Martial Arts Tips – Fighting Using Pressure Points

Kyusho Jitsu or the art of using pressure points or vital points is the subject of this article. You can guess that by the title, eh? There are about 108 pressure points used in the martial arts. The points can correspond to the Meridians of Chinese Medicine, Yin/yang, Times of the Shichen, elements theory, or they can be related to the location of blood vessels and nerve channels. Does it matter how you classify the location of the point as long as the technique works? It might if you are a martial arts purist. If you are a brawler or a street fighter it may not be quite as important.

On the human body there are about eight magic points in which if struck properly can cause instant death. I am not going to discuss these points for obvious reasons. I don’t want to be responsible for some twit trying to kill one of their classmates by using one of these pressure points.

From what I have learned from various sources is that the pressure points can be divided into two basic categories: rub points and strike points. Some points are both. It is also necessary to understand the angle and direction the point must be struck to be totally effective. It also matters how much penetration is required to activate the point. With some points just a touch will activate the point where others require a substantial amount of force to use.

Locating the points is relatively simple. Find where the blood vessels or nerve channels cross over a bony area or are close to the surface and that is where a Kyusho point is likely to be found. Using an acupuncture chart also is helpful in locating the points but is somewhat overwhelming. There are several good books available that show the points. One of the best I have found is The Art of Striking by Marc Tedeschi. There are excellent pictures and diagrams of the points in this book and several other texts by Mr. Tedeschi. He also does a good job comparing several different arts and their respective techniques. Another excellent reference is The Bubishi, the Bible of Karate by Patrick McCarthy. They should be in your library if for nothing else but as reference to the points.

Now that you have a pictorial reference and a good description of the points how do you go about learning them? You can get a list and a magic marker along with a willing subject and commence drawing dots in strategic places. This is a very hard way to learn the points and remembering them and makes your partner look like he has some kind of pox. Been there, done that. Doesn’t work so well. A better way is to get a list of your techniques, perhaps from your kata, or perhaps of the lists of jujutsu techniques if that is what you are studying. For self defense such as Krav Maga or Haganah you have lists of the techniques used. With the techniques in hand and a willing partner not so covered with dots you can proceed to learn the points. Select a technique, see where that technique hits or grabs and find the corresponding pressure points. Use that method to learn as many points as practical. I have found that we pretty much use the same points doing all of the techniques that are basic to our system. We use the Dan Zan Ryu technique lists, Shotokan karate kata, and Haganah lists. At about 4th kyu and above the techniques are practiced with immense control but at full speed and with resistance. Lets you find out what works in a fight.

For a basic introduction to the techniques, grab your partner, or punch or kick as you have been taught and note where those locations are on your partner. Easy on the contact. Getting blasted in the nose really cuts down on enthusiasm. Once you have located a half dozen points then you can begin to memorize their location using the techniques as a prompter. You may have to do some research to discover the angle and direction of the strike or press but you now have a good start in getting the points. Note: Do not actually strike the points just to see if they work – they can be lethal or crippling. Pressure point practice should not be done more than 15 – 20 minutes per week.

I had an instructor once. I respect him highly for his accomplishments and his abilities. But one time he mentioned that the pressure point stuff did not work. Then he commenced to teach strikes to pressure points. With about 600 – 700 pressure points located on, at, or near the surface of the skin it is hard not to grab or strike a pressure point. The question is will that point produce an effect if struck or pressed? The trick is to hit the specific points in a fast paced and dynamic situation such as a fight. Not all pressure points work the same on all people. Some folks are more sensitive, some are less sensitive when you strike or grab a pressure point. Best to have a back up plan and to utilize it. I teach 1 – 5 strikes, throw the opponent to the ground a hard as possible then finish them off with some type of constriction.

A friend of mine who we shall call Al is a long time Judo player. Recently he discovered that if he modified the entrance to his O-soto gari (mountain storm or outside major reaping throw) he could throw his uke so hard that uke was knocked out upon landing. When we began discussing his technique we discovered that he was, on his entrance and kazushi, striking Stomach 9 and 10. His uke was knocked unconscious before the throw was even started. Stomach 9 and 10 are located on the carotid sinus on either side of the neck. Now a case may be made that there are several mechanisms there that may cause a person to go unconscious. The first is the meridian theory where if you strike two points on the same meridian at the same time it can produce unconsciousness. Another is that under the carotid sinus is a bar receptor that monitors and regulates blood pressure. Striking this point sends a message to the brain saying that the blood pressure is too high and the heart momentarily stops causing unconsciousness. Another theory is that striking the carotid sinus forces blood into the brain via the carotid artery. The brain being the sensitive organ that it is cannot handle the over pressurization and causes uke to pass out. Now does it matter what the mechanism is as long as Skippy hits the floor?

Punching is not always a decisive technique but it is easier to do than trying to apply a joint lock on an unwilling opponent. Joint locks are always decisive (locks are to break, holds are to control. Yes they are interchangeable depending on your intent) when they are applied correctly. Now would it not seem prudent to “short circuit” an opponent with a punch to the side of the nose or below the ear or to the carotid sinus prior to applying the joint lock? Even a swift kick to the groin may give you the time to apply some joint locks. It is best when your opponent cannot resist your endeavors to inflict pain and discomfort. Joint locks also use pressure points.

Consider your opponent is always at your 12:00 o’clock position. As he or she attacks step hard to the 11:00 o’clock position and without hesitation punch stomach 9/10. You will have ½ to ¾ of a second to do what ever you want from continuing to strike, to a joint lock, to a throw or a combination of everything listed. It matters not whether it is a karate oi-zuki or a right cross. Timing is everything and if you hit with sufficient force Skippy will be in dreamland.

So how big is a pressure point? In acupuncture they use sharp needles to stimulate and work the points. So the points are not very large. Precision is everything. So if Skippy in a drunken rage attempts to punch your lights out will you be able to hit that pencil tip sized sweet spot to put him into dreamland? Probably not. First of all Skippy’s attack will cause you to have an adrenalin dump and you will lose most if not all of your fine motor skills. Even if you have trained to expect the adrenalin dump your skills will be somewhat degraded. Therefore your techniques must utilize gross motor skills and would work better if you caused some mechanical impairment to Skippy. It is in those gross motor techniques that you must find the location of the pressure points and train to hit them under duress. You have an area about the size of a quarter (.25 cent piece) to strike. Presses must be more accurate. How you train is as important as what you train. Training is specific and under stress you will do exactly what you have trained to do.

Let us examine Figure 4 takedown from my system [also known as tekubi shigarami in jujitsu] and count the pressure points utilized in this simple but effective technique.

Step 1: The attacker delivers a straight right cross or right lunge punch to your face.

Step 2: The forward to the 11 o’clock position and do a sweeping block [ne gashi uke is not really a block but a deflection]. Timing is everything so if you wait too long you will be struck with your opponent’s other hand. As you do the deflection grab the attacker’s right wrist with your right hand. In fact slide your hand down the arm as you proceed to grasp the wrist and pull the arm toward your right rear.

Points used: Heart 6 and lung 8 on the wrist. As you slide your hand down the attacker’s arm you are also stimulating the fire and metal meridians on the arm. Fire meridian is on the little finger side of the arm. Metal is on the thumb side of the arm. There are points along these meridians but we shall not overly concern ourselves with them.

Step 3: As you grab the attacker’s wrist with your right hand squeeze hard and use your left hand to do a palm strike to the corner of the attacker’s right eye. Strike in an upward and inward direction of 45 degrees to the front of the head.

Points used: Triple Warmer 23 and Gall Bladder 1. This is in fact a double meridian strike and if done forcefully will cause unconsciousness. If struck from rear to front may dislodge the eyeball from its socket. Use caution while training.

Step 4: Immediately strike the inside of the elbow with your left radial bone. Use this strike to fold the attacker’s arm back over his right shoulder. Reach up with your left hand and grab your own right wrist to make the figure 4.

Points used: Lung 5. Striking this point will cause a cross body reflex and will inhibit the defender from hitting you with his left hand.

Step 5: Swing your left foot in a large arc towards your right rear. This will create a void for your opponent to fall into. Remember that nature abhors a void and will seek to fill it. Accommodate nature with Skippy.

Points used: As you start to move, use your right forearm to strike the brachial plexus between the opponent’s biceps and triceps.

Step 6: With the attacker on the ground keep him up on his left side to restrict his left arm so he cannot hit you. Place your left knee along his jaw line and your right knee in his floating ribs. Put his elbow directly into your stomach. Press down with your knees and pull straight back with your hands. Go slow with this in practice because it hurts like hell and could dislocate your partner’s wrist.

Points used: locate them and count them, there is a bunch.

Upon submission move to a defensive position.

Using pressure or Kyusho points in a fight is viable but it requires study and practice.

Train Hard.