The practice of pressing a certain point on a person's body to achieve a certain effect (can also be multiple points in quick succession, or multiple points simultaneously). The most common effect is to paralyze the target or knock him unconscious. For knocking someone unconscious by the less subtle method of a strong blow to the head see Tap on the Head. For the more lethal version see You Are Already Dead.
In martial arts, can overlap with Ki Attacks, as ki/chi flows in the body are supposedly the underlying mechanism of both pressure points and acupuncture according to certain Eastern practices.
Pressure points are also handy if you are trying to avoid someone's death. When trying to stop severe bleeding from one of the extremities, applying pressure to the right area (typically farther up the limb near a joint) can significantly slow the flow of blood to an extremity, allowing time to dress the wound and seek medical care.
Although rarely portrayed in a realistic fashion, the existence of pressure points is decidedly Truth in Television. There are many points on the body that are particularly vulnerable such as nerve clusters, joints, blood vessels, the windpipe, the eyes and the groin. Striking with enough force or applying sufficient pressure to these areas can cause anything from pain and discomfort to severe structural damage and death.
Anime and Manga
- The core of Kenshiro's Hokuto Shinken style in Fist of the North Star, used for a large variety of effects up to and very often including making Your Head Asplode.
- The most powerful and difficult variant of the Hyuuga clan's skills in Naruto involves striking certain points on the body to prevent the target from using their chakra.
- Earlier in the series, Haku used senbon to strike pressure points. His aim and knowledge were such that he could put a person in a near-death state while in the middle of combat.
- Used in Ranma ½ by Cologne, Happosai, Ranma, Shampoo, and Doctor Tofu, sometimes for the standard unconsciousness result, but usually for really weird effects:
- Happosai uses one to make Ranma cry buckets of tears when he needs them for a potion ingredient.
- Cologne uses another to make Ranma's skin super-sensitive to heat so that he can't use hot water to undo his transformation curse.
- Combined with a special formula of shampoo (no, really) can be used to induce Laser-Guided Amnesia with the added benefit of preventing the victim from ever relearning whichever facts were suppressed from memory.
- Also combined with moxibustion to sap Ranma's strength and make him weaker than a toddler.
- Happosai also used it as a full-on therapy to turn a sickly, bedridden child into a Life Energy-draining accomplice, who was stuck as a child because of it, but regains her true adult body upon absorbing Battle Auras or Ki Attacks. A similar therapy can seal away this power, but the location of the pressure points make it a dicey proposition.
- Tofu has one which can be disguised as patting someone on the back, which 30 seconds later causes the victim's legs to stop working.
- Ranma occasionally uses them, or tries to use them, for example on Miss Hinako mentioned above, on Ryoga while in the girls' locker room, on Kuno to knock him out, and on the dojo destroyer.
- In the qualifying round of the Festival Tournament arc in Mahou Sensei Negima, we see Evangeline keeping a combatant incapacitated with one finger in the back. Apparently just to show that, yeah, she doesn't just know a hundred lethal spells and how to magically enhance her physical power to rip-people-in-half levels... she's a master of esoteric martial arts too.
- In Saint Seiya, Gold Saint Milo of Scorpio bases his entire Scarlet Needle fighting style on pressure points, which strike the opponent in the same configuration as the Scorpio constellation. In addition to irreparable damage to the nerves and the senses, the victim gushes blood from the strikes, and the final blow, Antares, is fatal. Impossibly enough, though, it's possible for Milo to save even an Antares-ed foe by pressing yet another pressure point, stopping the blood flow and letting them regain strength.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vivian uses this on Grandpa Moto, crippling him. She threatens to leave him like that unless Yugi duels her. After she is defeated, she reverses the damage.
- Dufaux from Zatch Bell uses the Answer-Talker to identify pressure points that will help unlock the heroes' true potential. It works well enough to invoke Heart Is an Awesome Power and a dose of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity in the Plucky Comic Relief.
- In Pani Poni Dash!, Suzune attempts to keep Otome small by hitting her pressure point for stunting growth, but always hits the pressure point for diarrhea instead. (It remains uncertain whether either one works, though.)
- Ethan Stanley in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, practices Kalarippayattu, an Indian martial art, through which he has learned out incapacitate or even outright kill his opponents by striking specific points called Marmam, which he states served as the origin for pressure points used in other martial arts (since Kalarippayattu served as an originator for most other Eastern martial arts styles). Also of note is Chikage Kushinada, who shows that she can use pressure points to control Ukita (one of the weaker members of the Shinpaku alliance) like a puppet without him even noticing.
- The Ultimate Teacher Ganpachi incapacitates a whole classroom of people by using his speed to press two points in their leg that causes a painful cramp.
- Nearly any comic book martial artist. Here's a few who've done so in the past:
- The comic version of Kevin from Sin City has the ability to make people go numb with pressure point attacks. It's also implied that this was his method of killing.
- The villainess Faora likes to use these techniques. Since she has Super Strength, they can even work on Superman.
- In Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, the hero is infiltrating the Big Bads' flagship. He tries the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on the guard, who asks our hero what he's doing. The hero tells him straight up, at which point the guard corrects him. "Like this?" "Yeah...."
- The Operative in Serenity does this to paralyze people preparatory to executing them with his sword. It doesn't work on Mal because that nerve cluster had to be moved by the surgeons because of a war injury.
- The Princess Bride. In The Film of the Book, Fezzik uses a Vulcan neck pinch to render Buttercup unconscious.
- The "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique", which is used by Pai Mei in the backstory of Kill Bill to slaughter an entire temple because one of its members accidentally insulted him. Specifically, when Pai Mei nodded at him, he didn't see it and respond. It was later taught to the Bride, who used it to... well, to Kill Bill.
- Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda uses pressure points to paralyze his victims. (The same technique was also used on him by Master Oogway in the Flash Back.) Po turns out to be invulnerable to this, as he is insulated by all his
fatfur. Use in a more comical fashion when a misplaced acupuncture needle causes Po to make a funny face... and maybe stop his heart.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, our Badass Bookworm hero Hiccup accidentally discovers through playing with his Dragon friend Toothless that you can render any dragon unconscious with a single finger by pressing an acupuncture point on their necks between the aorta and the larynx.
- I thought they just really liked being tickled...
- It's very clearly shown to be that dragons love being scratched behind the ear so much that they roll over and rumble contentedly.
- I thought they just really liked being tickled...
- Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid knows a couple. Enough to help Daniel go from near crippled to being able to compete in the final showdown.
- This becomes a major plot point in 3 Ninjas.
- And, oddly enough for that movie, realistically in that kids actually had to forcibly strike the points in question.
- Sean Connery's thumb-fighting technique in The Presidio.
- The eponymous Kiss of the Dragon was an acupuncture version performed by Jet Li right at the end of the film.
- The AIP Beach Party movies had a running bit that started with Bob Cummings' anthropologist character using a mystical finger touch to the temple to incapacitate doofus-bad guy Eric Von Zipper, making him freeze like a statue. This happened to him through most of the movies, often self-inflicted.
- Our Man Flint. Flint does a Vulcan neck pinch on the Galaxy agent supervising Gila's hypnotic indoctrination and several others as well.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Both Jade Fox and Li Mu Bai use pressure points in their first skirmish—Jade Fox to completely paralyze the Butt Monkey guard in place, and Li Mu Bai to reverse the effect.
- A downplayed, but quite severe version is shown in the Rocky series. One of the title character's favorite techniques is to deliver a machine-gun-like series of punches to the abdomen, until the target collapses from internal bleeding and cut-off respiration. In this case there is nothing subtle or mystical or cool about it and anyone who is large enough to stand up in a boxing match can do it. The target is a fairly large one. The abdomen is however a pressure point in the sense that it is a better target then the chest which is covered in bone. -->
- Discussed in Tamora Pierce's Provost's Dog trilogy, being about a medieval police force. Generally referred to as a 'nap tap.'
- There was a Nancy Drew Files mystery in the late 80s that used this as a plot point. The culprit turned out to be a masseuse who could pinch people unconscious.
- The Action Service men from The Day of the Jackal know a pressure point behind the ear that causes unconsciousness, probably the same one from the Star Trek example below.
- Most Chinese Wuxia stories and anything adapted from them will have characters who are masters of this. Effects range from numbness to muteness to instant death to being put in suspended animation.
- Scout, the Weak but Skilled Padawan in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, is a master at these, striking arms to make them go numb and tingly. She also has a perfectly centered grab on the carotid triangle that makes targets black out within ten seconds, though that might be less "pressure point" and more "cutting off blood to the brain".
- In Lieutenant Hornblower a doctor patches up Bush after he was stabbed several times by revolting Spanish prisoners. He notes that all Bush's opponents had stabbed overhand and the ribs overlap like the gables of a roof and then says it is more reliable if one is going for the chest to use an upward blow that can sneak through the bones into the vitals.
- Some parts of the Belisarius Series deal with Indian unarmed combat techniques. In one part it is claimed (probably fictionally) that Indian assassins had a secret move to paralyze an opponent but leave him alive as a sort of torture technique for targets they have a particular grudge against. While this is probably medically possible it is unlikely that the author would have known much of anything about the traditions of Indian assassins in the sixth century much less whether they actually had a move to bring about this result.
- The Vulcan nerve pinch from Star Trek: The Original Series, which is apparently effective against the vast majority of humanoids and some non-humanoid aliens. As an interesting bit of history, the origin of the pinch came from Leonard Nimoy's insistence that Spock would not perform an aggressive karate chop to subdue an opponent from behind. Demonstrating on William Shatner, he showed the director that this new technique would be convincing enough on screen.
- Also from Star Trek: The Original Series, in "The Way to Eden", Tongo Rad used his knowledge of human anatomy to knock out an Enterprise crewman by squeezing the nerve pressure point at the back of the jaw, just under the earlobe (Truth In Television, though it causes great pain and delayed unconsciousness rather than instant).
- In an episode of The Wild Wild West, Jim West renders a female villain unconscious by pressing a pressure point in her back.
- This was one of Xena's big talents. Her favorite was a neck poke that cut off oxygen to the brain as an interrogation method.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Survival", the Seventh Doctor paralyzes a bullying physical education instructor by pressing a finger on his forehead. Also a standard tactic of the Third Doctor.
- Natsumi of Kamen Rider Decade has the Hikari Family Secret Technique: Laughing Pressure Point, which makes the victim laugh and is used as an alternative to the anime-style Megaton Punch (since Natsumi is our requisite Tsundere female lead. Originally she used it when protagonist Tsukasa was too much of a Jerkass. And sometimes when he's completely blameless. And sometimes on innocent Yuusuke. And sometimes on Kaito. And sometimes on her own grandfather.
- In an episode of NCIS , Ziva uses her Mossad interrogation techniques to obtain information about a kidnap victim. Although what actually happens is mostly left to the viewers' imaginations, the woman being interrogated is at one point convinced to answer a question because the threat of death later is not as scary as Ziva tweaking her shoulder now.
- Spoofed in an episode of The Goodies entitled "Kung Fu Capers": Reading from a book of martial arts instructions, Graham delivers a large number of light taps and pokes to various spots on Tim's body. After several seconds of nothing happening, Tim suddenly spasms and jerks back and forth before collapsing unconscious.
- The Avengers episode "The Living Dead". Emma Peel applies pressure to two points on the neck of a female guard's neck to render her unconscious.
- Used in Diagnosis: Murder. Jesse's father needed him to calm down, so he put a comfroting hand on his shoulder. When that didn't work, he increased the pressure. Jesse protested and folded up. The unconsciousness lasted long enough for them to drive out of LA and for his father to have a long discussion, and there are no obvious side effects.
- Of course, Jesse should probably consider himself lucky his father didn't just choke him into unconsciousness like he did to Steve...
- Dr. Sam Sheppard, the man whose life inspired The Fugitive, went into wrestling in his later years. As he was a trained surgeon, he had in-depth knowledge of the human body, including where all the pressure points are, knowledge he used to his advantage in the ring. His Finishing Move, the Mandible Claw (later used by Mankind), was said to activate a pressure point under the tongue that paralyzes the opponent and induces intense pain.
- Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets in GURPS work by "tearing or crushing organs and nerve clusters with lethal precision" but are considered cinematic skills. The second one is so powerful that the game gives a word of caution about its potential Game Breaker status.
- Several Fu powers from Feng Shui are meant to simulate pressure point attacks as shown in kung fu movies. Dim Mak and Lightning Fist from the Path of the Hands of Light ignore armor and Toughness respectively, and the healing path of the Path of the Healthy Tiger, which includes Healing Chi, which uses pressure points to heal, Flow Restoration, which negates the effects of harmful chi powers on you, Point Blockage, which is the classic pressure point paralysis move, Shadowfist, a truly nasty move that trades a permanent reduction in Chi and Fu for a permanent reduction of an opponent's Martial Arts skill and the loss of one Fu power of the attacker's choice, and Storm of the Tiger (which requires mastery of both the healing and counterattack paths of the Tiger style), which uses twice the Chi you spend to deal out serious damage and quite admirably replicates the killer pressure point moves you see in a lot of kung fu movies.
- Many other games will have some sort of pressure point-related abilities if Eastern martial arts are featured. Modern game like Spycraft? Spirit and Vital Points Basics, Moves, and Mastery—even lets you heal a comrade. Street Fighter RPG? Of course; it even mentions the 'Dim mak' below. Escape into Dungeons and Dragons? Enter the monk, who can kill you (or at least make you save versus dying of getting smacked with a special ability) with a touch since 1st Edition.
- This is basically what's keeping the Dark Dragon asleep in Mother 3; when all seven needles are pulled, the dragon awakens, and, depending on the heart(s) of the one(s) who pull(s) them, either destroys the world, or recreates it into a paradise.
- The Vulcan nerve pinch is parodied in a Futurama episode where the Planet Express crew end up in a death-match with the cast of the original Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy tries to see if the "Vulcan nerve pinch" actually works but tries it on Bender, a robot and thus lacking nerves, who doesn't even flinch.
- A Ki Attacks example: Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender hits on pressure points to block the chi of her opponents, disabling their bending abilities and paralyzing them in combat.
- Uncle from Jackie Chan Adventures did this to many a Mook in the first season. He even did this to Captain Black when he wouldn't heed his warnings about attacking a magical demon Big Bad.
- "Who else wants a piece of Uncle?!"
- Tohru does this once at least, as does Jade (when possessed by Shendu).
- The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Day of the Samurai" revolves around a martial art called Kiba no Hoko (The Way of the Fang), which uses precise strikes against pressure points. Batman's foe, Kyodai Ken managed to learn its most fatal technique, the Oonemuri Touch.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Big Macintosh knows just the right one to treat Granny Smith's muscle spasm.
- Acupuncture. Therapy through pressure points.
- And acupressure actually uses pressure on those pressure points. And therefore affecting the aforementioned nerve clusters, joints and blood vessels. There is, however, serious doubt over whether acupuncture is a case of placebo effect, to date it has not proven itself in the same kind of trials every official medicine on the market has been put through.
- Omnipresent in martial arts and self-defense classes, often in the form of joint locks, precision strikes and the good old Groin Attack.
- Jiujitsu makes use of a wide range of pressure points. These are used to induce a person to be more compliant or cause enough pain when struck to induce an individual to discontinue hostilities. Police forces are also taught to use them in control methods. It is possible to harden oneself and some people just don't feel them. Not always reliable or effective but when they work can be very painful.
- It should be noted that in real life pressure points are decidedly not an exact science, so they shouldn't be used in a serious life-or-death situation (brute force, as in kicking or punching, is generally more reliable). There's a considerable amount of variation in location and effectiveness between individuals, and they are frequently ineffective on someone who is mentally ill, on drugs, has a large amount of body fat, or (as mentioned above) has trained to be resistant to them.
- Your funny bone. Actually it's the ulnar nerve that's located near the elbow, but if you happen to hit it...yieeeeeeee!!