In close quarters combat, knowing exactly where to hit can make all the difference, this guide dives into the critical nerve zones that can take your opponent down fast.

Nerve strikes are rooted in the precise science of human anatomy, targeting vulnerable nerve clusters to incapacitate with minimal force – demonstrating a fusion of biological knowledge and tactical expertise essential in high-stakes covert operations.

Mastery in hand-to-hand combat can be a critical edge when the chips are down and you have to get your hands dirty. Among the various techniques available, nerve strikes are particularly effective for disabling opponents quickly and quietly.

Nerve strikes target specific areas of the body where nerves are close to the surface, vulnerable to pressure or impact. The goal is not just to incapacitate, but to do so in a manner that allows operatives to maintain control of the situation, minimizing risk to themselves and others. This technique can be invaluable when you need to neutralize a threat without attracting attention.

Nerve Strikes

These techniques are deeply embedded in several martial arts traditions, each offering a unique strategic approach to self-defense and combat. One of the most prominent of these is the ancient art of Dim Mak, sometimes known as the “Death Touch,” which is part of traditional Chinese martial arts. Dim Mak involves striking specific points on the body, which are analogous to acupuncture points, to produce crippling or sometimes lethal effects. While the more dramatic effects are often exaggerated in folklore and cinema, the practical application focuses on temporarily paralyzing or incapacitating an opponent.

Another martial art well-known for its use of nerve strikes is Kyusho Jitsu, a component of some traditional Okinawan karate styles. This art form emphasizes pressure point fighting, targeting specific areas in the body where nerves are close to the skin surface. The strikes are designed to disrupt the opponent’s flow of energy or to cause immediate bodily reactions like severe pain or loss of muscle control. Kyusho Jitsu practitioners train intensively to understand the anatomy and physiology behind the nerve points, which enhances their effectiveness in both defensive and offensive maneuvers.

Key ‘Nerve’ Target Areas

Expanding on the key target areas for nerve strikes can provide a deeper understanding of how operatives can effectively neutralize threats in the field. Each of these points not only offers a tactical advantage but also requires precision and control, hallmarks of advanced tradecraft. The following are some critical zones:

    Radial Nerve

The radial nerve runs along the underside of the arm and can be accessed easily at several points, particularly just above the wrist and at the mid-forearm. A strike to this area can disrupt the nerve’s function, causing instant pain and a loss of motor control in the hand and fingers. This makes it difficult for an opponent to grasp or hold onto weapons, providing an operative with a significant advantage in disarming and controlling the situation.

    Femoral Nerve

Located in the upper thigh, the femoral nerve is responsible for innervating much of the lower leg. Strikes to this area can be particularly debilitating. The key is to apply a sharp, focused impact to the inner thigh, which can result in severe pain and temporary paralysis or weakening of the leg. This technique is particularly useful in situations where an operative needs to prevent an assailant from pursuing or standing, without causing permanent harm.

    Suprascapular Nerve

The suprascapular nerve affects the shoulder area and can be targeted near the scapula (shoulder blade). A well-placed strike here can lead to an acute drop in the functional ability of the arm, affecting an opponent’s ability to lift their arm or perform precise movements. This is especially useful in neutralizing threats from opponents who are armed, as it significantly reduces their ability to aim or strike effectively.

    Ulnar Nerve

Another critical target is the ulnar nerve, which runs along the outside of the forearm and into the hand. It is sometimes referred to as the “funny bone” because of the intense, sharp sensation when hit. Striking the ulnar nerve at the elbow can disrupt the entire arm’s functionality, causing pain, numbness, and a reflexive opening of the hand. This is highly effective for disarming purposes.

    Trigeminal Nerve

The trigeminal nerve in the face controls sensations over the cheeks, jaw, and forehead. A precise strike to areas such as the jawline or the base of the nose can trigger intense pain and involuntary eye watering or blinking, creating a critical momentary advantage for an operative to escalate or escape as needed.

'Nerve Strikes'- Hand-to-Hand Combat in Madrid, Spain | TRDCRFT Tradecraft

Nerve Strike Techniques

The techniques involved in delivering effective nerve strikes involves refining several key components, from precision and control to the integration of strategic movement and situational awareness.


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Through rigorous and continuous training, operatives develop a nuanced understanding of these techniques, enabling them to execute nerve strikes with the precision, discretion, and effectiveness required. This level of proficiency ensures that they can protect themselves and their missions under the most challenging conditions.

Training and Safety

Training for nerve strikes should always be supervised by professionals, as improper technique can lead to serious injury. Operatives must also be aware of the legal and ethical implications of using such techniques, ensuring they are applied only when absolutely necessary and within the bounds of appropriate force.

In addition to professional supervision, safety gear such as protective padding and helmets should always be worn during training sessions to minimize the risk of injury. It is also crucial for operatives to learn the correct intensity and angle of strikes through controlled scenarios, gradually increasing realism as proficiency improves.

Training often includes scenarios that replicate the stress and unpredictability of real-life encounters, helping operatives to apply these techniques reflexively and responsibly when under duress. This approach not only safeguards the well-being of participants but also instills a disciplined understanding of the potent effects of nerve strikes, ensuring they are used judiciously in actual field operations.

In covert operations, where every detail and every second can mean the difference between success and failure, mastering techniques like nerve strikes is part of an operative’s essential skill set. These techniques are about more than just defense; they’re about maintaining control in unpredictable situations, embodying the essence of tradecraft.

Always remember, the true strength of an operative lies not only in the skills they possess but in their judgment of when and how to use them.

[INTEL : CQC Martial Art of The CIA, Covert CQC Screwdriver]

[OPTICS : Madrid, Spain]