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One of the first things you’ll learn in your Krav Maga training is the importance of targeting primary and secondary vital points on an assailant, using your combative strikes.

Vital points are places on ones body that you can strike or manipulate to help you neutralise a potential threat/attacker quickly and efficiently.

In Krav Maga we take on the principle of ‘maximum damage’ with ‘minimum effort’. This attitude assists us with ending a situation as quickly as possible (whatever our requirements), putting a halt to the conflict without any harm or the potential of further harm.

When we target vital points, we are basically equalising the fight. Vital targets cannot be strengthened up. The majority of people cannot withstand the bodies natural responses when these weaker areas are targeted, and this makes them more susceptible to  defeat when we need to defend ourselves. It reinforces one of Krav Maga’s basic purposes – to give the advantage to the smaller, weaker person.

Now, let me take you through each primary and secondary point and then we’ll explore a method of training, that will make targeting vitals points more instinctive.

Note: This is not a detailed list of all vital points. I am outlining just some of the basic and best primary and secondary options. When combined, they will give you some real combative power.

It is important to mention that using vital targets does not give you superpowers. Utilising vitals targets is more about enhancing the effectiveness of your performance. Keep in mind that you need a follow up. Meaning, when you strike or manipulate a particular target keep going until you’ve neutralised the threat, or created an earlier opportunity to escape or achieve your goal.  Make your combatives flow in a continuous, purposeful and meaningful manner.

Please also consider the legal ramifications of using such techniques. This blog is just a guide for use in extreme circumstances  and I do not condone the targeting of these vital points unless needed as the absolute last resort. Be clear on your local laws and what your rights are (I will write about this topic more in a future blog.)

Primary Vital Points: The real stoppers and time gainers!

EYES: This is a great target to us for gaining time and really taking the fight out of someone. You can target the eyes with a flick, scrape or poking motion of the fingers to get an assailant to flinch. It will generally cause watering and, as a result, cause blurry vision. This will give you a split second or more to get an advantage, whatever that is. In a close range you can also target the eyes with the thumbs and dig deeper for increased effectiveness.

In extreme situations, targeting the eyes could cause blindness and death.

NOSE: Being hit in the nose hurts! It numbs your face and creates a fair bit of pain. It may not be a knockout shot, but a nice palm strike to the nose can really make someone have a bad day.

The bones of the nose are very thin, so a good strike could definitely cause it to break. It too can cause the eyes to water which creates a period of slight blindness where you cannot be seen easily.

Targeting this vital point can result in a bloody nose, which is a good strategy to use as the sight of blood can deter an attacker from escalating the attack any further.

EARS: Ouch! Have you ever ruptured an eardrum? It’s not nice. Targeting the ears can do some serious damage. Ideally you would use a combative like an open palm hook (cupped hand). If this target is accurately hit then it can cause a rupture of the eardrum, knock someones balance off center and possibly cause unconsciousness, or worse.

If you find yourself caught in really close range you could grab/pull an ear. They say it only takes a small amount of pressure to rip the ear.  Try it for yourself: Gently grab your ear with one hand, dig you fingernails into the back of the ear (so the meaty part of your palm is covering the front of your ear) and pull like you’re trying to rip the ear off. Now imagine speeding that up. It is a very sensitive organ and in a serious/ desperate situation can be targeted.

THROAT & NECK: When referring to this area as a target, I am talking about the entire area of the neck, front to back. You can: punch, use an open palm, the blade of the hand/forearm, use a hammer punch or a downward elbow. Whichever way you go about it depends on the circumstances of the situation.

These are serious targets and the level of force used can mean the difference between inflicting extreme pain, concussions, a broken neck, a crushed windpipe or death. Be careful and use only as much force as really necessary.

GROIN: This one is a ‘no brainer’ – No groin, no Krav Maga! Don’t go and try this out on your own!

While a light shot to the groin is pretty much enough to cause intense pain, it may not be enough to stop an attacker for a long enough period to escape safely. For maximum effect, you want to aim your strike to connect directly underneath the hips, and a little up and through the target. Doing this should bring the force of the impact straight to the pelvic wall. Hitting the pelvic wall will make the muscles in that area contract very tightly and this affects ones ability to stand.

We can also grab the groin and a common one liner you’ll often hear is ‘Grab, Twist, Pull’.

SPINE: A strike to this area can cause serious pain, paralysis and possibly death. This is a serious area to target, and is usually exposed when an attacker has been weakened and is hunched over.

JAW: A strike to the jaw can break it and/or cause paralysis, a concussion or unconsciousness. Striking this area can cause your opponents balance to be greatly compromised, hence the term ‘knockout’.  The area that is being discussed is the region  from the centre of the chin, all the way to the jaw hinge under the ear.

To inflict a knockout needs specific training for most people (power, accuracy, etc), and it isn’t something that all instructors will emphasise in self-defense training. However, the  closer to the chin you strike, the more likely the force will be sent to the back of the brain. Along with the other effects of this strategy, this result makes the shot  generally a quicker option for neutralising a threat.

TEMPLE: This area is particularly sensitive due to there being a major artery and nerve running directly through it. Striking to this region can cause unconsciousness, a concussion and possibly brain damage or death.

SOLAR PLEXUS: Hitting this area can cause internal damage, unconsciousness and take the breath out of someone. It’s a very good point to go for as a preemptive strike/push and can easily take someone down and/or out of the fight with a short or long range shot.

Secondary Vital Points: For the problem solver, the opportunist, or when the threat is not as severe.

BACK OF THE HANDS: Hitting the back of a hand with a hard tool (like your knuckles, or a blunt-force object) can cause some serious pain. This area is very sensitive as the nerves pass over the bones with very little muscle to protect them. As the bones are very small, it is very easy to damage them in the process too.

This is a great strategy for when you’ve been grabbed!

KNEES: Kick and strike them in the opposite direction that they’re hinged and you can dislocate, fracture and hyper-extend the joint. Doing this severely effects ones ability to maintain balance and keep a solid structure.

The back of the knees are also very susceptible to being struck and manipulated for takedowns and the like. Some would argue that this should be defined as a primary target, and while that may be true it will be difficult for some to do under real pressure until they are experienced.

SHIN: This is an old school yard trick. If someone grabs you from behind, just scrape your heel down their shin. If you’ve ever watched the Flintstones, just picture Fred yelling ‘Youuuuch’.

Striking the shin with a direct blow using a hard tool can be very effective in getting the same result. An example is kicking the shin while you’re wearing a nice solid boot.

FEET & TOES: Stomp on these targets with your heel for maximum pain. Great for situations where you have been grabbed from the front or side and cannot use your hands immediately. Striking these targets will create opportunities that you can capitalise on.

FINGERS: You can use this target effectively to your advantage by grabbing a finger and twisting it the opposite way of its natural motion. You can go for the fingers when troubleshooting attacks that involve a grab of some type.

THROAT: It is worth mentioning the throat here again as we can use techniques such as the ‘Educational Stop’ which exploit the throat, in particular the jugular notch. Doing this can cause pain and gagging and can ‘educate’ someone to cease  further escalating a confrontation.

BODY- ribs, kidney, spleen, liver, stomach: Striking to these areas can wind an opponent and cause lots of pain which could include  injury to the bones, such as a broken or fractured rib. Again, ouch!

More serious injuries can come as a result of being hit here such as internal bleeding, puncturing a lung, respiratory failure and organ damage.

SKIN: The largest organ of the human body. You can bite, scratch, pinch and claw skin. If you’re in close range these tactics can be super effective at getting you out of shit and they can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort.

HAIR: If you’re in close range and your opponent has hair, you can grab it to get an advantage. You can pull them down to the ground, or you can guide them to a place where you can strike their face and neck. You could also use it to help you restrain someone.

Where the head goes the body follows. Most people freak out when you pull their hair and they tend to wave their arms around panicking. Take advantage of it if required.


So there you have it, your primary and secondary targets. Please feel free to add anything you like and take away anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.

Your goal here is to make striking and manipulating these targets your second-nature and your instinct.  To do so requires that you are conscious of all vital points when you train, and that you are selecting the right tools for your targets. Remember, to be super-effective when doing this: strike hard targets with soft ‘tools’, and soft targets with hard ‘tools’.

You can practice a flow drill that combines all your primary vital  targets from your stances. Remember, as you do this ensure each strike continues on to the next in a smooth, flowing way. Doing these flow drills will reinforce the connection between your targets and which tools to use, and ingrain them into your subconscious so you need not think about it too hard under pressure.

Here is a flow drill sequence using some primary vital targets:

To start, just use your lead hand and then alternate, left to right, or right to left and so on.

  1. Eyes – Palm strike .
    This first strike is more like a eye scrape or flick, as an extension of a palm-strike. In cases like this I do not to think of a palm strike as only a one dimensional tool.  It serves many purposes. When you do this in your flow drill mentally and/or physically say the word ‘eyes’.
  2. Nose – Palm strike.
  3. Jaw (chin) – Straight punch.
  4. Throat- Straight punch .
  5. Ears/Temple – Open palm hook.
    Can be executed with with two hands at the same time.
  6. Nose – Head butt .
    Make sure you get your chin down low before you perform a head butt and that you’ve acquired a target.
  7. Pushing the Head back – Eye gouge.
    Think of the technique you use when you are caught in a bear hug from the front where your arms are free and your opponents head is high.
  8. Jaw – Horizontal Elbow.
  9. Groin – Knee.
  10. Groin – Kick.

Have some fun and make your own and feel free to share your own flow drills, or other thoughts, ideas and comments you may have.

Written by Kurt Colpan
Your Krav Maga Expert.com
Copyright © 2014
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  1. Briel says:

    Great article! This is what distinguishes Krav Maga and gives the smaller victim a chance of survival.

  2. Geoff Smollett says:

    Nicely done. Very clear and concise. So many other disciplines are about the “raw” power rather than tactical.

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