Target focused self defense training is the key to a successful self defense system. Knowing what targets to focus on and how to attack them is really the nuts and bolts of any successful fighting system. This is where many martial arts fall short when they are compared to self defense systems. Martial arts often focus heavily on fine motor skill techniques that are amazing to watch and extremely difficult to master, but sadly less effective than some simple self defense moves.
The real secret of self defense is knowing which targets are the most vulnerable, distracting, and painful. Before I list the top 5 keep in mind that you should never develop target fixation (focusing on one target alone as your sole hope for stopping an attacker). You have to be able to change targets readily as the fight or altercation progresses. More on this later…
Top 5 Targets:
- Groin: This is no big surprise yet it is often overlooked. Most fights will start with a right haymaker. A good fighter will go straight for a valuable target like the groin (if it is not guarded). The groin is an effective target because of the extreme pain and involuntary reaction it causes is men. It is nearly impossible to not double over from a good shot to the groin. This makes it vulnerable, distracting and painful the perfect combination.
- Eyes: The eyes are a great target because they are our principle sense used in fighting. Striking the eyes also causes an emotional response in attackers because it is such a valuable target. An eye gouge will instantly cause the eyes to water, blurring the vision for a second, allowing you to take the upper hand. Eye strikes should only be attempted if the eyes are unguarded. They are especially effective when an attacker has his hands busy gripping your shirt or shoulders etc. Instead of fighting his hold simply strike the eyes.
- Throat: The throat is an especially sensitive and vulnerable part of the body. Often times the natural instinct in a fight or self defense situation is to strike the head. This is great if you happen to land a knockout punch, but chances are you won’t. Aim for the throat instead. It is soft (you won’t bust knuckles), damaging (you can cut off his air supply), and can end a fight quickly (a neck strike can cause a knockout). Best of all a throat strike even if it is not perfectly executed is very distracting (I can prove it…press your thumb into the spot just under your Adam’s apple, yeah not very comfortable to say the least).
- Ear: This may seem a bit obscure but the ear is a great self defense target (and I don’t mean a Tyson Ear Bite). An ear slap can be a very damaging and excruciatingly painful strike. An ear slap will not damage your hand (like a punch will), if executed well it will blow out the ear drum causing tons of pain, a temporary loss of hearing, and dizziness. This certainly fulfills the criteria of vulnerable (it requires minimal strength to cause a great deal of damage), distracting, and painful.
- Knee: So far I have only mentioned targets that will distract and cause pain allowing you to escape an attacker by exploiting the distraction and running. The knee is a target that can easily prevent an assailant from following you or continuing any kind of attack. The knee is not a very strong joint. Yes they carry us around all day so they are strong in a couple of directions but they are very vulnerable when struck in the right spot.
The good news is that people rarely guard their knees. Only a seasoned martial artist (not your average street thug) will defend his vulnerable knees effectively. The trick is to strike the inside of the knee. This is the most vulnerable part of the joint. A well delivered strike to the inner knee will snap some of the ligaments and tendons in the knee removing his ability to walk, run, or stand. This makes it a perfect self defense target.
This target is especially good if you are being held from behind. You can strike the inner knee with your heel. The front of the knee is also effective, but requires more force.
3 Principles to Use Targets Effectively:
- Know how to strike all these targets from various self defense scenarios (while being held from behind, held face to face, from a punching range, etc.).
- Learn to always scan attackers or sparring partners for open targets, these will constantly change during a self defense situation.
- Always follow up one high value target strike with another (it can be the same target but not always). For example if a groin strike doubles an attacker over take this moment to deliver an ear slap or an elbow to the back of the neck. The point is you should never expect one strike to end a fight no matter how brilliantly executed. Strike until he is incapacitated (on the ground, or you have a real chance to escape).
These are universal principles. Targets should be the focus of any good self defense or fighting system. As a self defense industry leader I have my own system that I teach, but these principles should be the basis of any system. How do I know this? Well over the years I have met and worked with scores of black belt instructors from many martial arts, bar room bouncers, military Special Forces personnel from several countries, defense contractors, police chiefs, and high profile security guards. Although each person had a different teaching style and set of strikes they taught, they all focus heavily on targets (because targets are the real key). Just think about it a fancy punch is just a fancy punch until it lands on the right spot. Every self defense tool known to man is useless unless it hit the right target.