most likely delivered from a protective fence of some kind, a ready stance, or even from what Dennis calls the “listening fence”: feigning that you missed what was being said, moving in closer to hear it again, and subsequently delivering the blow. Keep this in mind: the principles of combatives include hitting hard, fast and using the element of surprise. I think of combatives as more self-offense, because I don’t believe in waiting for confirmation, like being struck (or worse-stabbed or shot), before launching an attack as long as I have perceived the threat and the appropriate pre-incident indicators to violence. Essentially, I believe in pre-emptive strikes, because as I will state over and over, action is faster than reaction. In any case, I recommend you play with this technique and drill it with the knowledge and confidence that it is field-tested to be brutally effective!


Applegate, Rex. (1943). Kill or Get Killed: A Manual of Hand-to-Hand Fighting. Boulder: Paladin Press.

Grover, Jim. (1999). Jim Grover’s Combatives Series: Power Strikes & Kicks, Vol. 1. [Videotape]. Paladin Press.

Martin, Dennis, et al. The Classic Strikes. Retrieved May 2009, from Dennis Martin’s Combatives Community Forum.