Ikken Hissatsu: One Hit One Kill

Modern Reality Based Training Reinvents The Knowledge Of The Old Masters

So you’ve been for a night out, you’ve had a great time, you’re happy, relaxed and all is well in your world.

Then it happens. You’re confronted by a huge beefcake Muppet from hell, who’s as high as a kite and having a bad night. He then displays his mastery of superior linguistic skills as he makes that impolite enquiry that we all hate to hear, “who the **** you looking at”.

He’s building himself up to a frothing rage as he describes how he’s going to rearrange your face (in a way that has nothing to do with cosmetic surgery), then he’s going to do the same to your girlfriend/wife/kids . . . . . . whoever you’re with.

What do you do?

Well most people are full of helpful advice like, “run away”. That’s fine if it’s just you, but what if you are with your partner and/or kids. That’s a fast track route to divorce.

What if you’re a lady and wearing high heels (or a man for that matter – lets be open minded)? You’re not likely to be able to outrun Mr Muppetfromhell. Even if you take your heels off you could injure your feet on broken glass or sharp stones so you’re still at a disadvantage.

I know what, “just kick him in the groin”. Isn’t that the other piece of insightful advice that people usually give!

Firstly, one of a man’s fastest reactions is that of bringing his knees together, so it’s not that easy.

Secondly, in most fights, a kick to the groin, a finger in the eye, or breaking a joint will be more than enough to stop the attacker. However, if your attacker is drunk or high on drugs they may not feel these counter attacks as much as most other people do. Or at least, not until the next morning, but by then it’s too late!

Also, somebody who extremely angry and/or adrenalized will have a much higher resistance to pain than usual. I was told by a young cage fighter that in a recent competition fight, he had his opponent in a foot lock. The opponent would not give in so he kept the lock applied. They discovered later that his opponent’s foot had been broken. This was not done maliciously, but because the opponent was so adrenalized and determined he was able to cope with the pain and keep going. That was in a sport fight, how much more could a person take in a real life scenario where there is no referee and a lot more at stake.

There is a story of a cop in the USA who was attacked by a man with a knife. As the man run in the cop shot him 4 times, yet the man still managed to get through to stab the cop despite having 4 bullets inside him. Do you think that a kick to groin would have stopped him?

Don’t get me wrong, striking targets like the groin and eyes will probably end the vast majority of fights then and there. Most attackers are opportunistic cowards looking for an easy target, many of whom can be deterred with assertive body language and voice control. Unless you live in a really rough neighbourhood, the scenario that we are looking at is likely to be quite rare, but it is as well to be prepared for it should you be unfortunate enough for it to happen to you.

So back to Mr Muppetfromhell! You are in “the fence” position, you’re using assertive body posture and voice commands, but he’s too high to be reasoned with. He’s moving in fast and you realise that he’s about twice your size and completely out of his tree. This is it . . . . .

What do you do? What technique do you hit him with? Where do you hit him? Will that lovely roundhouse kick that you’ve perfected really take him out? Will that reverse punch to the ribs which scored so many competition points really work here?

Because he’s high and adrenalized he’s not likely feel pain in usual way, but you probably will.

The important thing here is know where to hit somebody to have a very high percentage chance of stopping them in their tracks. As for how to hit them, well every style has it’s own mechanics for striking which will vary quite a bit and each way is equally valid. The important thing is where you strike and that you him fast, hard and accurately.

For this, I’ll refer to what Kevin O’Hagan (7th Dan Combat JuJutsu) calls “the ABC of Manstoppers” (if you get the chance do one of his courses, grab it). These are target areas for this type of worst case scenario. The ABC stands for:

A = Airways
B = Blood (supply to brain)
C = Consciousness

These are targets that no matter how high, drunk and/or adrenalized Mr Muppetfromhell may be, they have a very high percentage chance of being effective and stopping him. Quickly!


This is the windpipe along the front centre of the neck, especially the adam’s apple. Also at the base of the neck just where it joins the top of the ribcage there is a recess. Pushing in and downwards into this recess will have a desired effect too, though it is not quite as accessible as the windpipe. However, drunk, high or adrenalized an attacker may be, they may not feel much pain but they will feel the inability to breath very quickly. It also induces panic very quickly which will take away the will to fight.

It does have the potential to be lethal though, so this should only be used in the worst case scenario where you really feel that your life is threatened or that you (or your loved ones) are at risk of serious injury.


This is the blood supply to the brain. A strike to the carotid sinus on the neck will fool the body into thinking that blood pressure is very high. To protect the brain from this (perceived) pressure, the heart rate slows down rapidly, so not enough oxygenated blood gets to the brain and the person passes out. Again, this is a mechanism that alcohol, drugs or adrenalin cannot prevent.

The carotid sinus is located to the side of the windpipe. It’s on the spot where you can feel the pulse in your neck.


There are several target areas which are more likely to induce unconsciousness if struck properly than any other points. The effectiveness of striking these points will not be lowered by drug’s alcohol or adrenalin. Again caution is advised as the recipient may be unconscious before they reach the floor and can do themselves more damage by striking their head on the ground. This is potentially lethal, so again should be reserved for all but the most serious of situations.

The first target is the chin and lower jaw line. A hard strike here, especially at a slightly upward angle will cause the brain to bounce against the inner wall of the back of the skull. This causes the brain to shut down and the person to pass out.

Another point is the temple (level with the eye socket and about 2 inches back from it). This can cause loss of muscular control and knock out.

Slapping the ears can cause intense pain, loss of balance and unconsciousness. Our sense of balance is actually controlled by the eardrum. Striking the ears, especially with a slightly cupped hand (which collapses flat on impact) causes a “jet of air” to shoot inside the ear to effect the eardrum. It is this internal attack to the eardrum which does the damage rather than the strike to the outer flesh of the ear.

The base of the skull at on the back of the head is another point as this houses the brain stem which controls heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing. Again this can be fatal, so only in the worst case scenario.

An interesting side issue is that the windpipe (Airways), carotid sinus (Blood), chin and jaw-line (Consciousness) are all very close together, so if you miss one target in the heat of the moment, you might get one of the others. Also, whereas the head can bob and weave about to avoid blows, the neck being attached to the torso is not so mobile, so your attacker is less able to move it out of the way. This means that an attack to the windpipe or carotid sinus has a higher chance of being struck accurately, than say an attack to the nose, eyes or ears.

Another factor that should be remembered is that unconsciousness is not the same as sleep and other factors should be considered. Apart from the risk of smashing their head on the pavement, when unconscious the tongue relaxes completely and the person could choke to death on their own tongue.

If you really need to use any of these striking area’s and you render you attacker unconscious then you need to ask yourself if there is any other threats present. If “yes”, then just get out fast. If “no” and you are sure that your assailant is alone and you are not under any other threat; then and only then, you may want to consider putting them in the recovery position to prevent death (and legal action against you). But I emphasis, make sure that you (and anybody that you are responsible for) are safe first.

If Mr Muppetfromhell does have friends, then you might want to tell them to put him in the recovery position, it will give them something to do while you escape. It also makes them partly responsible if anything goes wrong, because you told them.

Could this modern “ABC of Manstoppers” be where our modern masters of reality based training meet with the masters of old? Most Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do training which has come out of the Orient in the post war years has not taught this way.

Note: I said “most”, not “all” before anybody gets offended.

Karate/TKD/TSD have focused much more on areas that score points with body strikes and strikes/kicks to the side of the head (cheek areas). Whilst these can be fight finishers in many circumstances (perhaps most) they are not addressing the worst case scenario. So do our modern Karate/TKD/TSD masters have this knowledge?

Quite frankly, I doubt if most of them do. When Karate was introduced to Japan by Funikoshi in the 1920’s, Japan was beginning to see martial arts as obsolete except for physical and character development. Funikoshi, being an Okinawan would have had to go with the flow and Karate was “dumbed down”. Also during the American occupation after the war, martial arts were banned in Japan. The Japanese had to emphasise the sporting/self development side of the training rather than the real combat side in order to be able to train. More dumbing down, more knowledge lost.

In modern Japan and Korea there is a very heavy focus on competition as both societies these days are very much into measuring results. Add to this, I have read that in modern Japan there is so little violent crime that most Japanese citizens do not feel the need to learn self defence. I have read several interviews with senior Japanese masters where they say that these days there is more martial spirit in the West than in Japan. I doubt it is much different in Korea, especially since Tae Kwon Do became an Olympic sport.

However, for anybody who read my last article about the Okinawan Karate master Matsumura and his Kata (Bassai Dai), Matsumura certainly had a need for this type of knowledge. He and his men could be outnumbered by armed men and did not have the option of running away as they had to protect their king (see Nov 2010 issue for details).

Back in Matsumura’s day, Karate was not a sport or just a method of self development. It was a means of survival. Yet from these masters we have been passed down cumbersome blocking techniques that simply do not work well under pressure as blocks (unless the exchange is prearranged). Matsumura’s Bassai Dai is rich with inside blocks, outside block and knife hand blocks.

There are 3 sequences of double blocks near the beginning of Bassai Dai As, which, as per my last article can be used to disengage an attacker then strike him. Conventional wisdom (“dumbed down” post war teaching) tells us that we are using the forearm to block. I’ve pointed out anomalies to this in my last article so I won’t repeat it here. But look where the fist always ends up. It’s always at neck level (Airways, Blood). A fraction higher and the fist is on the jaw-line (Consciousness).

When we “block” we are taught to rotate the forearm at the point of contact with the attacking arm. But is also means that the fist is rotating at point of contact with the neck or jaw. Perfect for one of our ABC strikes.

Now let’s look at the knife hand strike which appears a number of times throughout Bassai Dai. When we chamber the striking arm behind the ear, the elbow is the perfect height to strike the jaw-line of a close in opponent. When we complete the “block”, the hand is the perfect and angle and height to attack the carotid sinus to switch of the blood supply.

Are these observations coincidences? Or are these techniques which we have been taught are “blocks”, really close quarters fighting techniques to finish fights very very quickly?

Karate has the maxim “Ikken Hissatsu”, which translates to “one hit, one kill”. In this context, it does not literally mean kill, it means to incapacitate the opponent with one strike. Although I don’t know for sure, I would guess that this phrase came from Matsumura’s time when Ikken Hissatsu was a very real need.

But how can Ikken Hissatsu exist in modern Karate/TKD/TSD when most of us are not even aware the importance of these vulnerable points.

Could it be that we expect to become so awesomely powerful that we can stop anybody with just one mighty blow from our bare hands? As discussed at the beginning, the human body can withstand incredible punishment, especially when drunk, high or fully adrenalized; so as much as our arts teach us to generate a lot of power I doubt that Karate and its derivatives were meant to rely on power alone.

When we take the methods of the modern reality based martial arts masters, like Kevin O’Hagan’s ABC of Manstoppers, and we super-impose them onto our Karate/TKD/TSD techniques, they fit hand in glove. To use these techniques as blocks, we sometimes have to adapt them. But to use them as strikes to the vulnerable points within this ABC system we barely have to adapt them at all.

When we look at the requirements of the old masters (especially Matsumura), again the modern ABC system fits hand in glove. In fact it makes so much more sense to use our “blocks” this way, that the idea of using these techniques to actually block straight punches with begins to look more and more . . . . . . well . . . . . . laughable!