Kyūsho (literally: “places of suffering”) are anatomical weak points within the human body which are susceptible to the application of force or pressure, the result of which will cause pain, injury, unconsciousness, or death. The magnitude of the applied force, the area of the body to which the force is applied, and the technique used to apply the force always need be seriously contemplated.
In general, avoid striking any muscular or fatty areas. Muscle and fat act as a natural safety padding that will dampen the impact of your blows. While striking these areas will cause painful bruising, these bruises will not set in until long after the confrontation has ended. To quickly incapacitate an attacker, you must attack sensitive soft tissues, break small bones, or dislocate major joints. Fighting requires a functioning skeleton.
There are a number of popular books on the market today which detail the locations of vital points and list their effects. However, these books typically draw from traditional Chinese medical practices (such as acupuncture) and lack a scientific basis in anatomy or physiology. The only non-pseudoscience book about kyūsho for a popular audience is Deadly Karate Blows: The Medical Implications, by Brian C. Adams. If you cannot obtain a copy of this book, we suggest critically reading standard medical reference texts, such as Gray’s Anatomy, which can be purchased anywhere at a nominal cost.
A list of kyūsho is provided in the table below, listed from the top of the body to the bottom, since that makes them easier to memorize:
Every technique you perform should be always directed to one of these thirty kyūsho. Even when performing kata, you must envision striking the kyūsho of an imaginary attacker matching your height and build.
Do not punch someone in the skull. Heads are incredibly hard, and you can easily break your hand trying to crack one open. (This is why boxers wear padded gloves.) Attacks to the skull should only be conducted with the most robust parts of your body (e.g., hammerfist, elbow, knee, or heel). Even then, skull fractures are unlikely, but it will introduce your opponent to the magical world of closed-head trauma.
Brain floats in the skull like a yolk in an egg. Localized force will crack the skull like an eggshell, less than that will move the head. This overwhelms the brain (E goes as v2), brain stays still while skull moves. Liquid helps cushion the blow of the skull striking the brain. Brain is scrunched, rupturing blood vessels on the side opposite the punch, and likely at the site of the punch from the rebound. This repeats until oscillations die out. Jolt and damage interrupts nerve conduction, so brain has to reboot, if you are lucky.
Any jolt to the head, especially those where the head is not allowed to roll with the shockwave, can cause a concussion. A consussion is the vibration of the brain within the skull. The effect of a concussion can range anywhere from insignificant to fatal, depending on the number of ruptured blood vessels and their position relative to the brain.
The brain has many redundant pathways, so being knocked out for < 30 s causes little damage. Being knocked out frequently will though. Loss of brain flow from blood loss, chokes, the brain builds up swelling, lactic acid, fatigue poisons and will idle until those are flushed out. When this happens, sometime these people wake up again, but they are very different afterwards. This is a coma.
The skull is weakest where the frontal and parietal bones join. Sharp blows can cause cranial nerve traume, resulting in unconsciousness, vasucular shock, and possible death.
A flow to the forehead could cause whiplash from the sudden change in head position.
The temples are made of bone just as thick as the rest of the skull; the reason why temple blows are more effective is because the temple is flat, so the blows can hit dead-on, rather than glancing off of a rounded surface.
Powerful blows can cause concussions, unconsciousness, and possible death.
A epecially poweful blow can fracture the skull a that point, rupturing, pinching, or cutting the meningeal artery, resuling in an immediate compression of the brain from the hemmoraging, leading to coma and death.
The bones behind the eye are thin. A really strong eye-poke can break this bone and pierce the brain.
rupture eardrum, causing nerve shocks and internal bleeding. Sharp blows can cause concussions, leading to unconsciousness or death.
In later volumes, we will introduce kumade uchi, the bear-paw strike, which was exclusively designed to do this.
tear ear off.
Tearing the opponent’s ear off may also impair the opponents vision, since the ear serves as an anchor point for most styles of eyeglasses.
Bridge of the nose
Due to the nerve density in that region, all strikes to the nose will cause an involuntary watering of the eyes, which can temporarily impede the opponent's vision.
The philtrum is the groove centered on the upper lip, directly under the nose. A strike to the philtrum can have a variety of results, depending on the severity of the impact:
- Due to the high nerve density in that region, all attacks to the nose cause an involuntary watering of the eyes, which can temporarily impede the opponent's vision.
- Split lips are likely.
- Chipped, fractured, or dislocated teeth are likely.
- Whiplash is possible.
- Due to the skull's sphere-like geometry, a sudden pressure pressure spike in this region can cause a bursting fracture of the maxilla (upper jaw) under the eye, beside the nose, and above the canine teeth. These fractures typically occurs on the opposite side of the face, but same-side bursting fractures are possible. Eating becomes excruciatingly painful until these fractures heal.
- Unconsciousness, either from a concussion or from shock.
- Death, from one of the following processes:
- Choking on blood and/or tooth fragments. The blood and/or teeth can cause vocal cord spasms, which can seal off the trachea (windpipe), causing death by suffocation.
- dural artery
A well-placed punch to the upper lip can keep going, tear off the dural arteries, and push his brain through the hole in the skull. Dies instantly.
Please note that contrary to popular portrayals in television, movies, and comics, a rising palmheel skrike to the philtrum will not cause instant death by piercing the opponent's brain with their fractured nasal bone. This is physiologically impossible; the only passages within the skull which lead to the brain are those for the nerves and blood vessels -- and these passages go straight-up, and are too small to accommodate the nose structure. While it is unlikely, though possible, for any forceful blow to the head to cause instant death, it is usually due to concussions or ruptured blood vessels.
The jawbone acts as a lever that relays the force of the blow directly to the medulla, which is dangerous as it governs breathing, heartbeat, and other basic functions. Concussions can also result.
Ikken hissatsu: “one-blow one-kill” the rare -- but real -- ability to deliver fight-ending power to break bones, disrupt organs or kill with every single strike.
Side of jaw
Powerful blows could fracture or dislocate the jaw. Healing requires wiring the jaw shut, reading the opponent unable to speak or eat solid food.
Pinch facial nerves resulting in paralysis.
The traditional target of Western boxers is "the button," a spot on each side of the jaw 1" from its bottom tip; this point best exploits this weakness, figuratively acting as an on/off switch for your opponent's brain.
Side of the neck
A target-rich environment, carotid arteries, jugular veins, the vagus nerve, which can cause unconsciousness from shock.
Skeletal trauma can damage the spinal cord; this effect can be amplified by their broken neck's inability to support the weight of the head.
Base of the cerebellum
Most of these are straightforward, and require no explanation. [define solar plexus, floating ribs]
any forceful blow to any vulnerable part of the body is capable of crippling or killing. A boxing punch is no better or worse at doing so than a karate or kung fu punch.
Nerves are the most energy- greedy cells in the body.
Without oxygen, glucose metabolizes wrong and becomes lactic acid. Brain shuts down to preserve itself from lactic acid build up. Anything less than 5 minutes is ok. More than that causes brain damage. A delicate person, one with clogged arteries or diabetics could see it in 3 minutes. There are also cases of kids trapped under ice for 15 minutes and coming out normal though.
Strikes to the side of the knee work too well; don’t practice
A well-placed forceful blow to the floating ribs can rupture the kidney with the broken bone shards.
Striking between the should blades can send shockwaves into the heart , aortic arch, or vargas nerve.
Solar plexus just refres to a general area, and nota specific body part. Striking it it can stop the diaphram, stopping breathing. A forceful blow can send shockwave into the liver, heart, and lungs.
Outside elbow breaks damage ligaments and cartilage; it cannot be repaired without surgery.
Any across-the-throat chokes, strikes, or any other form of pressure can easily crush the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple) or trachea (windpipe).
Crushing the throat requires emergency tracheotomy or the opponent will die.
Lesser blows can trigger the gag reflex, leading to vomiting.
Disables arm and causes extreme pain; the collarbone is one of the more painful bones to break.
Jagged bone ends can lacerate the branchial nerve or subclavian artery, creating the possibility of arterial blood clots or gangrene.
Extremely penetrating blows can drive bone shards into the lungs, puncturing them. Collapsed lungs can be fatal.
large nerves are close to the skin in side of each armpit. Striking these can cause severe pain and temporary paralysis.
Additionally, shattered rib fragments can pierce the diaphragm, resulting in short, quick, "shallow" breathing as the body restricts diaphragm motion to prevent further piercing. Internal bleeding will irritate the diaphragm and cause painful hiccuping. This restricted air intake can lead to Asphyxia-induced unconsciousness, coma, and death.
The solar plexus is a large nerve cluster located along the centerline, where the rib cage (thorax) and abdomen meet behind the diaphragm, and in front of the first lumbar vertebrae. Here, the nerves controlling many major organs branch out from the spinal cord, like rays from the sun. While martial artists frequently attack the solar plexus, they are not attacking that nerve cluster per se; they are just attacking its general location. Attacks to that region has a number of deleterious effects on several of the opponent's major organs, as described below:
Blows to to solar plexus can send the diaphragm into Charley Horse-like spasms. While the intercostal muscles (i.e., "the rib meat") will function as a redundant diaphragm in this emergency, these muscles are inefficient and will quickly tire, leading to respiratory paralysis (i.e., "getting the wind knocked out of you"). Complete incapacitation for 1-2 minutes will likely result; lapsing into Asphyxia-induced unconsciousness is possible, but uncommon. Experience indicates that respiratory paralysis most likely when the opponent is struck during inhalation. As such, all inhalations must be sharp and quick, to minimize this vulnerability.
Attacks to the solar plexus can rupture various organs, depending on the attack's level, angle, and force.
Straight attacks can rupture the pancreas, duodenum, and/or aorta. The lumbar vertebrae acts as an anvil or chopping block, vectoring all of the attack's power into deforming these organs. While rupturing any organ causes internal bleeding, ruptured aortas commonly result in fatal hemorrhaging.
stike left, stomach and spleen, epecially when inhaling. Shcok from internal bleeding, leading to severe pain, unconsiousness, coma, and death.
right, liver and galbladder.
Gall (bile) enters the abdominal cavity, where it digests and dissolves any fatty tissues it may ecounter.
Dislocation of the spinal column can lead to dislocated or herniated vertebrae. these "slipped disks" cause extreme pain, imparing mobility.
Severe dislocations can compress, sever, or otherwise damage the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis or death. The higher the dislocation, the more severe the consequences.
(e.g., the small of the back; sacrum)
Spinal cord injury to this region can result in limited or full paraplegia, urinary and fecal incontinence, and sexual dysfunction.
Blows to the abdomen are less effective against opponents with highly-developed tensed abdominal muscles, which will act as natural form of armor plating.
Poorly-conditioned, fatigued, or relaxed abdominal muscles will offer no support, and can be sent into painful spasms when struck. Additionally, a powerful blow can knock the wind out of an opponent, especially during inhalation.
A direct blow to the kidney can cause it to rupture from hydrostatic shock, or from being pieced or lacerated by broken floating or short rib fragments. Peritonitis
A full urinary bladder can pop like a water balloon when struck, flooding the opponent’s abdominal cavity with blood and pee. This will cause extreme tenderness, the inability to urinate, and a urinary tract infection.
Severe blows to the bladder can fracture the pelvis, and its sharp, jagged edges that can puncture or tear the bladder and/or colon. This will result in internal hemorrhaging, shock, and painful breathing cause by the weight of the gastrointestinal system bearing down on the broken pelvis.
Men run the additional risk of receiving risk of inguinal, femoral, or scrotal hernias following bladders strikes bladder, due to unsupported hollow spots in that region left after their testicles descended. Femoral hernias are particularly dangerous, as they have the following potential side effects:
- Protruding section of intestine or abdominal membranes (omentum) may be constricted, and receive decreased blood flow, leading to gangrene.
- Pressure on the femoral nerve may lead to partial paralysis of the affected leg.
- Blood clots in the femoral vein can cause thrombosis, which can lodge themselves in the opponent's lungs, leading to death.
Causes extreme pain.
Contrary to popular belief the tailbone does serve a purpose -- it is one of the anchor points of the sphincter muscle, which can lead to fecal incontinence and/or painful defecation.
Striking the groin muscle
However, when we talk about attacks to the groin, it’s usually just a polite (read: parent and school administrator friendly) way of saying to attack a man’s testicles. So, let’s just drop the facade and talk about testicles directly, like adults.
In Goshin-Jutsu, attacking the testicles is not permitted -- it is encouraged. Groin strikes, being as painful, debilitating, and humiliating as they are, should be a part of any waza -- but they shouldn’t necessarily be the first attack. There’s no element of surprise associated with a groin attack; literally everyone, everywhere, knows that trick. A groin kick won’t necessarily drop an opponent either. Although being kicked in the testicles is immensely painful, the pain is not always immediate. The opponent might have to take a few steps, or wait up to ten minutes before the full effect is felt.
Groin strikes are not a solves-all since every man must develop a 6th sense to protect their groins in order to survive middle school. This reflex can be exploited to your advantage. Attacks to the groin are usually to get your opponent to flinch. As your opponent frantically covers his groin, he stops thinking about protecting his head, and leaves himself open to counterattack. This is not a feint. These attacks must be thrown with full-force, with the intent to do harm. Feints wind up being slower that real techniques, and the opponent must be legitimately afraid of groin injury to drop his guard and flinch. Besides, why fake-hit your attacker, when you can actually hit him?
Strikes to the groin commonly double as strikes to the bladder, doubling the potential for damage.
Severe groin strikes will fracture the pubic bone, the bottom-most linkage of the pelvis. Walking becomes excruciatingly painful, as the fractured bone's jagged edges must rub against each other. The opponent will likely curl up into a fetal ball for lack of options.
Crushing the testicles results in extreme pain, loss of breath, and nausea. Vomiting can occur; and exceptionally severe cases can send an opponent into shock, leading to unconsciousness or death. Severely crushed testicles can result in sterility. Testicular rupture requires surgery to correct, which may require amputation of the damaged testicle -- in part or in whole -- depending on the severity.
Hollow of the knee
Attacks to the hollow behind the knee can injure to the popliteal blood vessels and tabialis nerve, which can paralyze the leg. Sever blows can dislocate the knee itself. Even light to moderate blows will tear ligaments and cartilage, causing extreme pain and limited mobility.
Side of the knee
Dislocations of the kneecap are likely. even light to moderate blows will tear ligaments and cartilage, causing extreme pain and limited mobility.
The shinbone is close to the surface of the skin, and has little muscle to pad the bone from impact. Broken skin and bone bruises are likely. Fracture of the bones will leave the opponent unable to support their own bodyweight.
Poweful blows could poteinally sprain the ankle and/ or tear ligaments. Ankle dislocation is possible.
The instep contains numerous small bones, which is why we kick with the ball of the foot, and not with our insteps, like many Korean-style martial artists. Stomping on an opponent’s instep is a common atemi in waza involving an attacker who grabs you from behind. Crushing the instep literally leaves the opponent without a leg to stand on, since the foot is essentially a tripod comprised of the heel and the first and fifth metatarsals. Stomps to an opponent’s foot should always be directed their instep, and not their toes because:
- unsupported bones
- Your attacker may be wearing steel-toed work boots, which renders them immune to toe stomps.