The term “pressure point” is thrown around loosely during self-defense or martial arts instruction. A beginner is encouraged to attack the pressure points of their opponent’s body to help them accomplish a particular goal, whether it’s to disarm him, take him down or escape his clutches. This is easier said than done, because when most students begin their learning process, they don’t really know where a pressure point is located on the body, let alone how to manipulate it to accomplish a goal.

However, with trial and error, nearly anyone can benefit from incorporating pressure points into their self-defense system. When you become naturally proficient in their application, pressure points are useful to escape the vise-like grip of a stronger attacker, drop a bigger foe with minimal effort and, above all, apply a painful message to the misguided aggressor who thought you were an easy and harmless target. 

So Where Are They?

You can find pressure points all throughout the body. And it doesn’t take years of mastery to find them and use them effectively during a confrontation. In simple terms, pressure points are nerves that are close to the skin’s surface. They fall into three distinct categories: pain points, muscle points and reflex points.

Pain points, which are the most common throughout the body, are used to produce a sharp pain or “sting” in the affected area. You can find these in tendons and ligaments. They also run along bones close to the skin, such as in the forearm or the lower leg.

Muscle points are similar to pain points, as they also create a lot of “hurt” for the recipient. However, these are found in muscle masses throughout the musculoskeletal system, including the biceps, triceps, trapezius and quadriceps.

Finally, reflex points allow you to create a certain result when applied. For instance, pressure directed onto the back of a closed hand will make it open; a kick directed to the inside of an opponent’s knee will topple his foundation as his knee buckles outward. While it’s true that hundreds of pressure points are found throughout the body, only those that are easily accessible during a conflict — and those that produce the most consistent and effective results — are normally used in everyday self-defense practice.

Painful Precision

Remember the expression “less is more” when it comes to pressure points. Although the normal response, and a valid one when adrenaline is flowing, is to use strength and put all your power into techniques to make them work, it’s counterproductive with pressure points. You want to apply pressure in an exact location instead of constricting large areas of the body.

Think of it this way. Lie on a bed of nails, and you won’t really hurt yourself due to the hundreds of nails spread over a large area. Now, remove 99 percent of the nails and lie down again. Obviously, a serious injury would occur. Pressure points work using the same principle. Focus your energy (not just strength) directly to painfully stimulate the recipient’s nerve for maximum effect — highly intense and unexpected pain.

Now, bear no illusion, pressure points for the most part are not an all-encompassing self-defense system on their own. Sure, there are some that, if you apply them correctly, under the perfect circumstances, they may end the confrontation virtually before it begins. But it’s rare and something you shouldn’t rely on. A barrage of punches and kicks, or a grappling takedown that an opponent may use against you, for example, will not be overcome by a pinch in his thigh or a slight sting in his neck. It would most likely go unnoticed, and you’ll go down hard when he counters.

However, when incorporated into a well-rounded repertoire of self-defense movements, pressure points are highly effective and can be used to control how your opponent will move based upon what points you hit. From there you can continue your follow-up until the situation is controlled. When you learn how to apply pressure points, as well as the results that follow, you can always be one step ahead of your attacker.

What Pressure Points Really Do

Defending yourself using pressure points can accomplish several results. First, they act as a distraction. When grabbed or held tightly by an assailant, a surprise attack on viable nerve endings can cause them to momentarily release their grip. This allows you to counter or escape. That instant “shock” gives you a micro-second to react. So, it’s important for you to instantly follow up.

Second, pressure points can assist in disarming an attacker. Certain reflex points will make their hand open. This disarms them if they’re holding a weapon. And you can use the weapon as a fulcrum to take him down and disarm him in one movement.

Finally, they add fuel to the fire. After securing an attacker in an arm lock or a pin, apply various pressure-point attacks to keep him always off balance, both mentally and physically. This prevents him from getting loose or devising a counter move due to the lock becoming ineffective (numbness will begin to affect the area) as time progresses.

A Little Help

Although you can manipulate most pressure points throughout your opponent’s body using only your fingers, knuckles or your hand, utilizing a few basic self-defense items can make the job a bit easier. This includes items that are specifically created to “lend a hand” at applying pressure on your attacker’s nerve endings, as well as those “everyday” objects you possess while at work, school or even jogging in the park.

Items on the market today that help to magnify your power when applying pressure points include kubotans and extendable batons. You can also use various “pointed” objects. Added to your keychain, these tools are useful in focusing energy directly at a nerve or large muscle group.

A kubotan is a small stick — 6 inches in length — easily hidden in a pocket or attached to a keychain. Made of hard wood, aluminum or steel, kubotans can come with either a flat or pointed end. Both have their usefulness. While a pointed model can press with more precision into a nerve ending directly, the flat-ended variety can utilize the corners of the kubotan to dig into skin to produce pain. It all comes down to personal preference; try several varieties of various weights and shapes to find one that works for your self-defense style.

Think of an extendable baton as a very large kubotan. It too can dig deep into muscle tissue using the butt of the weapon. However, you can also use it to strike vital areas of your attacker. This including temples, knees, throat, groin and ribs. In addition, an extendable baton can be held with two hands and used to execute a choke or to grind the nerves against a bone over a large area, such as the entire forearm or lower leg.

If you have no such weapons at your disposable, suitable substitutions can be found nearly anywhere. Thick writing pens carried can become instant kubotans, performing the exact same functions in the exact same way. A broken broom or mop handle can take the place of an extendable baton; you can apply keys to your attacker’s body with pinpoint precision no differently than commercially bought self-defense products.

However, there is one lesson that must be learned before you stock up on any of the aforementioned items: Proper training is a must in order to use them correctly and maximize their true potential. Without knowing how to strike or, more importantly, where to strike, these handheld pieces of wood or steel won’t help you, and may even hinder you during a conflict.

Perfect Practice

Like carrying a weapon or learning a new self-defense technique, the more you learn about pressure points and their applications, the more prepared you will be if you are confronted by an aggressor. Since people vary in size, build and strength, practicing on numerous diverse individuals is good idea. If you succeed on only a portion of partners, then you need continued practice. Remember, only when you can get the required results from everyone in the room — no matter how diverse their physical characteristics — will you be truly able to make the techniques work on the streets when you need them most.


Up Next

Brazilian President to Level Playing Field for Citizens Against Criminals

It has taken a long time, but it looks like the soon-to-be Brazilian president,...