The pressure points on the human body have inspired much controversy over the years. From the idea of the “one-touch death” to Spock’s Vulcan grip, the art of using nerve centers has been both romanticized by martial artists and laughed at by the general public. In reality, vital centers can be remarkably effective, but those who hope to become skilled at using them should first and foremost consider training in the martial arts. And though a knowledge of pressure points in combination with an education in kung fu or taekwondo may be valuable, it won’t make the martial artist invincible.
It is indeed possible to kills another person with just one well-executed strike, but most martial arts and pressure point training systems are not aiming to teach students about killing. Rather, these systems are usually taught as a “merciful” alternative to other martial arts moves that are used to injure an opponent. For example, it can be a lot of more kind to strike an opponent at the point located at the outer thigh than to kick them in the groin. Whereas an enthusiastic front kick to groin can result in serious injury, a well-executed round kick to the outer thigh probably won’t. Both kicks, however, will probably cause the opponent to fall to the ground.
Law enforcement officers use vital points because these nerve centers on the body cause a desirable response, but they won’t injure the perpetrator. Martial artists are usually taught pressure point physiology in order to enhance their understanding of how to bring an opponent or an attacker down without causing injury, but there are some instances when causing injury is desirable. Self-defense, for example may require a strike to a more vulnerable area of the body (like the neck or the eyes, for example). For those who were hoping for a bigger Pressure Point Wow Factor, this may be disappointing, but a lot of martial arts styles have some interesting thoughts about “merciful” methods to shed some perspective on the situation.
Most people start learning martial arts with the goal of hitting a target as hard as they can. They want power. Force. Things like that to really become the very best martial artist they can be. But as they progress in their training, it becomes necessary to learn how to withhold a strike. In order to spar safely with another martial artist without wearing a lot of pads and gear, you have to have control over your movements. In some Japanese fighting systems, the measure of a martial artist is how close he can come to a moving target without actually striking it. The ability to choose whether or not you’re going to hit an opponent becomes the goal, rather than the force with which you strike. And the ability to choose to hit an innocuous pressure point instead of the groin, temples, or the eyes can be a merciful choice. One that demonstrates understanding, skill, and mercy all at once.