Pressure Point of the Day: Lateral Femoral

In the Police Pressure Point System developed by Professor Georges Sylvain, founder of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, the lateral femoral area is not actually a pressure point but a motor point. The difference is that an attack to a motor point can result in a motor dysfunction when struck, while a pressure point only causes pain. In the case of the lateral femoral area, when attacked, it can result in a motor dysfunction in the leg, making it difficult to stand on or use it. It can also be quite painful.

The lateral femoral is centred on the outside of the thigh, around midway between the hip and the knee, where the nerve is closest to the surface of the leg. The nerve affected is the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (see area in red on the right in image below). Please note that the centre point in which the effect is greatest can vary from person to person, but a strike to this spot within about a 5″ diameter will still affect most people.

The best way to utilize this motor point for self-defense purposes is to deliver a penetrating strike to the area with a hard surface, such as a shin, knee, baton, etc. When striking, it is best to leave your strike on the target for 3/4 of a second (known as T.O.T. or “Time On Target”) to allow the fluid shock waves to transfer from the striking surface into the nerves for greatest effect. This is principle is generally true for all motor points.

Probably the most widely known way to attack the lateral femoral is used in Muay Thai and MMA, commonly referred to as a leg kick. The following video demonstrates a foolhardy boy who volunteers to take a full force leg kick, demonstrating the effects (*Note: If you find verbal profanity offensive, do not watch this video.)

In my early training days, when I was young and stupid, I didn’t think that a leg kick using the shin could be as effective as a knee strike. To prove the point to a Taekwondo black belt friend of mine, I volunteered to take a leg kick to the lateral femoral at 50% power. I didn’t fare much better than the fellow in the above video, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes, gasping in pain. The full story of this embarrassing anecdote is in in chapter 10 of my book, Weapons of Opportunity.

In Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, we teach the above leg kick, but we also like to use our knees to strike the lateral femoral. Knee strikes to the lateral femoral can be useful for law enforcement for controlling an unruly suspect that is causing trouble while being escorted. It’s nice because it is a low-level force option that doesn’t generally cause injury. That being said, my favourite self-defense technique that uses the lateral femoral is against a side headlock before the attacker gets it fully applied. See the video below for a quick demo (not our greatest film work, but you can get the idea).

If you decide to train strikes to the lateral femoral, or any motor point, it is safest to limit the amount of power you apply on your partners, otherwise you’ll find yourself short of volunteers to receive said strikes. We stick to around 5% power (or less depending on the partner) when training, enough that your partner will feel it when on target so they can provide feedback on target location, but not so much that they’ll experience lingering pain or difficulty using the leg for the rest of the night. This is the amount of power I used in the above video.

One last note on the lateral femoral is that it may not be effective against people who are drunk, high or in the middle of an adrenaline dump. When in these states the responses of the subject’s nervous system don’t always register the effects of strikes to this area. They may feel it after they have sobered up or have come down from their adrenaline dump, but that isn’t useful if you need the effects in the moment, so in this situation, it may not be a great choice.

What’s your favourite way of using the lateral femoral? Please feel free to share in the comments. 🙂
Comments (12)

12 thoughts on “Pressure Point of the Day: Lateral Femoral

  1. I've never really used the distinction pressure point versus motor point, but I like it. I've known some cause loss of use or temporary paralysis, but haven't used that terminology. It will be helpful for explaining the differences between them, so thanks.

    I'd also like to commend you for mentioning the factors that might lesson the effectiveness of the technique such as drugs, alcohol, adrenaline etc. This can often be overlooked.

  2. Nice technique with smooth execution, it's definately useable in self-defense. In our system this technique (the kneestrike) is known as the horsebite because it hurts like hell when executed with power. It's used a lot in panantukan or Filipino boxing where it's preferred to knee lower since it's much harder to block than a standard thai knee to the plexus, sternum or face. I'd probably add a body hook for good measure (you're turning that way anyway) but the technique is sound and as you noted sometimes it's useful to defend oneself without causing serious damage.

    Good video,


  3. I don't know if you watched one of the follow-up videos suggested by youtube but the one about the bouncer/kickboxing champion ( was great: finally a sports martial artist with brains and decency reasoning with someone instead of using senseless violence. I've heard too many stories about people getting beaten up by boxers, thaiboxers of kickboxers looking for a cheap thrill or 'preparing' for a ringfight. This is a true professional and he left the guy with his dignity and health intact: way to go!


    PS: the original video was hilarious… Anyone who'd willingly take a lowkick to the tigh must either be very inexperienced (like you back then) or not very intelligent. A while back I took one to the leg in sparring and even with protection it still hurt like hell. Very good technique as the shin is a much better and more robust weapon than the foot and it usually won't result in real damage except for a good bruise and excruciating pain right after impact. I've heard thaiboxers train to withstand lowkicks by repeatedly kicking eachother legs with increasing power over long periods of time: I'm still wondering whether this actually makes the legs stronger or it simply teaches you to endure the pain and keep fighting. What do you think?

  4. Glad you all liked the post! As for your question about withstanding leg kicks, I personally think it's a combination of learning to take pain and making subtle leg shifts so that you don't take it in the worst spot. And of course, Thai boxers also learn techniques for checking/blocking the kick too. Oh and I really liked the video you shared. I was impressed with how the bouncer handled the situation.

  5. Obviously blocking the lowkick or avoiding it altogether is always the preferred option, I have Bas Rutten's MMA DVD's and he actually teaches to step into the kick to take it's power away and land in the perfect position to throw a right cross. Then again the man's a highly trained athlete so I'm not sure whether it'd be a good option for Joe sixpack. Defending the lowkick isn't easy imo and the problem with the traditional blocking with the shin is that it hurts like hell when you're not used to it. What would you recommend?


  6. My preference is to use distance and movement to counter a leg kick. If the kick isn't fully committed, I also sometimes turn my leg to take it more in the back of the leg as opposed to the lateral femoral. The problem with this is that if it's a very hard kick (like Forrest Griffin hard) it could still damage your femur. (See video: If you move in quickly and throw some punches while someone is throwing a leg kick, you get out of the power arc and you get them in a vulnerable position while they're balanced on one leg.

  7. I agree avoidance or moving into him is generally the best option, however that is not easy to do when he attacks with punches and then fires the lowkick. I know in silat they use the knee to block but if you're off you're going to make hard contact shin against shin and then it's a matter of conditioning and genetics. In any case a thai or kickboxer is a dangerous opponent and while it's not that likely you'll run into one it's good to practice defense against their common methods of attack, preferably training muay thai for a while yourself to get the feel of it. The single best way of optimizing your training for self defense purposes is get a broad range of experiences in the arts and pick the best of old and new, sport techniques and pure SD ones. A wise teacher once said it's the art or technique you don't know that's going to nail you (even if you're the better fighter overall) and some systems are simply better at a given area (FMA for weapons, BJJ for ground…) so it makes sense to just copy their techniques and approaches (or maybe tweak them a bit) and build a system around the best the different arts have to offer. The only thing left to do then is train, train and train some more, and have fun doing it of course. People who stick to their tradition and don't crosstrain are missing out imo, especially when it's so easy to get good training and useful information these days.

    Truly when the ancients could come back now and see what's available they would very likely do as I described, after all styles were based on (as Bruce Lee put it) individuals experimenting, researching combat experiences and retaining what was useful while discarding what wasn't.

    If you're low on inspiration I'd appreciate it if you could make a videopost about this topic, preferably centered around ways of dealing with the lowkick that aren't purely sportsorientated and useful for smaller or less conditioned individuals. At your discretion of course.


  8. Obviously in close quarter grappling low knees would be most useful, I've also heard police officers are taught to target the lateral femoral with the baston since permanent injury is unlikely.

  9. I never actually knew that the lateral femoral cutaneous also carried motor innervation as well (probably b/c of the misnomer). As a medical student and fighter this was very useful information. thx

  10. Is there any Dim ak point on the thigh?I mean a point when struck can cause paralysis or even death after a few days?Is it possible?
    Also,can a kick to the sciatic nerve can bring down even large opponents such as wrestlers on their knees?

    1. In our style, our focus is on anatomical points related to the nervous system. They are approved for use in law enforcement and security because they don’t cause injury, only pain. I’m not familiar with dim mak, so I can’t comment on it from that point of view. Thanks for commenting!

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