Pressure Point of the Day: Solar Plexus

A strike to the solar plexus, as demonstrated in this video by MMA fighter Megumi Fujii, is an effective way to subdue an attacker without causing injury. The solar plexus is a nerve motor point that, when struck, causes temporary motor dysfunction to the surrounding muscles, those which are used for breathing. It’s not simply a matter of having the wind knocked out of you. For a short period of time, you have trouble breathing both in and out.

One day I was sparring with a student of mine named Alec. He was the youngest in my class at 19 and oozed natural talent. That being said, on this particular day, he was keeping a very high guard to stop incoming blows to his head while ignoring any kicks I aimed at his body. After the first 2-minute round, we took a short break, giving me the chance to address the weakness in his guard.

“So Alec, I noticed that you’re not blocking any of my strikes to your body,” I put forward.

“Yeah, I just figure I’d rather take a shot to the body than a shot to the head,” he replied, with the cocksure attitude that goes hand in hand with youth and talent.

“You do realize I’m not striking with any power, right?” I queried. “And I’m aiming at your solar plexus.”

“I still think I can take a shot to solar plexus, even if you were hitting with full power.”

I looked at him, a tiny smirk playing across the corners of my mouth, betraying my intention. “Okay then. Let’s do the second round.”

In the second round, Alec came at me with a right cross for his first attack. I sidestepped the blow, snapping a quick roundhouse kick to his solar plexus, making solid contact. Alec grunted as he received the blow, pausing a moment before continuing the round.

Again, he came at me, leading with a couple of jabs, following with another right cross. And again, I do the same sidestep-roundhouse kick combo, hitting home on his solar plexus. He stopped, knees buckling as he ineffectively gasped for air. “I have to stop,” he croaked before crumpling to the ground.

I let him regain his composure for a couple of minutes and get back on his feet, after which I approached him. “So… what did we learn?” I asked him with an admittedly cheeky tone.

“I said I could take one shot to the solar plexus, not two!” he retorted sheepishly.

“And that wasn’t even full power. That was about 50% my full power.” I knew I wouldn’t need to use full power to make my point. I wanted to him to learn a lesson, not hate me.

His eyes widened in disbelief. “I think I’d rather take a shot to the head than your full power kick to the solar plexus.”

The second blow would have had even more effect than the first due to the overload principle. When striking nerve pressure or motor points, if you attack the same nerve point twice, you’ll notice a significant increase in effectiveness the second time around. That’s because the first blow weakens the nerves, causing them to be more sensitive when struck again.

After that sparring session, I never again saw Alec disregard incoming body shots.

Comments (4)

4 thoughts on “Pressure Point of the Day: Solar Plexus

  1. Hi,

    Good point. There are many young martial artists that disregard there midsection thinking that if they condition the muscles enough they can withstand blows there. But the solor plexus is weak as is under the armpits, around the kidneys and liver. nice post!

  2. It’s interesting that you should mention that. Alec actually told me at the time that he thought the medicine ball exercises we use in class had strengthened his abdominals enough to protect him.

    Said exercise involves one person lying on their back while their partner either drops or throws a 12-lb medicine ball on their abdomen. As useful as these exercises are at training the inner abdominal wall to help protect against blows to the area, it is still not enough to take a full on shot to the solar plexus when it right on target.

  3. In our dojo we don’t target the solar-plexus that often, unless it’s with the knee. While it is a pressure-point and will seriously hurt your opponent (even to the point where he cannot continue the fight) it’s not easy to hit effectively, especially not with a fist or other hand-technique. To get the desired effect you’ll have to be very precise: if you hit even a little too high or too low it’ll do nothing (presuming the opponent has trained his abs) and if he turns even a little to the left or right you’ll have the same problem. With the knee you’ll generate so much force it won’t be that important to hit precisely: if you hit his ribs or abs it’ll do damage anyway. Also while a blow to the solar-plexus is good to use in combinations and as a distraction (fake high, strike low, strike high) it also exposes your head since you have to slightly duck and lean forward. This means you’ll run the risk of being countered, which in my opinion is greater than in an attack to the face. If you have to use body-blows in boxing I’d prefer a liver-shot: it’s at least equally devastating and it’s a little easier to pull off (owing to the fact it’s located more sideways and lower in the body and a blow from the side generally is more difficult to see, and defend against, than a straight one).

    Of course you must defend the whole body (which is easier than it sounds): in a real fight you simply cannot afford to take unnecessary hits (a blow that lands will damage and compromise your whole defence-system). The guy in your example has a point though: while the general rule should be to defend at all times it’s still better to take a blow to the body than one to the head. The head is so incredibly vulnerable: the chin, the nose, the jaw… all those area’s/points will result in an instant knock-out (or at least very serious injuries) when struck with proper form, accuracy and speed. This is the reason boxers always cover their head (and are always reminded to keep their guard up at all times) and why they condition their abdominals to be able to take blows there and counter with blows to the head. Of course bare-handed blows to the body are more damaging than gloved blows to the same area but still it’s a good concept in self-defence too.

    It’s obvious you were much better than your student (that’s why he’s the student and you’re the instructor and not the other way around) and you were right in teaching him a lesson but in self-defence I wouldn’t try to kick his solar-plexus (opting for the groin instead) and even in sparring it would seem quite dangerous against a good opponent (you can actually break your foot if he uses his elbow to block it). Still a good learning-experience for him though. Interesting explanation of the overload-principle, I didn’t know that.

    In less threatening circumstances a hit to the solar-plexus might be all that is needed to resolve the situation (it might be enough to deter an overzealous drunk or unwanted male attention in case you’re a woman) but in real danger I think it’s best to use more decisive techniques.

    As always this is just my opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

  4. I agree that the solar plexus isn’t easy to hit, and shouldn’t be a primary target in sparring. That being said, it’s pretty darned useful in a number of different hold escapes in which the elbow can be used. An elbow can be hard to see coming in close quarters, particularly when an attacker is coming from behind. And even if the targeing is a little off, the attacker may not see the blow coming with enough time to tense their ab muscles and elbows can be very penetrating.

    While it is true, that it takes a lot of training to become good at targeting the solar plexus, well, that’s what we’re all here for! 🙂 On the other hand, if you get good at pinpointing the exact target, as my boxing/mma coach and I have both always said, there is no amount of ab conditioning you can do to deaden the effects. That is only true when it is EXACTLY on target though. This means that it requires lots of training so that finding the right place becomes second nature. My coach has seen well-targeted shots to the solar plexus result in knock-outs in the professional fighting arena (meaning that they were down for the count simply because they couldn’t breathe nor could the recover in time to stand up and fight).

    Of course, because it does take time to develop the skill of finding the target, for people who haven’t spent as much time developing their targeting, the groin is a much better choice.

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