One of the benefits of having trained in the martial arts for as long as I have, is that I’ve mostly seen it all and have almost tried it all. You’ll note that I don’t make a point of saying I’m “good” at it all… Martial arts is a marathon, not a race and there’s always something further to be learned, experienced and discovered. So, I’ve seen a lot and the important distinction that needs to be made is that not everything that’s taught is effective. And this is where pressure points come in.
I’ve written about pressure points before; in fact, it may have been in recent months. Age and the drafting of daily posts tends to make one forget what they have written the month prior. But it’s always a good topic to cover, especially for new students or practitioners who may be interested in learning karate or martial arts. In simplest terms, a pressure point is where you use one or several fingers to strike an area of the body where it will cause pain, compliance and/or dysfunction. Although knocking someone out is a very real possibility in a fight, things like the Vulcan nerve pinch, which render an opponent unconscious with a mere touch, aren’t actually a thing.
The thing about pressure points, is that they’re what I tend to refer to as a “support mechanism.” What I mean by this is that they aren’t intended to be used on their own. Usually, one would need to deliver a strike or two and get control of the individual BEFORE trying to hit a pressure point. Although there are some pressure points that you can access through an actual strike (hitting the groin is a good example), these are the rarer ones. Although learning them is all well and good, and I should point out that I’m a big fan of drills in class, the use and execution of pressure points in a real life situation is a whole different ballgame.
Picture this, if you will… You get into a situation that has escalated to the point where it appears that the need to defend yourself is imminent. You no longer have the option of walking away; at least not without getting struck from behind and getting injured. So, you square off against your opponent and try to evaluate what your first move should be. Here’s the thing: it should DEFINITELY not be a pressure point. The dojo environment allows you the opportunity to feel around, locate the pressure point and practice using it.
That’s all well and good, but one needs to recognize the fact that every person’s body is different. Some people will be more sensitive to certain points than others and what worked quite well on your partner in the dojo likely won’t have the same effect on an opponent in the street. Especially since your dojo partner will just stand there and let you grope around for the pressure point. The opponent on the street doesn’t plan on standing still. In fact, if you walk up and try to access a pressure point, you’ll likely be flattened on your ass before your finger jabs ANYTHING.
I like pressure points as they can be very handy as a control mechanism through pain compliance. And they’re sure fun to poke lightly when I’m wrestling with my son. The best part is seeing him trying to duplicate the effect on me. But they should never be used as a standalone technique. Should you miss, can’t locate the specific point you’re trying for or a particular opponent has a body type or muscle tone that won’t let you access a point, you could place yourself in a compromised position where you face serious injury. Food for thought… ☯