Content note: this post mentions fascists, police and physical violence
I will start with a confession: I have never thrown a punch. I know I’m not very good at it. I have a bit of a weakness in my left wrist–my dominant hand–from a break. I can never quite remember whether it’s thumb-in or thumb-out for making a fist. My balance is pisspoor. If it came down to it, I would not be able to literally punch a Nazi.
But that’s all right, because the ethos of punching Nazis does not require us to literally smack them with our fists. Punching a Nazi is an act of radical, physical self-defence. It is protecting oneself and others from those who would have us dead. It is choosing not to run, or not having the option of running, so having to fight physically against someone who wants to kill you. It is hurting them before they can hurt you. It can be a punch–if you do want to punch a Nazi with your fist, here’s how–or it can be other forms of self-defence which will protect you and everyone else from harm.
Now, a disclaimer. I present these tips as self-defence, which is perfectly legal. These tips are for protecting your person when you are under threat, to give yourself an opportunity to escape. If you just waltz up to your neighbourhood Nazi, smack them round the chops and get nicked, I’m not responsible. Okiedoke? Legal duties discharged, let’s look at how you can punch Nazis without literally punching them.
I learned many of these tips in a queer self-defence class a few years back. The class was designed for all abilities, and I found it very helpful. This is why I share these tips, as I hope it will help many of us feel safer in the frightening future.
Think about your own body. What can it do? What are you definitely able to do, and what are you definitely not able to do. Can you twist your shoulders? Can you balance on one foot? Can you raise your arms high? Can you move quickly without joints popping out of place? Not everyone will be able to do all of these suggestions. But there will likely be something in these suggestions that you will be able to do.
How do you feel balanced, and protect the parts of your body that you know might hurt? This awareness of your body makes you strong.
Now think of the parts of your body that are hard and strong. If you want, try gently hitting yourself. Your elbows are hard. Your palms, your fingertips. Your knees. Your feet. What parts of your body feel solid? These will form your fists.
Think about their weaknesses
Above is a handy diagram of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, modelling some of the weaker points on an opponent’s physique. Eyes are squishy, and there’s an instinct to protect them. Noses are easily broken and fucking hurt. Throats, well, throats hurt rather a lot if hit. The solar plexus is full of nerve endings, and causes maximum pain. Ever knocked your knee or shin in a dyspraxic vs coffee table showdown? Ow, right? And of course, the crotch. If a Nazi has balls, they will go down like a sack of shite if that area is hit, but it also hurts rather a lot getting whacked in the pussy.
These are the areas that you will aim for when punching a Nazi.
The silent duck
The silent duck is a queer fist, which is why I like it so much. If you’ve never got into fisting, what you do is make a naked sock puppet with your hand. Unlike with fisting, if you have long nails, all the better: the silent duck might be a tactic for you.
With your silent duck, the aim is to “peck” at the Nazi’s eyes or solar plexus. A short, sharp move like a striking snake, making contact with your fingertips. Try it on your other hand. For fingertips, it makes surprisingly strong contact. In the eyes, especially if you have nails, you will likely no longer have to defend yourself from the Nazi you silent ducked. It also works very well on the solar plexus. When I was talking about this with my partner once, I demonstrated on them with the gentlest tap–my aim was to show that there’s a lot of power there and a lot of nerve endings in the area. Instead, with my light tap, I brought tears to their eyes. I felt very bad about this, but that’s how effective the old silent duck is.
Your palm is good for slapping. But the heel of it is even better for hitting. Again, you might want to try gently smacking your body with the heel of your own palm. Now think of how much that would fucking hurt a Nazi if you hit them in the throat or solar plexus with that palm. Another option is pushing that heel of your palm upwards into the bottom of their nose. That will give you enough time to get away to safety, while they deal with a nose that is probably bleeding and definitely painful.
The side of your hand also has some uses. Now, I’m not suggesting karate chops, because they’re the sort of thing that requires training. However, if a Nazi turns up behind you, you can swing your arm in an arc and catch them in the nads with the side of your hand.
My old yiayia was a formidable woman. Four feet of sheer fury, she always got herself on the bus first. When she moved through a crowd, she’d kind of mince along, elbows akimbo, making space for herself. It worked, because elbows are perhaps one of the most vicious parts of the body, deployed correctly.
There are three angles at which you can use your elbows. You can defend yourself from a fascist to your side, aiming your elbow for their nose, throat or solar plexus. You can swing your elbow backwards to hit the Nazi in those same spots if he is behind you. If there’s a Nazi in front of you, you can swing that elbow forwards.
A Nazi’s knee is a weak point, but your knee can be strong. You can knee them in the crotch, and it will definitely give you a chance to get away. Even if you miss, you’ll get them in the thigh with a pretty bony part of your body. This move does require a bit of balance, but is incredibly effective if you’re able to pull it off.
Your feet are good for kicking, especially at shins. However, kicking can hurt you if you’re not wearing suitably comfortable, sturdy shoes. Personally, I wear Doc Martens most of the time, because they are nigh-on indestructible, and I have callouses in all the places that DMs tend to rub. So I can kick at a shin if I needed to.
Your feet can also be a weapon in other ways. You can stamp on their feet, aiming for the instep. If a Nazi is behind you, you can also scrape your foot down their shin, which is painful for them, and works particularly well if you’re wearing block heels.
A combo is sometimes a useful thing, and think about combos that might work. For example, scraping your foot down a Nazi shin, following up with a stamp on their instep. Feints can prove useful too: for instance, feinting a silent duck towards the eyes, then as their instinct kicks in to protect that, a swift knee to the nads.
Finding what works for you
To find what works for you, you’re going to have to look a bit dorky. Practice into the air, aiming upwards and downwards. See which moves come naturally to you, and which don’t. See if there’s any that you physically can’t do. Which moves make you feel strong and safe, and which make you feel off-balance or unprotected? Not everything will work for you. For example, I can’t swing my elbow forwards very well. For example, when it comes to kneeing, I favour my right knee: I feel better balanced keeping my left foot on the ground than my right. I’m hopeless at elbow strikes when swinging forwards, but it feels very natural going backwards.
If you’re not feeling strong just practicing the moves into the air, then you’re not going to be able to do it making contact with Nazi flesh. So write it off: that’s something that doesn’t work for you.
Develop your own ways of doing things, weaponising the hard parts of your body against the soft parts of a fascist. There is no right or wrong technique, just a way of making contact that hurts them but not you.
Practice, practice, practice
Once you’ve figured out what works for you, it’s time to build some muscle memory. Practice hitting something. A pillow or mattress will do. If you have access to pads and a friend who doesn’t mind pretending to be a Nazi for a bit of time, practice against that. Practice combining the movements that work for you.
And once again, look goofy. Drill yourself. Practice each day, even if it’s into the air. Like an absurd tai chi, I will usually find the time to run myself through my favourite moves. Many of us freeze when confronted with danger, so teach your body some moves that will become instinctive for you.
You got this. If it comes down to it, you can punch a Nazi.
I’ve said, many times before, that fighting fascism is a messy, ugly business. Self-defence techniques are not the absurd “honourable” fighting styles. But they might just save your life, or the life of someone you love.