Adapted from Vital Point Strikes by Sang H. Kim
There are 3 fundamental ways of knocking out an opponent:
- Deliver a shock to the brain (example: strike the jaw or temple)
- Choke off the blood flow to the brain (example: constrict the carotid artery)
- Restrict breathing, limiting oxygen to the brain (example: constrict the windpipe)
However, there are also lesser known methods of bringing about unconscious or disorientation, including striking the vulnerable plexus areas on the trunk of the body. The 5 knockout techniques described in this article target vital points on the body, including the sternum, back, jaw, carotid artery and brachial plexus.
(The damage that can result from targeting these areas can be significant - use caution and control when practicing on a partner and only use the techniques discussed here when warranted in a self-defense situation.)
Elbow Strike to the Sternum
On the mid-line of the sternum, between the 1st and 2nd ribs, there is the branch of the 1st intercostal nerve, along with the branches of the internal mammary arteries and veins, and the arch of the aorta from which blood pumps out of the heart. A sudden powerful strike to this area can cause excruciating pain in the chest and damage the heart. If the aorta is ruptured, the result can be fatal. Even a moderately hard elbow strike can cause dizziness and unconsciousness.
The elbow is a powerful weapon, especially in a close quarter fight. For this strike, use the sharp edge of the top of the ulna bone of your elbow and strike in a slightly downward motion.
Elbow Strike to the Pulmonary Plexus
A vertical downward elbow strike to the upper back impacts the lungs, heart, diaphragm, and spinal cord. This area is crowded with cardiac nerves that stimulate and inhibit cardiac function and are connected with the pulmonary plexus. A powerful blow to this area can force residual air out of the lungs, momentarily stopping the breath and triggering a spasm in the diaphragm as your opponent struggles to breathe.
Knifehand Strike to the Carotid Artery
A sudden blow to the carotid artery dramatically changes the blood flow dynamics, causing a knockout or even death due to a sudden, precipitous drop in blood pressure in the brain.
In a life-threatening self-defense situation, if the opportunity arises, strike the carotid artery and/or the vertically flowing nerves in the neck with horizontal knifehand strike. To form a strong knifehand, press your fingers tightly together and focus the force in your fingers to the degree that your palm side arches slightly forward. Strike with the bottom of the hand bone, near the wrist.
Backfist Strike to the Jaw
A knockout from a blow to the head generally occurs in two ways: by the powerful blow to the head which is the primary shock and by the concussion of the brain against the skull wall when the head suddenly rotates.
You can intensify the power of a strike to the head by pulling on an assailant’s hand or arm when striking. This creates a damaging sequence of events: his head (and upper body) moving toward you, your fist striking his jaw, and his head rotating away from you. If you pull fast enough and your strike is powerful enough, there is a significant chance that you will knock him out.
Brachial Plexus-Carotid Choke
The inner forearm is a blunt yet versatile weapon that can be used to trap an assailant’s head and neck. The forearm shoulder-choke shown above compresses the vital nerves along the top of the shoulder and neck (the brachial plexus) while reducing the blood flow to he brain by compressing the carotid artery. Support the choking arm with your other arm by grabbing the fist of your choking arm and squeezing it toward you, intensifying the pressure on the side of his neck.