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Martial Arts Myths & Misconceptions

Pushing The Nose Bone Into The Brain

By Jonathan Maberry

Can a person really strike someone in a way that will drive the nose bone into the brain? I hear this one all the time, so let’s start with the short answer: No.

You cannot drive the nose bone into the brain. It cannot be done by any martial arts blow, and never has been done. Anyone who argues to the contrary is misinformed (and a bit stubborn) and stands in opposition to overwhelming medical and anatomical information.

First, the nose is primarily composed of malleable cartilage which does not posses the tensile strength necessary to penetrate the thick actual bone of which the skull is comprised. Second, even if the nose were entirely made of bone (and remember it isn’t!) it would not be long enough to reach the brain.

This myth pops up a lot, and even shows up in books and movies. In Stephen King’s novel “Firestarter” the assassin John Rainbird contemplates killing someone in this fashion; and Shirley Conran used it as a plot device in her novel “Savages”. It even showed up in the Bruce Willis action flick, “The Last Boy Scout,” and in the Nicholas Cage film, “Con Air”.

The sheer mechanics of accomplishing this are daunting. First, there is the crista galli, a thick, smooth, triangular piece of bone that projects from the bone that forms the roof of the nasal cavity (cribriform plate). Though there are small openings in the cribiform plate which allow nerves to pass through, they are not large enough to allow a mass of splintered bone to enter the brain case, nor are they direct conduits to the brain.

Can a powerful blow to the head be potentially lethal? Yes, that is certainly true, and for a variety of reasons ranging from trauma to the brain to injuries to the spinal cord. High-impact blows may result in various fractures to the facial bones, compression injuries of various kinds, damage to the brain stem that may be associated with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks, or herniation of intracranial structures. Shock from such blows can cause orbital injuries, including possible trauma to one or both optic nerves; but the result will never be a nose bone sent like a missile into the brain. If this was a likely injury then boxers would be dropping like flies and the UFC would be a pretty grim affair.

So...that particular myth, as dynamic and spectacular as it is in fiction, is a physiological no-go.


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About the Author:

Jonathan Maberry is the award-winning author of over 700 articles as well as several books, including Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices and The Martial Arts Student Logbook. He holds an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu and a 5th dan in Hapkido, is a member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and is co-founder of the COP-Safe program. Visit his website here.


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martial arts injuries, death blows, strikes to the nose


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