How to Learn Martial Arts "Pressure Points"

12 Parts:Understanding pressure pointsHeadNeckShoulderThroatJaw zoneForearm/creviceHandsTorso regionFeetPossible therapeutic usesPracticing the pressure points

The traditional definition of a pressure point is a point that, when pressure is applied, produces crippling pain. This is learnt in a chinese martial art called Dim Mak based on acupuncture pressure points,but this art is very restricted and needs and understanding of Chinese acupuncture points.Because of this I can only provide information on on fragile areas that we'll call vulnerable points. This is used to exploit a weakness or vulnerability in the human body to gain an advantage over an opponent. When using these pressure points one must be particularly careful as it is easy to kill someone accidentally, such as a friend or even an enemy. At that point, you enter the legal system, which generally does not know if you were really defending yourself or were actually the aggressor, and in some cases, that may not even matter. This leads to the point that, more important than the technique, is the mindset that you use in training, which is, of course a personal philosophical decision, but one which requires much thought and consideration of when what you practice must be put to use.

Part 1
Understanding pressure points

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    Learn about the body's very vulnerable areas: These are commonly known as pressure points. The points include the eyes, the groin, the shins, etc. In general, things to consider include:
    • Use kicks that use the wide of your foot for the shins (if you know them) as they will make it harder to miss.
    • Pull your foot back quickly when kicking to the groin so your foot won't be caught. The nose is easily broken with any strike.

Part 2

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    Striking the flat of the forehead forces the head back with little resistance and will actually rock the brain within the skull, causing a concussion, or worse. Beginners should use the heel of their palm, rather than a fist. The same holds true to the back of the skull, just below the horizontal ridge. (The front has one too, above the flat.) The ridges are strong enough to be used as weapons in their own right, so avoid them.
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    Temples: The temples are the thinnest part of the cranium, so a good blow here (one-knuckle punch is ideal) can cause concussion, hemorrhaging, or even death. Do not actually strike a training partner with this move.
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    Temple 2: When this area is hit, the victim may be rendered unconscious, in some cases dead. This can be achieved using a "phoenix eye" punch which involves extending the index finger (search online for an image). Do not attempt to use this punch unless you are in genuine danger.

Part 3

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    Neck/sleeper: This is another more obvious pressure point but is very complicated in application. Get behind your assailant and wrap one arm around his neck, using your radius (forearm bone), apply pressure to the external carotid artery (just to the side of the throat where you feel your pulse beating), slowly lowering them to the ground as you do so. You can increase the pressure by pulling your arm toward you with the other arm, and breathing in as you do, puffing up your chest. You can also place the hand of the squeezing arm in the elbow of the other arm and push the head/neck forward with that other arm. If they show no signs of weakening a sharp blow to the back of the head will disorientate them giving you a chance to run.
    • To counter: Turn your head toward the elbow. The crevice will not press on your throat, and you will be able to breath. Circulation will still be a problem, so you must be quick. Grab the elbow with the closest hand and use the pressure point there. This will loosen their grip, but they will likely not give up. Combine pulling down with biting, foot-stomping, head-butting, eye-gouging, bringing your heel to their groin, shin-kicking, rib-elbowing (turn your hips), hair-pulling, and anything else you can come up with.

Part 4

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    Look for the collar bone. Once located, jab your fingers behind bone and force to the ground (this needs to be performed within about 1/4 second in an actual assault).

Part 5

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    The easiest way to strike is probably with a knife hand (karate chop) turned up side down. A fist will have trouble fitting between the jaw and collarbone. You can also grab and squeeze the throat, and even give it a good yank to dislocate it and make breathing impossible. That is, of course, quite lethal and should be used only as a last resort when there is no other alternative.

Part 6
Jaw zone

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    Under the jaw: Grab the neck on the front and reach under the jaw. Squeeze while pressing upward.
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    TMJ: Support the head with one hand. With the other, follow the jawline to the highest point, just under the ear, where it meets the bump in your skull. Apply pressure inward and upward towards your ear. This is painful and makes speaking very difficult. If possible, a person will try to move away from it, hence the supporting hand. A single-knuckle punch (the second middle finger knuckle) to this spot could dislocate the jaw.

Part 7

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    Forearm/crevice: The crevice of your forearm is made entirely of muscles and tendons, so there's lots to work with. Grab the elbow with your thumb on top. Place your fingers on the back of the elbow for a good grip. squeeze the tip of your thumb toward the tips of your index or middle finger. You have to reinforce the thumb with your fingers, or you'll lose leverage. Press the thumb into the middle of the crevice, into either side of the crevice, or into the lump on the outer forearm formed when you make a fist (the brachioradialis). Experiment with this one. It can be rather tricky.

Part 8

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    Back of the hand: If you are grabbed, look directly at the hand of your assailant, and with either a regular or single-knuckle punch, strike the bones in the back of the hand. When practicing with a partner, give it one good shot, so you're not doing it all day. It only hurts for a minute.
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    Pinch the fingers for a simple defense. When punches are thrown, catch one in your armpit and lock down tight. Grab the upper inner part of the elbow joint––this needs to be done fast. Pinch down hard one finger on each side. This causes excruciating pain and will make your opponent's arm feel like it's breaking.

Part 9
Torso region

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    Sternum: Strike with a single-knuckle to the bone in the middle of the chest. It has no muscle and never much fat, so it is very vulnerable, and if struck properly can break in two down the middle. You can also strike the pectorals like this. EDIT: Breaking the sternum can cause a punctured lung or worse. Be very careful with this and do not practice on friends.
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    Solar plexus: This is a bundle of nerves deep within the center of the abdomen, thought to be responsible for the physical feelings of deep emotions. By striking the area just below the sternum, where the ribs join on the front of the abdomen, you affect this bundle of nerves and cause the diaphragm (breathing muscle) to contract violently. This is "knocking the wind out" of someone. It's a very easy target. This can be countered by flexing the abs quickly at the time of impact, which is accomplished by breathing out or yelling (kiai).
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    Love handles: Place your hand flat on the side of the abdomen, between the ribs and hips. Roll your fingers in toward your palms. Do not pinch. Pinching does next to nothing. This will work on any body type.
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    Ribs: The ribs have very little covering, regardless of the body type, and only thin muscle between them. To break them, raise the arm to extend them, reducing their ability to reinforce each other, and step towards them when you strike. A palm-down knife hand works very well for this. Uppercuts also work for this as they seem to be designed to get right up under the arm, which is what you're aiming for. The rib areas protected by the muscles of the chest or back will not be easily broken, if at all. The lowest ribs connect only to the spine and so are especially vulnerable to breaking.

Part 10

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    Feet: Look down at the foot, and using your heel, raise your knee as high as you can, and stomp on the arch of the foot as hard as you can. Because of its structure, it can easily be broken. Do not strike the toes. It will hurt, but you certainly won't break anything. Try each with light pressure and see which hurts more.

Part 11
Possible therapeutic uses

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    If feeling drowsy or can't concentrate using both pointer fingers, apply pressure. Apply this pressure to temples, the flanks of the bridge of your nose and the corners of your eyes about 5mm from the bridge of your nose.
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    Headaches are a pain. Temporary relief or dulling of pain can be achieved by using the appropriate pressure point.
    • Front of head: Massage both temples
    • Middle/top of head: Apply pressure to point just above ears.
    • Back of head: Place both thumbs just behind ears and trace backwards until you find the point where your skull ends. Move another mm inwards and apply pressure.

Part 12
Practicing the pressure points

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    Bear in mind that speed is key in a fight. If you're stuck fumbling with a pressure point, you're going to get knocked in the head. Practice often, practice safely. Practice as if you were in a real fight. Start slow, and get the placement down. Then, use all the intensity and speed that you can. You fight how you practice, so if you're practicing slow or sloppy, that's how you'll fight, and you probably won't last long.
    • If your focus is on speed, breathe normally (Bak Mei Kung Fu). Your arms can move faster than your lungs. While controlled breathing etc. may provide power, it sacrifices the speed of your arms.
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    Practice on yourself and with a friend. Everybody is different and has different levels of pain tolerance. Where one point may be on you could be an inch to the left on someone else. Some don't feel it at all. The more people you can practice with, the better you can be at approximating where a point should be and finding it when it's not there.
    • Tap out. When practicing with a friend, have them tap their thigh loudly to show that you are doing it properly and need to stop. However, they should only tap if it hurts. False confidence doesn't work in a fight.
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    Practice your focus. Always look directly at your target. If your eyes aren't there, your focus isn't.
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    Hone your techniques. Key things to bear in mind when practicing include:
    • Use the tips of your fingers and thumbs for techniques using either. This works like a needle, focusing all the force into the very tip of your finger/thumb, multiplying the pressure per square inch (psi). You wouldn't sew with the side of a needle, would you?
    • Keep your knees bent, at least a little, at all times. More so when doing techniques. This gives you stability and power. Locked knees must be unlocked for you to move, increasing your reaction time. If you're standing straight up, you're like an upright piece of wood, ready to be pushed right over.
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    Move your weight toward the direction you're putting pressure. If you're pressing down, bend your knees. If you're pushing forward, step that way or turn your hips towards it.
    • For greater force when punching, vision the target spot to be slightly further than the real one. (not recommended for training except with the use of a punch pad).
    • When striking, twist your hips with it. This is a building block of martial arts. It starts your weight moving and is more often than not the source of power in techniques.
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    Practice the recoil. When striking, once you've made contact, pull back quickly. It's almost like bouncing off of what you hit, except you want to recoil quickly enough to prevent the energy you're putting into the target from coming back into your body part. This keeps the energy in the target and causes more damage, especially in bones. This will increase the chance of breaking bones and reduce the chance of the enemy simply grabbing your foot or hand.
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    Yell. In martial arts (Japanese, anyway), this is known as a kiai. It must come from your diaphragm, truly releasing your inner power. It gives you confidence and startles your attacker. By flexing your abs for it, it also protects your solar plexus. This kiai can be the difference between pressure points working or not.


  • Using pain pressure points is basically squeezing muscles. Feel around your own body and you can find lots more.
  • Research. If you don't understand something here, look for more information, especially from a teacher. Wikipedia is recommended.
  • You can't win a fight with pressure points. Learn punches and kicks.
  • These are martial arts techniques, so the best advice is to find a real teacher. Be careful not to join a McDojo, however. See How to: Choose a Martial Arts School for help on that.
  • Always use this for self defense only.
  • Fighting is about speed but also strategy. When fighting a bigger opponent you must look at their eyes, footwork, stance,etc. You must ask look for weak spots. Like if they have had a past injury and they favor a certain limb.


  • Be careful. Mistakes result in injury, death, or an upset friend, so always have a partner's permission. When striking in real world scenario, only resort to pressure points when everything else has failed and your life is in immediate threat (for example, the opponent has gun/knife). Hitting grandma on throat and killing her just because she spanked you won't stand in court as "self-defense". That is why it is better to learn martial art like Aikido rather than relying solely on "pressure points".
  • When using striking points, it should be obvious, but do not actually strike your partner, and do not aim directly at your partner. Go to the side of their body to minimize the chance of an accident. The back of the hand and the sternum should be okay, but head, groin, legs, and feet are off limits. Even experts make mistakes.
  • Beware of your opponent trying to counter you in certain moves such as the sleeper. Their hands and legs are all free and can be used as weapons or for grabbing you back. These techniques are used in many different martial arts. Such as taijustu (quick hand too hand contact).
  • Beware of any pressure point advice that seems "magical". It is most certainly not. Though often based on acupuncture and it's effects, which seem to be gaining some respect in the medical community, they are certainly not effective or quick enough for a fight. The goal of using pressure points in self defence is an immediate result, and it's a simple fact of anatomic physiology that striking someone's arm in a certain way will not stop their heart.

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Categories: Martial Arts