Pressure Point Fighting for Self Defense — The Facts and the Fantasies

It’s amazing how many people come here wanting to know how to knock somebody out in a fight and, of course, most of them want to do it without injuring the other guy in any way.

I guess this attitude is quite commendable, at least that part of not wanting to hurt or do damage to the other person. But the reality of things is that it is very difficult to knock someone out in a fight without doing damage to them. In fact I would go so far as to call it a fantasy or a fairytale.

Knocking somebody out without injuring them badly is a flight of fancy, and Hollywood has much to blame in this respect. We’ve all grown up with cowboy movies on TV with a good guy gets knocked out by a whack on the head from the bad guys gun. And we’ve seen it hundreds of times in police and detective dramas as well.

Hero gets hit on the head. Hero goes to sleep. Hero wakes up with a sore head, and then goes on to defeat the baddie, save the world or whatever and, of course, win the pretty girl.

It’s fantasy of course…

Cover of "The Presidio"
Actor Sean Connery uses pressure point fighting to defeat a bully in this movie…Cover of The Presidio

It’s been the same thing in countless action movies, for example in the film the Presidio, actor Sean Connery plays a much-decorated soldier enjoying a quiet drink in a bar when a big bad bully harasses the hero and picks a fight. Connery tells the Bozo that he will defeat him, using only his thumb. He then proceeds to poke the guy in various places… If I remember correctly it could have been the solar plexus, the throat possibly even in the eye (but gently). Connery defeats the man but does no serious damage. Real, heroic stuff. And again total fantasy.

Then think about Star Trek the original TV series. There were countless situations where Capt Kirk or Mr Spock applied a “Vulcan nerve pinch” to paralyse a dangerous madman or some annoying alien. It is all the same fairytale.

If you hit someone on the head hard enough to knock them out, then you have hit them hard enough to cause concussion and be at risk of causing brain damage as well.

Back in the 1960s when I was a teenager playing judo, we all learned to apply jujitsu-type chokes and strangles. When training in a dojo, or even in a competition, the choke hold or stranglehold is released immediately when the guy you are doing it to taps out. (Using your hand or your foot to tap the mat repeatedly, or tap your opponents body. It is an instantly-recognised signal that you are in pain and are surrendering from the fight or match.) But on the street when lives are at stake, and everybody is pumped up with adrenaline, it is quite easy to apply the hold too hard or too long… And in such cases the person being choked or strangled can easily die.

This has happened in many cases when police officers have applied a sleeper hold to subdue a suspect, and that suspect has died. And for that reason most police departments now prohibit any kind of choke, strangle or sleeper hold. Nowadays they use capsicum spray, pepper spray or chemical Mace.

Many police and security officers use Taser pistols as well if a suspect or prisoner is violent or resists arrest. These taser guns shoot two little metal darts which pierce the target’s clothing and stick in their skin. The darts deliver a series of paralysing electric shocks along two very-thin conductive wires that feed out from the “gun” to the target. It is meant to subdue without causing any permanent damage, but there have been quite a few instances where the victim has died.

So it seems there is really is no guaranteed-safe way to k.o. those bad guys every time.

You can forget fancy pressure-point fighting for self-defense. If you are fighting for your life it isn’t pretty, it isn’t some dance. It is nasty… The liklihood is that you are both probably going to damage each other, and I don’t mean hurt as in pain or discomfort, I mean damage, as in body parts that get broken and don’t work any more.

If you are lucky, you get a chance to damage him enough that he cannot hurt you. But if he gets a good whack in on you first, and does real damage immediately, then it is almost certainly Game Over. There is no referee, and the victor gets to go whatever he wants with the loser. Yes, that is a frightening thought, isn’t it?

I have done Aikido for many years. I am a qualified Shodokan black belt and I have taught Aikido and self-defense classes for years also. In a real fight I would like to think I can stop the other guy without injuring him badly, and before he can injure me. But how many years has it taken me to reach that level of skill?

I have spent decades of my life learning this stuff. Nice, beautiful and sometimes-pretty techniques.

If it is a genuine self-defense situation and I cannot walk away or talk my way out of it, will I be beautiful and gentle? I think that’s a fantasy as well. If we are both fortunate, I might be able to take the guy to the ground and  immobilize him with a joint lock or a hold. But who can say for sure? Reality is, I would just do whatever it takes to defend myself or my family or my close friends. And I wouldn’t want to be down on the ground with any opponent when his friends decide to jump me. Think about that.

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