We have all seen the videos on the internet of pressure point fighting.
You know, the ones where instructors touch an opponent/ student, and they fall to the floor...often in severe pain.
Well, in this article I am going to debunk pressure points and explain if they work or not, how to use them and why you should practise them.
Let's dive in.
What Is Pressure Point Fighting?
Pressure point fighting is the art of striking a specific small area of the body to either incapacitate, inflict pain or render an opponent unconscious.
OK, so that's what it is....but who does it and where can it be found?
You might be surprised to learn that pressure point fighting exists in almost every martial art.
It is both taught and used by law enforcement agencies across the globe, and when I first joined the police in 1998, I was subjected to a written examination around pressure point fighting.
You can find pressure point training and use within martial arts such as:
- Thai Boxing
- And many many more.
So if it works and so many Martial Arts use it, why does it get a bad reputation.
The Dark Side Of Pressure Point Fighting
I once attended a seminar by a well known Karate instructor/ Martial Arts instructor who was also doing several other Martial Arts.
He really annoyed me, not least because he tried to call me 'The Judo Guy' throughout the seminar.
But because he stood there and actually (I shit you not) taught a no punch body strike.
I stood around, and 30 veteran law enforcement people were actually pretending to punch another person in the stomach from a distance of 5 feet.
Never have I felt like I was in a room full of people taking hallucinogenic drugs as I was at that moment.
There was just one issue....they were all stone-cold sober.
And this is a classic example of the dark side of pressure point fighting and Martial Arts....the 'too good to be true' effect.
Some people think they can tap a man at a specific part of their body with little force (such as the tip of a finger) and they are going to be knocked out or be frozen to the spot.
In truth, this doesn't work.
These are myths from Kung Fu films that people like to teach.
And sadly, for psychological reasons, people will play along, and some will even say they have been affected.....and this is the same thing that happens with stage hypnotists.
Are One Touch or No Touch Knockouts Real?
No, they are not.
We have all heard of 'Death Touches' and the 'five-point palm exploding heart technique' from Kill Bill.
But the reality is that they don't exist or work.
It is a fantasy.
So...if all this no-touch and one-touch knockouts don't work....what does.
Pressure Points That Work In Fighting....And Why They Work
If you have done any Judo or BJJ you know that one of the first ways to open a persons guard on the ground is to dig the point of your elbow into the deep tissue inside the thigh.
Because there is a spot where the connective tissues and muscles of the body meet and applying pressure there causes discomfort.
If I was to slap on an Achilles lock onto your ankle...the aim isn't to break the ankle but to cause severe pain, making you tap.
(sure you may get some soft tissue damage to the foot, but it wouldn't incapacitate you completely).
And if we were in the clinch and I stuck my finger right into the hollow point of the skull just behind your ear.....it would cause you pain and force you to deal with this.
This is the reality of pressure points.
Parts of the body really hurt when you apply pressure to them.
And that really is pressure point fighting.
So, when a Thai Boxer or MMA fighter throws that devastating Thai Kick to the meat of the thigh which causes severe pain and often turns the legs to jelly.
That 'sweet' spot really is a pressure point.
Just as a boxer hits the chin with a left hook knocking out the opponent....that actually causes the brain to jar against the skull causing the knockout.
These are all real-world pressure points being used.
Now, before we throw the baby out with the bath water....there are plenty of things we don't know about the body, and it is here that eastern medicine meets west.
Chi, Acupuncture and Reiki
You might be reading this and thinking that Eastern medicine doesn't work.
Well, having received acupuncture and Reiki before I can tell you that it worked for me.
I strongly feel we as humans can exert a great deal of control over our bodies because, in essence, we do so daily...without thinking about it.
We give attention to the things that need attention.
The cut on our finger gets attention even though the beating of our heart doesn't.....because these things are taken care of automatically.
I also feel we do have our own 'internal' energy systems like Chi....yes, ultimately don't think we know everything about or body.
There is still some room for these types of healing processes.
But there is a big difference between knocking a person out with 2 fingers and focusing on an area of your body with your mind to produce oxygenated blood flow to that area and potentially increase self-healing.
The Use Of Pressure Points In Self-Defence
We already talked about pressure points being used with high levels of force...like a punch to the chin or a leg kick to the thigh. Indeed body punches are also designed to target pressure point areas.
But are pressure points used in self-defence?
The answer is yes.
Pressure points are generally used to gain compliance, to alter positioning and to affect balance.
So, for example.
Let us say that I was attacked and am on the floor with my opponent standing.
I know that by the knee there is a sweet spot that if you apply pressure forces the knee to buckle slightly outwards.
I would look for a shot like that followed by a strong push or pull to drag the attacker to the floor.
That sort of stuff works.
Or let's say I was trying to choke an attacker out, and they were defending...I might put my knuckles deep into the side of his neck, so he drops the hands and allows me to sink in the choke.
Those are self-defence uses of pressure points.
Pressure Point Fighting Targets
Below is a list of the targets for pressure point fighting:
Mandibular angle: This is the corner of the bottom of the jaw that is pressed is very painful. Use a single knuckle to cause pain
Jugular Notch: Also called the suprasternal notch it is a small area on the base of the front of the neck that if you push your fingers into it is very painful.
Clavicle: All around your collar bones both inside and out are areas to use pressure to cause pain.
Front Mandible: The point of the chin just below the mouth is a pressure point, Often used by law enforcement if people put drugs in their mouth, to get the mouth open.
Brachial Plexus (Side of Neck): Midway down the side of the neck you will find a pressure point that can be very painful.
Mandibular Nerve: This is the pressure point behind the ear, again often used by law enforcement to gain compliance.
Infra orbital Nerve: This is under the nose, and if you apply pressure to the hollow spot just below the nostrils, you will cause pain. Again suitable for grappling situations
Diaphragm /Sternum: A strike into your midsection where the diaphragm is can cause the air to exit the lungs and drop someone. A short body punch can do this.
Forearms: Strike the inside of the forearm with a fist or object, and you will cause pain, and a person will lose grip function.
Back of elbow/ Tricep: This area is used when applying standing armlocks with the knife-edge of the hand. It is an excellent way to get the arm straightened out.
Inside of Thigh/ Outside: The side of the thigh and inside have areas for targeting. Inside requires pressure such as from an elbow in grappling.....the outside needs a strike due to the thickness of the muscle
Pressure points are real.
But sadly the mythology surrounding them is generally caused by people looking to monetise low-level skill and neglect other more practical areas of fighting and self-defence.
While an interesting area of study, most martial arts take care of all, you need to know within the application of their techniques. Such as guard passing and leg locks in Sambo and BJJ, body punching in boxing and so on.
Pressure points do, however, have a lot of uses and applications in security and law enforcement.
Therefore, they should be considered a vital part of some training and definitely not dismissed as unpractical, and the study needs to be kept alive.
Ultimately.....some pressure points work but often how they are taught makes them next to useless.