What are the global restrictions of making an unarmed strike? As it is considered a weapon, I suppose one must have a "hand free" to "punch". However, there are some gray areas I can't find any answers to.

For example, the Monk class allows a player to add an additional unarmed strike to his Attack action, as a bonus action. If one is using a Versatile weapon, can he attack using both hands, making the damage 1d8 and still make use of his additional unarmed strike(s)?

Additional remark: The extra unarmed strike granted by Flurry of Blows has no restrictions regarding the weapon(s) held. Am I missing any implied restrictions here? Or is a Monk somehow able to hold a two-handed weapon and still make use of Flurry of Blows ? If that is the case, I am to believe the unarmed strike from FoB would not be considered as weapons. Would that also mean that if a monk is wielding a quarterstaff with two hands, he could open with an attack of [1d8 + Dex] damage, followed by an unarmed strike of [1d6 + Dex] damage with a bonus action (using Martials Arts) ?


6 Answers 6


The monk's Martial Arts feature reads:

When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action.

On page 195 of the PHB, under "Melee Attacks", it says (as of the first PHB errata in 2015):

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike: a punch, kick, head butt, or similar forceful blow (none of which count as weapons.

That, to me, makes it sound like you could attack with a monk weapon using two hands, then make a kick or head butt (or another forceful blow with a part of the body that isn't your hand) as your bonus action.


First, nothing says you need to have a hand free, so we can stop worrying about that. Now, on to things the PHB does say.

The rules for unarmed strikes, by all characters, are on page 195:

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike: a punch, kick, head-butt, or similar forceful blow (none of which count as weapons). On a hit, an unarmed strike deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1 + your Strength modifier. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes.

It's clear that unarmed strikes can come from multiple parts of the body. Hands aren't needed but can be used. Also, all characters are proficient with unarmed strikes.

Now, for monks. Page 78 details monk-specific differences that overrule the more general rules on page 195.

When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. For example, if you take the Attack action and attack with a quarterstaff, you can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, assuming you haven't already taken a bonus action this turn.

Here we see that you can make an unarmed strike as a bonus action after taking an Attack action. No other restriction is given except that you need to take that Attack action with a monk weapon or unarmed strike.

Together, this all means that you can take the Attack action with an unarmed strike or any monk weapon, and follow that attack with one additional unarmed strike, without regard for any other factor.

As for the use of Flurry of Blows with a non-monk weapon: nothing in the text establishes the use of a monk weapon as a requirement for the use of Flurry of Blows. That said, it doesn't make thematic or mathematical sense to avoid monk weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ After the errata on Unarmed Strikes, this answer is the correct one, and the currently accepted answer isn't. I do think the final sentence could be improved by a) explaining why such a homebrew penalty is required, or b) removing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Aug 4, 2019 at 16:52

There's basically two interpretations you can go with this, but they both end up reaching the same conclusion. In both of these interpretations you should be able to use the more powerful Versatile attack and your unarmed attacks as well.

Unarmed strike isn't just a punch

The more broad, common sense interpretation is "hands free" for an unarmed attack means you must be able to move sufficiently to hit a target with some part of your body (not suffering one of the many conditions that leaves you unable to act at all - Incapacitated, Unconscious, etc.). Hand, elbow, knee, kick, headbutt, etc.

In this interpretation, it's an easy jump to say you can hold a two handed weapon and still deliver unarmed strikes. (This is, also a common sort of stunt done in martial arts demonstrations with staves and spears, so it's thematically fitting as well.)

Unarmed strike is just a punch

The more literal interpretation is that "hands free" means you must literally not have anything in your hand when you attack. That said, this, too, will almost always result in you being able to also use a two handed or versatile weapon and do an unarmed attack, since you can simply let go with one hand after that attack. (I say almost always, as there might be things like cursed weapons that you can't let go of, or having your hands stuck to a weapon from some kind of monster goo or a web spell or something.)

You can see under "Other Activity On Your Turn" and "Interacting with Objects Around You" on pg. 190 several freebie actions are listed which are much more involved than simply letting go or grabbing a weapon that's already in your other hand.

So in this way, you still end up able to use two handed weapons or versatile weapons and use your unarmed attack options as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Concerning two-handed weapons, I assume it also means "your two hands are full, if you have it equipped" and would fall into the "draw/sheathe a weapon" restrictions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fafoon
    Sep 9, 2014 at 0:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fafoon yes, they seem to have ruled this to be the case, that you can't use the other hand at all if you have a two hander equipped. So draw/stow would be in effect. That's not too big of a deal as draw stow is not intended to be a suck on the action economy. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Sep 9, 2014 at 0:47

Yes, the monk can do that

Your core question is:

If one is using a Versatile weapon, can he attack using both hands, making the damage 1d8 and still make use of his additional unarmed strike(s)?

Yes. The book specifically references Quarterstaffs. A quarterstaff is a monk weapon inasmuch as it is "a melee weapon that does not have the two-handed or heavy property".

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike: a punch, kick, head-butt, or similar forceful blow (none of which count as weapons).

Even if holding the staff in two hands, the unarmed strike can take place as a bonus acttion. Or, you can use your bonus action for a flurry of blows.

With flurry of blows you make the normal attack action with the quarterstaff. You then spend a ki point and get two unarmed strikes as bonus action.

Your "martial arts damage" is used for the Unarmed Strike because of the Monk's Martial Arts class feature.

Levels 1-4 (With Quarter Staff)

  • Normal Attack damage with the Quarter Staff is D8(+bonuses)
  • Martial Arts Attack is D4(+bonuses) as a martial arts attack. Flurry grants one more of the latter if used.
  • Moving on up the only damage that changes is that the martial arts damage that increases up to the d10 at level 17.

At 5th level you can get the 2 attacks with quarterstaff, to which you can add your bonus action martial arts attack or bonus action flurry of blows attacks by spending a ki point.


Unarmed strike are not considered a "melee-weapon" attacks, it is considered a melee "weapon-attack" since the PHB errata fixed that issue and removed the unarmed strike from the melee-weapon's list.

Unarmed attacks are not just punches. They are any strike you can do with a part of your body (punches, kicks, elbow strike, knee strike, head butts, etc). Wielding a weapon does not hinder your unarmed attacks in any ways.

CONCLUSION: A monk (or anyone for that matter) could wield a 2H weapon or weapons, shield or other objects in both hands AND STILL BE ALLOWED an unarmed strike. But if the character class does not allow a BONUS action or bonus attack with an unarmed strike, it would count as one of the character's attacks. So a 5th lvl fighter wielding a sword and a dagger could use an attack action to strike with the sword and an unarmed strike (extra attack at 4th lvl), or strike with the sword twice (extra attacks at 4th lvl) and the dagger (bonus action wielding two weapons) Since the monk can use its unarmed strikes as bonus actions then a 5th lvl Monk could do an attack action and strike twice with a 2H monk weapon (extra attack) and use a bonus action for an unarmed strike.or spend 1 ki points and use the attack action to strike twice with the 2H monk weapon and do 2 unarmed strike. or even strike once with the 2H monk weapon and 1 unarmed strike (extra attack) and 2 unarmed strike from the ki points as a bonus action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your first paragraph is inaccurate. Though unarmed strikes were removed from the weapons table in the very first errata in 2015, they are always considered "melee weapon attacks" even if they do not use a weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast can you pinpoint to where this is stated in the rulebooks ? From what I see in the rulebooks they are considered melee attacks but not weapons I have not seen where it is mentioned they are considered weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9, 2019 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ They're not weapons - but they're still melee weapon attacks. All attacks are either melee attacks or ranged attacks, and are either "weapon attacks" or "spell attacks" (with the exceptions of shoves and grapples, which are "special melee attacks"). See the Sage Advice Compendium, specifically "What does “melee weapon attack” mean: a melee attack with a weapon or an attack with a melee weapon?" Also see "Can a monk use Stunning Strike with an unarmed strike, even though unarmed strikes aren’t weapons?" \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 9, 2019 at 4:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you look at the original question it was related to if a monk could do an unarmed strike while wielding a 2H weapon. Since unarmed strike are not weapons, the monk can do the additional unarmed strike regardless of what weapon he is holding or using because an unarmed strike is a melee weapon attack... not a melee-weapon attack like the sage is pointing out. but myfirst phrase needs adjustment it could mislead. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2019 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your last paragraph is very confusing. You seem to be saying that you can't use a bonus action to unarmed strike unless you're a monk, but then you go on to give an example of a fighter who supposedly can do so? You can't use two weapon fighting with unarmed strikes, as your hands and feet do not count as "a different light melee weapon that you're holding in the other hand" which is the criteria for two weapon fighting. You could make an unarmed strike in place of one of the sword attacks, then use your bonus action to attack with the dagger, but you can't do two sword attacks and one kick. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blckknght
    Aug 10, 2019 at 23:10

An unarmed strike is a simple melee weapon and deals 1 bludgeoning damage.

Since it has no other entries. That means it's one-handed, and anyone proficient with simple melee weapons is proficient with that strike.

The monk's unarmed strike bonus action attack is a special form of bonus action attack and can be used as follows:

  • attack with versatile weapon
  • take hand off weapon
  • Attack with unarmed strike

There are two attacks available to a monk to use their bonus action on.

  • Normal Martial arts attack, this starts as d4+Dex and goes up from there.
  • Flurry of Blows. This is a special attack and is 2 unarmed attacks both at d4+Dex.

Monks cannot use their unarmed attack for TWF (as it's not a light weapon). I think some of your confusion in the addendum comes from the idea that you'd need two hands free in order to make your two unarmed attacks. This is not the case. Its not a TWF attack, they are both with the same hand (think of it as two quick jabs).

One more bit in your addendum is asking about regular two-handed weapons. Those are usable, but as they are not Monk weapons, they would be subject to the normal rules around them and use Strength for the attack and damage. Also, the two-handed weapon would need to be stowed before FoB can proc.

This answer was consistent with the original version of the PHB, but the first PHB errata (in 2015) removed unarmed strikes from the Weapons table on p. 149, and moved the mechanics surrounding them into the rules on melee attacks on p. 195. -- V2Blast

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer requires an update due to the changes in the errata which have since clarified that unarmed strikes are not weapons. This negates the need for a "free hand" in order to utilize an unarmed strike. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2015 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unarmed strike has been taken off the 'weapon's list' in the recent errata. unarmed strike is no longer considered a 'weapon' attack, unless a specific rules calls for it (ex.: monk's unarmed attacks are weapon attacks) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4, 2019 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly: That is also inaccurate. Unarmed strikes were removed from the weapons table in the very first errata in 2015 (not a recent one), but they are always considered "melee weapon attacks" even if they do not use a weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, wax eagle's profile says "Last seen Feb 25 '17 at 2:12", so I wouldn't expect this answer to be updated anytime soon... \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ As comments are not for extended discussion, earlier conversations have been moved to chat. (I've left the main ones mentioning the inaccuracy post-errata so that future readers are aware.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:29

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