Last Updated on September 28, 2022
If you watch martial arts movies, you're probably familiar with one of those scenes where martial artists take enemies down with a simple swing of a hand.
Some of them even show that you can kill someone with a touch of a finger!
These techniques are associated with so-called "pressure points." However, can a person be knocked out, let alone killed, by using these pressure points?
We'll be discussing what these knockout pressure points are, how you can use them in self-defense, and some myths regarding martial arts. Read on!
What Are Pressure Points?
Before you learn how to knock someone out, let's first discuss the basics of pressure points. A pressure point refers to a sensitive area in the human body, such as nerves, veins, tendons, ligaments, joints, and organs.
There are around 350 pressure points in a person's body.
This concept originated from Asian culture, primarily in China and India. Human pressure points have been manipulated throughout history to cause healing (like traditional Chinese medicine) or harm and self-defense (like martial arts).
Speaking of martial arts, pressure points in self-defense have no direct historical origin. Still, we do know that it came from an Asian country.
Most martial arts use pressure points, including karate, kung fu, and Varma Kalai. However, Kyusho Jitsu uses them the most. According to Kyusho Jitsu UK, it is "a way of attacking the nervous system to control an attacker or subdue an attacker to maintain your advantage and stay in control."
Let's discuss how attackers are subdued when targeting a pressure point.
What Happens When You Use Pressure Points In Martial Arts?
Out of all the pressure points in the body, only a fraction of them is used in martial arts. They are usually located around the joints, such as the knees, elbows, and neck.
Since the location of each pressure point is varied, there are also different physiological effects. Additionally, these effects are determined by the way you attack these pressure points, which are as follows:
A strike simply means applying force using direct physical contact. Any intense pressure point strikes may result in some of the following responses:
- Excruciating pain
- A stunning or shocking effect
- Disorientation or loss of balance
- Reflex response
- Numbness or weakness of affected body parts
You can also target a pressure point through compression, apart from direct impact. This refers to a solid and prolonged attack, such as choking or holding techniques. The affected person may experience some of the following responses:
- Disorientation or loss of balance
- Numbness or weakness of affected body parts
- Muscle spasms
What Is Pressure Point Fighting?
As the name suggests, this is a form of combat where you use pressure points to your advantage. As mentioned above, how you manipulate each pressure point can result in different effects on your opponent. This may be used as a form of self-defense
In modern martial arts, there are three types of pressure point fighting, each focusing on different aspects:
- Pain compliance pressure point fighting - the use of pain or discomfort to gain a compliant response from a non-compliant person
- Impact pressure point fighting - the use of limbs or a blunt weapon (like a stick or club) to directly strike an opponent
- Blood flow pressure point fighting - the use of specific techniques (like chokes and holds) to reduce blood flow to the brain
You may be asking, "How can I use these techniques to target knockout pressure points?"
The term "knockout" can have many definitions in martial arts. It doesn't always literally mean knocking someone unconscious. Some martial artists consider light dizziness a knockout. Meanwhile, others think of knockout as significant dizziness that causes a person to fall down.
However, when you're against an assailant, the best self-defense maneuver is one that produces an immediate and effective result - knocking them unconscious. Out of the three pressure point techniques we mentioned, only two can deliver a complete loss of consciousness: impact and blood flow pressure point fighting.
Firstly, we all know that physical impact can be painful. Strike someone in the right place with enough force and they can be knocked cold easily.
Secondly, blocking someone's blood flow means that their body will not receive enough oxygen, making them lose consciousness. However, using such moves in real life requires you to be skilled since your opponent will inevitably try to resist.
Let's go over some knockout pressure points that you can use.
How Do I Use Knockout Pressure Points
Here are some of the most prominent pressure points from head to toe:
- The temple is the area to the sides of the forehead, behind and above your eyes. This is one of the softest areas on the head because the bone structure here is weaker.
- Hitting an assailant's temple with your fist or palm will make them disoriented. Their pain response will also cause them to raise their arms and protect their head, making it easier to access their body.
- You can significantly weaken someone by using your index finger and middle finger to quickly poke their eyeballs.
- As they raise their arms to their eyes, you can use your other hand to attack another body part. You can also use this opportunity to run away.
- The ears are another vulnerable area that you can strike to cause significant pain to an assailant.
- The structure of the nose is mainly made of cartilage, which isn't as hard or rigid as a bone. A good hit to the nose is one of the most painful experiences someone can have, though it isn't likely to cause unconsciousness.
- If your hands are occupied, you can do a head butt to target an assailant's nose.
- Strikes to the chin can cause immense pain because it's connected to other parts of the head, such as the jaw, mouth, and teeth.
- Nape refers to the back of the neck. This area is susceptible because it contains parts of the nervous system, such as the spine and neurological glands.
- A solid blow to the nape is likely to cause someone to lose balance.
- Of course, the throat is very sensitive because it is a crucial component in breathing.
- One of your options is directly hitting the middle of the throat, which will disorient your opponent and make it difficult to breathe.
- You may also disrupt your opponent's oxygen flow by using your entire hand to compress their windpipe or putting them in a chokehold. These are sure-fire ways to make someone fall unconscious.
- Alternatively, you may strike the side of their neck, around 3-4 inches below the ear. This area contains the carotid artery, which will disrupt oxygen flow when struck.
- The abdomen has many vulnerable parts that you can target.
- Firstly, you can try targetting the solar plexus. To locate it, run your fingers down the middle of your chest until you feel a slight bump right under the center of your nipples. There should be some discomfort if you try poking it.
- A blow to the solar plexus causes the diaphragm to spasm, causing pain and difficulty breathing.
- Meanwhile, you can also strike the sides or stomach with a kick or punch. There aren't any bones protecting these body parts, meaning you can target the organs.
- Finally, a quick kick or punch to the groin is always a reliable way to subdue an attacker, especially if he is male. He will most likely fall to the ground and have trouble standing up.
- If an assailant is armed, you can grab the front of their hand with your dominant hand and then hold their wrist with your non-dominant hand. If you bend their wrist inward, their palm will open, causing the weapon to drop.
- Alternatively, you can bend their wrist outward for a wrist twist.
- Using your heel to kick the back or sides of the knee is an effective way to make a person easily drop. This is particularly useful if your hands are occupied.
- You can also use your feet to swing at your opponent's shin or ankle, dropping them to the ground. This is effective if they're forcing you to the ground.
Are There Myths Around Pressure Point Fighting?
Many movies, TV shows, and other pop culture media exaggerate pressure point fighting. This especially applies to dim mak (or death touch), which claims that it's possible to kill someone with a touch of an index finger at a specific pressure point. No such thing exists, as there has been no scientific proof or successful demonstration of this claim in the real world.
Speaking of practical, pressure point fighting has little practical use in a real-life situation.
When you're fighting, both you and your opponent will be moving around, trying not to get hit. It would take skillful concentration, accuracy, and strength to locate and successfully hit a specific pressure point.
Even if you land a hit on a pressure point, it is unlikely to cause long-term paralysis, let alone death, as dim mak claims. Conversely, this is also why human pressure points are effective in medicine. The patient is not supposed to move, making each pressure point easy to target.
Your opponent then would have to be entirely still for pressure points to be reliable. You can still use them to your advantage, especially in self-defense, but the chances of having that opportunity and pulling it off are pretty low.
In fact, you can still train in martial arts while ignoring the concept of pressure points. Your time may be better spent on other forms of training like punch accuracy and conditioning.
Knock-Out Point: Having knowledge of pressure points is good but quite impotent without a power punch to back it up! We have written a post shedding light on how much force is behind a person's punch -- Average Human Punch Force.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Practice Pressure Point Fighting?
If you're interested in learning pressure point fighting, you can contact an instructor, watch instructional videos, or practice with a training partner.
Are Knockout Pressure Points Dangerous?
As with any form of combat, there are associated risks with human pressure points in martial arts. These are weak points that you could use to your advantage but are also anatomical flaws that can lead to severe injury or death.
For example, poking out someone's eyes for too long can cause permanent blindness, while damaging the carotid artery can kill someone. It's best to practice at partial speed or strength, especially if you're training with a partner.
How Are Pressure Points Used in Medicine?
In medicine, pressure points are primarily used in massages and acupuncture to help relieve various illnesses in the body.
As you can see, there are plenty of human pressure points you can target to gain the upper hand against an assailant. However, remember that you cannot wholly rely on knockout pressure points. In a self-defense situation, how you use timing and your surroundings can make the difference between safety and harm.
With that being said, we hope this article helped you train to become a better martial artist!