Which Martial Arts Teach Pressure Points?

martial arts pressure points lg

Who doesn’t want to have an edge when they fight? That’s what pressure points potentially offer. However, most martial arts never get into that. So, which martial arts teach pressure points?

The martial art that most uses pressure points is Kyusho Jitsu. But Karate and Kung Fu also utilize them to a lesser degree. Many traditional Eastern martial arts teach pressure points since the belief that the body is divided into meridians is common to Eastern philosophy.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg.

Read on as we’ve got a lot more to learn. In this article, we will find out if pressure points work in martial arts and whether they are used in Kung Fu. But we will also explore if they are used in Ninjutsu.

Let the fun begin.

Do pressure points work in martial arts?

Yes. Pressure points work in martial arts. However, their effectiveness is grossly exaggerated. There are sensitive parts of the body that trigger excruciating pain. But during a fight, it is not so easy to target and hit these points. And in most cases, an imprecise hit will not trigger the same reaction.

And you won’t find anything quick like Star Trek’s Vulcan neck pinch if that’s what you’re thinking.

Pressure points are the most vulnerable parts of the body. Leveraging them works when properly executed. But because of the nature of most fights, with both fighters constantly moving as they attack, block, or evade their opponent’s moves, it’s often highly difficult to target and hit these specific parts of the body.

But now and then, when it does, the effect is instant, decimating pain, when used by someone who knows how their assailant can be out cold in seconds.

They can be used in a variety of ways, for example, to break an assailant’s grip or to cause spasms by hitting their solar plexus (a complex system of nerves and ganglia found in the pit of the stomach).

It could be used to disorient your opponent if you apply a sudden and powerful hit to their temple!

So, how do they work?

They are nerves in the skin and work in a fight because the act of pressing, rubbing, or striking them momentarily cuts off communication on its way to the brain! It leads to the brain sending a message or misinterpreting a signal. In plain words, blood flow is disrupted.

For pressure points to work, therefore, one must gain direct access to these nerves. A task that’s not a walk in the park when both fighters are doing their best to crush each other.

That said, using pressure points is not allowed in most dojos because it’s a form of “dirty fighting.” It gives you an unfair advantage. So, while it works, it’s not allowed.

Like some other stuff in martial arts, there’s a bit of exaggeration about pressure points. It’s not true that one could touch a point and instantly disable or kill an opponent.

But you’ll have to agree it’ll be captivating to see in a movie.

Are all martial arts pressure point attacks done with strikes?

No. Pressure points can be a strike, a push, or a rub, depending on the area of the opponent’s body being targeted.

Areas that would be struck include:

  • The back of a hand
  • The solar plexus

Areas that would be touched/pushed include:

  • Joint locks (wrist, elbow, etc.)
  • Eyes
  • Ankle
  • Thigh

Areas that would be rubbed include:

  • Lower and upper arm
  • Neck

Does Kung Fu use pressure points?

Kung Fu uses many different pressure points. They are known as Dain Xue in Chinese or Dim Mak in Cantonese. As in other martial arts, there are specific parts of the body that elicit intense pain when struck in certain ways.

By the way, it’s important to know that “Kung Fu” is an umbrella term that defines Chinese martial arts and the attainment of any pursuit that requires the application of skills.

Here, we’re naturally concerned with its use as it relates to martial arts. In some styles, pressure points are not taught to beginners.

The outer edge of the hand is one of the parts that’s often used to strike these points. Of course, some can also be pressed, rubbed, and held. This outer edge of the hand — the thicker lower part below the pinky is often trained so that its impact would be more devastating when it’s aimed at pressure points.

This is usually done by using it to strike a hardboard repeatedly or by using it as a base when doing push-ups (side-hand push-ups!).

Some of the pressure points include the ST9 pressure point. 

It’s two hollow points in the side of the neck, a little above the Adam’s apple. The side hand is used to swiftly strike the ST9, eliciting intense pain in the opponent. The pain is triggered because blood flow is suddenly restricted.

Another one is DU26, the point directly beneath the nose. A side-hand or a punch is great to target this spot.

Another point that could be targeted is RN17, the solar plexus. It’s at the base of the sternum, midway between the two nipple points. A powerful punch or spinning kick with the heel aimed at the solar plexus can be disorienting for the opponent. In fact, most people’s knees would buckle, and they would fall.

At the moment of impact, they can’t breathe. This is arguably one of the most dangerous pressure points (I don’t recommend you use it) because it’s believed that it could even result in death!

Say you had to classify Kung Fu, would you describe it as an offensive or defensive martial art?

Not to worry, that’s what I explored in a recent article. In it, I showed whether it’s good for self-defense and how many types of Kung Fu there are. But I also revealed the strongest Kung Fu style.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does Ninjutsu use pressure points?

Yes. Pressure points are used in Ninjutsu. They are referred to as Kyusho and include areas in the groin, knees, solar plexus, neck, and certain joints.

Don’t worry, we’ll explore those in greater detail below.

Ninjutsu is an ancient Japanese martial art that’s making a comeback in recent times. Like some other popular Eastern martial arts, pressure points are a part of the art, as these arts share a common ancestry and have influenced each other.

Let’s check out some of the most effective pressure points (kyusho) that are used in Ninjutsu. We can’t look at all of them, as there are well over 300!

Common peroneal nerve

This is executed with a hook type of kick where your heel strikes the back of the opponent’s leg just above the back of the knee

Obviously, this requires being in close contact with the opponent and defending against punches. So for that reason, it is common for the one executing the pressure point kick to be grabbing the opponent’s arms or hands while doing it.

Your knee will come up about waist high and swing around behind your opponent, crashing down on the back of their leg. Executed correctly, the opponent would drop to the ground allowing for escape or further attack.

Pressure points in the arm: Jakkin (Jakotsu) and Hoshi

Essentially, if an attacker is grabbing your shirt (or gi) with both hands, you will raise your arms and strike with the bottom of your fists first on their forearms about halfway between their wrist and elbow.

Then you will do a second strike with greater power just above the elbow at the start of the bicep. This will likely loosen, if not totally break their grip, allowing for either escape, a kick, or another attack.

Have you ever wondered if Ninjutsu is dangerous?

Check out a recent article I published. In it, I explained what Ninjutsu really is and what you would learn if you were to pick it up. But I also revealed whether there are still Ninjas.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Where is the most painful pressure point?

The solar plexus is arguably the most painful pressure point in the body. This is because, in some cases, it can actually lead to death! For a brief period, the target is unable to breathe and would most likely fall to the ground.

The above could occur because the diaphragm, a part of the body that helps us breathe, is behind the solar plexus. A violent punch to this part could concuss the diaphragm.

The target becomes winded and incapable of breathing.

While they double over, a kick with the knee to the head would probably finish them off. That’s if they’ve not fallen from the punch. But what other art is worth checking out if supposed you’re not interested in learning these dangerous moves and would rather learn a more spiritual and holistic martial art?

A recent article I published is an in-depth exploration of the philosophy of a martial art that fits the bill: Aikido.

In the article, I shared who founded it and when it was created. But I also explained the profound worldview that’s at the heart of the martial art.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can MMA fighters use pressure points?

Yes. MMA fighters can use pressure points as part of their fighting style, provided they are not used against parts of the body that are explicitly disallowed as targets, such as the eyes or groin.

Naturally, pressure points are not stressed in MMA because they are a form of “dirty fighting”. And excellent MMA fighters have other equally lethal but legal techniques they know are even more effective and realistic to use.

But as I said above, in a real fight with a lot of movement, it can be hard to effectively execute pressure point attacks. They would work better as a self-defense strategy against an untrained attacker who is unaware of your training.

In fact, pressure points are a form of shortcuts.

They sound good on paper, but when you are face-to-face with an MMA fighter who is a master of their game, they are not only knowledgeable, they are extremely swift and nimble, and their reflexes are superb.

And they have a high threshold for pain. So, you’re probably going to be frustrated if you think that there’s one pressure point you’ll apply, and they would simply fall to the ground.

3 Pressure Points Every Karate Practitioner Should Know


In the article, we found out if pressure points work in martial arts and whether they are used in Kung Fu.

We proceeded to explore if they are used in Ninjutsu. Then, we looked at the most painful pressure point. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering if MMA fighters use pressure points.

Photo which requires attribution:

171113-N-BK384-122 by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet is licensed under Public Domain and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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