We’ve all seen movies with martial-art-styled fight scenes where the body’s pressure points are attacked, and opponents are neutralized with single blows. But is this real? If so, what are these pressure points? Which martial art styles use them? And can you use pressure points in Jiu-Jitsu?
Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling style martial art that does not use the human body’s pressure points as part of its defensive or attacking techniques. There are, however, other martial art styles that use pressure points to neutralize an opponent or attacker.
Let’s examine the idea of pressure points and which martial art styles use it. We’ll also look at which moves are allowed and not allowed in Jiu-Jitsu like finger grabbing, chokes, neck cranks, wrist grabs, etc.
Can you use pressure points in Jiu-Jitsu?
The main objective of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to subdue, take down and neutralize a possible attack. This is done with several self-defense techniques, takedowns, strangulations, immobilizations, and twisting of joints or various combinations of some or all of these techniques.
There is no record showing the use of pressure points in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. From my experience as a professional in this area, I have also never seen, read, or heard any information about pressure points being used in Jiu-Jitsu.
What moves are illegal in BJJ?
There are many illegal movements in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, especially when it comes to official competitions.
23 years ago, when I had my first experience with BJJ, I learned many techniques that were ok to use inside the gym while practicing but would be considered illegal to use in a competition and could lead to disqualification from those competitions.
There are some moves that are illegal to use in Jiu-Jitsu, depending on the level of a fighter’s progress and belt they hold, for example:
- From a white belt to a purple belt, attacks on feet and knees (twists) are prohibited
- A white belt cannot apply wrist twists
- A white belt cannot jump on an opponent’s waist
- For brown and black belts, the aforementioned moves are legal, but ankle twists (heel hooks) and attacks on the neck of an opponent are illegal
However, there are competitions in which all these moves and techniques mentioned are legal, even those that can cause serious injuries, especially attacks on the neck.
There is a major grappling event called ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Championship that takes place without any gi (No-Gi), where several grappling fighters, including from BJJ, face off against each other and use practically every move considered illegal in Jiu-jitsu competitions by the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation), among others.
Are chokes allowed in BJJ?
Bottlenecks are BJJ’s flagship and main technique. Developed by the great master Helio Gracie over 50 years ago, strangulation, more precisely cross choke (cross collar choke or Helio Gracie choke), is one of the most effective and most used techniques in BJJ, mainly to neutralize attacks from stronger and heavier opponents.
During a fight against stronger and heavier opponents, it is very difficult to perform attacks by twisting arms or legs. But strangulation perfectly fits the situation as it blocks breathing and blood circulation to the brain, forcing the opponent to give up the fight (tap out) or even faint, which happens with a very high frequency.
“There are no strong people when a chokehold tightens.”
This is a well-known phrase within the BJJ community.
Are neck cranks legal in BJJ?
Neck cranks are a 100% illegal technique according to the rules of the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-jítsu Federation), and it cannot be used in official competitions.
However, neck cranks can be used at the ADCC (previously mentioned), inside the academy, if authorized by the responsible teacher.
However, it is important to highlight that neck cranks are a very dangerous technique that can cause serious harm and even permanent injuries.
Can you grab fingers in Jiu-Jitsu?
You cannot grab your fingers in jiu-jitsu, as you can cause some injuries. You might feel like it at times, especially while being choked from behind by your opponent, to just grab their fingers and twist it to get out of that hold, but it’s not allowed.
Finger grabs and twists can cause severe injuries due to twisting joints and is not allowed in official competitions.
Can you grab wrists in BJJ?
Gripping the wrists in BJJ is allowed and is a great move for controlling or even blocking some of your opponent’s attacks.
However, even if allowed, great care must be taken as an attack on the wrist, also known as a “cow’s hand” (wristlock), can cause serious injuries, and the recovery time is very slow, which may impair the performance of the training or professional Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
Remembering that attacking the wrists is only allowed from the blue belt up and is not allowed for children who practice Jiu-Jitsu.
Which martial arts use pressure points?
Several martial arts schools felt that something was lacking in self-defense techniques, so they began to study the vital points of the human body. An attack on each vital point can cause different reactions, and these schools of martial arts started to incorporate it into their style.
Some martial arts use attacks on pressure points, such as:
- Hapkido. Hapkido is a Korean martial art that arose from the combination of various styles of ancient Korean fights. In Hapkido, circular movements are used that include some joint sprains and immobilization with pressure points, which are studied in acupuncture, Shiatsu, and others.
- Jeet Kune Do. Jeet Kune Do is a combat martial art system developed by martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee researched several martial arts to develop his style, such as wrestling, kung fu, Jiu-Jitsu, among others and mainly attacks on pressure points.
- Krav Maga. Developed in Israel, Krav Maga is a real, hand-to-hand combat system that involves various fighting techniques and mainly the attack on pressure points. As a self-defense art, Krav Maga has no rules and is used to keep the practitioner safe. The main focus is to attack vulnerable and sensitive points of the body, such as the throat, eyes, genitals, etc.
- Kyusho-Jitsu. Kyusho-Jitsu is a set of several traumatic techniques and manipulating pressure points (sensitive areas or vital points of the body). Kyusho-Jitsu is the art of studying human anatomy to better understand the specific points for a successful attack. The objective is to neutralize an attack, causing the loss of some part of the body’s movement.
These are some examples of martial arts that use pressure points.
Although this idea of “pressure points” is demonstrated wrongly, especially in films, many parts of the human body are very sensitive under attack. A successful blow to some sensitive point can favor you in a fight. You can neutralize a possible attack and bring down or control the body of the attacker.
Again, the main targets for attacks (pressure points) include the eyes, neck, knees, groin, temple, and abdomen.
These blows should only be used in a real combat situation where there is an imminent danger or risk of possible death. Once the blow hits a vulnerable region, it can cause irreversible damage and even lead to the attacker’s death.