A Two-Minute Guide to Pressure Points

Two weeks ago a couple of kickboxers from our club (it’s a martial arts center) went to compete in Denmark, at the Nordic Kickboxing Open.

(Before you ask, yes, this has to do with Karate, just be patient.)

Most of them had been competing before, but for one guy it was his first time, and he was really excited. He had been training hard for a long time and was finally ready to test his skills against an opponent.

But, to be on the safe side, he chose to enter the light contact division, instead of full contact.

To make a long story short, that proved to be a bad choice.


Because he was knocked out cold, in a few seconds!

In his first fight.

His first competition.

In light contact!

How did it happen? Well, I wasn’t there, but according to the team: “He got a really quick, light, axe kick right on the top of his head, and all of his energy was drained. His knees buckled, and he just went down. It wasn’t even a hard kick.”

Apparently, he had been hit (with an axe kick) in what the Chinese refer to as Bai Hui. It’s an acupuncture point located at the absolute top of your head, and is often used for curing headache, dizziness, eye pain, tinnitus and so on.

But apparently it can be struck too. And, as we saw, it is really effective.

And that little story brings me to the topic of this post.

Pressure points.

Or more specifically, pressure points in Karate.

Some people call them nerve points. Chinese call it Dian Xue (Dim Mak in Cantonese). In Japanese they are referred to as Kyuusho, which simply means a vital/important spot/place. A specific spot on the human body that produces significant pain (or other effects) when manipulated in a specific manner.

It can be pressed, hit, rubbed, struck, (axe) kicked… it all depends on which point, and what effect you desire.

But it’s not easy to learn about this. Because the concept of pressure point has always been seen as something rather mysterious, reserved for the most senior students.

While other people just see it as something downright silly.

At least that’s the impression I get.

Just think about the legendary Touch of Death. To strike/press with one finger on a super secret spot on your opponent, with immediate death as a result. Sometimes the death is even delayed; a few hours, days, weeks or months, depending on what point you used, how much force you used, if it’s full moon or not, and if the stars are aligned with Venus and Jupiter, and other weird explanations.

When you hear or read about these things, you become sceptic.

But I think pressure points/nerve points are important study for any serious martial artist.

Just skip the Death Touch stuff.

So, what points should you study, and possibly use?

That’s a hard one.

Personally, I think you should focus on the ones that are easy to locate, and convenient to use. My suggestion is places on the central core of the body.

Because, let’s face it, our body isn’t perfect. Though some people might look perfect (wink wink) our body, and especially the central core of our body, has several certain areas of inherent weakness.

The central core of the body includes the head, neck, chest and abdomen. Big targets, easy to locate and use. These places make up the core of the life support system of the body. The torso contains all of the important vital organs, and controls our complicated life functions. Attacks to these areas will therefore have serious repercussions.

So go for those.

“But, what are the points, more exactly? And how many are there?”

Well, some “masters” say there are 72 points. Some say there are 36. Some say 108, 12, 365 or 20. It depends on who you ask.

It’s a jungle out there.

So this is my solution: Find good sources, many sources, and just compare.

The ask yourself:

What points do they have in common?

Looking at the central core, you will most probably end up with a list that looks something like this:

  • Area around the groin
  • Area around the throat
  • Area around the face
  • Area around the skull
  • Area around the abdomen
  • Area around the side of the torso
  • Area around the neck
  • Some others…

So there you go.

Now you know what general areas/places you should focus on.

Oh, and think about these five principles too:

  • Location
  • Tool
  • Angle
  • Direction
  • Intensity

And the rest is really up to you.

But before you go off experimenting on your neighbour, friend (not for long though) or cat, I’ll give you one pressure point here for free:

Proportions_of_the_HeadThe temple

A great area for striking, the temple is a so called extra cavity (not on any specific energy meridian, like most other pressure points). It is simply one of the weak points of the cranium.

And that’s why this points is so effective.

You see, behind the temple lies an artery of the brain membrane. And that’s the key.

The average thickness of the skull is 0,5 cm. At the thickest place, the skull is 1 cm. That might not sound like much.

But at the temple… the skull is inly 0,1-0,2 cm thick!

So, according to the amount of power used, a strike to this area – the temple – can directly cause a concussion to the brain, causing the vision to blur and dizziness. A heavier blow can leave the exterior intact, but cause bone fragments on the interior to pierce blood vessels or the brain’s membrane, causing serious injury.

And because important arteries lie behind the area of the temple, a heavy blow that causes bone fragments to pierce these arteries may result in death. The weakness of the temple should therefore always be taken into consideration when using pressure points on the skull.

And thats it for today.

A 2-minute guide to pressure points.

Don’t try this at home.


  • Tobias
    I kinda missed that last sentence "Don’t try this at home."....so my cat isn't moving....do you happen to know any "revive-the-cat-pressure-points" or am I in trouble? On the bright side, I might have discovered that "Death Touch" you mentioned! By the way, nice post! //Tobias
  • Tobias, way to go! Sorry about the cat. Hmm... that's a hard one. Here's what you do. Try this: 1. Dangle a fresh fish above the cat's face. Make sure it's a smelly one. It didn't wake up? Go to step 2. 2. Dangle a fresh mouse in front of the cat's face. Make sure it's a smelly one. It didn't work? Go to step 3. 3. This is only to be used by a professional, if step 1 and 2 didn't work. Ready? Ok. Dangle a fresh crazy cat lady (every neighbourhood has one) above the cat. Make sure to hold the crazy cat lady by the feet, or she might bite/scratch you. Now, if your cat doesn't wake up from the smell of the dangling crazy cat lady, then either your cat is very brave, or very dead. There is a secret 4th step too... but that involves vaseline, mustard, duct tape, two apples, some fireworks, toothpaste, a screwdriver and a toaster (plus you need at least three people to do it) so we can take that another time.
  • Diego Romero
    @Tobias: Frankencat. You know you want to. Btw. Two good resource for good points to strike are medical charts and your own body. Probe yourself (Not like THAT!. Okay, maybe later.)for spots that are sensitive. If you strike them they will hurt (and you also know some good points to massage yourself to relieve stress now). Four very painful spots are: Just behind the elbow, on the inside. this is the tendon where the triceps insert, and there's very little hard tissue there. good for grabbing. The small hole between the clavicle, the greater pectoral muscle and the anterior deltoid. Also good for grabbing, or for precision strikes if you feel comfortable with them. The insertion of the abs on the pelvis, just above the tip of the pubic bone(Which you can also target and potentially break). This is where all of the nerves that go to the groin converge. It HURTS. The brachial plexus. This is the main nerve cluster for the arms, and it actually starts inside the neck. If you hold your arm to the side, turn your head to the other side and press on the hollow that remains behind the sternocleidomastoids, you should feel pain below the biceps. This is a nasty target for neck strikes, as well as clawing attacks (Mawashi-uke, secondary teisho application, etc)
    • Ryan Hurley
      The main problem with pressure points is clothing. When wearing a tshirt these points work, however put on a large overcoat... Also the smaller ones are harder to find in a stressful situation, so they need to be treated the same as other targets. Obviously I'm refering to self defence not competition.
  • JamesD.
    Nice post Jesse. I can seriously (and painfully) relate to and vouch for the info concerning the temple region strikes. Back in my Shotokan days when I was much much younger (and cockier) I would get a bit full of myself and my supposed abilities. One day, my sempai decided to use me as his sparring dummy...uh, I mean partner (no, dummy more appropriate). Anyway, I was actually holding my own for awhile until I got cocky after dodging a hook punch. As I was basking in my triumph of not get tagged...you guessed it! WHAM!! I took a most beautifully executed roundhouse kick to my right temple! It was so hard, that the pain registered on the left side of my head. It dropped me like a sack of potatoes! I actually lost one full day of memory from that hit! Ouch!! Again, great article Jesse. Maybe your next one should be one on reminding ourselves to never lead with our egos! Best not to learn that one the hard way...again, ouch.
  • @Diego: Those are good! Will use them tonight... hehe... @James: That's scary! Memory loss?! Ouch! It could have gone really bad if it was a harder kick! Glad your're still alive :)
  • Charles James
    Hi, Jesse: You quoted in your post, "He got a really quick, light, axe kick right on the top of his head, and all of his energy was drained. His knees buckled, and he just went down. It wasn’t even a hard kick." Wow, this is why I stopped doing tournaments so, so long, ago. This is a sporting event and to even attempt to kick at a point such as this, especially this one, could have killed him...dead. In my humble opinion we have skipped over the control aspects of the fighting systems for glory in the ring. If they allow such techniques now then I am glad I am gone from that system. In the old days (yep, I said it :-) before anyone actually sparred let alone completed they had to learn control and the rules of the road. Some, in those days, didn't even free spar until they reached black belt (although kumite earlier on is taught but in drill format). Anyway, if you use such a technique in sport you are asking for it for one day your light technique may be a bit more than that and the guy will be dead. Sorry for the soap box but this is serious.
  • Siraul
    I myself learned frm reading TAO's of teaching from many arts, I mastered one point at 18, which I haven't used since I almost hurt my best friend demonstrating it. I touched with a light poke a point near a gland on the neck putting him out cold, its always for five min, but he had no memory of the act and was soaked in sweat and confused. These points aren't to be played with as the cat found out.
  • Just FYI but Dim Mak and Dian Xue are different terms not different pronunciation of the same term. ??: Dim Mak is Cantonese, Dian Mai is Mandarin, Tenmyaku is Japanese. It meanings "Point - Vessel" ??: Dian Xue is Mandarin. Dim Yut is Cantonese. Tenketsu is Japanese. It means "Point - Cavity" Sorry, I just had to "out nerd" the world most famous karate nerd. ;-)
    • Thanks for that valuable info Ryan-san! Dang, my research skills (or writing skills!) weren't as good "back in the days" it seems :)
  • Jack M
    I dunno about obscure acupuncture nerve bits but I do know that the solar plexus (a bundle of nerves just below the breastplate/sternum) is linked to the diaphragm and stimulation disrupts diaphragm funtion, so preventing the guy from breathing. The beauty of it is that dense-ish bone and muscle are nearby, so shockwaves from an indirect hit can still stimulate it. Also, the dip between the eyes, particularly heel palm strikes. The heel of the palm fits neatly into the dip, so shockwaves travel into the brain over a large surface area. it won't damage them per se, but I find it can stun people and make them blink (only tested it lightly, and mentally scaled up the results, full force might achieve a knockout or enough pain to end the confrontation).
  • Axe kicks to the top of the head can be quite lethal. Seriously, martial artists need to take more responsibility to educate themselves (even if their instructors fail to do so). A solid understanding of anatomy and physiology should be the standard or attend educational seminars on traumatic injury. It is 2020 with online courses everywhere, ignorance is not an excuse.
  • Elwin Striker
    Nice guide! I would use the weak points as an advantage in a fight (if my life is in danger). Probably the opponent would know though-

Leave a comment