US Army Combatives

4-2 Striking Principles


Effective striking with the weapons of the body to the opponent’s vital points is essential for a victorious outcome in a hand-to-hand struggle. A soldier must be able to employ the principles of effective striking if he is to emerge as the survivor in a fight to the death.

  • a. Attitude. Proper mental attitude is of primary importance in the soldier’s ability to strike an opponent. In hand-to-hand combat, the soldier must have the attitude that he will defeat the enemy and complete the mission, no matter what. In a fight to the death, the soldier must have the frame of mind to survive above all else; the prospect of losing cannot enter his mind. He must commit himself to hit the opponent continuously with whatever it takes to drive him to the ground or end his resistance. A memory aid is, “Thump him and dump him!”
  • b. Fluid Shock Wave. A strike should be delivered so that the target is hit and the weapon remains on the impact site for at least a tenth of a second. This imparts all of the kinetic energy of the strike into the target area, producing a fluid shock wave that travels into the affected tissue and causes maximum damage. It is imperative that all strikes to vital points and nerve motor points are delivered with this principle in mind. The memory aid is, “Hit and stick!”
  • c. Target Selection. Strikes should be targeted at the opponent’s vital points and nerve motor points. The results of effective strikes to vital points are discussed in paragraph 4-1. Strikes to nerve motor points cause temporary mental stunning and muscle motor dysfunction to the affected areas of the body. Mental stunning results when the brain is momentarily disoriented by overstimulation from too much input—for example, a strike to a major nerve. The stunning completely disables an opponent for three to seven seconds and allows the soldier to finish off the opponent, gain total control of the situation, or make his escape. Sometimes, such a strike causes unconsciousness. A successful strike to a nerve motor center also renders the affected body part immovable by causing muscle spasms and dysfunction due to nerve overload. (Readily available nerve motor points are shown in Figure 4-1, pages 4-5 and 4-6.)
  • (1) Jugular notch pressure point. Located at the base of the neck just above the breastbone; pressure to this notch can distract and take away his balance. Pressure from fingers jabbed into the notch incurs intense pain that causes an the opponent to withdraw from the pressure involuntarily.
  • (2) Suprascapular nerve motor point. This nerve is located where the trapezius muscle joins the side of the neck. A strike to this point causes intense pain, temporary dysfunction of the affected arm and hand, and mental stunning for three to seven seconds. The strike should be a downward knife-hand or hammer-fist strike from behind.
  • (3) Brachial plexus origin. This nerve motor center is on the side of the neck. It is probably the most reliable place to strike someone to stun them. Any part of the hand or arm may be applied—the palm heel, back of the hand, knife hand, ridge hand, hammer fist, thumb tip, or the forearm. A proper strike to the brachial plexus origin causes— Intense pain. Complete cessation of motor activity. Temporary dysfunction of the affected arm. Mental stunning for three to seven seconds. Possible unconsciousness.
  • (4) Brachial plexus clavicle notch pressure point. This center is behind the collarbone in a hollow about halfway between the breastbone and the shoulder joint. The strike should be delivered with a small-impact weapon or the tip of the thumb to create high-level mental stunning and dysfunction of the affected arm.
  • (5) Brachial plexus tie-in motor point. Located on the front of the shoulder joint, a strike to this point can cause the arm to be ineffective. Multiple strikes may be necessary to ensure total dysfunction of the arm and hand.
  • (6) Stellate ganglion. The ganglion is at the top of the pectoral muscle centered above the nipple. A severe strike to this center can cause high-level stunning, respiratory dysfunction, and possible unconsciousness. A straight punch or hammer fist should be used to cause spasms in the nerves affecting the heart and respiratory systems.
  • (7) Cervical vertebrae. Located at the base of the skull, a strike to this particular vertebrae can cause unconsciousness or possibly death. The harder the strike, the more likely death will occur.
  • (8) Radial nerve motor point. This nerve motor point is on top of the forearm just below the elbow. Strikes to this point can create dysfunction of the affected arm and hand. The radial nerve should be struck with the hammer fist or the forearm bones or with an impact weapon, if available. Striking the radial nerve can be especially useful when disarming an opponent armed with a knife or other weapon.
  • (9) Median nerve motor point. This nerve motor point is on the inside of the forearm at the base of the wrist, just above the heel of the hand. Striking this center produces similar effects to striking the radial nerve, although it is not as accessible as the radial nerve.
  • (10) Sciatic nerve. A sciatic nerve is just above each buttock, but below the belt line. A substantial strike to this nerve can disable both legs and possibly cause respiratory failure. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body besides the spinal cord. Striking it can affect the entire body, especially if an impact weapon is used.
  • (11) Femoral nerve. This nerve is in the center of the inside of the thigh; striking the femoral nerve can cause temporary motor dysfunction of the affected leg, high-intensity pain, and mental stunning for three to seven seconds. The knee is best to use to strike the femoral nerve.
  • (12) Common peroneal nerve motor point. The peroneal nerve is on the outside of the thigh about four fingers above the knee. A severe strike to this center can cause collapse of the affected leg and high-intensity pain, as well as mental stunning for three to seven seconds. This highly accessible point is an effective way to drop an opponent quickly. This point should be struck with a knee, shin kick, or impact weapon.

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