Many martial arts styles use pressure points as leverage to prevent opponents from resisting. While this concept dates back to ancient Chinese traditions, it’s still a topic of much controversy today.
On the other hand, some people believe that pressure points have nothing to do with martial arts and are pure pseudoscience.
So how should you make sense of the debate? And most important to us, can you use pressure points in Jiu-Jitsu? We’ll answer that question in this article and more.
Let’s see what the fuss is all about.
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Table of Contents
What Are Pressure Points?
Pressure points are a notion that originated in traditional Asian medicine, but it was also incorporated into their martial arts.
There is no record to track precisely the origin of pressure points, but it is known that it was used in Varma Kalai, which originated in India and Sri Lanka.
I had to investigate a little, but I discovered that Varma Kalai is a complex system that incorporates traditional massage, yoga, alternative medicine, and martial arts.
The pressure points (known as varmam) are manipulated with two intentions, to heal or cause harm.
When they are meant to harm, the strikes in Varma Kalai aim to hit the nerves, veins, tendons, soft tissues or ligaments, organs, bone joints, and any other points which are considered to be sensitive.
The use of pressure points was more common in striking-based martial arts. However, they’re not exclusively for striking.
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Is Pressure Point Fighting Effective?
As we established before, pressure points aim to attack sensitive areas of the body.
The debate on their effectiveness in hand-on-hand combat has been out there for quite some time.
Some people assume it is a legit way to defend yourself, but some serious practitioners do not even give it a chance. Modern martial artists see them as simply useless.
In modern martial arts, pressure point fighting has three main methods:
pressure point fighting which relies on impact
This method is the most widely known and used in martial arts. And it simply consists of striking a sensitive area of the body. The idea is to cause more damage than the strike would do on any other body part.
pressure points that rely on pain compliance
This method seems fitting for grappling, as it means applying pressure on a specific point to get a reaction. It might be a flinch or moving in a certain way that you can telegraph.
In theory, it seems a good option for a grappler to take advantage of, but only if it was a reliable or effective method to achieve the reaction, which sadly, it isn’t.
The last method is something that we will get to real soon.
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Can You Use Pressure Points In Jiu-Jitsu?
Pressure points seem to be good, but in BJJ, strikes are illegal, meaning impact-based pressure fighting is out of the equation.
However, one concept in pressure point fighting might be valid in modern BJJ. That is “blood flow pressure fighting,” which means blocking blood flow to knock your opponent unconscious.
You can see the blood flow pressure fighting principle in action in the Von Flue choke. It puts pressure on the carotid arteries to stop blood from going directly in or out (depending on the side) of the brain, which eventually knocks the opponent unconscious due to lack of oxygen flow.
Other than that, focusing on using pressure points to control your opponent better or give an edge to your Jiu-Jitsu might be a waste of time.
Some people assume that applying force in some pressure points will allow you to generate a movement response, which you can use to get better positioning over your rival.
Still, on the other hand, most people believe that the only way pressure points might work is if the receiver has zero pain tolerance.
From personal experience, those who usually aim to use pressure points in BJJ are newcomers from other martial arts. And it usually has the same result most of the time.
They don’t work, and they get stuck in a terrible position.
Will Incorporating Pressure Points Give Me An Edge In BJJ Competition?
Here, we have to make it clear that if you focus on working pressure points to be more effective in your rolls, you should expect one definitive outcome.
You will most likely get punished and tapped left and right.
It is not to say that pressure points are 100% useless in grappling, but they may be around 95% useless if we consider the Von Flue choke to incorporate “blood flow pressure fighting.”
If you focus more on how you are applying these points instead of proper technique, you will be wasting your time and putting yourself in trouble all at once.
When a grappler focuses on using pressure points to subdue the opponent, it shows how ineffective this is in grappling arts. And following that trend will get you punished hard in live rolls and competition.
It is better to learn how to sweep, scramble, wrestle, or retain guard than to train how to apply pressure points in BJJ. But don’t take my word at face value. Try and see how wrong that goes.
McDojo Breakdown Example – Pressure Point In BJJ/Grappling
What To Do If My Opponent Is Using Pressure Points?
If you catch your opponent attempting to use pressure points to pass your guard or submit you, there is only one course of action. First, you punish, and then you finish them.
You should have little to no problem with pressure point attacks. A pressure point attack in BJJ will be nothing but annoying the other person.
If you get annoyed by an opponent using pressure points, repay the favor by punishing them hard for even trying, and land your favorite finishes just to show off.
It may sound a little toxic, but hey, you are likely doing them a favor by stopping them on their track before they spend too long thinking it might work.
And well, the more we fix this idea out in the BJJ community, the better, so take the time to use proper techniques to teach them better.
Can You Use Pressure Points in BJJ? – Final Thoughts
Should the BJJ community worry about pressure points becoming a thing on the mats?
After everything we just mentioned, we have a clear answer: no, not a chance.
Pressure point attacks lack one of the most important aspects of any technique for the BJJ crowd. Effectiveness in live rolling.
The whole topic of pressure points in grappling is something I can’t support. Either in competition or street fights, as I believe it would only waste time and have little to no effect.
Even those acquainted and trained in pressure point fighting only use them as small implementations to basic techniques and not a focal point of their techniques repertoire.
We hope this article helped you figure out if you want to walk that path or keep away from it.
If you enjoyed the content or believe that there are some other friends and practitioners that could use the information, we encourage you to share the link with them.
Have a great time on your rolls, and keep yourself healthy as you improve your game. We hope to be seeing you on the mats soon!