One of the hardest things to do in a fight is to make it look like you’re trying to kill someone without doing permanent damage. They don’t teach any half-moves in combat training. There are moves designed to kill and maim as efficiently as possible. If those are off-limits, one option is opening your fist right before a punch lands. Painful, but the force is distributed. Another showy option is a kick to the shoulder. It might break a rib or two but if you aim right, nobody’s going to the morgue.
Michael Westen, Burn Notice 204: “Comrades”