Obviously in a situation in which you need to defend yourself, save your own life and prevent as much injury to yourself as is possible, you want to do something that works and works quickly. The longer you’re in the fight, the longer the amount of time your life is in danger and that you risk serious injury. You want to do something that stops the attacker, so you want to do the most amount of damage in the easiest and safest (for you) way possible.
Reasoning dictates then that you’d want to attack targets on the adversary that are easily damaged but are easier to attack; targets that hurt him but don’t hurt your hand or foot or limb when hit. This means, to a large extent, you want to attack soft targets that are easily injured, while using a minimal amount of force on your part for it to be effective for you to hit these targets.
So, this list includes such targets: Targets that are easily injured and require a minimal amount of effort on your part to injure them and will not cause you to be injured to hit them.
A relatively obvious soft target is the eye. It’s a sensitive organ, we use our eyes to see, and if it is even lightly brushed, we can lose our vision and be in an incredible amount of pain for quite awhile. I remember pillow fights when I was a kid, there seemed to be an inevitable brushing of the eye-ball with a pillow that would put me out of commission. So you can imagine the pain of having the eye-ball scratched with finger-nails or having a thumb dug into the eye socket; pure panic could set in in such circumstances.
We need our windpipes to breathe. If the windpipe breaks, you can’t breathe and therefore only have seconds to live. Any little bit of a strike to the throat can stop an attack even momentarily, to give you time to recoup and do something else, even run. A chop to the throat is quite the experience and most people instinctively protect their windpipe.
In the following video, you can see a demonstration of a self-defense technique with a chop to the throat.
Slapping someone right on the ear can cause the ear to ring and is painful, you could even rupture their ear-drum doing it. It’s disorienting to say the least, to get hit in the ear. The ears are used for balance and getting popped in the ear disrupts balance and definitely can buy you time to do whatever follow-up you need to do to defend yourself (again, this follow-up could include running).
For men, those organs on the outside that are an easy target are also a target that is easily hurt. One good shot to the groin can put somebody out of commission, but even a decent slap to the groin can be painful.
The knee is a joint and all joints can potentially be dislocated. Obviously it is not only painful but it is debilitating to have the knee joint dislocated or broken. In extreme circumstances a strong thrust kick to the knee might be necessary to stop an attack.
So, those are the best of vital targets, but here is a list of some of the others and the effects of them being struck and/or injured.
Bridge of the nose – very painful when hit, can cause eyes to tear up, nose may bleed and be broken
Philtrum nerve – between the nose and upper lip – very painful when struck, lip may bleed
Cheek nerves – pain ensues and cheek bones may break
Temples – could cause knockout
Jaw – can be dislocated, can cause knockout when struck
Base of the skull – at the back of the head – can cause unconsciousness when struck
Side of the neck – can spasm muscle and is painful – can disrupt flow of blood through carotid artery to brain
Back of of the ear – injury to mastoid process can cause knockout and dizziness
Clavicle – collar bone – painful when struck, easily broken
Ribs – extreme pain when broken or struck hard, can cause collapse
Abdomen, liver – can cause collapse if liver is struck or higher up getting hit in solar plexus can cause loss of breath and collapse
Bladder – painful when struck
Outer thigh nerve – three inches up from knee – very painful, numbness in leg can occur and collapse
Shins – very painful , can be broken
Instep, feet and toes (especially with a stomp) – very painful, breakage
Kidneys (on lower back) – pain, possible spasm of organ and loss of function, causing collapse
Spine – death could occur or paralysis
Tailbone – very painful when struck, bone could be broken
Achilles tendon – extremely painful when pressured or struck – ankle could be broken if area is stomped
Here is an excellent chart showing all of the martial arts striking points.
I have been training in martial arts since the early 1980s and have a 2nd degree Black Belt in Kenpo and have training in Eskrima. I believe everyone has a right to defend themselves by any effective means necessary.