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Pressure Points 3: Types Of Points

By Bruce Everett Miller, PA-C

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a series by Bruce Miller that describe different types of pressure points and their effectiveness as well as how to use them. Article 1 was “Going to the Heart Of Pressure Points: What They Really Are”, and article 2 was “Pressure Points 2:Some Observations On Their Use.”

In our first article we talked about some of the reasons why there is confusion about whether or not pressure points work and why, in my opinion, some people probably legitimately believe that pressure points do not work. I broached the subject of the three different types of pressure points and in my second article I made some observations about their use.

In this article we will cover examples of the 3 different types and particularly we will show at least one example of each type. Please be aware that I have chosen points which will show you the underlying principles. Therefore don’t just take this one example of each type as the only point. Instead, use that principle to unlock the other points of the body. I will also talk about some of the limitations of each type and why you would not simply focus on level 3 reflex pressure points.

Level 1 Pressure Points

Level 1 pressure points are the most common pressure points there are. These are the types that people generally think of when they think of pressure points. In short, Level 1 pressure points are those pressure points that REQUIRE pain (their effect) to make them work.. NOTE that does not mean that every pressure point that you stimulate which hurts is a level 1 pressure point. Sometimes level 2 type pressure points will also hurt when they are stimulated. However, the difference is that level 1 pressure points REQUIRE pain to work whereas level 2 pressure points do not require pain to work but may hurt when stimulated.

A perfect example of level 1 pressure points is an arm bar or wrist lock. These can have dramatic effect on your opponent but in some non-responders you can actually break the bones before they will feel much if any pain.

Now I will freely admit that the real effect of a level 1 pressure point is the reaction the opponent’s body exhibits when he feels the pain. Suddenly he stops trying to attack you by other means and tries to deal with the pain that is being produced. In fact, this is the intent of level 1 pressure points: to cause this body reaction. But please be aware that the pain itself is only a vehicle to get you to the point that the opponent concentrates on the pain or cannot function due to the pain.

Also be very aware that if the person does not feel pain, then you are not going to be able to do what you want. In our last article we gave an example of a kick to the groin. We admitted that it caused pain in most people but in a small subset it does not. In those people who do not care about the pain whether from training, drugs or mental illness, level 1 pressure points are close to worthless.

So how can you tell? Well, mostly you find out by experimentation. Because level 1 pressure points are very common and located all over the body, you can try striking a point on the way in. If the person responds, it tells you something, if not it still tells you something important.

Another level 1 type of pressure points are the edges of bones. A classic example is the shin kick. Most people know this already but most have never stop to think about the fact that you only have to run your foot down the edge of the shin (or any other bone edge) to cause sharp pain. If the person is not drugged, high or mentally ill, then they are most likely going to have a very pronounced reaction. Again, though it is the reaction you are looking for, your end goal is not simply the pain; for the pain will go away quickly once you stop. Be prepared to use the reaction in advance and you will have a great tool.

There are ways to make the bone pain last longer. And there are also organ (more than you would expect), tendon, muscle, nerve and other types of organs that can be stimulated to cause level 1 pressure point reactions. The full rules of level 1 pressure points are laid out in my book Pressure Points: The Deadly Touch (sold in FightingArts.com’s E-store).

Level 2 Muscle Pressure Points

Instead of hitting, try this one: Use a knuckle fist to run downward (quickly) on the muscles just lateral to the centerline of the chest.

When you simply punch people, what you will notice is that they back up, but most of the time they still hang on with most of their strength. However, when you run a knuckle fist or eye of the phoenix (a fist with the first knuckle extended) quickly down their muscles, they not only back up but also move their hips backward, bend their knees (a little) and drop their weight downward. While most of the time they still have their hands on you there is very little strength in their hands. By the way, it also brings their face closer to you.

I will freely admit that this effect may not last long in a determined opponent and you can only count on about 1/2 of a second before they will begin to regain their composure (and strength in their arms), BUT a half second is a relatively long time if you are prepared to use it.

Another classic effect of level 2 pressure points is the carving motion found in a lot of Tai Chi moves which causes the whole body to swing and works even if the person does not feel pain (meaning it works in most non responders). However, this carving effect is NOT a level 3 response because it can be blocked by tightening the muscles of the forearm. (See my upcoming works on advanced subject class for more on carving and slipping … expected release date OCT 2004.)

The fact is that done correctly, you can stimulate most muscles to have an effect. However, it can be tricky knowing how to do so. Even more important than knowing how to stimulate the muscle is knowing in advance what reaction you are going to get. Remember we said you only have about 1/2 second. If you spend that time observing the reaction, you are not going to be able to capitalize on it. If you know in advance what is going to happen then you can make the most of it.

Level 3 Reflex Pressure Points

Here is a perfect example of a level 3 pressure point. Not only does it work every time (IF you do it correctly) but it does not cause pain. Please be aware that it does cause an uncomfortable feeling but if you examine the feeling you will find it is not pain, instead it is a combination of queasiness and anxiety.

By the way, first I am going to give you the level 3 reflex pressure points and then I am going to show you how to combine a level 1 pressure point and a level 3 pressure point at the same time to get maximum effect.

Why waste your time on Level 1 pressure points when I have said that level 3 reflex pressure points always work? Well, that is true but (1) I am trying to teach you a principle here of how to “unlock’ an opponent (a term we use in Quan Li K’An which means taking away the resistance that people use to fight the effects of level 1 & 2 pressure points) and (2) I am trying to teach you how to think about combining points and principles for maximum effect.

Okay, the reflex we are going to use is the gag reflex. Now many people know about this reflex so the knowledge of its existence is definitely not earth shattering or some kind of secret. However, with a bit of knowledge here we can make this point a lot more effective for you AND teach you some principles that apply to many other points.

Okay, the gag reflex point is located on the middle of the lower, anterior neck, just above the sternal notch.

Now some people will be hesitant thinking that this area is weak and that you are going to damage the throat by pushing here, but let me assure you that while pressing here will feel uncomfortable, you are not going to damage the neck at this location. That is because underneath the point are rings of thick cartilage.

In order for this to work, though, you HAVE to press quickly. If you press slowly, then the person can resist because the gag reflex, which is part of the breathing system, is only stimulated externally by sudden changes in stimulation (See Advanced Pressure Points: The System of Pressure Points for more on the 5 different systems – available in FightingArts.com’s E-store) I suggest that you press with one supported finger in the middle of the neck at this location.

If you have done this correctly you will see the person back up quickly. How far he backs up is in direct proportion to how hard and how fast you push. It is possible to have him launch himself into the wall behind him with all his muscles.

In order to get even more effect, this time I want you to run your fingers on the bone edge of the top part of the sternal notch (hard) so that you are rubbing bone as you press the gag reflex. The bone part is the level 1 pressure point stimulation and the sharp pain will take away any resistance he may have had from your finger or thumb entering this area. Done correctly you should see an enhanced effect.

This is a classic example of how I use pressure points. I frequently use a combination of such points knowing full well that if the level 1 pressure point doesn’t work, then the level 3 will. If both points work, then I am even better off as my opponent is not.

Here are some typical types of Reflex pressure points:

1 - Cardiac Points: they drop the blood pressure. (No, they don’t stop the heart).

2 - Light force knockout points (vascular and RAS stimulation – see The Complete Book of Light Force Knockouts for more on this subject -- available in FightingArts.com’s E-store).

3 - Breathing Points (points that cause a dramatic decrease in the ability to breathe).

4 - Balance disruption points.

5 - Brain protection points (points that cause hard-wired reaction designed to protect the brain and have nothing to do with pain).

Okay, several times in this and the previous article we talked about muscle points being invalidated when you contract the muscles too hard. Well, how about a technique that makes a tightened muscle weak and unable to tighten fully? Welcome to Poison Hand muscle attacks. In the next article we will compare the muscle attacks of poison hands and those of pressure points.


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About The Author:

Bruce Everett Miller, PA-C, is a 6th degree black belt in the style of Quan Li K'an and a teacher of Tai Chi which he combines with his Western medical training as a Physician's Assistant to provide his own unique perspective on the martial arts. He is a well known teacher, seminar leader and author who has produced thirteen books and four videos on various karate related subjects including freefighting, pressure points, the principles of kata, Acupuncture, and light force knockouts. For more information on his books, vidoes and seminars see: http://www.cloudnet.com/~bemiller/ . Miller is a frequent contributor to FightingArts.com and his books and videos on pressure points are available in FightingArts.com e-store under “Pressure Points” in the book section.


To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

pressure points, kyusho, vital points, pain pressure points, muscle pressure points, reflex pressure points


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