No, Seriously. You Can’t Do That

My son is nearing his test for his Junior 1st Black in Kenpo. This summer, after years of training, he’ll be at that first plateau that we look at as the really the first step in a life-long journey.

Of course, being steeped in the martial arts these days means you have to wade through a ton of crap and lies that have sprung up over the centuries. Recently, on the drive home, he told me it was possible to hit someone’s nose so hard it sends shards of bone into their brain and kills them instantly. The trick, he assured me, was to use an upward palm strike so that you blast that nose with everything you’ve got.

In case you’re wondering, it looks like this:

Ninja hoods and Marines shirts add +5 to your strikes. But don’t tell anyone I told you that.

This exact strike – and the killing theory behind it – has been the stuff of martial arts legends for as long as I can remember. We talked about it on the playground when I was in school and everyone knew someone who knew someone who totally swore it worked and back off or I’m gonna test it on you and then you’ll be dead and no one will care.

It’s been used in books and movies. This was the strike that got Nicolas Cage busted at the beginning on Con Air. It seems any time someone needs to die from a single strike, this is the tired old trope that gets trotted out. Unfortunately, it’s utter hogwash. Pushing nose bones into someone’s brain falls into the same category of fighting nonsense as the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique and the Hurticane. Simply put, the human body doesn’t work like that. Your nose is mostly cartilage (sexy cartilage, in my case) and there’s another layer of bone behind your sinus cavities that you’d have to pierce into order to shove bits of nose into someone’s brain.

That’s not to say it’s not going to hurt like hell. The nose is always a good target in a fight because it’s so close to everything else on your face. I’ve been popped in the beak a time or two and I can assure it’s no fun. Your sinuses swell up, your nose starts leaking fluids you’d rather it didn’t, and your eyes leak water like a comic book fan watching someone burn the original X-Men. In other words, it’s a great place to hit someone if you want to take the fight out of them quickly. It’s not always an easy target to hit, but it is effective. It’s just not deadly in and of itself.

What about all that anecdotal evidence about people getting killed with one punch? Is that all bull, too? Well, yes and no. It has happened, but in most cases death comes from someone hitting their head when they fall down.

I guess the takeaway from that is if you want to kill someone with one strike, make sure they hit their on something hard on the way down.

So, if you’re writing about a fight scene and want to have your main character kill someone with a single blow, choose something realistic. If you want to have your character do some really crazy stuff, look into Dim Mak. On the other hand, if you’re in the middle of a fight and are worried about killing someone with a palm strike to the nose, don’t fret. Just fire that sucker and get the heck out of Dodge.

This gif cracks me up. Fun fact about Bolo Yeung: he swam from China to Taiwan to escape oppression. Fun fact about VanDamme: he can do the splits.

Just make sure your opponent doesn’t hit their head on the way down.

8 thoughts on “No, Seriously. You Can’t Do That

    • I still hear people saying it every now and then, but there’s not a single documented case out there that I can find and I’ve never met anyone who’s actually done it.

  1. Don’t you love all those moments of “I swear, my cousin’s neighbor did this and it really works!”

    Back when I was in school, it was the claim of knowing “the guy” who found a deep-friend rat in his Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. Ahh, youth.

    One of the authors I enjoy, Martyn V. Halm, writes a series with an assassin named Katla, and Martyn’s big beef with that type of writing is how many people do it poorly, when all it takes is a little research and a little bit of logical thinking to know things like “this four-pointing throwing star can’t possibly slice someone’s head off.”

    • Throwing stars have always been a pet peeve for me. To hear some people talk about them, you can kill a person from half a mile with one. One of the guys at our Kenpo school had a sideline knife business and we bought some shurikens off him. Fun to toss around, but there’s no way in Hell you’re gonna kill someone with one.

      • I dunno . . . maybe you didn’t throw them with enough wrist-flick action . . . the kind of spin that only machinery can obtain (and maintain). At the very least, you can cut a guy’s hair from ten paces.

        And I must have been tired when I commented earlier . . . typos galore . . . if that doesn’t speak well of my copyediting skills, I don’t know what does.

  2. Huh. I’ve heard that too. I think it was in a self-defense for women class I took back in the 90’s. What about the punch to the throat recently shown on Brooklyn 99? It isn’t reported to kill an assailant instantly but apparently it incapacitates them.

    • Everything I’ve heard about a punch to the throat indicates it’s a nasty strike. You’d have to hit pretty hard to collapse someone’s trachea, but it’ll take the fight right out of them. The sides of the neck and the base of the skull are good, too. When in doubt, a finger in the eye can do wonders to incapacitate someone.

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