The Case For Vital Points
By Rick Clark
People join the martial arts for many reasons, and
learning self-defense is one of the most important.
But, is that what people are getting?
the development of martial arts, both as a sport and
a martial way, there appears to be a decrease in the
combative applications found in the arts. Emphasis
seems to be placed on safety, protective equipment,
rules of competition, limiting striking areas, physical
conditioning, personal development, or sport applications
of technique. And competitions divide contestants
into divisions by age, sex, rank and weight.
While it is still possible to teach and learn self-defense
techniques from martial arts that have a sports or
spiritual focus, more often than not effective street
self-defense has been lost somewhere in the process.
In addition, competitive divisions often isolate the
student from facing opponents that are much larger,
heavier or stronger.
Artificial divisions will not occur in real life.
If a woman is assaulted, it will probably be done
by a male who is taller, stronger, and heavier. If
a child is abducted, it will be by an adult. In most
situations, the attacker will attempt to have the
advantage. Our job as martial arts instructors is
to provide a tool for the smaller, younger, or weaker
individual to use when faced with a determined attacker.
What will give the smaller person an advantage over
the larger and stronger opponent? If you look at judo
tournaments, you will see that the larger opponent
has an advantage over the smaller judoka. Of course,
the smaller judoka can throw and score on the larger
opponent, but it requires a high degree of skill and
ability to do so. This is one of the reasons you see
weight divisions in judo tournaments. Weight does
have an impact.
Skill level is another consideration in tournaments.
You do not see black belts sparring against yellow
or green belts. Can the lower ranks score points on
a higher-ranked and experienced martial artist? Of
course they can, but by and large the black belts
should be able to beat the lower-ranked students.
Do you see juniors competing against adults? Do you
see senior students competing against juniors or younger
adults? No, is it because the junior or senior could
not win? Of course not, they could, but in the interest
of being fair to the competitors, age divisions are
set up to lay down a level playing field for them.
Therefore, we must train our students to defend themselves
against older (or younger), stronger, bigger, faster,
or more skilled opponents. It is imperative that we
offer a way to equalize the advantages the aggressor
may possess against our students. Everyone knows there
are places on the human body that are vulnerable to
attack. It is common knowledge that a punch to the
stomach can cause a person to lose their breath. Yet,
with training, you can learn to take a strong punch
to the stomach. If delivered to the testicles, throat,
or eyes, that same punch could be quite destructive.
So at one level, we understand there are targets on
the human body that are more vulnerable than others.
If we understand and accept that there are places
on the body that are more susceptible, then it would
seem logical we should look for these weaker places.
Once we know where these weak points are located,
it then becomes a matter of developing the skill to
make use of these points under stress.
For centuries, Sunzi's The Art of War has been one
of the treasured books of the literate warriors of
the Orient. Even today, in the West, we can find words
of sound advice. For example, Sunzi said, "to
be certain to take what you attack is to attack a
place the enemy does not protect." You might
stop and ask, "how does that affect my practice
To answer this, I would like to lay a little foundation.
If you look in chapter six of Funakoshi Gichin's Karate-Do
Kyohan, you will find a discussion of vital points
(kyusho) and the results of strikes to various parts
of the body.
In many cases, the places he describes to strike
are quite obvious targets to attack. For example,
some of the targets are ones that the man on the street
would be aware of attacking. These are the eyes, nose,
groin, and solar plexus. Yet, in this same section,
he states that if you strike a specific point on the
wrist, you will knock out your opponent. Funakoshi
also details points on the arm, legs, back, chest,
neck, and head that will cause an opponent to become
unconscious or possibly fatal if struck.
It is not only Funakoshi or other Oriental authors
that make such claims. In his Modern Judo series (1942),
Charles Yerkow notes a number of points that would
be used in self-defense, but not in practice, as they
are very dangerous. For instance, he notes one point
at the bottom of the foot that can be deadly when
struck. You can find examples of places to strike
in Professor H.H. Hunter's Super Ju-Jitsu (1938),
in which he locates points on the arm and leg that
will create "partial paralysis" if struck.
I would like to go back to the Sunzi quote, "to
be certain to take what you attack is to attack a
place the enemy does not protect." If we look
at the comments of Hunter, Yerkow, and Funakoshi,
they all state there are places on the extremities
that can be struck to cause partial paralysis, unconsciousness,
or even death. If a person is being attacked, what
does the individual have to do to make contact with
you? They must put out their arm or leg to attack.
Once they place a part of their body near you, they
are in effect giving you a target to attack. I am
confident that individuals would not be overly concerned
with a person attacking the arm or leg. Yet, they
would be protective of their eyes, noes, ears, throat,
groin, or solar plexus.
So, if you are aware of the results of attacking vital
points on your opponent's arms and legs, it is possible
to have a relatively clear shot at those targets.
Once you have successfully struck these points, it
will be too late for your opponent to adequately defend
against further attacks to vital points. The normally
harder to access points may now be seen as targets
of opportunity and readily attacked.
A sound knowledge of the vital points located on the
body's extremities can prove to be a valuable asset
in any self-defense situation. This understanding
offers you the door to enter should you wish to attack
points on the head, neck, chest, or back, providing
an equalizer for the serious student of self-defense.
About The Author:
Rick Clark specializes in the study of vital point
applications within traditional martial art techniques
and teaches vital points seminars throughout the
world. He has published numerous articles and books
on the subject and has just published "Pressure
Point Fighting: A guide To The Secret Heart Of Asian
Martial Arts," published by Tuttle. He can
be contacted at 3099 E. Dallas Rd., Terre Haute
IN, 47802, or via e-mail at is email@example.com.
Note: This article is an edited rendition of
one that was to appear in volume Bugeisha magazine,
but the issue unfortunately never went to print.
It is reprinted her with permission of Bugeisha
and its Editor, Angle Lemus.
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