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This is an article I’ve debated writing for a while but decided to move forward with due to the pervasiveness of misinformation regarding non-competitive martial arts and their application in real-world situations. The rise in popularity of mixed martial arts competition has done a great deal to dispel the myths of what works and what doesn’t in a real fight, but there still exists a lack of concrete information regarding lethal techniques. Incorrect ideas regarding deadly martial arts techniques have been largely spread by action movies and drunken shit talking, perpetuated by the impracticality of practicing deadly techniques on a live opponent. Most evidence regarding the effectiveness of deadly martial arts techniques is anecdotal, with exception to combat systems such as Krav Maga which do have some limited real life references from trial of techniques during military encounters.
Deadly Technique Myths Busted
A manual twisting of the neck, often depicted as a quick jerk which causes an audible snap and instantaneous death. It is certainly possible for a sharp twist of the neck to cause a catastrophic fracture of the cervical vertebrae leading to paralysis and death, but realistically this technique would require extreme strength and a strong active knowledge of grappling fundamentals. This technique would be very difficult to execute effectively against a conscious, competent opponent. The weakness of the neck is notoriously exaggerated in action movies. It would take a tremendous amount of force, speed, and technique to fully shatter the protective vertebrae and sever the spinal cord in one fluid motion.
Palm-Heel strike at an upwards angle sending the “nose bone” into the brain:
Every year there are millions of strikes landed from every perceivable angle on the noses of willing participants in competitive martial arts such as boxing. While the injuries can certainly be severe, I am not familiar with any instance of a death resulting specifically from a nasal fracture puncturing the cranial cavity. Any powerful blow to the head can be fatal, although rare. This myth demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge regarding human anatomy. As you can see here, there really isn’t a “nose bone” to go into the brain:
This is a big one and the subject of frequent misconception. Strangulation is indeed a fatal technique but often inaccurately depicted in film causing death in less than 10 seconds. There is also a great deal of confusion regarding the difference between a blood choke and an airway choke.
A blood choke is a manual obstruction of blood flow to the brain caused by compressing the arteries and veins of the neck. When applied effectively unconsciousness occurs within 5–14 seconds. If held longer, irreversible brain damage and death can occur within minutes. Common examples are the rear naked choke and triangle choke. The various choke techniques are all lethal when there exists no option “tap out” as commonly seen in combat sports.
An airway choke is a manual compression of the airway leading to asphyxia and death by general hypoxia. Common examples of this choke include neck throttling, commonly known as a “rape choke”. This can indeed be a fatal technique but death takes an average of 4 minutes.
Effective manual strangulation requires a great deal of disparity of strength and/or technique between the assailant and the victim.
The truth is, in order to effectively kill an opponent you must first render them unconscious. Strong fundamentals in traditional combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, muay thai, and jiu-jitsu are the key to victory in a mortal confrontation. There is no magic bullet, the fighter with greater technique, speed, power, and athleticism will almost always come out on top.
The real knowledge lies in something that wrestlers and judo practitioners have known for ages. The hard ground beneath your feet is actually the most abundant and devastating weapon. The most effective and efficient way to kill a man with your bare hands is by firmly grasping the skull of an unconscious opponent, and slamming the back of their head into hard ground multiple times. Several forceful slams will likely result in catastrophic brain damage and immediate death.
The most efficient lethal victory would look something like this:
- The victor lands a powerful snapping punch to the tip of their opponents chin rendering them unconscious.
- The victor mounts their opponent’s chest, firmly grasps the skull, and delivers 2-3 powerful slams of their opponents head on to hard ground.
- If the confrontation is taking place on soft ground such as grass, the most effective method would be to simply apply a blood choke on an unconscious opponent for 2-3 minutes.