Kyūsho (literally: “places of suffering”) are anatomical weak points within the human body. Kyūsho are susceptible to the application of force or pressure, which will result in 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 must always be seriously contemplated.
In general, avoid striking any muscular or fatty areas. Muscle and fat act as a natural safety padding which dampens 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 which explain vital points location, and list their effects. However, these books typically draw from traditional Chinese medical practices (i.e., acupuncture) and lack a scientific basis in anatomy or physiology. The only non-pseudoscience kyūsho book is Deadly Karate Blows: The Medical Implications, by Brian C. Adams; however, this book is currently out-of-print. If you cannot obtain a used copy of this book, we suggest critically reading standard medical reference texts, such as Gray’s Anatomy.
A list of kyūsho is provided in the table below, listed from the top of the body to the bottom (which is 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.
Contrary to popular belief, the temples are comprised of bone which is just as thick as the rest of the skull. Blows to the temple are more effective because the temple is flat, which allows for more efficient energy transfer. 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 at/near 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. Inhaling 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 instantaneous death via piercing the opponent's brain with their fractured nasal bone. This is physiologically impossible; the only intra-skull passages leading to the brain are for the nerves and blood vessels -- these passages are too small to accommodate the nose structure, and their direct upward angle offers no convenient attack vector. Any forceful blow to the head is unlikely, though possible, to cause instant death --but this 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.
A collarbone (clavicle) fracture will incapacitate that arm, as the clavicle is one of the more painful bones to break. The jagged bone ends can potentially lacerate the branchial nerve or subclavian artery, creating the possibility of arterial blood clots (i.e., thrombosis) and/or gangrene.
Extremely penetrating blows to the collarbone can can drive bone shards into the chest, puncturing and collapsing the lungs. Collapsed lungs can cause shortness of breath, painful breathing, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, coma, and possibly death.
large nerves are close to the skin in side of each armpit. Striking these can cause severe pain and temporary paralysis.
The lowermost (i.e., the 11th and 12th) pairs of ribs are structurally weak because they have a "floating" end which does not connect to the sternum, or its cartilage. Powerful attacks to the floating ribs can result in:
The hydrostatic shock from a strike to the floating ribs can rupture the opponent's kidney. Broken floating rib rib fragments can lacerate the kidneys, resulting in weeks of mandatory bed rest to recover from peritonitis, extreme pain, bloody urine, coma, and possibly death.
Glancing blows to the floating ribs can tear the membranes holding the kidney in place, causing internal bleeding and a possible bend or kink in the urethra, causing urethral blockage, infection, and possible death.
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.
There is a tendency to miss the floating ribs and strike higher up on the chest. This can break the short ribs (i.e., the 8th, 9th, and 10th ribs), creating sharpened bone fragments which can resulted in punctured or collapsed lungs. Collapsed lungs can cause shortness of breath, painful breathing, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, coma, and possibly death.
The inner wrist contains many nerves, tendons, and major blood vessels which control and feed the hand. These are all close to the surface, and there is little muscle tissue to cushion impacts. Wrist sprains are likely, and fractures of the radius and/or ulna are possible. Both of these injuries will cause pain, swelling, and a greatly weakened grip.
It should be noted that a powerful strikse to the inner wrist tendons causes the hand to involuntarily open. This reaction can be exploited to disarm attackers.
The solar plexus is a large nerve cluster located where the rib cage (thorax) and abdomen meet. The solar plexus is oriented along the centerline, behind the diaphragm, in front of the first lumbar vertebrae. The nerves controlling many major organs branch out from the spinal cord at this point, 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 this region can have a number of deleterious effects on 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 ("rib meat") will function as a redundant diaphragm in this emergency, these muscles are inefficient and will quickly tire, leading to respiratory paralysis (or "getting the wind knocked out of you"). Complete incapacitation for 1-2 minutes will likely result, spelling doom in an altercation. Lapsing into Asphyxia-induced unconsciousness from such a blow is unlikely, but possible. Experience indicates that respiratory paralysis mostly occurs when opponents are 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 angle and force.
Straight attacks causes the lumbar vertebrae to act as an anvil or chopping block, vectoring all of the attack's power into deforming and possibly rupturing the pancreas, duodenum, and/or aorta. While any organ rupture 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
When struck, a filled urinary bladder can pop like a water balloon, flooding the opponent’s abdominal cavity with blood and urine. This will cause extreme tenderness, the inability to urinate, and an urinary tract infection. (To defend against this vulnerability, the bladder unconsciously voids as part of the fight-or-flight response. This is why frightened people pee their pants.)
Severe blows to the bladder can fracture the pelvis, and its sharp, jagged edges can puncture or tear the bladder and/or colon. This will result in internal hemorrhaging, shock, and painful breathing caused 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 bladder strikes, due to the unsupported hollow spots left in that region after their testicles descended. Femoral hernias are particularly dangerous, as they have the following potential side effects:
- Protruding sections of the intestine or abdominal membranes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peritoneum peritoneum) may become 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, causing 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.
However, "groin" is really just a polite (read: parent and school administrator friendly) way of referring to a male attacker's testicles. So, let’s just drop the façade and talk about testicles directly, like adults.
In Goshin-Jutsu, attacking the testicles is not permitted -- it is encouraged. Groin strikes, being painful, debilitating, and humiliating, should be a part of most waza -- but they should not always be the initial attack. There is no element of surprise associated with groin attacks; literally everyone, everywhere, knows this trick. Groin strikes are not a solves-all since every man must develop a groin-protecting sixth-sense in order to survive middle school. However, this reflex can be exploited to your advantage. All groin attacks can be used as atemi, by using this flinch response as a distraction. When the opponent frantically covers his groin, he momentarily stops thinking about protecting his head, and thus leaves himself open to counterattack.
Also, be mindful that while testicle strikes are immensely painful, they are not always immediately painful. The opponent might have to take a few steps, and/or wait up to 10 minutes before feeling the full effect.
Severe groin strikes can have the following dire consequences:
Groin strikes will often double as bladder strikes, doubling the damage potential.
Severe groin strikes can fracture the pubis (i.e., the bottom-most pelvis linkage). Walking becomes excruciatingly painful, due to the fractured bone's jagged edges rubbing against each other. The opponent must then curl up into a fetal ball, for lack of other options.
Crushed testicles will induce extreme pain, loss of breath, and nausea. Vomiting can occur. Exceptionally severe cases can send an opponents into shock, leading to unconsciousness or death. Severely crushed testicles can result in sterility. Testicular rupture requires surgery, and depending on the severity, may end with the partial or whole amputation of the damaged testicle.
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.
Shin attacks are unlikely to kill an attacker, but they can render your opponent helpless.
The shinbones are close to the surface of the skin, and there is little muscle in that region to cushion impacts. Pain, broken skin and bone bruises (i.e., the bruising of the spongy, bone-forming tissue surrounding the marrow) are likely. Tibia and fibula fractures are possible from stomp kicks while wearing hard-soled shoes or boots. Since shinbones come in pairs, a fracturing one of them may not be obvious, even though the ruptured blood vessels surrounding the fracture will cause extreme swelling. If one bone is broken, the opponent can walk with extreme pain. If both bones are broken, the opponent will be immobilized, since they cannot support their own bodyweight.
Bone fragments, torn subcutaneous fat, and blood clots can clog blood vessels, cutting off circulation from that part of the body, resulting in gangrene and/or death.
Poweful blows could poteinally sprain the ankle and/ or tear ligaments. Ankle dislocation is possible.
The instep contains numerous small bones, which is why karateka kick with the balls of the feet, and not with the insteps, like in many Korean martial arts styles. Stomping on an opponent’s instep is a common atemi in waza involving opponents grabbing 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. Foot stomps 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.