The Difference Between Fine & Gross Motor Striking Skills – Part 1

In Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, we first emphasize the importance of gross motor skills in our core curriculum as it makes the techniques easier to learn and apply in a real self-defense situations. That being said, if all we ever trained in was gross motor skills, there would no long term development for us as martial artists.

It’s all well and good to learn to aim strikes for broader surfaces we you first start to train, like the head/neck areas or center body mass where there is a good chance of hitting a variety of potent targets. But as you train, you ultimately want to start aiming for specific target locations to increase the effects of your strikes. This is one aspect of striking that I consider to be a fine motor skill that we teach.

Many people don’t even realize how much greater the effects of a strike can be when you hit a target with laser precision. Take the solar plexus for example. When you strike in the general area of the solar plexus with a degree of force, most people will feel it. But when you strike the precise target location of the solar plexus just below the sternum with the right part of your body (either an elbow point or your first two knuckles), you hardly have to use much power at all to cause a strong effect. In fact, if you strike with even a moderate amount of power, the effects are amplified far greater than they are with an imprecise strike. Check out the vid on this blog post, in which Megumi Fujii demonstrates the effects of good solar plexus targeting.

People are often surprised when I strike the solar plexus or other nerve motor/pressure points when they uke for me. They think that I am striking them a lot harder than I am because of the effects of the strike are so much greater. But that’s the difference between training at striking a target location for several months vs. training at it for over 17 years.

Yes, it’s true. It is a lot to use these precise targets in the context of a real attack, rather than on a compliant uke. But, after many years of training, you become better at targeting them regardless of how they come at you. And you can have your ukes come at you more realistically as well to improve your targeting as you get better at it. On the other hand, if you never bother to train in striking precise targets, you can never attain these levels of effectiveness.

And even if you’re not particularly good at striking the solar plexus in the exact right spot, or any of the other nerve motor/pressure points for that matter, the targets that we teach are located in areas where there will still be some effect even if you’re not bang on target.

In one of my next posts, I’ll discuss the importance of “snap” as a fine motor striking skill.

Comments (8)

8 thoughts on “The Difference Between Fine & Gross Motor Striking Skills – Part 1

  1. Do you believe in striking accupoints like those used in oriental medicine? I've heard of striking meridians or specific sequences of accupoints to achieve maximum effect but I'm highly suspicious of the feasibility of that tactic. I'll be looking forward to part 2.

    Merry X-mas!


  2. I don't really have any experience with martial arts that teach striking to acupressure points/meridians. I do, however, know that some of the nerve motor and pressure points that we teach coincide with some of those points, so there may be some validity to that stuff.

    Merry Xmas, Zara!

  3. I own a copy of Marc Tedeshi's 'Hapkido', a very comprehensive guide to the art (it's over 1000 pages long with very detailed pictures explaining techniques and defenses) and he and hapkido-practioners in general seem to put alot of emphasis on striking pressurepoints but I'd have difficulty hitting a target of less than one square cm on a human body standing still let alone a moving one. Besides the practical difficulties I doubt hitting a pressurepoint will actually produce the results they claim (how would interrupting ki-flow to the spleen change anything in the middle of a fight?), as you know ki is not a scientific concept and I'd rather stick with basic human-anatomy and tried & tested strikes (knocking a human unconscious by striking the jaw or shin has been proven millions of times in full-contact boxing matches from antiquity to the present) to dispatch a threat than rely on esoteric practices like pressurepoint-striking. I'm certainly not a hardcore fan of scienticsm or the view that science has all the answers('there is more between heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy Horatio')but I don't put much stock in things like dim-mak (killing a man with a single touch) or the conquest-cyle (hit certain meridians in a certain order to obtain devestating results). Either it's complete balony or it's a very high skill only accesible to true masters.

    In our system we differentiate between pressure points and vital points: pressure points produce intense pain when attacked just right but without permanent injury while striking vital points will result in serious or in some cases fatal injury. Both have their uses – pressure points are useful for releasing holds, vital points are used to take someone out – but if push comes to shove I'll utilise vital points since they're far more likely to yield good results and control can be achieved much easier with jointlocks than pressure points. Even as a warning vital points are useful: if you don't want the situation to escalate into a full-blown fight it's a good idea to hit the solar plexus with moderate force (we call it the 'back-off punch') since it won't really injure him but it will hurt or knock the wind out of him, giving him pause and a chance to abadon his attack before blood is spilled. I'm a bit unsure whether or not the solar-plexus should be considered a vital point or a pressure point: normally it won't damage an opponent unless you strike really hard in which case it could stop breathing or cause damage to internal organs but it sure as hell hurts (once I took a knee there full force, wasn't fun at all) and it will interfere with his ability to carry on the fight. What's your opinion? …

  4. On some people pressure points just don't work let alone on guys high on drugs. In working with pressure points I found pain is a very relative concept: when you know there won't be any real damage afterward you can just ignore it and when you know you have no choice but to fight on or lose your life you can withstand an incredible amount of pain before succumbing to it. With a jointlock I'll tap because I don't want my limbs to get damaged but if someone tries a pressurepoint-technique on me I'll either shrug it off or get fairly mad (yes you're hurting me now but if you don't back off right this instant I'll bash your nose in), either way it's a liability and that's why the use of those points is generally discouraged in our style. To each his own of course but you really don't want to get hit because of a technique that has a fairly low rate of succes: if someone is just being annoying and I can't verbally discourage them maybe I'll try to cause pain by pressing behind his ear or somewhere else but if he means business I'm not going to waste time like that and go right for a lock or a strike. Better be safe than sorry.

    Enjoy christmas-eve, over here it's night already (12.40 am as we speak) so I think I'll turn in.


  5. As to the question about the solar plexus, when you're in just the right spot, with force, it can be a fight ender, but you should never rely on a single strike. You might miss, or it might not affect them as much, say if they're drunk or high.

    When it comes to striking, you keep going, using any types of strikes that make sense given the type of situation you're in, as many as you need to get out of the situation.

    When it comes to the level of force, of course one should only use as much force as is necessary to nullify the situation, but if you're a woman against a man, or at a major size disadvantage or have many attackers, you're justified to use higher levels of force.

    In our style, there are two types of nerve points we target, motor points and pressure points, in addition to vital targets like the groin, head, etc.

    I'll be sure to do a blog post about the nerve points that we focus in the near future to provide further clarification.

    Thanks for all your interesting comments and questions. It's this sort of thing that helps me question and analyze by beliefs when it comes to martial arts concepts.

  6. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  7. I like to target the head and neck area with slaps, axe hands and palm heels. When I train I make contact with the heel of my hand and edge of my hand only so it leaves me with slaps, chops, and palms. Any advice?

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