Pressure points in martial arts (also known by the terms Kyusho, Dim Mak, vital points and other names) are areas of the body that, when manipulated, can cause pain and body dysfunction.
When I first wanted to learn about pressure points it took me an extremely long time to find anyone who actually taught it. A lot of people claim to teach it or claim it is a fundamental part of their art, but in many schools it is never taught, taught incorrectly or taught with little knowledge of the topic. Hope this helps you find a good starting point.
What are pressure points and what can they doPressure points generally correspond to points found in acupuncture. Note that this is not the same as weak points of the body such as the groin, throat, etc.
As a martial artist you'll be interested in the following applications:
- Pain compliance
- Body dysfunction (limb becomes limp, joint loosens, person becomes knocked out, etc)
Here's a video with some knockouts:
Other things the points can do:
- Treat medical conditions (see Acpuncture)
- Arouse or enhance intimacy
How they workYou can hit, rub and press on points. Most points do not react the same way to each action and some are unresponsive to one or more.
The reactions caused by manipulation of the points generally follows Traditional Chinese Medicine theory. This makes sense because all the points that are used for pain are the same ones that are mapped out on acupuncture meridian channels and are used for treating medical conditions.
Sometimes reactions are local - hitting a point on the head causes a lot of pain on your head. Sometimes they're remote - pressing a point on your arm causes you to lose your breath.
Pressure points don't work on everyone. The points that work on one person may not work on another. On some people they won't work at all. Some people have nerve damage, others just aren't affected. I've heard estimates usually around 2-20% of the population that are generally unaffected.
Where to learn itI've had the opportunity to work with pressure point martial artists from many different styles. There is a lot in the way of educational video out there - generally you have to buy it though. Not all that many schools that teach this sort of thing unfortunately, but you can find them here and there.
Here are some names and arts to look out for:
- Kyusho International - Led by Evan Pantazi. This art focuses solely on teaching applications for pressure points - martial, healing and intimacy. On the martial side its lineage is partially from George Dillman and a lot of the practitioners are Karate guys. However, the art is taught in a style agnostic manner, so bring-your-own-art. These guys are very technical and use points on the meridians as the core of the art. Lots of good videos from these guys and a good number of schools that teach it.
- George Dillman - Karate background and his information has spread through a lot of Karate dojos in the United States. Dillman is big on teaching how katas are a blueprint for a lot of pressure point applications. Taught with a very Karate-leaning stance. Good number of schools that teach it, decent amount of video material.
- Systema - A Russian martial art that I consider to be the more practical cousin to Aikido. Systema teaches pressure points regularly, but does not do it based on acpuncture points. Systema usually teaches them as somewhat random points on the body that should be committed to memory. Systema sometimes refers to the effect that pressure points bring as 'psychic' energy. I think this largely comes from Russian culture and a strong belief in the power of the mind. A prominent guy in the North American Systema scene is Vladimir Vasilev. Pressure points are just one part of the art. You can find a good number of Systema schools in the states these days. Lots of video out there too.
- Chinese martial arts - Key person: Erle Montaigue. Many Chinese martial arts claim to use pressure points as a component of their art, but from what I have observed, it is rarely taught. Erle Montaigue has researched the topic extensively and has a ton of information out on it. Unfortunately Erle's knowledge does not seem to have propagated through as many Chinese Martial arts schools as much as one might hope. It's difficult to find schools that teach a lot of his stuff. You'll probably have to grab one of his videos to gain from his knowledge.
Feel free to leave comments and questions.