Exploring targets in martial arts.

Relative targets

The concept of relative inside and outside targets is common across different martial arts. There are several variants on the idea:

Many folks, including some very good sources, get uchi ude uke = 内腕受け = inside arm reception and soto ude uke = 外腕受け = outside arm reception, reversed. While a good number of them probably know that uchi = 内 = inside (EG: An uchideshi is an inside student), the reversal come from these two opposite interpretations:

  • An "inside block" means you move from inside outward.
  • An "inside block" means you move your arm inward, or you cover the inside, or you receive with the inside of the arm (the pinky or ulnar side).

I personally prefer the latter. (Of course a similarly polar interpretation of an outside block can be performed.)

The terminology defining targets by relative height varies:

Specific targets

Specific targets on the human body for martial purposes.

The topic of martial targets cannot be approached without discussing "vital" targets or points. The word "vital" means necessary for life, but for martial purposes, vital points are parts of the human body that meet these qualifications:

Vital points are a subset of the larger category of martial targets, since there are a number of targets that are not "vital" but have tactical importance. EG: Grabbing your opponent's upper arm may not lethal, but doing so can have great tactical advantages. A related concept is that while big blows are nice, minor blows are nice too. EG: Targeting the limbs is often overlooked. The line between studying targets, techniques, and tactics can blur quickly.

Many martial targets are as obvious "as the nose on your face". These can be determined via common sense or simple anatomical inspection. EG:

There are a number of vital points that are not obvious.

Knowledge of the vital points is needed in order to know what to attack but also in order to know what not to attack. Knowledge of vital points can be used in establishing safety protocols and rules for practice, sports, torture, interrogation, etc.


There are many targets on the head. A blow anywhere on the head can possibly jar or otherwise affect the brain or inner ear. The head can be shoved from any point but the hair and orifices (eyes, nose, mouth, and ears) make handles, while the nose and chin make good shoving points as well. As far as attacking with the head via a head butt: In general, avoid attacking with the targets listed below.

Left lateral view of skull from Gray 188 Anterior view of skull from Gray 190

There are many sources for head injuries including Tennessee Craniofacial Center [craniofacialcenter.com].


There are many targets on the neck. A common defense is to tuck the chin in or wear a gorget or both. Most people are not careful in distinguishing choking/throttling/breathing obstruction/asphyxiation (prolonged or complete air obstruction) from strangling/blood obstruction/cerebral ischemia/hypoxia (mild to lethal: brain cells die within 5 minutes of oxygen deprivation). Decapitation is, of course, usually lethal.

Neck from Gray 507

[To do:]

Page Modified: (Hand noted: ) (Auto noted: )