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Combat Hapkido. Tactical Pressure Points


Combat Hapkido. Tactical Pressure Points

The Science of Self Defense in 60 minutes

By Master Mark S. Gridley

The title of this article is a challenge exercise for any self-defense instructor or practitioner to help focus on what they feel matters most. The following outline and topics are not absolute and represent my opinion based on over 25 years of experience. I encourage you to create your own lesson plan and test it by putting it into action. It should be obvious that learning and developing proficiency in self-defense cannot be accomplished in just 60 minutes. Many readers have dedicated decades of study, practice and experience to this area and I do not mean to dilute the absolute necessity for practice, dedication, and lifelong study. However, what if you only had a few minutes to teach someone with limited to no experience how to defend themselves or protect their loved ones? What would you share with them? What do you think would be crucial and effective? My hope is that these questions will stimulate your thoughts and creativity. It was a question I heard during a seminar while teaching a double impact seminar with GM Pellegrini, our founder of Combat Hapkido. I thought it was brilliant of the student to inquire “What if you only had 10 minutes to teach someone self-defense?” The answer I thought of was the warrior’s mindset and a very limited number of targets (tactical pressure points) to create injury that would stop the attack and provide the opportunity to escape. Yet, that question wasn’t completely answered in my mind and left me thinking for several days on what is a better response. I took some creative license with the question and decided we needed at least an hour. Of course your lesson will be suited to your student not the other way round. It is important to know who you are training and start with scenarios they are concerned about first before forcing your agenda, even if you do know best. This will help develop trust and lessen anxiety for them to follow your instruction and feel empowered.

 Combat Hapkido. Tactical Pressure Points 1

Lesson one in the first ten minutes (0:10- 0:20): Situational awareness and the warrior’s mind.

Dedicated readers of Budo may have already read an entire article I have previously authored on this subject so I apologize for the brevity; however, the clock is ticking! So many critical incidents are the result of bad decisions or being oblivious to the world around us. Being present and understanding the physical, moral, and legal impact of being unaware can go a very long way in self-defense. If you are anxious or unsure of your environment or surroundings, simply leave or decide on taking a safer route even if longer and more expensive. Few things are more costly than a violent encounter. In the United States, fire alarms and drills are required in almost every area we work, learn, and play. However, it is interesting to note that a person is three times more likely to have a violent encounter than to have to escape from a fire. Acknowledging violence can happen is a key to selfdefense awareness. Be aware, plan ahead and implement your plan. The Warrior’s mind is making the decision prior to any altercation of what you are willing as well as what you are not willing to do in a given situation. It is giving yourself permission to doing what is necessary to protect those you love and yourself. It is a promise you must uphold to yourself and to others. Our goal is not to kill, our goals are to stop the attack by any means, while protecting and running home safely to those we care about. We will not permit any obstacle or person(s) to prevent us from coming home.


Lesson two in the second ten minutes (0:20-0:30): Targets for creating injury and escape.

Once again, in previous Budo articles I have shared the rationales on why we use tactical pressure points in self-defense. However, in its simplest form we are creating injury or the sensation of injury. Keep in mind that your student only has ten minutes to learn this segment and must be willing to create injury. There are a plethora of perfectly valid targets an instructor can choose with good result. My favorite personal self-defense target is Spleen 6 located just above the ankle on the inside of the leg. A solid stomp to this point will neutralize the attacker’s mobility while causing excruciating pain allowing a quick escape. There are a number of reasons to why I use this target, though the strongest rationales are that it is difficult to defend against, easy to access, very effective and quick to learn. I am guessing that many of you would go for the eyes or groin? I agree these are solid targets…if you can access them and they are poorly defended. So my next choice would be to show the student how to attack the anterior ethmoidal nerve located on the nasal suture of the nose. This is generally less well defended than the eyes and will cause blurry vision, pain, and release the head and neck. Again, time is limited so I have provided both a high line and low line target and will drill them to proficiency versus providing a dozen options that will lead to indecision or confusion.

 Combat Hapkido. Tactical Pressure Points 2

Lesson three in the third ten minutes (0:30-0:40): Protective postures.

Often the importance of our posture, position, or stance is much underrated and thus undertrained. In Combat Hapkido, we maintain a shield position which provides us balance, mobility, protection of vital areas, and can be used offensively. We begin with open hands extended out greater than 90 degrees and elbows close to our sides. This protects our head and torso while allow for quick strikes. We use a slightly bladed profile to minimize exposure of our body with our knees slightly bent to allow for both quick mobility and stability. Variations of the posture can be done from standing, sitting, and lying positions. Our main goal is to create injury in order to stop the attack while not getting injured during the encounter by utilizing a strong positon. Notice that situational awareness, mental commitment and creating injury come before protective postures. This is purposeful as a strong offense is often the quickest defense. It also gets the student into rapidly executing their plan versus focusing on a stationary position. All these are helpful tactics in supporting their escape and should be built on in a cumulative manner.


Lesson four in the fourth ten minutes (0:40-0:50): Basic strikes.

As you turn the pages you will probably find any number of articles by some very well respected martial artists on the important technical aspects of strikes in addition to a number of useful tools for the serious practitioner. In this lesson, we find ourselves limited by the constraints of time and thus will focus on no more than two types of strikes, perhaps three at most if the student is a quick study. Equipment such as striking pads will be beneficial or something of the sort that can be struck full power without the risk of injury to the trainee or the trainer. The first strike would be a low line front kick with a downward stomp to finish in order to maintain balance and forward pressure. We will drill this hard, fast, balanced, and most importantly with correct range of movement to fully penetrate a target. Next up would be the hammerfist in a rapid cycling movement with a focus on biomechanical correctness and targeting. Lastly, we would work palm strikes from multiple angles aimed at some vital targets that can be exploited with gross motor movements as our short time permits.

 Combat Hapkido. Tactical Pressure Points 3

Lesson five in the fifth and last ten minutes (0:50-1:00): Post conflict management.

Time is going fast and we only have a few minutes left. Here we will focus on how to move tactically away from the injured assailant keeping the subject in sight and only turning your back once you are at a safe distance to run. Once we have defined “safe” for the student or those they are protecting we are ready to enter our post conflict state. We will focus a few moments on tactical breathing to help calm the primal mind from the adrenalized state to enable the student to think clearly. Next, we must teach to assess if anyone other than the bad guy is injured and needs immediate medical attention, explaining to the student that they may not have even noticed receiving an injury during the struggle. Now the choice to report to authorities what has happened by starting with the fact that they were afraid for their life and only wanted the attack to stop. I would advise contacting an attorney to help navigate anything further while legalities are being sorted out. Lastly, I would recommended talking through an after action report with a knowledgeable instructor with an emphasis on what went right and a just a few observations on what could have been done better. If time permits, perhaps even do a safe reenactment of a past scenario with the finish being an e m p o w e r i n g outcome. As you conclude the lesson, make sure you offer yourself or other resources that a r e avai lable to the student as you bid them farewel l and wish t h e m well. A quick tip sheet or overview of the lesson and a business card with your information can convert this 60 minute student into a multi-year practitioner. In Combat Hapkido, we focus on instructing students on three main objectives. That is, keeping them out of the morgue, out of the hospital, and from being on the wrong side of the legal system. Our definition of victory in self-defense is returning home safely with and to family and friends. In the end, at the very least if we have done our job well, there will be one more person better prepared to stay safe in this world. So there you have it, the science of self-defense in 60 minutes; or hopefully it will serve as functional introduction to a lifelong pursuit of study. My goal is that you have enjoyed this article not just as an instructional column but more so as a way of stimulating your thoughts on how it can be done better. Many of the ten minute segments have been or can be entire articles or even books in and of themselves so please keep an open mind as you critique and create. Of course, this article cannot capture this subject in its entirety and you are encouraged to delve deeper to more fully understand these important areas of selfdefense. In future articles we will continue to expand on the Science of Self Defense through the teachings of Combat Hapkido. Of course, you don’t have to wait; all of this information is available through the Combat Hapkido Books, Online University, and DVD instructional series, which you can order directly from Defensive Services International at and Budo International at   Please train safe, live with honor, and be well. For certification information, seminars, or questions, please contact: