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“What Does a Kidney Punch Do?”
A Man Question from Mary Pat


“I’m a kenpoist. My instructor said that the kidney is a knockout spot, a vital, that a strike there will take someone out. How does it feel? I see by your bio that you’ve lost like hundreds of fights—won a lot too, I know—so surely you can describe what my attacker will feel if I hit the kidney point.”

-Mary Pat

Thanks for giving me grist for my writer’s mill, Mary Pat.

I have landed a few vicious left hooks to the kidney, as well as a low right hook.

I have been struck in the kidney with fists, gloved fists, pugil sticks, escrima sticks, oak rods, a heel, the ball of a foot, a boot toe, a sneaker-covered instep, a blunt wooden knife, and with the arnis stick of all escrima sticks, wielded with extreme meat-thwacking prejudice so that the blows could be heard outside and across the parking lot of Normandy Shopping Center in Elicott City, MD, by Aaron, “The Stick God” Seligson, a financial consultant who came in second in the world middleweight division twice, and can surely trace his ancestry back to Samson.

I have also seen numerous pro boxers take vicious kidney punches, which are a foul in that sport.

How Does a Kidney Blow Feel?

When a lightweight hits you in the kidney it hurts, really bad, more sharply and deeply than a gut punch.

When a middleweight hits you in the kidney, or some karate dude kicks you there, the experience is a cross between being constipated, stunned, and wanting to cry, but unable to get enough juice for a tear.

When a heavyweight hits you in the kidney, it feels like having explosive jalapeno-induced diarrhea, only instead of shooting out of your ass it is shooting up into your guts, mostly to one side.

Getting hit in the kidney with world class—you don’t belong in this ring—power, is like being electrocuted, only your blood also turns to battery acid and races through your body like poison.

What Effect Does a Kidney Blow Have?

The area around the kidney will be sore for a while, maybe up to a week, but usually only a day or two.

When Aaron hit me I pissed blood for three days, and was exhausted for an entire week, sleeping 10 hours per day instead of my typical 1 ½ hours of sleep.

The less then professional quality power shots simply hurt and made me more determined to fight.

The pro quality shots paralyzed me on my feet for about a second each.

As far as the boxers I know who have eaten kidney punches, none went down from one, though someone certainly would have if they had been hit there by George Foreman’s right hook. I also find it impossible to believe that there have not been kidney KOs in boxing, assuming that I just have not read about or seen them. For instance, if Aaron hit me in the kidney now, at my age, it would be a KO. This gets us to the crux of the martial arts perception dilemma. People are not equal, not even the same people over time. Who you hit matters as much as where you hit them, and who you are, matters even more. I survived numerous groin punches and kicks in winning efforts and draws as a young man. Yes, my left nut hurts 24/7 and I could never endure those blows today. However, in my youth and prime I only went down from groin kicks strong enough to pick me up off of my feet.

The Karate Myth

The following are the elements that I suspect go into the myth of the kidney punch, Mary Pat.

The kidney is a kill location with a knife, if the knife is not left in to plug the puncture. Since early karate people [1960s] traditionally believed their empty hand strikes to be equal to weapon blows, this may be a simple extrapolation.

The fact that a kidney punch is a boxing foul may have influenced this perception. However, the danger of the kidney blow is more long term than immediate, with the foul meant to preserve a fighter’s health over his career, not save him from a one punch KO.

There was a public health commercial in the late 1970s that depicted a boxer being dropped with a kidney punch, that got a lot of play, and which most Americans my age have seen.

Keeping in mind that the martial arts myth that a “black belt has his hands registered” as deadly weapons in some law enforcement database, and that that myth has persisted for 50 years, derives from a lay person’s misunderstanding of the state licensing process for pro boxers, I likewise assume the boxing misunderstanding about the kidney foul to be the cause for this perception among karate people.

Also, since a kick aimed at the kidney often hits the short rib, cracking it or tearing a cartilage, and causing debility in fighters, such impacts may have been assumed to be immediate symptoms of kidney trauma.

Thanks for your question, Mary Pat.

For those Interested in a variety of boxing tactics from the combatant's perspective check out American Fist via the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Fist-Fighters-View-Boxing/dp/1502896001/ref=sr_1_12/191-8140627-8723860?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453829739&sr=1-12&keywords=james+lafond

Add Comment
floyd fisherJuly 6, 2016 4:52 PM UTC

In the second Lewis/Schmeling bout, it's widely believed Lewis did hit Schmeling's kidney, resulting in Schmeling only being able to throw two punches while being floored three times in about two minutes.
responds:July 7, 2016 12:27 PM UTC

Thanks, Floyd.

Joe also hit him so hard either in the ribs or spine, that one of max's vertebrae was fractured. One account I read said that you could hear Max groan over the sound of the crowd.
O HayesSeptember 2, 2015 3:34 AM UTC

I thought Ward/Sanchez was definitely a liver punch. Having felt both, the liver shot was the only time I could not just grit my teeth and bare the pain. It was like a button telling my body to take a knee and recover and my mind had no say. To this day that's the only time I've been down. Thanks Tony!

As for kidney shots, Provodnikov terrorized Bradley so much with the right hand to the body that Bradley was pissing blood for 2 weeks after the fight.

Another good one is an all time great Mike Mcallum aptly nicknamed the body snatcher digging in to Julian Jackson's kidney when Jackson was covering up to prevent the ko. He didnt knock him out with it but it opened him up for head shots and with the varied attack(all landing cleanly) the ref had no choice but to stop the bout.
responds:September 2, 2015 2:25 PM UTC

I'm so glad I never got in good enough shape to spar with Tony.
mesc franklinSeptember 1, 2015 2:40 PM UTC

That fight with Mickey Ward and Alonso Sanchez is on youtube.

Sanchez is winning lopsided against a rusty Ward and all the commentators are riding him hard. While they are talking only Roy Jones notices that Ward hits him with a good and subtle body shot and then a few seconds later that Sanchez is hurt! Lampley and Merchant are clueless and yapping as usual.

Then another shot in the area and Sanchez falls to his knees. His face is in utter agony and he cant make the ten count.

Maybe it was a liver shot but Wards punches really seemed to make an arc that reached far back so maybe it was a kidney shot.

I will leave that to the fight professor LaFond.
responds:September 1, 2015 7:19 PM UTC

I'll watch the fight. When a guy hits that hard for his weight and has such a fluid wheel house and reaching hook, it's a nasty weapon. However, I believe Sanchez would be able to let self defense students punch his kidneys all day and not go down.

The liver is worse than the kidney because you only have one and it collects more toxins to get pumped back into the system.

If any readers now of a fight like this with wicked kidney punches please comment and I'll watch them.

Also, I will throw this out to Doctor David for his medical opinion—he examines fighters for their pro card phyiscal and has worked boxing and MMA fights.