Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Learn pressure point martial arts

Summary: Pressure points usage in martial arts is seldom taught properly, yet can be extremely effective and pratical. In the article I discuss what the points do, how they work and how/where to learn it.

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 do

Pressure 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 work

You 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 it

I'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.


aculauren said...

Interesting article. In any of these arts that teach pressure points, do you go into much detail about the Chinese Medicine theories of yin, yang, qi, blood, etc. when learning how to use the points and how that might be affecting the reaction the individual has with getting hit on one of the points?

Jesse Crouch said...

In general the knowledge that is discussed about TCM theory is pretty limited. There's some discussion about five element theory and yin vs yang points, but other than that I haven't heard much. This is usually not discussed in Systema as far as I know, just the other ones.

A lot of the key people in these arts have deep knowledge of TCM, but most of the fundamentals of the art are taught as "just hit 'em".

Jeremy M. Jones said...

I am a big fan of pressure point work and dar mak (not dim mak which is far more complicated). Not a big fan of Dillman but the man definitely has skill. Im a big fan of the way Dr. Yang Jwing Ming incorporates it into Chin na training.

Jesse Crouch said...

I'm not yet familiar with dar mak - I'll have to look into that.

Anonymous said...

I have a ten year old grandson who was playing with his cousin and then started using pressure points. He would not stop when told to by his cousin. Should children who like to wrestle in playing around be taught pressure point attack?

Jesse Crouch said...

@Anonymous -

That's a tough one. Parents and children create their own rules generally when it comes to things like that.
I wouldn't say it's a reason not to teach pressure points to children. If anything, it's a good thing they're getting practice in.
As far as 'fairness', kids catch on quickly to how things like that work and if anything, it should eventually create a more level playing field - especially for smaller players.

I don't have kids though, so I'm not really as keenly aware of the difficulties of raising them. In my idealistic world though, I would teach my children for sure.

liquidcadmus said...

thanks for the information, I've been looking for detailed info on pressure points, but it's hard to find any thorough explanations unless you buy a dvd about it.
I know where a lot of pressure points are but I have a hard time affecting them, it seems to be kind of random.sometimes it works,. sometimes it doesn't.. Im sure Im just not doing it right..

Aaron H said...

The problem I have with a lot of this is that the pressure point KO's are done on the instructor's own students who are likely susceptible to suggestion (ala stage hypnosis).

Anonymous said...

I have been studying and practicing dim-mak and Shotokan . I have not learned anything like this and this is the first time i have ever seen the applications of these KO pressure points actually work. Where can I actually learn these pressure points. Are there any instructors on the east coast of the united states? if not, where should i go to find one?

withoutwriting said...

Sorry, but pressure point work of the type described in this article is simply a myth. I mean, seriously. It's yet another example of ultra-compliant students leaping around after barely being touched by their instructor. Being struck in the side of the neck (hard) might well cause one to lose consciousness to some degree, but the idea that tapping a point on the arm will affect the opponent's breathing is just magical thinking.

Dillman's stuff is beyond a joke. Here's his "no touch knockout" technique being debunked on the National Geographic channel. His attempts to explain the failure are quite sad.

mages waran said...

All and most of what is shown i see is hitting on the vital points but i have not seen any video showing how to heal when hit at a vital point.Can i see more of that?

Post a Comment

- Your email address will not be displayed.
- You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>.
- URLs will not auto-link. Use the following HTML to post links: <a href="">name of the page</a>