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Pressure Point

The practice of pressing a certain point on a person's body to achieve a certain effect (can also be multiple points in quick succession, or multiple points simultaneously). The most common effect is to paralyze the target or knock him unconscious. For knocking someone unconscious by the less subtle method of a strong blow to the head see Tap on the Head. For the more lethal version see Touch of Death.

In martial arts, can overlap with Ki Attacks, as ki/chi flows in the body are supposedly the underlying mechanism of both pressure points and acupuncture according to certain Eastern practices.

Pressure points are also handy if you are trying to avoid someone's death. When trying to stop severe bleeding from one of the extremities, applying pressure to the right area (typically farther up the limb near a joint) can significantly slow the flow of blood to an extremity, allowing time to dress the wound and seek medical care.

Although rarely portrayed in a realistic fashion, the existence of pressure points is decidedly Truth in Television. There are many points on the body that are particularly vulnerable such as nerve clusters, joints, blood vessels, the windpipe, the eyes and the groin. Striking with enough force or applying sufficient pressure to these areas can cause anything from pain and discomfort to severe structural damage and death.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The core of Kenshiro's Hokuto Shinken style in Fist of the North Star, used for a large variety of effects up to and very often including making Your Head A Splode.
    • Also there are apparently 708 of them, with effects ranging from sudden paralysis to curing muteness to suddenly allowing one to read other languages.
    • Episode 25 of Excel♥Saga parodied this into the ground, where hitting the pressure points turned one into a chibi.
  • Naruto
    • The most powerful and difficult variant of the Hyuuga clan's skills involves striking certain points on the body to prevent the target from using their chakra.
    • Earlier in the series, Haku used senbon to strike pressure points. His aim and knowledge were such that he could put a person in a near-death state while in the middle of combat.
  • Used in Ranma by Cologne, Happosai, Ranma, Shampoo, and Doctor Tofu, sometimes for the standard unconsciousness result, but usually for really weird effects:
    • Happosai uses one to make Ranma cry buckets of tears when he needs them for a potion ingredient.
    • Cologne uses another to make Ranma's skin super-sensitive to heat so that he can't use hot water to undo his transformation curse.
    • Combined with a special formula of shampoo (no, really) can be used to induce Laser-Guided Amnesia with the added benefit of preventing the victim from ever relearning whichever facts were suppressed from memory.
    • Also combined with moxibustion to sap Ranma's strength and make him weaker than a toddler.
    • Happosai also used it as a full-on therapy to turn a sickly, bedridden child into a Life Energy-draining accomplice, who was stuck as a child because of it, but regains her true adult body upon absorbing Battle Auras or Ki Attacks. A similar therapy can seal away this power, but the location of the pressure points make it a dicey proposition.
    • Tofu has one which can be disguised as patting someone on the back, which 30 seconds later causes the victim's legs to stop working.
    • Ranma occasionally uses them, or tries to use them, for example on Miss Hinako mentioned above, on Ryoga while in the girls locker room, on Kuno to knock him out, and on the dojo destroyer.
  • In the qualifying round of the Festival Tournament arc in Mahou Sensei Negima!, we see Evangeline keeping a combatant incapacitated with one finger in the back. Apparently just to show that, yeah, she doesn't just know a hundred lethal spells and how to magically enhance her physical power to rip-people-in-half levels... she's a master of esoteric martial arts too.
  • In Saint Seiya, Gold Saint Milo of Scorpio bases his entire Scarlet Needle fighting style on pressure points, which strike the opponent in the same configuration as the Scorpio constellation. In addition to irreparable damage to the nerves and the senses, the victim gushes blood from the strikes, and the final blow, Antares, is fatal. Impossibly enough, though, it's possible for Milo to save even an Antares-ed foe by pressing yet another pressure point, stopping the blood flow and letting them regain strength.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vivian uses this on Grandpa Moto, crippling him. She threatens to leave him like that unless Yugi duels her. After she is defeated, she reverses the damage.
  • Dufaux from Zatch Bell! uses the Answer-Talker to identify pressure points that will help unlock the heroes' true potential. It works well enough to invoke Heart Is an Awesome Power and a dose of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity in the Plucky Comic Relief.
  • In Pani Poni Dash!, Suzune attempts to keep Otome small by hitting her pressure point for stunting growth, but always hits the pressure point for diarrhea instead. (It remains uncertain whether either one works, though.)
  • Ethan Stanley in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, practices Kalarippayattu, an Indian martial art, through which he has learned out incapacitate or even outright kill his opponents by striking specific points called Marmam, which he states served as the origin for pressure points used in other martial arts (since Kalarippayattu served as an originator for most other Eastern martial arts styles). Also of note is Chikage Kushinada, who shows that she can use pressure points to control Ukita (one of the weaker members of the Shinpaku alliance) like a puppet without him even noticing.
  • Ultimate Teacher: Ganpachi incapacitates a whole classroom of people by using his speed to press two points in their leg that causes a painful cramp.
  • The Stone Masks in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure can turn humans into vampires by puncturing an exact combination of points in the brain.
  • Toriko: "Knocking" is the art of striking specific nerve points in a target's body to paralyze them. It's normally done with special "Knocking" guns that inject needles into the targets. "Knocking Master" Jirou and his grandson Teppei are skilled enough to perform Knocking with their bare hands.
  • Yau-si in Banana Fish is a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, but prefers to incapacitate his opponents without a fuss by delicately poking them with acupuncture needles, paralyzing them or depriving them of their senses.

    Comicbooks 
  • Nearly any comicbook martial artist. Here's a few who've done so in the past:
  • The comic version of Kevin from Sin City has the ability to make people go numb with pressure point attacks. It's also implied that this was his method of killing.
  • The villainess Faora likes to use these techniques. Since she has Super Strength, they can even work on Superman.
  • Superman himself uses these from time to time. When Batman got possessed by a sentient cloud of kryptonite once, Superman pokes him in the side and Batman's body collapses, with the kryptonite wondering why he can't move anymore. When Superman tried this on Maxima, she was tough enough to shrug it off.

    Films — Animated 
  • Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda uses pressure points to paralyze his victims. (The same technique was also used on him by Master Oogway in the Flashback.) Po turns out to be invulnerable to this, as he is insulated by all his fat. Use in a more comical fashion when a misplaced acupuncture needle causes Po to make a funny face... and maybe stop his heart.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, our Badass Bookworm hero Hiccup accidentally discovers through playing with his Dragon friend Toothless that you can render any dragon unconscious with a single finger by pressing an acupuncture point on their necks between the aorta and the larynx.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, the hero is infiltrating the Big Bads' flagship. He tries the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on the guard, who asks our hero what he's doing. The hero tells him straight up, at which point the guard corrects him. "Like this?" "Yeah...."
  • The Operative in Serenity does this to paralyze people preparatory to executing them with his sword. It doesn't work on Mal because that nerve cluster had to be moved by the surgeons because of a war injury.
  • The Princess Bride. In The Film of the Book, Fezzik uses a Vulcan neck pinch to render Buttercup unconscious.
  • In Kill Bill, there's the "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique", which is used by Pai Mei in the backstory of to slaughter an entire temple because one of its members accidentally insulted him. Specifically, when Pai Mei nodded at him, he didn't see it and respond. It was later taught to the Bride, who used it to... well, to Kill Bill.
  • Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid knows a couple. Enough to help Daniel go from near crippled to being able to compete in the final showdown.
  • This becomes a major plot point and Chekhov's Skill in 3 Ninjas.
    • And, oddly enough for that movie, realistically in that kids actually had to forcibly strike the points in question.
  • Sean Connery's thumb-fighting technique in The Presidio.
  • The eponymous Kiss of the Dragon was an acupuncture version performed by Jet Li right at the end of the film.
  • The American International Pictures Beach Party movies had a running bit that started with Bob Cummings' anthropologist character using a mystical finger touch to the temple to incapacitate doofus-bad guy Eric Von Zipper, making him freeze like a statue. This happened to him through most of the movies, often self-inflicted.
  • Our Man Flint. Flint does a Vulcan neck pinch on the Galaxy agent supervising Gila's hypnotic indoctrination and several others as well.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Both Jade Fox and Li Mu Bai use pressure points in their first skirmish—Jade Fox to completely paralyze the Butt Monkey guard in place, and Li Mu Bai to reverse the effect.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Subverted; Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on Harrison, but all it does is cause him considerable pain.

    Literature 
  • Discussed in Tamora Pierce's Provost's Dog trilogy, being about a medieval police force. It's a variant of Tap on the Head called the "nap tap"; a precision blow to the chin delivered with a baton. Goodwin's is legendary.
  • There was a Nancy Drew Files mystery in the late 80s that used this as a plot point. The culprit turned out to be a masseuse who could pinch people unconscious.
  • The Action Service men from The Day of the Jackal know a pressure point behind the ear that causes unconsciousness, probably the same one from the Star Trek example below.
  • Most Chinese Wuxia stories and anything adapted from them will have characters who are masters of this. Effects range from numbness to muteness to instant death to being put in suspended animation.
  • Scout, the Weak, but Skilled Padawan in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, is a master at these, striking arms to make them go numb and tingly. She also has a perfectly centered grab on the carotid triangle that makes targets black out within ten seconds, though that might be less "pressure point" and more "cutting off blood to the brain".
  • Appears in Encyclopedia Brown in a story where Bugs Meany demonstrates his "judo" skills, including a pressure point knockout. Encyclopedia Brown points out that it's faked because the targets went stiff and fell forward, whereas the physiology of how the body is laid out means someone rendered unconscious while standing will naturally fall backwards.
  • In the Remo Williams "Destroyer" novels, Remo and Master Chiun are absurdly expert at this, as they are at all martial art tropes. One extreme case has Remo grabbing a criminal pilot by the neck and manipulating nerves with such dexterity that he's able to "puppet" the man's hands and feet to land the plane against his will.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The Vulcan nerve pinch, which is apparently effective against the vast majority of humanoids and some non-humanoid aliens. As an interesting bit of history, the origin of the pinch came from Leonard Nimoy's insistence that Spock would not perform an aggressive karate chop to subdue an opponent from behind. Demonstrating on William Shatner, he showed the director that this new technique would be convincing enough on screen. Although it was never explicitly explained onscreen, the ability was, according to Leonard Nimoy in his autobiography, supposed to combine a precise attack on the target's anatomy with a telepathic jolt to explain why the technique was so fast and reliable. Which doesn't explain why non-Vulcans such as Data are occasionally shown to use it. Presumably the writers of that episode were under the impression that it simply required more precision than a human could match, which would of course be no problem for the android Data whose physical abilities are superhuman in every way.
      • In the episode "Journey to Babel", it's revealed that in ancient times Vulcans used a different (though possibly related) neck grip as their standard method of execution. While modern Vulcans are opposed to violence and no longer execute anyone under any circumstance, the old martial arts have not been forgotten and can kill with a single touch.
    • Also, in "The Way to Eden", Tongo Rad used his knowledge of human anatomy to knock out an Enterprise crewman by squeezing the nerve pressure point at the back of the jaw, just under the earlobe (Truth In Television, though it causes great pain and delayed unconsciousness rather than instant).
  • In an episode of The Wild Wild West, Jim West renders a female villain unconscious by pressing a pressure point in her back.
  • This was one of Xena's big talents. Her favorite was a neck poke that cut off oxygen to the brain as an interrogation method.
    • Parodied in one episode when Gabrielle tries it, but it has no effect even though she poked the guy in the same spot that Xena usually goes for.
    • The assassin Sinteres specializes in these techniques, to the point that he makes a guy's brain explode.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Survival", the Seventh Doctor paralyzes a bullying physical education instructor by pressing a finger on his forehead. Also a standard tactic of the Third Doctor.
  • Natsumi of Kamen Rider Decade has the Hikari Family Secret Technique: Laughing Pressure Point, which makes the victim laugh and is used as an alternative to the anime-style Megaton Punch (since Natsumi is our requisite Tsundere female lead. Originally she used it when protagonist Tsukasa was too much of a Jerkass. And sometimes when he's completely blameless. And sometimes on innocent Yuusuke. And sometimes on Kaito. And sometimes on her own grandfather.
    • It even turns out to be a Chekhov's Skill, since in the Den-O story arc it helps get the Imagin out of Tsukasa and in the Kabuto arc it reveals the Worm that's impersonating him. In the Grand Finale movie, when she becomes a Kamen Rider herself, it's even turned into a full-on special attack!
  • In an episode of NCIS , Ziva uses her Mossad interrogation techniques to obtain information about a kidnap victim. Although what actually happens is mostly left to the viewers' imaginations, the woman being interrogated is at one point convinced to answer a question because the threat of death later is not as scary as Ziva tweaking her shoulder now.
  • Spoofed in an episode of The Goodies entitled "Kung Fu Capers": Reading from a book of martial arts instructions, Graham delivers a large number of light taps and pokes to various spots on Tim's body. After several seconds of nothing happening, Tim suddenly spasms and jerks back and forth before collapsing unconscious.
  • The Avengers episode "The Living Dead". Emma Peel applies pressure to two points on the neck of a female guard's neck to render her unconscious.
  • Used in Diagnosis: Murder. Jesse's father needed him to calm down, so he put a comfroting hand on his shoulder. When that didn't work, he increased the pressure. Jesse protested and folded up. The unconsciousness lasted long enough for them to drive out of LA and for his father to have a long discussion, and there are no obvious side effects.
    • Of course, Jesse should probably consider himself lucky his father didn't just choke him into unconsciousness like he did to Steve...
  • Subverted on Red Dwarf. When Kryten needs to render the other Dwarfers unconscious as part of a plan, he suggests using an "Ionian nerve grip" on Rimmer, assures him he won't feel a thing - and then hits him with a vase. Since Rimmer is now a nigh-indestructible Hard Light hologram, he proves impossible to knock out anyway.
    Rimmer: That's not an Ionian nerve grip, that's smashing me over the head with a vase!
    Kryten: There's no such thing as an Ionian nerve grip! Now stand still while I hit you.

    Manhwa 
  • Some martial arts in The Breaker make extensive use of these.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Dr. Sam Sheppard, the man whose life inspired The Fugitive, went into wrestling in his later years. As he was a trained surgeon, he had in-depth knowledge of the human body, including where all the pressure points are, knowledge he used to his advantage in the ring. His Finishing Move, the Mandible Claw (later used by Mankind), was said to activate a pressure point under the tongue that paralyzes the opponent and induces intense pain.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets in GURPS work by "tearing or crushing organs and nerve clusters with lethal precision" but are considered cinematic skills. The second one is so powerful that the game gives a word of caution about its potential Game Breaker status.
  • Several Fu powers from Feng Shui are meant to simulate pressure point attacks as shown in kung fu movies. Dim Mak and Lightning Fist from the Path of the Hands of Light ignore armor and Toughness respectively, and the healing path of the Path of the Healthy Tiger, which includes Healing Chi, which uses pressure points to heal, Flow Restoration, which negates the effects of harmful chi powers on you, Point Blockage, which is the classic pressure point paralysis move, Shadowfist, a truly nasty move that trades a permanent reduction in Chi and Fu for a permanent reduction of an opponent's Martial Arts skill and the loss of one Fu power of the attacker's choice, and Storm of the Tiger (which requires mastery of both the healing and counterattack paths of the Tiger style), which uses twice the Chi you spend to deal out serious damage and quite admirably replicates the killer pressure point moves you see in a lot of kung fu movies.
  • Many other games will have some sort of pressure point-related abilities if Eastern martial arts are featured. Modern game like Spycraft? Spirit and Vital Points Basics, Moves, and Mastery—even lets you heal a comrade. Street Fighter RPG? Of course; it even mentions the 'Dim mak' below. Escape into Dungeons & Dragons? Enter the monk, who can kill you (or at least make you save versus dying of getting smacked with a special ability) with a touch since 1st Edition.

    Videogames 

    Western Animation 
  • The Vulcan nerve pinch is parodied in a Futurama episode where the Planet Express crew end up in a death-match with the cast of the original Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy tries to see if the "Vulcan nerve pinch" actually works but tries it on Bender, a robot and thus lacking nerves, who doesn't even flinch.
  • A Ki Attacks example: Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender hits on pressure points to block the chi of her opponents and paralyze them in combat. She can also use this to disable the Elemental Powers of benders for short periods.
  • Uncle from Jackie Chan Adventures did this to many a Mook in the first season. He even did this to Captain Black when he wouldn't heed his warnings about attacking a magical demon Big Bad.
  • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Day of the Samurai" revolves around a martial art called Kiba no Hoko (The Way of the Fang), which uses precise strikes against pressure points. Batman's foe, Kyodai Ken managed to learn its most fatal technique, the Oonemuri Touch.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Big Macintosh knows just the right one to treat Granny Smith's muscle spasm.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer becomes a bodyguard and learns how to knock someone out by squeezing their shoulder.
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, Khyber uses a "Haphestan nural grip" to bring down his prey.
  • In Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness, several characters, most prominently Po and Mantis, can hit pressure points to inflict paralysis and other effects. In one episode, Taotie invents a vehicle that can use incredibly accurate acupressure to make victims do virtually anything and uses it to manipulate Po, Shifu, Monkey, Crane, Mantis, and Viper until Tigress destroys it.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Master Splinter uses this to calm down and discipline an overreacting Raphael. Later in the episode, Raph himself uses the technique to paralyze a powerful, rampaging mutant.

    Real Life 
  • Acupuncture. Therapy through pressure points.
  • Omnipresent in martial arts and self-defense classes, often in the form of joint locks, precision strikes and the good old Groin Attack.
    • Jiujitsu makes use of a wide range of pressure points. These are used to induce a person to be more compliant or cause enough pain when struck to induce an individual to discontinue hostilities. Police forces are also taught to use them in control methods. It is possible to harden oneself and some people just don't feel them. Not always reliable or effective but when they work can be very painful.
    • It should be noted that in real life pressure points are decidedly not an exact science, so they shouldn't be used in a serious life-or-death situation (brute force, as in kicking or punching, is generally more reliable). There's a considerable amount of variation in location and effectiveness between individuals, and they are frequently ineffective on someone who is mentally ill, on drugs, has a large amount of body fat, or (as mentioned above) has trained to be resistant to them.
  • Your funny bone. Actually it's the ulnar nerve that's located near the elbow, but if you happen to hit it...yieeeeeeee!!
  • The celiac plexus, or solar plexus. A sharp blow here usually doesn't affect the plexus itself (although it certainly can), but rather it causes a diaphragm spasm and abrupt exhalation i.e. "getting the wind knocked out of you".
  • Some martial arts and forms of self defense incorporate pressure points, though it is ill-advised to rely solely on them. It's fairly easy to miss a pressure point and roughly ten percent of the population has a less-than-satisfactory response to them.


My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than YoursThis Index Knows Kung-FuShatterpoint Tap
Pre-Asskicking MutterCombat TropesPro Wrestling Episode
Groin AttackFor Massive DamageSniping the Cockpit
Planet of HatsImageSource/Live-Action TVProud Scholar Race Guy
Multi-Armed and DangerousAntagonist AbilitiesRubber Man
Press-GangedNarrative DevicesPriceless Paperweight
Pressure PlateAdded Alliterative AppealPretend Prejudice

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