Getting the Point
An important part of all Martial arts is striking of specific areas of the body. In China this is the art of Dian Xue or Dim Mak, in Okinawa it is Kyoshu and in india it is Marma. This is an area of great confusion in the martial arts community. There are those who believe this to be ‘the whole art’; a silver bullet that means any unathletic, under conditioned person can be turned into a deadly warrior through a little esoteric knowledge and a soft tap. Their are plenty of unscrupulous (or just dumb) instructors are more then happy to sell such knowledge.
On the other extreme there are those who do not believe that such points exist; if they did wouldn’t people be dropping like flies from accidentally bumping into things? And aren’t they too small to strike accurately in a real fight? Oddly enough both groups actually agree on a false definition of what these ‘points’ are. They are then proceeding to argue over a false definition. This is like people claiming that a horse is a flying, sparkly animal with a horn in the centre of its head and then debating whether or not a horse exists.
Weak points of the body certainly exist and I think its fair to say most, if not all, Asian Martial arts were made with a built in awareness of them. If you have ever bumped your elbow (or ‘funny bone’) at the right spot (or just the wrong one) you cannot fail to recognise how specific spots can cause disproportionate reactions. Any decent boxer knows to aim a body shot for the tip of the floating rib or the liver. Historically knowledge of these areas was developed over long observation and sometimes even brutal experimentation on prisoners. The warriors who observed the results of various strikes didn’t have the luxury of a modern understanding of physiology and therefore explained things via the cultural paradigms of the day thus an energetic model (Prana/Qi) was used.
From a modern Allopathic point of view point strikes can be divided into major categories of those that cause a balance reaction which can be capitalised, those that cause nervous disruption (pain or overloading the system), those that cause muscle malfunctioning (ie Golgi tendon reaction), those that cause disruption to the vascular system, those that cause direct structural damage (organ strikes, such as the aforementioned liver shot, come under this category) and those that cause damage to the sympathetic nervous system – these are the ones where the cause and effect is not obvious and therefore are responsible for much ‘magical thinking’. Many of the above can potentially cause anything from mild discomfort to a knockout to permanent damage/death depending on the accuracy and the opponent’s unique homeostasis.
Even though the empirical results/theories of point striking often differed dramatically from the traditional Indian/Chinese medical model the physical location of the points often overlapped with these models (unsurprising as acupuncture has over 2,000 named points) and so utilised the same names. This has caused great confusion as the points taught in various systems have little to do with the traditional healing arts in terms of theory and usage. This meant that many people who attempted to learn dian xue got side-tracked by attempting to overlay the unwieldy construct of Chinese medical theory onto these points where simpler, more understandable explanations are available through a modern scientific paradigm. Another unfortunate side effect of using acupoint names is that whole areas that could cause damage (reasonable targets) were reduced to single ‘tiny’ points which would be near impossible to strike in a real confrontation.
It is very important to note that many of the points don’t respond to simply being struck but being struck at the correct angle in the correct way. If we think of the ‘funny bone’ example – slapping the sensitive area won’t cause any response, hitting it with knuckles may cause a slight sensation, but striking and rubbing back with the back of the two large knuckles at the sweet spot will hurt the most – particularly from denser conditioned hands (hence another need for traditional Iron Hand). The ability to strike/pinch/rub at the correct angle with the correct power generation (Jin) to stimulate/damage an area of the body is a foundational aspect of all Kung Fu.
There are many teachers who make out that the whole art of point striking is a secret study only undertaken at the end of training – they are usually the ones with limited or textbook knowledge. Point striking is not an art in itself but a part of the whole. Usable point striking cannot exist without the right fighting angles, timing, conditioning, tactics and power generation. A good instructor teaches how to attack vulnerable areas alongside all these other aspects in every application. Without this daily practice the skill of point striking will always be seen as a theoretical subset, an esoteric or ‘mystical’ practice rather then the earthy ‘bread and butter’ skill it is.
Any questions please feel free to ask. If you would like to add to my limited knowledge please get in touch, Till then, Train Hard & Keep Well, Chris