What is “Eight striking and non-striking points”? 「八打・八不打」とは何だろう?
If you are a Shotokan practitioner, I suspect that you have never heard this saying. I suspect in some of the Okinawa styles with their lineage to the Chinese kenpo, may teach about this. In Shaolin Kenpo and Praying Mantis kung fu, they have a Chinese poetry that describe the critical points and its title is Hachi da hachi fuda (八打八不打). This literally means “eight strike and eight non-strike”. Hachi (八) means, most of you already know, eight. Da (打) means to strike. Fu (不) means not and here Fu-da (不打) means non-strike.
It seems simple but what does it really mean? Let me explain more than just the literal translation of this saying.
By “Hachi da” or eight strike they mean the eight kyusho (急所) points of a person where being hit they will lose their fighting spirit or you can limit or stop their fighting capability. By “Hachi fuda” or eight non-strike they mean the eight kyusho points where there is a possibility of death when they are hit strongly, thus the teaching is to avoid striking these points unless you really mean to kill a person. The locations of Hachida and Hachi fuda overlap somewhat but the others are slightly different. The positions of these points are now widely known and studied, but in the past it was a big secret. Even now, however, though you may know the locations, what benefit can you gain if you do not know how to strike and have the particular technique to strike?
In our karate training, many senior practitioners have heard of kyusho (急所) which is translated as vital point or pressure point. It is also called tenketsu (点穴) or pressure points. Though we may not have been taught specifically about kyusho and tenketsu, we almost instinctively know that some of the parts in our body can bring a lot of damage and can be dangerous. In many of the grappling martial arts such as aikido and aikijutsu, they teach kyusho as their techniques are closely connected to those points. In other words, they grab or press the specific points of the body instead of doing it randomly without paying attention to the exact locations.
Some of the readers may say, “I have never heard of Hachi fuda but my teacher taught me some of those kyusho points”. This is great and I am happy to hear this. At the same time, I wonder if their teacher had also taught them about the other points, tenketsu. Those are the points that give pain but do not cause permanent damage. I have written an article on how Master Asai demonstrated his techniques on me. You can find this story in one of my books, Shotokan Mysteries (Chapter 13).
Interestingly, those points are also used in the Asian therapeutic treatments such as acupuncture (針), mokusa (灸), and shiatsu (指圧). So, these points are not only for harming or killing, but they can also be used for healing the body. I wrote an essay about Ki in which I mentioned about these points. The title, “What is Ki?”, can be found in Chapter 7 of Shotokan Transcendence.
Now you may wonder if these points are located at the same or different locations of the body. You may also wonder if there are only eight or sixteen points in our body. You must read on to find out more about these mysterious parts of our body.
First, we need to check how kyusho and tenketsu are described or explained in a general dictionary. We usually go to Wikipedia for such information so let us look into this subject there. According to Wikipedia, “A pressure point derives from the meridian points in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in the field of martial arts, and refers to an area on the human body that may produce significant pain or other effect when manipulated in a specific manner.”
At the same time, exaggerated accounts of pressure-point fighting appeared in Chinese Wushu fictional novels and in the movies. It eventually became known by the name of Dim Mak, or “Death Touch”, in the popular western culture of the 1960s. It is undisputed that there are sensitive points on the human body where even comparatively weak pressure may induce significant pain or serious injury. At the same time, the association of kyusho with the notions of death is controversial and commercially exaggerated.
Regardless, it is referred to as a place where a life-threatening consequence can happen if it takes a hit. There are approximately 40 locations inside and outside of the body. It is interesting that those spots are fairly consistent with the acupuncture points. It should be noted, in the martial arts, by attacking some of those critical spots one can control or paralyze the opponent though it may not endanger one’s life.
Interestingly, the majority of these vital points or spots are the same as the massage and acupuncture points. However, not all of them coincide in the two arts. It is very important for a martial artist to know both maps of the two different arts; one is for Kappo (活法, life or health art) to cure the illness and the other is for Sappo (殺法, killing or martial art) to harm the enemy.
Now we have to study another Japanese term, tsubo （経穴）. It is an acupuncture term and is called “acupuncture point”, literally meaning a jar or a vase. This is, in short, a spot or a point on the human body, where an acupuncturist would stick his needles in. For any therapist who performs the treatment, such as massage and acupuncture, having the thorough knowledge of the tsubo (spots) is mandatory.
They say the number of these points, certified in the world, is 361 spots. The lines obtained by connecting these pressure points are called “meridians” or keiro (経路). There are believed to be fourteen meridians on our body and they run longitudinally. This is a very interesting subject but it is not directly connected to the death points, so we will not go any further into this subject at this time.
So, let us go a little deeper with the investigation of the “death” points, whether you believe there are such points or not. Speaking in relationship to karate, it is defined as the points where they will cause serious damage including death if an excessive blow is received. In other words, those are the spots where Ikken hissatsu (一拳必殺) becomes possible by applying a strike or a kick. It is interesting to know that in Jujitsu, they claim the number of Kyusho as 140. Out of those, the critical ones that could bring high risk to life is about 50.
Those critical points are categorized in four groups depending on the results from an impact. All the senior karate practitioners and the instructors are advised to know them.
① 痛急所 (Tsu kyusho), pain points = the points where one will experience intense pain.
One example is the point between the thumb and index finger. If it it is pinched it gives great pain and it can be used in submission techniques.
② 麻急所 (Ma kyusho), hemp points = the points where one can be temporarily paralyzed.
③ 当込急所 (Atekomi kyusho), strike in points = this word comes from Atemi (当身 strikes).
These points are aimed to kill or to knock the opponents unconscious. They are located in the chest and abdomen area.
④ 活急所 (Katsu kyusho), active points = these points are used in first aid (active method).
They are found in the back, chest, and the abdomen areas. These points are used completely for the opposite reasons of Atekomi points.
The size of one point is said to be about 8 millimeters in diameter. Thus, realistically speaking, it is quite difficult to know precisely where those spots are located. Consequently, it is also extremely difficult to attack any of those points accurately on an opponent. You will not only need to be very familiar with the locations of the spots but must acquire the specific techniques to deliver the proper attacks. What I recommend to the instructors and the senior practitioners is that we remember the approximate locations of these points.
At the end of this article we must touch upon one more subject. It looks like Funakoshi sensei had studied the kyusho because we find the kyusho chart in his book, Karate-do Kyohan (空手道教範) published in 1935. Nakayama, in his book, Dynamic Karate, also added two pages (302 and 303) If those two masters considered these so important as to show the illustrations of these “vulnerable points” in their books, then why do we seem to ignore them and fail to study them?
I believe there are, at least, two major reasons.
The first reason is the popularity of sport karate. In tournament kumite there are only two targets; jodan and chudan. Generally speaking, in a kumite match, as long as you throw a punch or a kick in the general area of jodan and chudan, you will get a point. Therefore, for those who are focused only on scoring points there is no need for them to learn the specific locations of kyusho as they will not increase their scoring points. This attitude, unfortunately, is spreading to the dojo kumite training. For instance, does your sensei approve if your attack or counter attack to the groin in your ippon kumite? I am sure your sensei will not allow that. How about if you counter attack to the opponents’ eyes with nihon nukite (二本貫手 two finger spear hand) during an ippon kumite training? Is this technique widely accepted in your dojo? A kick in the groin and stabbing in the eyes are very effective techniques but aren’t they (and possibly many others) sort of “banned” or disapproved?
The second reason is more complex and can be controversial. Shotokan is a long distance fighting method unlike Goju ryu and Uechi ryu. In other words, most of the techniques in Shotokan are designed to fight from a distance that is further than an arm reach. In Goju ryu and Uechi ryu they focus on the close distance fighting method including the “sticky hand” or push hand training called kakie (カキエ、掛け手). They also train to harden their body to withstand the impact of the punches and the kicks. They typically stand in sanchin stance (三戦) and the instructor would strike or kick the student’s leg, back, belly, etc. Whereas in Shotokan we do not have this type of training and we keep our training very non-contact all throughout the training. Some of the kyusho points such as groin and eyes do not need validation. However, some of the kyusho and tenketsu points can be very small as described before (as little as 8mm). Thus, to be able to use them effectively, we must know exactly the precise locations by frequent experimentation by hitting or pressing some of those spots. Recently, bunkai training has become more popular which is a good trend, in general. There are some tsukami uke (掴み受け grabbing blocks) and nage waza (投げ技 throwing techniques). This training will provide us a rare opportunity to work on the kyusho and tenketsu points. Unfortunately, however, I have not seen this to be a popular trend.
Now that you have a better understanding of the challenge with these critical points, isn’t it about time that you should begin to study them more closely and possibly incorporate this knowledge in your karate training?
Wiki page on pressure point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressure_point
Eight striking points
#1: Eyes and around the area near the eyes
#2: Middle of upper lip below the nose
#3: Ears or a little in front of the ears (near the jaw joints)
#4: Back of elbow
#5: Side of the trunk over the rib cage
#6: Tail bone
八 打 歌 訣: 嵩 山 少 林 拳 法
Eight death points of Shaolin Kung Fu
#2: Throat and neck
#3: Solar plexus
#4: side of the trunk over the rib cage
#5: perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva）
#6: Towards the back of the trunk over the kidney
#7: Tail bone