This article is written by leading self defence and pressure point expert Anthony Pillage. It was originally posted on our “do you want to write for us” page. However I have placed it on the home page because it is an excellent article. Thanks for sharing the information Anthony, I’m sure everyone will enjoy reading about this subject especially when it comes to the use of pressure points for self defence.
You can read my review of Anthony’s best selling DVD series here
The Katsu Matrix
By Anthony Pillage
Go onto any martial art internet forum and undoubtedly one of the most hotly debated subjects is that concerning the use of pressure points within fighting systems.
The supporters are wholeheartedly passionate about the effectiveness of using these “vital” areas within their own particular art whereas the “non believers” tend to echo their sentiments in a completely opposite way. There seems to be no grey areas where points are concerned, no one seems to want to sit on the proverbial fence.
However, at the Seni show in 2008 and this year, one of only four seminars that were a sell-out was one on the use of points in combat situations taught by myself. It would appear that whenever George Dillman visits these shores his seminars are fully booked months in advance. Prof. Rick Clarke’s DVDs on the use of points are amongst the best sellers of martial arts DVDs. My own set “the Meridian Attack System” has been an absolute best seller. This would certainly intimate that this is an area where there is huge interest within the martial arts community at large.
My own interest in this area stems from a visit to Cyprus and feeling pressure points used firsthand……on me. The ease of manipulation and the small amount of force needed to effect a knockout absolutely amazed and completely piqued my interest. Continuing my own studies I became aware of the pressure point mapping system in Kata and how this could totally change the way in which we could interpret bunkai (practical application). Since those early days my interest has just grown and grown, mainly from the fact that people far smaller and weaker than myself could learn techniques and nullify someone my own size comfortably having just a small amount of experience and knowledge. As an instructor primarily teaching within the Jutsu framework and looking at reality based self defence, this extra ‘arrow in the quiver’, so to speak, is to my mind an important and necessary one.
The history of martial science, many believe, dates back thousands of years to the legendary Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk from India who to traveled to China and taught self-defence skills to the Monks of the Shaolin Monastery. Originally he came from Royal blood and had spent his early years engaged in many forms of martial arts training. Legend says that he not only studied the movement of animals and how they defended themselves but also actively engaged in researching vital points after witnessing the demise of a soldier struck by a staff and the ease with which the warrior died. His fascination led him to experiment on captured enemies and slaves using blunt instruments to glean information regarding the weaknesses of the human body. All reactions were duly noted and studied with huge interest by him and his instructors. After years of research and the deaths of many, a basic blueprint of pressure point mapping had been laid down.
The 4th century work from India, the Sushruta Samhita, identifies 107 vital points of the human body. Of these 64 were classified as being lethal if accurately struck with the fist or baton. Sushruta’s works, (who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Surgery’), formed the basis of the school of Ayurvedic medicine (a skill practiced to this day), which was taught alongside various Indian martial arts that had an emphasis on pressure point fighting, such as Varma Kalai and Marma Adi. With many other references to vital points in Vedic and contempary Indian sources, it is certain that India’s martial arts community knew not only of the importance of points from both a self defence standpoint and as a practical martial striking art.
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It would appear that many had taken up the baton that Bodhidharma had left behind and in the early thirteenth century a book call Hai Yaun Li contained a list of 32 dangerous points. In addition, The Bubishi a scroll used by the Okinawan martial arts schools has many pressure points listed and is still widely used by practitioners to this day.
The Okinawan’s took great interest in the practicality of pressure points and combined these techniques with their own indigenous martial system called ‘Te’. Bear in mind that these techniques were not thought of as a way of filling a seminar or looking impressive on YouTube, but as an addition to a fighting system that could mean the difference between life and death to a warrior on the battlefield.
In Japan, the methods of Sappo (killing blows) were always taught in conjunction with methods of Kappo or Katsu (resuscitation). This balanced approach allowed the karate expert to dispatch an opponent and quickly revive him should the need arise. This dual concept fits the oriental idea of Yin and Yang (opposites) and the importance of maintaining balance and harmony in life. These skills saved many a comrades life throughout the tumultuous years in Japanese history.
‘Sappo’ is the art of striking vital points with the intent to deliver a disabling or fatal blow. These vital points are anatomical weak areas in the body’s structure known as Atemi Waza or the Jintai Kyusho. Normally they are fairly well protected, but at times these areas can be more susceptible to attack. Struck with sufficient force and the proper angle and direction, serious or fatal injury will occur. Note that many of the vital points are located in the midline and are related to the Chakras (energy wheels) of Yoga. Even the points used on the arms and legs can be traced back to the midline, and even though the reference points used are associated with the Chinese meridians, there are a lot of the Japanese points which are based on a vastly different system. It is accepted that these concepts of energy are ancient and are related to the energy lines of oriental healing. It is interesting that the ancient Greek and Roman symbol of medicine, the Aesculapian staff, is a serpent, which brings to mind the Kundalini (serpent power) of Yoga.
‘Kappo’, also known as ‘Katsu’, is the medical art of the restoration of life. This art is designed to resuscitate persons who have fainted or who have been knocked unconscious. Originally it was felt that Katsu should be employed for reviving victims of attacks. Later, however, it was discovered that this art was also effective in some cases of drowning, sunstroke and in helping victims of accidents. It should be noted that these methods are ancient and are no longer considered the standard of modern medical care. These methods have been replaced around the world by updated versions known as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The question is, are the modern methods as effective? And if tested, then it will be found that they are no substitute, the Katsu is far more efficient in the treatment of severe cases of muscle trauma, and also in the case of resuscitation of persons knocked out. It is however interesting to note that medical research is now looking at points (stomach 9 in particular) for the use of restarting the heart in cases of heart failure. Also with the advent of ever more powerful means of studying the human body, CAT scans are now being employed to inspect the brain when acupuncture points are being stimulated. They have shown that there is a marked increase in electrical activity in the corresponding parts of the brain. This leaves no doubt in my mind that this activity could be translated to the manipulation of points within fighting systems.
‘Dim Mak’, or more famously known as the ‘Death Touch’ (but in reality energy interruption), is an attack on meridian and pressure points found within some styles of oriental martial arts, especially those with ancient Chinese roots. Dim Mak is supposed to be a way in which the practitioner can immediately incapacitate an opponent. Some strikes have the ability to cause instantaneous death, whilst others can cause a fatality at a later time. The points of attack used in Dim Mak correspond to the same locations as used in the acupuncture points we discussed earlier.
A practitioner of Dim Mak is supposedly capable of inflicting serious harm to an individual by disrupting chi (qi or prana) throughout their opponent’s meridians, causing the cessation of chi to major organs such as the heart or brain, which in turn, lead to injury or death.
The secrets of Dim Mak were only ever taught to the most respected of long-term students whose commitment to the art was proven. The techniques needed not only pinpoint precision but also an understanding of the body’s natural rhythms, so that the points struck were at their most susceptible. Each organ has a particular time of day associated to it, a time when it and its associated points are at their most vulnerable. Each of the major organs has a meridian attached to them and it is the striking or manipulation of these in combination that makes the technique extremely dangerous and effective. This is called the Five Element theory and is used extensively within Traditional Chinese Medicine for healing as well as the area of martial science.
The five elements are earth, water, metal, wood and fire. Each of these elements has unique characteristics that correspond to various body parts.
Fire is circulation and pulmonary systems. Earth is linked to the digestive systems and spleen. Metal is associated with the lungs, large intestine and lymph systems. Water is linked to the bladder and kidney. Wood is linked to the liver and gall bladder. Each of the organs has either a yin or yang denomination.
Within in the Five Element Theory are the creative and destructive cycles. I am always reminded of the child ‘s game paper, scissors, rock when looking at these. In the creative cycle, each element either nourishes or feeds off the elements either side of it. Therefore: Fire feeds Earth and is nourished by Wood, Earth feeds Metal and is fed upon by Fire, Metal holds Water and is nourished by Earth, Water is held by Metal and feeds Wood and Wood gets its support from Water and feeds Fire.
In the Destructive Cycle, the system makes a pentagram, one of the oldest and most powerful of ancient symbols. I think the easiest way to remember these is think of a axe. You use it to chop down a tree hence Metal destroys Wood. Then think of a tree, the tree extracts minerals from the soil to grow, hence Wood destroys Earth. If you were to dam a stream you would use earth to do so, hence Earth destroys Water. A blacksmith’s forge uses fire to shape iron objects, so Fire would burn Metal.
Depending on which source you use, we can safely say that there are approximately 800 pressure points to be found within the human body. Of these, I would say from my own level of experience, there are about 40 of which would be practical in a ‘street’ confrontation. Naturally the state of the assailant, whether they have taken narcotics, are drunk, or maybe they are what we call a ‘dead head’ or ‘non responder’ will all have to be taken into account. Many of the group of ‘non believers’ I have found fall into the latter category and perhaps rightly so, when so-called Grandmasters cannot even make the most simple of techniques work on them at all. Research shows that approximately 15% of the population falls within this statistic. Within my own club these figures stand up pretty accurately. However there are about 20 points that work 100% effectively on even the most difficult of subjects.