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Vulnerable points of the body

Vulnerable body points
Vulnerable points of the body

The head is, of course, the command centre of the body, housing the brain and most of the major sense organs, including the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, all of which are sensitive to pain and easily damaged. Blows to the head can easily render a person unconscious and if excessively powerful can cause brain damage or even kill. Deaths in combat rarely occur from being struck with a single blow and tend to result from the cumulative effects of severe beatings, often coupled with extreme exhaustion, as in the case of professional boxers. The effectiveness of knock-out punches results from the impact of the fist causing the brain to move inside the skull. This causes the individual to black out. The point or side of the jaw are the areas most boxers aim to hit since impacts here facilitate the shaking movement of the head that leads to the knock-out effect. Knock-outs occur occasionally in other sports, such as semi-contact karate when the odd accidental or uncontrolled blow lands � again usually to the jaw. Basically, every case of a knockout blow causes concussion and minor brain damage, so experimenting by knocking out partners in training cannot be recommended.
The implications of the effectiveness of the punch to the jaw for ju-jitsu students concerned to develop their ability to protect themselves are obvious. In addition to being a very quick and effective method for incapacitating an attacker, it is also a target that is relatively easy to hit and one that is safe, from the point of view of applying ju-jitsu for self-defense. Moreover, it is safe in terms of the amount of damage that such a blow will inflict on an assailant; whilst a knock-out punch to the jaw does no one any good, an equally hard blow delivered to the temple or windpipe, for instance, could quite easily kill the person.
A blow to the eye or eyes by someone trained to hit can cause severe tearing of the skin as well as permanent eye damage, perhaps even partial or total blindness. The potential seriousness of attacking the eyes should not be underestimated; a complete loss of vision can result from eye damage incurred whilst fighting. Many boxers are forced to retire because the retina has become detached � caused by taking one punch too many � and many fights are stopped because of cuts on or near the eye since such cuts may constitute a great hazard to a fighter's health. Punching someone in the eye, especially without gloves, is an extremely vicious and dangerous form of attack, only for use in dire emergencies. The knock-out blow to the jaw must be preferred every time. Strikes to the eyes are designed for life-and-death struggles, where neither the well-being of the assailant, nor the legal consequences of any damage inflicted were of any concern to the person being attacked.

The eyes remain a very vulnerable target and can be effectively attacked in order to distract an assailant and apply a throw or a locking technique. However, it would be difficult to justify inflicting serious injury unless an attacker was armed. As the punishment should fit the crime, so the degree of force used should correspond to the seriousness of the threat an assailant offers. In the case of women, children or old people seriously threatened by an adult male attacker, aiming for the eyes may be the best chance for survival.
Blows to the nose are excruciatingly painful, invariably causing bleeding, impeding breathing and making the eyes water, so causing vision difficulties. The nose is particularly vulnerable to open-handed blows striking in an upward direction. If the nose is broken, permanent disfigurement can result and breathing becomes impaired.
The mouth is similarly vulnerable and the lips are prone to splitting and bleeding if a punch lands on a mouth unprotected by a gum-shield. The gum-shield prevents the teeth from being knocked out and also from splitting the insides of the mouth. A punch in the mouth can also lead to injury to the hand if the fist comes into contact with the teeth.
Punching an attacker in the forehead or the back of the skull is likely to do as much damage to your own hand as to your assailant's head, perhaps even more. The head (as opposed to the face) is a particularly dangerous place to punch anyone and indeed one of the main reasons that boxers wear gloves is to protect their hands. The outlawed bare-knuckle style of fighting frequently saw hand injuries, caused by hard heads, deciding the outcome. Incidentally, it is highly unlikely that the old-time prize-fighters could punch as hard or were as fit as modern-day boxers. Improved training methods and hand protection in the form of bandages and gloves allow fighters to generate more power and punch harder than ever before. Obviously, when defending yourself against an attacker, there is never sufficient time to bandage up your hands and put gloves on, so it is imperative that ju-jitsu practitioners train to make a 'proper fist' in order to be able to hit effectively and not damage their hands in the process. The formation of a correct fist has always been a hallmark of Japanese karate systems and students have always trained, with some frequency, on the makiwara (a wooden post covered in straw) to forge their weapons.
Those martial artists who, for whatever reasons, prefer not to perform hand-conditioning drills (which have been much criticized) are advised to develop striking techniques targeted on the soft areas of an assailant's body. The solar plexus is just such an area, being a large nerve group located just below the point of the sternum or breastbone. It was made famous as a target area in the west long before the popularization of ju-jitsu, when Bob Fitzsimmons became the Heavyweight Champion of the World by knocking out Gentleman Jim Corbett with a punch to the solar plexus. In the untrained person it remains a very vulnerable area, but combat sportsmen such as boxers, kick-boxers and full-contact taekwondo fighters perform lots of abdominal conditioning to build up and tone the muscle necessary to protect the area. As well as those target areas on the face mentioned earlier, there are other places that cannot be protected by any amount of conditioning, in particular the throat, kidneys and testicles.
The throat can be attacked with striking techniques which cause a reflex gagging action as the person struck gasps for air. The knife hand, straight-finger jab and extended knuckle strike are best for attacking this area, as the windpipe is protected on either side by the sternomastoid muscles of the neck. The throat is often an awkward target since experienced fighters keep their chin tucked low, which tends to protect this area very effectively.
The kidneys are located in the back just below the ribs and when struck cause a particularly sickening pain akin to that caused by a blow to the testicles. Obviously the attacker must have his back turned, or at least be sideways-on, in order for a strike there to be feasible, but this position can easily be achieved once any sort of punching attack is made. When an attacker is on the ground, perhaps after being thrown, he will frequently attempt to protect the front of his body by curling up in a ball, but in so doing he exposes his kidneys to serious injury from stamping kicks, the knee-drop or punches.
The testicles are probably the weakest point on any man and are susceptible to striking, kicking and squeezing attacks. They are generally indicated as the best target for a woman threatened by rape. Low kicks or knee strikes are effective when standing, as indeed is the low punch. When fighting on the ground it can be difficult to generate sufficient force for an effective strike, but grabbing and squeezing is a distinct possibility. All of these areas above are very sensitive to pain and a hard blow should incapacitate or badly injure most assailants.
Ju-jitsu techniques can also be directed against the joints of the body, the fingers, wrists, elbows, ankles, knees and neck. All joints are designed to move through certain ranges of movement which vary from individual to individual. Ju-jitsu kansetsu-waza employs the principle of forcing the joint through a range of movement for which it was not designed. This puts severe strain on muscles and especially on ligaments, which frequently tear when a joint is moved beyond the extremity of its normal range and so becomes dislocated. Many of the body's joint structures are interdependent and pressure applied on one can be transmitted through to another. The interrelation between elbow and shoulder is the most obvious case; frequently a technique designed to lock the elbow, such as ude-garami or waki-gatame will lock the shoulder also. This is often a result of the person being locked twisting to alleviate the pressure of the initial attack and so 'spreading the load' or simply a result of limited mobility. The neck tends not to be thought of as such but it is indeed a vitally important joint. Despite being protected by strong muscle groups (at least in some cases) the neck is still extremely vulnerable to a variety of methods of attack. Neck locks, strangles and chokes can all be applied with sufficient force to kill. Striking techniques, however, would generally need to be extremely powerful in order to be lethal. Any attack to the neck, particularly locking techniques, can have a paralyzing effect because of the neck's connection to the spine and central nervous system. Strangles and chokes can be most usefully employed as they can be used to render an assailant unconscious before releasing him, so removing the need for any further injury. A strangle such as works on the principle of cutting off the blood supply to the brain by applying pressure against the carotid artery in the side of the neck. Cutting off the blood supply to the brain deprives it of oxygen and so causes unconsciousness; it is normally quite painless.
In contrast, a choke is effected by applying pressure with the bony inside edge of the wrist against the windpipe or trachea and then squeezing, which has the effect of cutting off the air supply to the lungs. This, too, will cause unconsciousness, but is normally accompanied by frenzied resistance because of reflex panic and struggling brought about by the attendant choking or drowning sensation. Alternatively, unconsciousness can be almost instantaneous. Chokes are distinctly more dangerous since there is a risk of unintentionally crushing the trachea which is likely to cause death.
The other joints of the body are more easily attacked by locking techniques than strikes, especially when fighting on the ground and techniques exist to sprain, dislocate and break. The knees, elbows, ankles and shoulders are all vulnerable to such techniques. The knee is also a particularly suitable target for kicking techniques and, despite being very strong in certain positions, if struck with a blow of only forty or so pounds of pressure, laterally, it will normally dislocate. Stamping kicks are usually employed for attacking the knee from the front or the side and have the advantage that they can be used at long range before an attacker gets close enough to land a punch or grab hold of his intended victim. The knee can also be stamped on from behind. If this method is chosen it will cause the leg to bend and assist in forcing an attacker to the floor.
Other target areas which can be hit to knock an assailant to the ground include the liver, spleen, floating ribs and the occipital (back of the head). The pit of the stomach (the area below the belt in boxing parlance) is not as well protected by muscles as the upper abdomen, and vital, vulnerable organs are located there.
It can therefore be effectively hit with kicks or punches. Just beneath the heart is a vulnerable spot and the armpit, although generally difficult to attack is a major nerve centre which can be exposed when making certain punching or stabbing attacks. Even the thigh contains vulnerable nerve centers as anyone who has ever been given a 'dead leg' will agree. The nerve centers of the thighs are in fact major target areas for kicking attacks in both Kyokushinkai karate and Muay Thai kickboxing and if trained to kick in the techniques of either of these fighting systems it is a surprisingly simple matter to 'drop' an untrained attacker with a leg kick.