When All Else Fails
By Christoper Caile
Editor’s Note: Some of the techniques
described below are brutal and life threatening and should not be used,
ever, unless your life is in imminent danger. I do not recommend the use
of these techniques, but catalogue them here for educational purposes.
Do not practice them unless under the supervision of a qualified senior
instructor and after consultation with your medical doctor or health provider.
Are there any karate techniques that you can absolutely depend upon if
all else fails – techniques that can work against bigger, stronger
attackers or against those seemingly impervious to pain or who exhibit
almost superhuman strength as a result of being high on drugs?
The answer is no. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that
there are a couple of techniques and strategies that come close, that
are effective virtually against anyone at any time – if you can
execute them, and that’s the big “if.” That’s
Of course, my best advice is to avoid the conflict and not get yourself
in this type of situation in the first place – easy to say, but
as is often the case, people just don’t keep their mental guard
up. The result is they can find themselves in compromising situations,
and here I am not talking about pleasant interludes with the opposite
If you should find yourself face to face with a drug induced opponent
who wouldn’t think twice of becoming your human compactor, my best
advice is to say “adios” and get out of there – fast,
very fast. Even a trained law enforcement officer, or sometimes a group
of them, has trouble controlling these guys.
I am sometimes amused at what is taught as “self-defense.”
People teach unsuspecting students that if attacked this way, if they
just move like this or hit here they will be in control and defeat the
attacker. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Attackers, even those not on drugs, are determined. Often your defenses
will work, but not always. Some will just won’t “buckle”
if hit in a certain spot. Either they have a high pain tolerance or they
have learned to shrug off strikes (they have been there before, been in
fights and aren’t surprised by a counter attack). Others can be
mentally deranged, are drunk or worse – high on meth amphetamines
or crystal meth (much worse). The latter exhibit an unhappy combination
– illogical thought processes, almost super-human strength and no
feeling of pain.
In short, any attacker can be big trouble. Opponents are at best uncooperative,
and at worst not responding to your self-defense techniques. After an
initial attack (if survived) things can degenerate into an unpredictable
What would I use? Several things. Interestingly, these are the same things
I see again and again within the techniques and tactics of karate kata
(but this is a whole other subject).
First, no matter how strong or deranged a person is, he still depends
upon his balance to move. If a person is off-balance he has no strength.
I remember reading an article on the Guardian Angels many years ago. The
crux of the article was that training had at one time focused on teaching
pressure point techniques, but was later modified. It was found much more
effective to spin problem makers or attackers – since once off balance,
any attacker must first regain balance in order to attempt to fight or
A couple of years ago a former police officer submitted an article to
me at FightingArts.com about his confrontation with a much bigger, stronger
and determined patron of a bar who he had been called in to control. Having
tried to control this person with his night stick and then a low kick
to the knee to no avail, he was able to subdue the opponent with combination
technique. First he intercepted a hook punch (blocked) which was then
pushed past him, spinning the opponent (his left forearm catching a right
haymaker but then moving above the arm to pull it past him), and then
from the side he initiated a vascular choke (pressure on the sides of
the neck to cut off the blood supply to the brain) which brought the goliath
to the floor in about 7-10 seconds.
Thus two techniques which are almost always workable (which I think are
the most dependable) are off-balancing (or spinning) and the vascular
choke. Both require, however, skill of execution. Off balancing can be
leading or a head manipulation (the old saying, “where the head
goes, the body follows”) as in aikido, a throw or sweep as in judo,
or even throwing and rolling the body across the feet of a charging attacker
(a former semi-pro football player in my karate class in Peoria, Illinois
used to use this with great effectiveness, but we had to discourage this
tactic since this move if executed with speed and full body weight can
easily injure either the knees or ankles of surprised victims). This type
of takedown is also temporary, however. If not injured the attacker can
get up and continue his attack.
The vascular choke too has limitations. It takes knowledge to apply it
adequately and it also takes strength to execute it well. Another type
of choke, one across the windpipe will also work, but it is dangerous
(it can crush the windpipe and cause internal swelling. This can kill
someone, and this is one reason most police departments have banned chokes
all together) and takes up to a minute to be effective –awfully
long if someone is struggling against you.
If you are fighting for your life the wind pipe can still be a target,
however. A hard blow with a forearm or elbow with your whole weight behind
it can cause severe damage, but this still takes a little while to take
effect. It will work on anyone since the wind pipe has no protection.
It will stop virtually anyone, although sometimes not immediately) and
you might have to justify your actions to the local district attorney.
Another effective technique is eye attack, but personally I try to avoid
attacks that can cause permanent injury. If ever used, I would probably
limit any attack to what the Chinese often refer to as “Splashing
Hands,” an open back of the hand whip of the finger tips into the
face (this is not to be practiced since it is very dangerous).
Most people will respond to a hit in the eye. A few years ago in a martial
arts camp I witnessed a few students during a break playing with soft
round flexible foam sticks about three foot long and four inches thick.
They were using them to practice against club and sword attacks, or two
man duels. Quickly, however, practice degenerated into wild swings. Suddenly
one participant yelled, brought both hands to his eyes, fell to the ground,
balled into a fetal position and rolled around in obvious pain. He had
been struck in the eye by a corner of the foam practice weapon. Very luckily
there was no pertinent damage, but the next day his eye was almost swollen
shut and he was out of practice.
Eye technique, however, have limitations too. If the attacker is on drugs
and doesn’t feel pain, there will be an automatic blink reflex,
but the pain response will be missing or greatly decreased.. The attack
might be momentarily interrupted, but possibly not stopped. To stop the
drug induced attacker with an eye technique, the fingers have to be driven
into the eyes hard enough to cause damage – not for the feint of
heart, but effective on a battlefield. This is one technique I would myself
try to avoid.
Another strategy is the good old concussion. A good strike to the chin,
for example, can shock and spin the head with sufficient velocity to send
the brain crashing into the hard surface of the far side of the inner
skull. Even if pain in not felt, the effect can still create a knockout.
Another tactic is break the structural integrity or support system of
the body, such as to tear the knee or elbow joint to make it unworkable
– but this is often difficult at best (although the elbow is easier
if first set up with a concussion).
I would instead go after another bone that can render an arm non-workable
– an elbow technique driven into or down onto the middle of the
collar bone (clavicle) can often cause a break, the break limiting movement
of the arm. But this takes quite a lot of power, and if you are moving
and grappling, it is hard to do.
Other structurally weak points include the long bones across the top
of the wrist (connecting to and supporting the knuckles) and their equivalent
along the top of the foot (metacarpal bones). Since hands move quickly,
here my choice falls to the feet – a good stamp to the top of the
foot with my heel with full body weight combined with a turning motion
to separate these long bones. Nasty, but also sometimes difficult depending
on what your opponent is wearing on his feet. If the person feels pain,
the confrontation might just end there. If not, you just might have made
the attacker really, really mad.
The last techniques are what Bruce Miller (whose pressure points are
sold on FightingArts.com) calls “Launch Points” – points
that are effective even when an attacker is drugged up or has little response
to what most people would find to be painful. A finger driven directly
up into the nostril will cause anyone to jump back. Likewise a finger
driven in and down into the “V” at the bottom of the neck
(in the notch in middle of the front just above where the two clavicle
bones meet) the will cause an automatic gag reflex and the opponent will
likewise jump back.. These techniques, however, require knowledge (where
and how to apply) plus adequate speed and power to execute. They work
best if someone grabbed you and is stable to your front. If you are moving
around, trading techniques or grappling these techniques are probably
not for you.
In short, there are no magic techniques – all have limitations.
But you aren’t without alternatives. Some of these techniques might
just provide momentary advantage, and might allow you to survive. Hopefully
you will never have to test them.
About The Author:
Christopher Caile is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of FightingArts.com.
He has been a student of the martial arts for over 43 years. He first
started in judo. Then he added karate as a student of Phil Koeppel in
1959. Caile introduced karate to Finland in 1960 and then hitch-hiked
eastward. In Japan (1961) he studied under Mas Oyama and later in the
US became a Kyokushinkai Branch Chief. In 1976 he followed Kaicho Tadashi
Nakamura when he formed Seido karate and is now a 6th degree black belt
in that organization's honbu dojo. Other experience includes aikido, diato-ryu
aikijujutsu, kenjutsu, kobudo, Shinto Muso-ryu jodo, kobudo, boxing and
several Chinese fighting arts including Praying mantis, Pak Mei (White
Eyebrow) and shuai chiao. He is also a student of Zen. A long-term student
of one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong, he is a personal
disciple of the qi gong master and teacher of acupuncture Dr. Zaiwen Shen
(M.D., Ph.D.) and is Vice-President of the DS International Chi Medicine
Association. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from American
University in Washington D.C. and has traveled extensively through South
and Southeast Asia. He frequently returns to Japan and Okinawa to continue
his studies in the martial arts, their history and tradition. In his professional
life he has been a businessman, newspaper journalist, inventor and entrepreneur.