Do you Strike for Damage or Result? –Vital Targets Human Body

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in Self-Defense | 2 comments

Do you Strike for Damage or Result? –Vital Targets Human Body

Different places on a person’s body get different results when struck.   If ever in a situation where you need to hit someone to make yourself or a loved-one safe, it would be helpful if you had some understanding of what places get what results.  Martial-art-people and self-defense-people, though, differ in what they teach about vital targets human body. (Vital targets of the human body to use proper English)

The term “vital target” refers to a place on a person’s body that, if struck, will cause a high amount of pain or damage.     Martial artists generally list small points that, if accurately and powerfully struck, would do major damage:

A strike to the philtrum (the dent on one’s upper lip), is painful due to the nerves behind it, and can damage the nose and teeth. The temple (the indention between one’s ear and eye) is a place to aim because the skull is thinner there. Striking someone in the solar plexus (dime-size spot at the bottom of one’s breast bone) will affect their diaphragm, making them feel unable to breathe.  The floating ribs (lowest two ribs which don’t connect to one’s sternum) are a place to aim because they are somewhat easily displaced.  Martial artists also consider the throat, neck, kidneys, liver, knees, and elbows places to learn to target.

Self-defense-people agree that these are painful places to be struck; but, take a different view of what students need to be taught about vital targets. For one thing, if you need to hit a person in self-defense, damaging them should not be your main goal–making yourself safe should be your focus. Two, most who teach pure self-defense believe that these vital targets are either too small to aim for under pressure, or require more force than many people can muster.

Their advice is, if you need to hit a person, hit anywhere on the head or up between the legs.  A hit to the head will cause movement in the neck which may result in a brief disorientation. A hit to the groin will cause them to squat and move their knees together. They don’t teach to avoid hitting the body, elbows, or knees if that’s what’s available; but that one should strike the head or groin at their earliest opportunity and continue until safe.

Both martial art and self-defense instructors agree that the eyes are a useful target.  Martial art people though, generally use fancy hand positions and more power, while self-defense people suggest that you strike lightly, either with fingers relaxed or all five together like a “beak.”  Their reasoning is that, for the eyes, a light strike is enough to get a big result; and, if you miss and hit cheekbone, finger pain may be distracting.

Security professionals, and anyone who may need to control bad-guys without harming them, need to understand “non-vital targets.” For example, a hard strike to the top of the shoulder near the neck (Vulcan-death-pinch area from Star Trek) can make a person’s arm “dead” for a minute, taking the fight out of them without causing permanent damage. There is a similar spot for the leg, under the hip pocket and to the outside, and one on the forearm for the hand.

The bottom line is that, in physical self-defense, it matters where you aim, but it’s not terribly complicated:  The head and groin are all most need to remember.


Marcy Shoberg is the creator of “Bring Out Your Inner Bodyguard in Two Weeks or Less” home study course for adults and seniors. See


  1. Marcy nice articles I think the most important thing for a woman to remember or to learn is what it takes to avoid an attack also I think other than the type of techniques if someone doesn’t have the confidence to execute techniques are useless. being able to take some kind of action any action in any kind of situation that brings fear is vital. For the average woman the ability to yell, maintain strong eye contact and use any means of escape will do. The main focus in my teaching now is how mentally and spiritually we as women can prevent ourselves and our children from becoming victims in the first place.
    Your taekwondo sister,
    Catherine Chang
    Master Instructor/CEO
    Chang’s taekwondo America

  2. Right on, Marcy! I need larger targets. Groin and head are just the right size. If I feel my life is at stake, I can increase the blow to either target and reasonably expect to seriously disable the attacker. Good job!