by Ted Sumner 10th dan
I had the pleasure at the recent Gathering of Eagles in Las Vegas, to teach a seminar on the art of Nerve Striking. I became somewhat concerned by what some people apparently expected to learn and what they thought might be accomplished by striking an opponents nerve centers.
There are essentially only three effects that can be rendered upon the opponent by striking to a nerve center.
To make the opponent move away from the direction of the strike or pressure.
To temporarily, or permanently paralyze the part of the attacker’s body affected by that portion of the nervous system.
To knock the opponent unconscious.
When a person receives either a blow or aggressive pressure to a nerve center the natural reaction is to move away from the pressure. This is the effect we look for in Headlock A and Front Bearhug D. Keeping this in mind, striking or concentrating pressure on either of those nerve centers will cause the opponents head to move back and away, whereby his balance might be broken and his hold released.
When a person receives a sharp blow to the nerve center, with the force concentrated on a very small area, particularly when the person is grounded, the resultant force will paralyze that portion of the body served by the offended nerves. This causes a reaction much like what one experiences when their foot “goes to sleep”. Essentially, the nerve has temporarily ceased to stimulate the muscles and the muscles “fail”. This is the effect we attempt to bring about by striking the nerve centers in the arms to cause a release of the grip in Kimono Grab, the Lever, Two Man Swinging Gate and Snapping Twig.
If the strike to a nerve center is delivered with sufficient force that the energy returns to the brain with such speed and force that the body cannot deal with the excess energy surging through the nervous system, a knock out will occur. This is the desired effect in Bearhug C, striking to the occipital nerve at the base of the spinal cord, Chinese Sword and Delayed Sword.
Nerve striking, like any other tool must be used for the purpose for which it was intended. If a martial artist expects the be able to successfully handle any situation by the exclusive use of nerve strikes, they may find themselves in an untenable situation. A complete martial artist learns to effectively deal with all situations using the appropriate tools.
Nerve strikes are an integral part of the martial arts and give the artist another dimension with which to neutralize an attack. It is a well known fact that most martial artist, or at least Kenpo practitioners, when faced with a non-lethal attack, which is often conducted by an acquaintance or even a friend during a misunderstanding, feel helpless due to their reluctance to administer the use of what we have generally developed most skillfully and refer to as the “War Arts”, over a misunderstanding with someone they know.
Skill in the use of nerve striking will not only neutralize the situation, but may even leave the aggressor with a feeling of respect for the skill of the martial artist in their use of force without destructive effect. Regardless, developing skill in the use of nerve striking is an integral and necessary part of any martial artists training.