Martial arts is often linked with self defence and the ability to fight people for good, especially in movies 😜.

This made me wonder if there exists some kind of martial arts placebo, such as a kind of pressure point knockout that only works on believers of a martial art.

Knowledge of these could be of great use if somehow we are involved in street fights. Does anyone know of such a placebo?


5 Answers 5


You will find small subgroups in the martial arts that have been trained to be suggestible to bogus knockouts or other techniques that would be ineffective against anyone outside the group. George Dillman was famous for this, but there are many other examples. Back when at least his own followers took him seriously, then perhaps you could have mimicked his theatrics and got a similar reaction out of one of his own followers....

Another example - an 8th dan in Aikido I trained with (briefly) in Japan would get his students to fall over without touching them - all quite ridiculous.


Pressure points exist... But they are basically just parts of the body that you would expect to be fragile and crucial to the bodies correct functioning anyway. Parts of the neck for example or the eyes. Placebo doesn't really come into this. An attacker is generally full of adrenaline that will prevent anything too subtle from working.

You just get the whole 'no touch knockout' nonsense when you make someone believe in something.

  • There is definite fraud in teaching of the arts

Sham videos of a supposed "tai chi master" pushing someone using only their "chi", never touching them.

I had a friend who was part of a cult in college, and the leader would hold karate demonstrations where he would stop a group of student attackers just with his magic powers. (In that case, I suspect the students being stopped by the magic actually believed it, but it may well also be true for the students of the magical tai chi wizard.)

Pressure points do, however exist—think "hitting your funny bone." And it's possible to press down on the main artery that delivers oxygen to the brain with the thumb, although most people effect this with chokeholds.

In any situation where a product or service is being sold, there is chance of embellishment.

  • Yay for proper usage of "effect"! Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 15:16

A standard safety/etiquette practice in martial arts with submissions is to surrender by tapping on the partner multiple times. This is "tapping out". For safety in training at all but elite levels, practitioners are trained to release you immediately and without question if you tap out. This becomes reflex for many practitioners; if the partner taps, they let go. In training, this is the desired behavior so people do not get injured. Non-practitioners will not have this trained behavior.

At elite levels, competitors will wait for the referee to signal before releasing. Instructors may also push trainees beyond their comfort zones if the instructor believes the trainee is submitting too early.

If you signal surrender by tapping out and then continue fighting, do not expect to receive any further positive consideration.

  • Can you elaborate on why elite practitioners must be able to release instantly? (I think I know what you are referring to.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 1:38
  • @DukeZhou I've tried to clarify, but elite practitioners may not release instantly. Recreational practitioners will.
    – mattm
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 3:50
  • My bad, I meant to ask is instant release on signal because of safety in regard to chokeholds, breaks and so forth?
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 5:26
  • @DukeZhou Yes, it's a catch-all safety issue.
    – mattm
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 14:09

I have a Dillman pressure point book and many if not all the points correlate with acupuncture points. As an acupuncturist I view it as a possibly a type of placebo but as for interrupting chi/ki I am a little sceptical. There are some pressure points that cause severe pain but the only pressure Point I know that can cause loss of consciousness is a double chop to the side of the neck. This area has the barorecptors in the Carotid Artery and monitor blood pressure. Hitting these sends nerve impulses to the CVS area of the brain stem indicating that blood pressure is high. The brain stems response is to slow the heart rate and dilate the arteries leading to a sudden drop in blood pressure and blood flow to the brain causing unconsciousness. Supposedly causes the same effect as a guillotine stranglehold but in a shorter time period

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