The BEST Targets & Weapons

By Diane Ruth
Published on Feb 15th, 2011

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
~ Gavin De Becker

As a Martial Arts instructor I wanted to look at the best targets and weapons to teach women and children, since statistically attackers are mostly male and stronger. I wanted to find ways to give women and children the advantage. There are numerous targets on the human body that cause pain and injury, but some targets (vital targets) can have more immediate and devastating results. In a self-defense scenario you need to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, so it is wise to focus mainly on the Vital Targets. I don’t advocate striking vital targets lightly; we are discussing serious situations and the sad truth that a woman or child’s life is in danger.

TARGETS - are important areas on your or your opponent’s body which when struck can be injured or damaged. Targets include: side of the neck, solar plexus, side of the nose, kidney, ribs, shins, instep of the foot.

VITAL TARGETS - are points on your or your opponent’s anatomy that can be greatly affected, injured, maimed, or cause death when struck. Vital targets include: the eyes, temple, chin, nose, trachea, groin, various parts of the knee and Achilles tendon.

Several questions arose during my analysis:

  1. What would immediately stop or disorient your attacker?
  2. What targets could be accessed in various positions, such as, sitting down, being attacked from behind, being on the ground in various positions, or standing up?
  3. What weapons would you have at hand?
  4. What angle would give your strikes a greater impact?
  5. How much force would be needed to damage a given target effectively?
  6. Would all attackers have the same reaction to these strikes?
  7. Would the assailant experience enough pain from this blow to allow you to escape?
  8. Could a woman or child do this to someone they know; an assailant who is personally close to them?

While researching I realized there isn’t a “BEST” because it depends on the situation. The BEST target for a front linear attack (straight punch) may not be the best target for a rear circular attack (bear hug). The best target areas depends on the situation, your skill set, the environment, and many other factors that you will have to determine at the time of the attack. It all comes down to the principle of ECONOMY OF MOTION.

ECONOMY OF MOTION – is the ability to choose the best available target, the best available weapon, the best available angle, in the least amount of time to get the desired effect.

Let’s start with Targets as defined above. We want to choose the best available target on your attacker depending on his attitude, distance, and position. The attitude of your defense is based on the perception that he is trying to seriously hurt you. How close or far your attacker is may determine your best course of action. Look at his position to see which targets he presents to you. Which one’s can you reach fast? Which targets cause the most pain, with the least amount of force on your part? Due to the possibility of serious injuries you should use caution when training to strike vital targets. You could seriously injure your training partner.

Once you’ve picked the target you want to strike you can now choose the best weapon to fit that target. There are three different types of weapons: natural, man-made and environmental weapons (see definitions below). Assuming you do not have an environmental weapon or man-made weapons you have to use what you were born with. You want to consider what weapons fits the target, what weapon is available to you and which of your weapons will withstand the impact of your strike. For example: you may choose to strike the chin as your target and you may choose a heel palm as your weapon because you have long fingernails.

NATURAL WEAPONS – the use of body parts as offensive weapons. This includes using parts of the hand, arm, foot, leg, head, etc.

ENVIRONMENTAL WEAPONS – objects, from your general surroundings that can be used as weapons – bottles, chairs, ash trays, walls, utensils, etc.

MAN-MADE WEAPONS – all weapons made by man, excluding his natural weapons – guns, blades, clubs, etc.

At this point, you’ve made the determinations about target and weapons. Now consider your angle. Using the example of hitting the chin with a front fist, there are several angles that target can be struck. Your angle will depend on your height verses your attacker’s height. It may also depend on the attacker’s position. You may have to consider your environment or other attackers or even bystanders. All of these factors may be reasons to vary your angle.

ANGLE is a specific degree of approach which one follows when delivering a weapon (natural or man-made) to a target. A direction and degree needed in having the surfaces of two planes (natural or man-made weapons and a target) meet.

Your desired effect, to get out of the situation as safely and as quickly as possible, can vary based on the scenario. Think about how you’d get your desired outcome if you are being attacked in a parking garage. Would it be different if you were attacked while walking in the woods? Would your desired effect change if you are in your car?

DESIRED EFFECT – a welcome result of our action, the outcome we want .

We make educated guesses on the common reactions to targets being stuck, but it’s important to understand that the pain from a blow may result in a number of different reactions. Bruce Tegner, author of Self Defense Nerve Centers & Pressure Points for Karate, Jujitsu & Atemi-Waza, describes: “pain involves two factors – one is the application of a stimulus and the other is the response to the stimulus. There is an astonishing range of responses to exactly the same stimulus.” This reaction to stimulus may vary individually due to many factors. How one processes pain, how acclimated to pain this person is, or if they are altered by drugs or alcohol.

In conclusion, I would have to say teaching students about the principle of ECONOMY OF MOTION is more beneficial than picking the best targets and weapons. Unfortunately, sometimes due to time constraints we may only be able to choose a few targets and weapons to teach. What would yours be?

My list would include the eyes, nose, trachea, and groin. These are assessable in various positions, can be impacted from various angles, have immediate results, take little force for devastating impact, and have fairly universal reactions from opponents of various sizes.

“Principles of motion take precedent over the sequence of motion.” ~ Ed Parker

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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