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Too Much Ado About Pressure Points

By Stan Hart

Pressure points have been oversold. I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t work or that I don’t teach them. But go to almost any pressure point seminar. How are the points taught? The instructor selects a student and then asks him to do a specific technique, to grab him by the wrist or volunteer an arm. The point is then demonstrated and the victim falls to the ground momentarily stunned or in temporary pain. Very impressive.

But these scenarios are not real life. The situations were set up. Students or their limbs were positioned. This is not at all what happens in a real fight.

Too many are selling the idea of a martial arts shortcut -- the idea that by learning pressure points or a theory of pressure point activation (chi or neurological theory, etc.), a student can defeat an opponent by using them. This is incorrect, even dangerous.

It’s true that pressure points if hit (or otherwise manipulated) alone or in combinations can often cause pain, numbs limbs, stun or even cause unconsciousness. But these vulnerable points are small and are often protected by other areas of the body – something difficult to target much less hit when arms and bodies are shifting and moving in a conflict. In addition, emotions and pumping adrenaline can also override the effects of hitting or manipulating these points.

Thus in real conflict situations, just knowing pressure points and how to apply them rarely gives anyone a unique advantage. And don’t depend on them if your opponent outweighs you by a significant amount. This doesn’t mean you can’t stun or distract someone to help set up a technique, but it is the technique itself that is most critical.

In my view the essence of martial arts is not about pressure points, but instead the ability to attain control, then maneuver yourself and/or your opponent into position to do an effective technique - which then may include pressure points. Thus, the real art is the art of controlling your opponent, his or her body and position -- to set it up for a throw, a joint technique, a strike, or some combination depending on the techniques in your art.

This ability is what marks the true expert, or the truly experienced. These people may also include their knowledge of pressure points and how to apply them within the arsenal of their techniques. But the pressure points are secondary, used to enhance the effectiveness of other techniques, and/or as finishing techniques. The art, however, must get you to that position first.

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About the author:

Stan Hart is a martial arts instructor, author and lecturer who is well known for his seminars on Hakuda, self-defense, vital point techniques, and the history and applications of kata. Beginning his studies in 1964, Hart has studied Hakuda, karate and aiki-jutsu with such notable teachers as Andrew Akens (San Francisco, CA), Jerry Banks, Victor Louis (Youngstown, Ohio), Seiyu Oyata (Kansas City, Mo.) and Fred Wu (Columbus, Ohio). Since 1987 he has been President of the International Hakuda Association which was originally established as Shurite Kempo Technique Association in 1985. His areas of expertise include: research of special techniques and obscure arts, tracing the origins of kata, hyung and hsing as training methods through esoteric Buddhist history and preservation of Hakuda (Beida in Okinawa, Baida in China) Hakushu (Po Shou), both having historic influences on the development of karate.

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

opinion, pressure points, vital points, kyusho, viewpoint

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