- A single judicious strike to the proper area of the body. This is distinct from the Tap on the Head in that the effect is achieved through some sort of nerve manipulation, rather than simple blunt force trauma. This trope is most commonly seen in Chinese wuxia films, but it has made appearances in other media as well. Similar to the Touch of Death, in the Far East this trope stems from the belief that Pressure Points or nerve clusters control the physical functioning of a person's body, and that precision manipulation of these points can allow one to manipulate the body itself.
- A poison or venom.
- A magic spell or curse.
- Using telekinesis or a psychic ability to forcibly immobilize or disable someone.
- Technology of some sort.
- Electricity-based attacks, which can impair the nervous system to prevent movement. See Static Stun Gun.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Although Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star mostly uses his Hokuto Shinken to make his enemies explode messily when he touches them, he can also use it to create less messy effects, including paralysis and even healing of blindness.
- Muten/Master Roshi of Dragon Ball, as Jackie Chun, can apparently paralyze someone by tapping a pressure point on their forehead.
- There's also General Blue's secret technique which consists in a paralysis-inducing gaze. However, he must keep his focus on his target, or else the technique will be dispelled.
- The Hyuga clan from Naruto specializes in attacks like this, as Neji and Hinata can utilize their Byakugan to see specific pressure points on their targets.
- Haku utilized senbon to attack pressure points on his enemies. His signature move was to place his opponent in a false-death state, thus removing them from the battle.
- Happosai and Cologne from Ranma ½ are masters in the use of, among other things, pressure points, and often knock people out by tapping a spot on the victim's nape whenever they're too busy to have a straight-up confrontation. It's implied that Ranma can use these too, but the one time he attempted it, he was interrupted.
- Tōfū-sensei also uses paralysing pressure points in a late episode of the anime.
- Not only in late episodes - his first appearance has him induce a time-delayed reaction on Ranma,making his legs give out and forcing him to be carried home by Akane.
- Tōfū-sensei also uses paralysing pressure points in a late episode of the anime.
- Toriko has the concept of Knocking, a non-lethal method of hunting in which a device called a Knocking Gun (basically a Stun Gun) shoots biodegradable needles into an animal (or person's) nerves. An expert at this method is "Knocking Master" Jirou.
- Impact Knocking is a sub-technique performed with bare hands (probably via Pressure Points) as shown by Teppei, the grandson of the aforementioned Jirou.
- The titular Toriko can use Knocking with the index finger of his "Fork" hand.
- Jirou uses a technique called "Grand Knocking" which somehow paralyzes THE EARTH ITSELF causing worldwide natural disasters! After he removes the restraining seals, his abilities gets even more ridiculous - he gains ability to paralyze creatures with just his breath, stop flow of time, and even damage in his own body. If something moves - Jirou probably knows, how to stop it with his bare hands.
- Hei from Darker Than Black can do this, using his electricity-based powers to imitate a taser.
- Saizou "Soul Freezer" Fujibayashi from Gamaran is known and dreaded in Unabara for his paralyzing technique, which involves throwing tiny but strong needles at the opponent's muscles and joints.
- Sieglinde Jeremiah of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid is shown to be capable of paralyzing all of a person's limbs in an instant with a series of nerve strikes. Not even a Barrier Jacket could protect against it as her razor sharp fingertips are strong enough to rip through them like paper.
- In Bleach, Mayuri Kurotsuchi's zanpakuto Ashisogi Jizo is capable of paralyzing any part of a body he stabs, though said area can still feel pain.
- Tag, from the '90s Anti-Hero team Bloodstrike had this as her superpower. Not very impressive on the battlefield, but comes in handy when you're a rotting cyborg/zombie trying to get laid.
- The comic version of Kevin from Sin City apparently has the ability to make limbs go numb from certain strikes.
- One of Miles Morales' abilities in Ultimate Spider-Man is a "venom sting" that can paralyze opponents. It is capable of quickly knocking out many of his opponents, though larger and tougher ones like Venom or Giant Woman take a little more effort.
Films — Animation
- In Kung Fu Panda, both Master Oogway and the main villain Tai Lung are able to paralyze their enemies with a series of pinpoint nerve strikes. Hero Po is completely immune thanks to his thick layer of fat.
Films — Live Action
- This trope is named for the signature Called Attack of the main villain
Master PainBetty in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, a parody of 70's Kung Fu films.
- In Serenity, the Operative paralyzes people by pinching selective nerve clusters, rendering them unable to escape or resist while he executes them. He's defeated by Mal after his attack fails to work; Mal's nerve cluster was moved in surgery due to a war injury.
- In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li combines this with acupuncture needles to paralyze his enemies. The titular "Kiss of the Dragon" is a Touch of Death Dangerous Forbidden Technique that uses the same principles, which he uses on the main villain at the end of the movie for no apparent reason other than the coolness effect of the guy's head exploding.
- It's not obvious, but the commentary mentions a justification - Li's character gets shot in the arm as he starts to move, so he performs a technique that doesn't use his arm (the Kiss of the Dragon has him use his teeth to insert the needle). A better reason might be that he wanted to kill the villain, but not in front of the little girl he was rescuing, so he used a fatal technique with a delay.
- The hero of Spaceballs used this to neutralize guards. Sort of. He wasn't quite good at it but fortunately the first guard showed him where to squeeze.
- Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon uses a quick series of nerve strikes to completely freeze an opponent on the spot. Li Mubai uses a similar sequence of strikes on him to reverse the paralysis.
- It's apparently so effective (and well known) that Li Mubai threatens people by pointing two fingers at them.
- In Iron Man, Obadiah uses a device of some sort that has this effect. It seems to work using sound, as he protects himself from the gadget's effects with what appear to be fancy earplugs.
- Specifically, the frequencies used severely disrupted the inner ear, leading to severe vertigo, disorientation and lack of balance. Of course given Tony's overall reaction, it would be a safe guess that it does a bit more than described.
- Kylo Ren twice uses the Force to immobilize his opponents in The Force Awakens.
- Harry Potter
- The Full Body Bind Curse, as the name implies, paralyzes opponents while leaving them conscious.
- Making direct eye contact with a Basilisk is typically lethal, but if non-direct eye contact is made (like in a mirror or reflection), the victim is just Petrified, leaving them paralyzed and apparently unconscious.
- The Vulcan Nerve Pinch is spoofed in the Beavis And Butthead book "The Butt Files". In a Star Trek parody, Butt-head uses the pinch on Beavis just for fun. When a female crew members asks if he's okay, Butt-head hits on her and grabs her butt, knocking her out. Then he decides to spank his monkey... and knocks himself out.
- Artemis Fowl has Butler and Juliet do this alot.
- The titular Deprivers from the book by Steven Elliot-Altman.
- The protagonist from The Rook has this as a sub-set of her powers.
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek, the Vulcan Nerve Pinch serves as the "render fully unconscious" version of this move, and was invented on the spot by Leonard Nimoy, who felt that the blunt trauma Tap on the Head did not fit with Spock's character. Originally, it was explained as a combination of Vulcans extensive knowledge of pressure points on humanoid species combined with their telepathic abilities, but the latter part is often ignored.
- Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena was familiar with pressure point techniques due to time spent studying and conquering in the Far East, but mostly preferred to simply hack her enemies up with good ol' fashioned bladed weapons.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Same Time, Same Place", the demon Gnarl paralyzed victims with a touch so it could feed on them at leisure. To the amusement of at least one character, paralyzed victims are poseable.
- The killer in the CSI NY pilot was *trying* to do this to achieve locked-in syndrome on his victims, but he kept screwing up and killing them, except the final one.
- There was an episode of The Adventures of Superman that dealt with a professional wrestler who used a move called The Paralyzer that was sending his opponents to the hospital. This episode portrayed pro wrestling as a legit sport and not "sports entertainment".
- Supernatural: The angels have the ability to render people unconscious by touch, though they don't use this nearly as often as their killing touch because most of the show's angels are, well, fanatical pricks. Castiel demonstrates the non-lethal version on Bobby on his first appearance.
- In Doctor Who, the Doctor practiced "Venusian Karate", which allowed him to instantly render an opponent unconscious with a single tap.
Mythology and Religion
- In some versions of the Hand of Glory legend, anyone who gazes into its flames or even those who just happen to be in same building as the hand are rendered unable to move until the flames are extinguished.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Liches can paralyse any creature they touch. This paralysis is permanent unless magically cured and can easily be mistaken for death.
- Several creatures can do this, like ghouls or ghasts or carrion crawlers or... well, too many to list.
- The Forgotten Realms spell Paralysis has this effect when the caster touches a victim.
- Assassins (and most other classes with the ability) can use their Death Attack to paralyze rather than kill. Most don't.
- In the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures supplement, the Paralyzing Touch martial arts ability allowed the user to paralyze an opponent by putting pressure on specific nerve junctions. The victim couldn't move for up to an hour afterwards.
- In Exalted, this is one of the things that the Ebon Shadow Style of Celestial Martial Arts can do.
- In Deadlands: Hell on Earth and Lost Colony, sykers have access to a power that, when successfully used on anyone they can touch, renders them unable to move. It was invented by a psychic professional wrestler who used it as a Finishing Move named — you guessed it — The Paralyzer.
- Parlaying a person limb by limb is one use of Pressure Secrets in GURPS.
- There's also the Partial Petrification spell.
- The Point Blockage fu power is a very nasty attack from the Healthy Tiger path from Feng Shui that allows its user to paralyze foes. One of the very first powers on the healing path of the Healthy Tiger, Flow Restoration, is one of the best ways to free someone from this form of paralysis.
- Much was made of the Dim Mak technique in White Wolf's Street Fighter Storyteller game. The opening fiction tells the story of an expert using it wrong.
- Champions. A power such as Drain, Transfer of Destruction can be used to eliminate a target's movement ability and the power Entangle can be defined as physically paralyzing the victim. Early editions of the game had the Mental Paralysis power, which made you think you couldn't move.
- Carcosa: Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. In hex 0712 there's a Spawn of Shub-Niggurath whose touch causes paralysis.
- Shadowrun. The physical adept ability Nerve Strike reduces the target's Quickness. If its Quickness is reduced to zero it is paralyzed.
- The Force Stun ability in Knights of the Old Republic deadens enemy senses, perception, and movement, good for avoiding fights or making an escape.
- In Fallout 3, if you specialize in Unarmed combat, you can get the ability "Paralyzing Palm" which sometimes makes your VATS unarmed attack freeze the opponent in place. You can even do it to Yao Guais and Deathclaws.
- Pokémon has the fighting move "Force Palm" which has a chance of paralyzing the opponent.
- In Super Punch-Out!!, the Bruiser brothers can render one of your arms useless for ten seconds, making it impossible to punch with it or to block. The arm thus "broken" turns red until it heals.
- In Jade Empire, Paralysing Palm is a support style (i.e. one that does no physical damage) that does this. Excellent for Cherry Tapping.
- In the Monster Hunter series, quite a few weapons are capable of paralyzing enemies, though it takes quite a few hits to leave a monster twitching in place. Of course, the monsters these weapons are made from can also paralyze you.
- FlashMan.EXE is one, a functional translation of his predecessor's Time Master abilities.
- The Cleric of Dragon Nest has a spell that does this.
- As befits her nigh-universal mastery of combat, Nariko from Heavenly Sword knows a technique to paralyze her opponents. She can only use it in one scene, however, when she is pitted against her own clan in a fight to the death. Paralyzing instead of killing doesn't make the fight, or the rest of the game, any easier, but you play the rest of the game knowing that you didn't murder your own people needlessly.
- Of course not a single one of them has a problem with murdering her and none of them attack each other.
- Subverted in Dwarf Fortress: Giant Cave Spider venom is a paralytic that's more effective the smaller the target is. For anything smaller than the grizzly-sized spider itself it causes full body paralysis... which including paralyzing the LUNGS, causing death by suffocation.
- World of Warcraft's Monk class has this as an ability that can paralyze briefly or for longer depending on use and is visually implied to rely on acupuncture.
- Mass Effect
- The Stasis ability completely stops enemies from moving or attacking and leaves them vulnerable when it wears off, at the cost of making them invincible for the attack's duration (they can be damaged, though, in the first game with an upgrade, and in the third game).
- The Seeker Swarms deployed by the Collectors in Mass Effect 2 paralyze their victims with a sting, leaving them trapped in a semi-aware state.
- The Elder Scrolls series has the different forms of the Paralyze spell. Variously classed in either the Alteration school or Illusion school of magic, the spell freezes targets in place or causes them to drop helplessly to the ground for the duration of the spell. As with most spells, it can also be enchanted into a weapon where the effect will trigger on strike. Naturally, most high-level enemies are completely immune to it.
- Tower of God - Baam learnt a technique from Quant to paralyze people. Technical Pacifist that he is, he loves using it.
- Hell(p)'s № 4 can paralyze people with his saliva. Much like some Amazonian tribes use curare, № 4 briefly licks his fork before stabbing an opponent with it, causing a fully-body paralysis within seconds.
- Ki mistress Chaka learned this trick in her first week at Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, when a ninja mutant thought she would hold still while he did this to her. In a school full of mutants, there are people it does not work on.
- In Twig, Gladys Shipman invented a swarm of insects capable of injecting people with poisons that had this effect. Initially, she'd intended to use it as a means of delivering vaccinations en masse, but in order to get budget she instead marketed it as a nonlethal method of disabling enemies. She later applies similar concepts using spiders, which inject people with paralyzing venom in their sleep and cocoon them in their own flesh, allowing her employers to capture entire downs in one night.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Dark Chick Ty Lee uses chi-blocking pressure-point strikes as her signature attacks, which allow her to paralyze people, and/or take away their bending. However, she has the ability to separate the two, and take away bending or movement without affecting each other.
- The shirshu (AKA June's giant mole thing) can paralyze you by hitting you with its tongue. Ouch.
- The Legend of Korra: Anti-benders use Ty Lee's chi-blocking as their main method of fighting.
- The Transformers: Starscream's null-rays halt all electrical pulses, which is bad news for a species of robots.
- Transformers Animated has stasis cuffs, which are handcuffs that cause a mild form of stasis lock that keeps the robot immobilized, but conscious and able to speak.
- Samurai Jack has been seen using the shoulder-pinch style paralyser on a civilian to avoid being discovered.
- The Simpsons: Homer learned to use a shoulder-pinch style paralyser during his brief stint as a bodyguard, and thoroughly abused it.
"Hmm. It's half hour until lunch. *Proceeds to use shoulder pinch on HIMSELF*''
- Danny Phantom's Action Mom is able to do this.
- Paralyzing gas is of the many types used by the vile borg, Noxious in Skysurfer Strike Force.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "April's Fool" after Shredder captures April this time because he thought she was a princess, he does this to her.
- In one episode of Jackie Chan Adventures Uncle does this to Captain Black to prevent him from interrupting Jackie's fight with Shendu.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Castle Mane-ia", Twilight Sparkle uses her telekinesis to this effect, freezing all her panicking friends in place while allowing their eyes and mouths to move.
- Donita Donata, fashion-designer villain on Wild Kratts, uses a "pose beam" to paralyze animals for use as living clothing accessories. It's also been turned on the heroes on many occasions, and occasionally on Donita and/or her henchman.
- The well-known Sleeper Hold of Professional Wrestling fame could be considered this, though it works by restricting blood flow to the brain, rather than affecting nerve signals.
- Similarly, many use a "nerve strike/pinch" type of signature maneuver, obviously playing up to this trope, especially those with a martial arts gimmick.
- Stun guns, on the other hand, do work against the nervous system. The electrical shock overwhelms it with sensory input, resulting in short-lived paralysis. Although, contrary to Hollywood, this actually wears off in a few seconds. What keeps the target down? Why, the blinding pain, of course!
- This depends on whether the "stun gun" in use is an actual stungun (handheld, physical contact needed to work) or a taser. While a handheld stungun works only as long as you keep contact (meaning it's entirely possible to "follow" someone down with it and keep them stunned), the actual duration of paralysis/disorientation/severe nausea depends largely on where you hit, in addition to the voltage. Which means that oddly enough, knowing what portions of the body various nerve clusters run through can improve the effect (a shock to the arm is mostly just an annoyance with anything but higher-voltage versions, while a shock to the torso can easily stop a grown man in his tracks). A taser, on the other hand, fires barbed spikes connecting to the weapon. Meaning that you can continue shocking as long as is needed (or wanted, as seen in Johnny Knoxville's initial Jackass stunt).
- A precise rap to the sides of the neck over the carotid sinus can cause a vaso vagal reaction that, if applied in the heat of combat, can render someone precipitously unconscious. (Of course, it can easily be fatal...)
- Darts/arrows tipped with curare have been used by some native South American peoples to hunt; the toxin is a muscle relaxant that works pretty quickly, and only works through injection, meaning the meat of said hunt is safe to eat. It was also used in a few surgeries in the 1940s because people assumed it was also an anesthetic. It wasn't, meaning the patients who went through those surgeries felt the full pain of the entire operation, but couldn't do anything about it. It's treated a LOT more carefully these days. Good thing too, since high doses can cause asphyxiation due to paralyzing the diaphragm. Yeesh.