‘Kyusho’ is the martial term for pressure-points and ‘kyusho-jutsu’ means ‘pressure-point fighting’. In Te exercises pressure-point strikes are substituted for safety reasons with ‘feints’, but the pressure-points themselves are nevertheless used continuously in a less damaging way. For example, a firm, but compelling, ‘prodding’ or ‘kneading’ action with a thumb or knuckle, or a firm ‘shunt’ to the outside-leg with the knee, engages a flinch-response, which compels the recipient to play along by disrupting their balance and posture. The reactions to this point-work can then be monopolised upon with follow-up grappling and/or restraint techniques. There really is no need to ever use the points hard when firmly will do the required job – and without maiming or killing anyone.
Shown here, the author is using the points in the lower-back combined with a head-tilt, to break the recipients posture and begin to take him down into a controlled restraint. However, in a real confrontation (maybe with a knife involved), the upper hand could have as easily been used far more ‘martially’. The thumb and fingers could be driven into points below the jaw or cheekbones, into the temples or the eyes, or the head driven down forcefully into the floor, but that would make for deeply unpleasant and damaging training and is not civilised behaviour even in a dojo (safety and health must come first). Even very advanced students and teachers slow right down to slow-motion to practice the more martial variations, and always avoid the eyes.
In training, kyusho-jutsu should only ever be studied slowly and carefully, and for health and academic reasons. Even in most ‘real’ situations, it is way too damaging, and simply an unnecessary use of force, to apply it hard. However, the lighter use of pressure-points (in therapeutic terms ‘tsubo’), whilst being very painful and compelling, and aiding in creating ‘in-fight time’ (by disrupting the posture and creating ‘stopping-mind’ in the attacker), effectively results in a standing massage treatment. This actually does the recipient some therapeutic good, dissipating their anger and helping them to calm down, although an attacker probably won’t see it that way as it can still be exquisitely painful. Even so, the same technique should not be trained at repeatedly. As many of us will remember from our youth, the cumulative effects of many light ‘dead-arm’ punches quickly become as painful as one hard one, and they do have long-term repercussions for the central nervous system and the psyche.
Warning; There is a current martial arts’ trend to ‘pressure-test’ hard kyusho strikes in the name of realism, which is extremely dangerous and can result in the collapse of the central nervous system, strokes, organ (inc’ heart) failure, and death – which effects may manifest immediately or some time later. This is why the literal translation of the Chinese name for kyusho-jutsu, ‘Dim Mak’, is ‘death-touch’. Remember, we all have to live with the consequences of our actions, legal, social, and emotional, and karma can be a ‘harsh mistress’.
Special warning! Rather unfortunately, this knowledge calls to every martial artist as highly desirable and ‘the real deal’, but until a student has progressed beyond a ‘the more brutal the better’ mindset (which many whole arts, let alone students, never achieve), and acquired maturity and finesse, it is irresponsible of a teacher to teach it to them. Their enthusiasm to learn it simply isn’t sufficient justification. This is why most arts that do teach kyusho, or dim mak, work in slow motion and regard it as advanced, or ‘secret’, training’. Because one desires something does not mean that one is properly prepared and responsible enough yet, to be taught it. As students, our own ego can easily lead us out of our depth – and a teachers’ ego can be even more slippery and seductive “Look at me, look at all the secrets I can show (off) to you” – in the name of effective self-defense and realism of course.
Any teacher teaching kyusho must be able to de-stress the nervous system of the trainee (effectively undoing the potentially long-term effects of training in kyusho, before they do any internal damage), so a good knowledge of Anma/Shiatsu/Thai massage etc is vital, and it must be a frequent practice in class, not just a rarely used auxiliary skill.