Journal of Non-Lethal Combatives

by Joseph R. Svinth
Copyright © 1999 All rights reserved.

Journal of Non-lethal Combatives, November 1999
Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!
-- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, screenplay by William Goldman
 If you choose to fight in self-defense, then you might as well fight well.

 For this to happen, you need to know in advance what you are willing to fight for, die for, and live with afterwards. For instance, it is stupid to get killed over twenty dollars and a watch, or in a drunken brawl about who gets to dance with some woman at a bar. Nevertheless, people do it all the time.

 Once you have decided what you are willing to fight for, die for, and live with afterwards -- and I suggest that this is not a decision to be made lightly, as you tend to get what it is that you asked for -- then you also need to establish some ground rules for yourself.

 "Rules?" you say, echoing Harvey Logan in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "In a knife fight?"


 Winning a real fight is not simply a matter of being strong: you have to be smart and ruthless, too.  This may require you to grovel in order to maneuver yourself into striking position, or to put yourself into worse danger than if you had decided to do nothing at all. But that's okay: it's the result, not the method, that matters once you have decided upon winning by your own rules, isn't it?

 Being smart and ruthless also requires that you have the ability to call your shots. After all, a powerful blow to the buttocks is nowhere near as useful as a gentle poke into the eyes. This is another reason why grovelling may be necessary: while it is hard to hit a careful, moving target with its defenses up, it is fairly easy to hit an overconfident or stationary target with its defenses down.
 Finally, being smart and ruthless requires that you forego the pleasures of gloating. Remember all the times James Bond escaped the clutches of the villain because the villain spent too much time gloating? The Sung Dynasty Chinese told similar tales. The Mongols, on the other hand, always said that generosity to your enemy equaled cruelty to yourself, and acted accordingly. You no doubt remember who won.

 In short, if you choose to fight, strike fast and strike hard. Call your shots, and make every shot count. Don't stop hitting until the fight is over. And never give a sucker an even break.

 The following is advice concerning how to do those things. Or more precisely, advice concerning where to do it.

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 Potentially Lethal Targets

 There are about thirty targets on the human body that provide good stopping power. Of these, the points on the throat and head are the ones most likely to cause unconsciousness or death. However, powerful blows to the heart or genitals also can cause unconsciousness or death. So you should direct attacks toward the head, neck, heart, and genitals only during life-threatening emergencies.

 This said, shot placement matters. So the names for the most lethal points on the head, neck, chest, and groin are described below using both Chinese and Western anatomical terms.

Heart.  Powerful upward thrusts to the chest can cause the heart to begin ventricular fibrillation. This means that the heart starts beating more than four hundred times a minute, but does not circulate any blood in the process. Brain death occurs within three to six minutes unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is begun. Targets include the following.

  The xiphisternal joint. This is found at the base of the sternum, just above the xiphoid process. (The xiphoid process is that little piece of cartilage that hangs from the V in your ribs.) The joint is important because it is where the abdominal and diaphragm muscles connect to the sternum. The acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 14.

  The manubriosternal joint. This is located on the mid-sternum about two inches below the collar bones. It is the joint between the middle and upper parts of the breast bone, and is where the muscles of the arms and chest connect to the bone. The acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 17.

  The axilla. The axilla is a fancy name for the armpit. The exact targets are the lateral thoracic arteries, which are vulnerable between the second and fifth ribs on your left side, and between the fourth and fifth ribs on your right side.  The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 22. Also, if you strike straight up into the arm, you can hit the brachial artery. The acupressure point is Heart 1.

Side of neck. Many major arteries and nerves run near the surface at the side of the neck. Severing or crushing any of them causes unconsciousness or death. Targets include the following.

  The vertebral arteries. These are located in the small hollow under the mastoid process, just below and behind your ear.  If struck at a 45o angle from rear to front, the result is immediate unconsciousness followed by death. There is no first aid. The acupressure point is Triple Warmer 17.

  The carotid sinus and vagus nerves. The carotid arteries carry blood to your brain. The vagus nerves regulate your heartbeat and breathing. They coincide at a point on the neck just below the angle of the jaw. Light blows to carotid sinus cause the victim to faint within five seconds, while heavy blows cause almost instantaneous brain death. All blows to the carotid sinus are dangerous due to a greatly increased risk of stroke following undiagnosed arterial wall disintegration. So do not practice, or allow others to practice, hard blows to this target! The acupressure point is Small Intestine 17.

  The superior thyroid arteries. These are found at the top of the Adam's apple. The acupressure point is Stomach 9.

Front of neck. Chokes and punches to the front of the neck can shut off the carotid arteries. This causes unconsciousness within fifteen seconds and death in three to six minutes. Meanwhile, attacks that damage the windpipe cause death through suffocation. To resuscitate victims, you can try laryngotomies, tracheotomies, and CPR. Targets include the following.

  The thyroid cartilage. This is found at the bottom of the Adam's apple. Light blows bruise the nerves controlling the vocal cords and heart, while moderate blows damage the thyroid and parathyroid glands and block the windpipe. The latter can lead to death by suffocation, so first aid involves an immediate laryngotomy. Acupressure points include Heart 10, Spleen 12, and Stomach 10.

  The jugular notch. This is the notch at the top of the breast bone. Above it, the vagus nerve and trachea are covered only with skin.  Sharp jabs with the fingers to the vagus nerve cause extreme pain, while thrusts to the trachea cause slow death by suffocation. Acupressure points include Conceptor Vessel 22 and Stomach 11.

Spinal cord. Fracturing the spinal cord or any cervical vertebrae causes paralysis or death. Instantaneous death is most likely after breaks above the third cervical vertebrae or between the fifth and sixth thoracic vertebrae. (These spots are at the top of the neck, about where the spine enters the skull, and directly between the shoulder blades.)  The acupressure points are Governing Vessel 17 on the neck and Bladder 15 and Bladder 16 between the shoulders. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE A POSSIBLE SPINAL INJURY! YOU WILL ONLY MAKE THE INJURY WORSE! Stabilize the victim in place, and call an aid car at once.

Sphenoid bones and temporal arteries. The sphenoid bones are the concave skull bones situated on the outside of the head about an inch behind the eyes. The temporal arteries nestle inside these hollows. The sphenoid bones break easier than most skull bones. This causes instant brain death. Meanwhile, minor damage to the temporal arteries causes a concussion, while major damage causes brain death. The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 3. Monitor all victims for several weeks following heavy blows to this area. If any blood or clear fluid is seen coming from the ears, eyes, or nose following a blow to the temples, get an X-ray immediately.

Top of head. The target is the frontal fontanel, or soft spot. While ossified on adults, the frontal fontanel still fractures easier than anywhere else in the region. The easiest way to achieve the power required is to hit it with a stick or to smash it into a curbstone or wall. While death may not be instantaneous following such blows, it often follows within two to three days. The acupressure point is Governing Vessel 21.

Perineum. The perineum is the kundalini spot in hatha yoga, or Conceptor Vessel 1 in acupressure. It is located behind the genitals and in front of the anus. It is most easily hit on a person lying face-down with his legs spread apart.  Kicks here cause unconsciousness or death. Resuscitation may require CPR.

 Less-Lethal Targets

 As homicide is illegal and immoral (and frequently induces residual nightmares that can lead to suicidal tendencies), you will not normally want to direct attacks toward targets offering a high degree of lethality. The following are some comparatively less-lethal self-defense targets.
Instep and toes. The small bones and tendons in the foot are easily hurt, particularly by powerful downward blows. High-heeled shoes are particularly notorious in this regard.  The acupressure points are Gall Bladder 41 by the little toe and Stomach 42 at the center of the foot. Treatment for strikes to these points involves icing and massage.

Ankles. The Achilles tendon is permanently damaged by stomping kicks and knife thrusts from behind. The acupressure point is Kidney 5.

Calves and shins. The common perineal nerve enters the calf muscle about an inch below the crease in the knee. It emerges from the muscle about six inches farther down, and from this point it runs down the front of the shin to the foot. So kicks to the lower leg need to be directed at the first inch of the calf or to the bottom third of the shin. Damage to the common perineal nerve causes the foot to go numb for ten or fifteen minutes. The acupressure point on the calf is Liver 8. The acupressure points on the shin are Stomach 22 and Stomach 23. Treatment involves rest, massage, and icing.

Knees. Self-defense books always tell you to kick attackers in the knee. However, this is not exactly correct. For the patella, or kneecap, to be broken, the knee has to be both locked and weight-bearing. This is unusual outside football stadiums. So, contrary to popular belief, kick to the cruciate ligaments and the common perineal nerve instead of the kneecaps. The cruciate ligaments cross the knee in an X and are best attacked using stomping blows to the inside of the knee. The common perineal nerve, meanwhile, runs just below the knee on the outside. It is best attacked using sticks or clubs. The acupressure points include Gall Bladder 26 and Kidney 10. Treatment for knee injuries includes rest, icing, weightlifting, and arthroscopic surgery.

Thigh. The target on the thigh is the femoral nerve. This is located on the inside of the thigh, about testicle high.  Punches or kicks to the femoral nerve cause the victim's leg to go numb. The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 18.  A secondary target is the iliotibial tract. This band of muscle runs down the outside of thigh. Its most sensitive point is located just below where the longest finger reaches at mid-thigh. The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 31. Treatment for all these strikes include icing and massage.

Genitals. Because they are filled with countless tiny blood vessels, penises and labia are better bitten or cut than crushed. However, flicking kicks and sharp yanks to the testicles cause nauseating pain and have caused self-inflicted death due to shock.  Although victims will protest, treatment involves deep breathing and icing.

Groin. Rather than the genitals, the best groin-level target is the bladder.  This organ is located about three inches below the navel. When full, it is easily ruptured by kicks or a powerful downward thrust of the fingers. The acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 4. Another groin-level target is the pubis symphasis. This is located immediately above the genitals, and is the joint between the frontal pubic bones. Like the bladder, it can be broken by powerful front kicks. The acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 2.  First aid for internal groin injuries involves putting the victim on his or her side with one leg drawn up and calling for an aid car.

Lower back. Lower back targets include the coccyx (tailbone), the sacral plexus, and the sciatic nerves. These are all located near the cleft in the buttocks.  Damage to the sacral plexus can cause respiratory failure, while damage to the sciatic nerves and tailbone cause the victim to suffer great pain while walking or having bowel movements. Corresponding acupressure points include Governing Vessel 1, Gall Bladder 33, and Gall Bladder 34.

Kidneys. Stick and knife thrusts to the kidneys can be fatal. Kicks to the kidneys can sometimes start life-threatening internal bleeding. However, there is generally no immediate advantage to be gained by kidney punching. When targeting the kidneys, note that the left kidney is generally located an inch or two higher than the right kidney.

Abdomen.  The spleen is located just below the elbow on the left side. The gall bladder and liver are located just below the elbow on the right side. The pancreas is located behind the stomach at the navel. Corresponding acupressure points include Gall Bladder 24, on the seventh rib below the nipples; Liver 13, just below the  waist; and Conceptor Vessel 4, about three inches below the navel. These internal organs are easily damaged by powerful upward strikes from the hands or feet. Damage to these organs constitutes a life-threating situation. First aid requires immediate surgery and massive amounts of antibiotics.

Diaphragm and solar plexus. The diaphragm is the group of thoracic muscles that control your breathing, while the solar plexus is the group of nerves that do the same. Both are located just under the V in your ribs.  Powerful upward blows to these muscles and nerves knock the wind out of the victim. First aid involves putting the victim on his side, one knee in his chest, then having him breathe as deeply as he can. The corresponding acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 12.

Chest.  The nipples can be twisted or bitten. Also, the ribs can be broken. These become life-threatening if the splinters punch a hole in the lung or the chest wall. (You will know why such injuries are called sucking chest wounds the first time you hear one.) First aid for sucking wounds involves sealing the wound -- anything will do, but Vaseline-impregnated gauze and Saran Wrap work best -- then rolling the victim onto his injured side. This keeps him from drowning in his own blood. It sounds more painful than it is, for the victim is usually unconscious by this time anyway.

The pectorals. The best target on the pectorals is the brachial plexus. This is a junction of four major nerves located on the second rib at an angle between the nipple and the armpit. When squeezed, it makes people jerk backwards, and when punched, it causes the entire side to go numb. The corresponding acupressure points are Stomach 15 and Stomach 16.

The arms. There are many targets in the arms. Without weapons, striking these targets is unlikely to cause anyone to die. Still, strikes to them will generally make attackers change their mind about what they had planned for the evening. So strikes to the arms and wrists are popular self-defense techniques. The following are some high value targets on the arms.

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  The subaxillary bundle. The subaxillary bundle is a group of nerves located about an inch down from the armpit on the inside of your arm. Knuckle strikes to the subaxillary bundle cause the arm to go numb for several minutes. However, knife thrusts to the same region are frequently fatal. The reason is that they sever the brachial artery, which is located under this bundle. The acupressure point is called Heart 2.

  The superficial branch of the radial nerve.  The radial nerve runs near the top of your arm just below the muscular bulge on your forearm. Bruising this nerve makes it hard for your opponent to hold a weapon or make a fist. The corresponding acupressure point called is Triple Warmer 8. Treatment includes icing and massage.

  The median nerve. The median nerve runs down the center of the forearm. Nausea results from single-knuckle strikes made about one-and-a-half inches above the wrist flexure. The acupressure point is Pericardium 6. Treatment involves icing and massage.

Wrist.  The ulnar nerve is located on the little finger side of your forearm. The vulnerable point is located about an inch up from the wrist, and is often attacked using wrist-locks. The accupressure point is called Heart 5.  The radial nerve is located on the thumb side of the forearm. Its vulnerable point is also located about an inch up from the wrist, and is also attacked using wrist-locks. This second point is called Lung 8. Treatment involves rest and icing.

Back of the hands. There are many small bones, tendons, ligaments, and nerves in the hands. All are painfully attacked with knuckles or tools. The best target is in the middle of the hand between the middle and ring fingers. Treatment involves icing and reconstructive surgery.

Collar bones. Powerful downward blows can break the collar bones. This keeps the arms from working, and can cause death by sending bone fragments into the heart or lungs. Personal first aid for broken collar bones involves raising the hand on the side that is broken lapel-high, then holding it there. First aid for someone else involves splinting his arms at his sides using a roller bandage tied over his shoulders and under his armpits in a figure-eight. Very heavy padding will be required in the armpits to keep the bandage from cutting off circulation to the back muscles, thereby causing permanent crippling.

Jaw. Knuckles break on jaws and teeth. So you shouldn't use your fists to punch people in the mouth. However, jaws can be broken by elbow strikes, particularly if you use your other hand or a wall to keep your victim's head from moving. First aid for broken jaws involves checking the victim's throat for broken teeth and other debris, then placing a bandage over the point of his chin and knotting it at the top of his head. Jaws must not be bandaged if the victim has a broken nose. Otherwise he may suffocate. Caution must also be exercised when splinting broken jaws, as it may cause the victim to strangle on his tongue.

  Point of the chin. Knuckles break on chins, too. However, the heel of your palm doesn't.  Upward blows with the heel of the palm to the point of the chin sever tongues and break teeth, while exceptionally powerful blows cause brain concussion and whiplash.  The target is located just below where Kirk Douglas has his famous dimple. The corresponding acupressure point is Conceptor Vessel 23. First aid involves collecting any broken teeth or portions of tongues and putting them on ice, then sending for an aid car.

  Upper lip. The best target on the upper lip is located immediately below the septum. (This is the fleshy piece separating the nostrils.) The targets are a bone joint known as the intermaxillary suture and a major facial nerve known as the nasopalatine nerve. Light blows to this target split lips, medium blows break teeth and cause concussion, and heavy blows break the bones that hold the skull on top of the spinal column. Treatment for the normal range of injuries includes ice packs, sutures, and reconstructive dentistry. The acupressure point is called Governing Vessel 26.

  Nose. Nasal injuries cause heavy bleeding, uncontrollable eye-watering, and intense pain.  Inserting the fingers into the nostrils also makes opponents pull away, and is generally a more-effective self-defense technique than trying to gouge his eyes. Nosebleeds are stopped by squeezing the nostrils together. On the other hand, broken noses and damaged sinuses require ice packs and rest. Always check unconscious victims for broken noses, as you don't want them to drown in their own blood.

  Eyes. While finger strikes to the eyes cause great pain and terror, serious eye injuries rarely result from them. The reason is that everyone instinctively jerks away from attacks to their eyes. So you should direct eye-level attacks to the following targets instead.

  The supraorbital arteries. These small arteries run through little notches located on the inside center of your eyebrows. When cut, they cause much bleeding, which in turn scares people and obscures their vision. The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 14.

  The lachrymal glands. The lachrymal, or tear, glands are located under the little notches at the outside corners of your eyes. Hitting these glands from the rear disrupts the inner ear, and causes general discomfort and nausea. The acupressure point is Gall Bladder 1.

  The glabella. The glabella is located between the eyebrows, perhaps half-an-inch above the bridge of the nose. Heavy blows to the glabella damage the sinuses and frontal lobes, and cause concussion, unconsciousness, or death. In yoga, this point is known as the Third Eye, while in acupressure, it is known as Governing Vessel 6.

  Ears. Slapping the ears with cupped hands ruptures the victim's ear drums. This causes the victim to suffer hearing loss, light-headedness, and balance problems until his eardrums heal. The external part of the ear also can be bitten or twisted, and bleeds profusely. Treatment generally requires rest and surgery.

For more information on target points see:

JNC Nov 1999.