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.
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
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
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.