Thursday, January 29, 2009

Striking The Groin, Does It Work Every Time?

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved


Years ago, I was sitting in the lounge of Delta-01 Missile Alert Facility in the middle of Nebraska and I was talking about martial arts with some other airmen. Some Security Forces members got up and demonstrated some techniques that they were taught during their training and they were more than a little bit ridiculous. I was asked to demonstrate a technique and I did, although rather begrudgingly. About the time that I stood up a couple missileers (the officers who sit down in a subterranean capsule and turn the keys to launch our ICBMs) came into the room and stopped to watch.

I don't remember the exact technique I demonstrated, I believe I made one up on the spot, but I do remember that I had someone throw a punch and I lightly struck him in the biceps then preceded to lightly strike him in about 10 other areas as they became exposed. After the technique I briefly described what I did, why I did it, and how it worked when a voice from the back of the peanut gallery said, "Huh..." In the back of the room stood a female captain (I worked with her regularly but today I don't remember her name) who said, "Why don't you just kick him in the groin? It works every time". This comment I let go because I didn't feel it deserved a response but because I'm not doing anything productive at the moment I'll address it now.

First off, there are three major misconceptions about the groin as a target. The first is that a strike to the groin is ineffective against a female. The truth is that striking the groin will injure both a male and female equally. Though the genitals themselves are different between the sexes, all the nerves are the same. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re striking or man or a woman, if attacked correctly this target will cause an injury and put someone on the ground.

Secondly, although you are striking the groin, the groin itself is not the main target! The REAL target is the pelvic diaphragm. The pelvic diaphragm is a group of muscles in the pelvic floor that contract to give you the stability to stand up straight. If this area is struck with bodyweight it will shock those muscles and cause them to stop contracting; when this happens those muscles which support you and give you the stability to stand up begin to relax, you lose the inner abdominal pressure you need to keep yourself upright, and in 2 seconds or less the person falls and is unable to stand up. It can take several minutes for people to recover and gain the ability to stand and often the will require medical attention.

The testicles themselves can be damaged or even ruptured, and although it will be extremely painful, it does not inhibit a person’s ability to move their body and fight. Testicles are a nice little secondary prize you get along the way to injuring the pelvic diaphragm but it is the pelvic diaphragm itself that, when injured, take away a person’s ability to stand up and makes them vulnerable to further attack.

In addition to not being able to stand attacking the pelvic diaphragm often leads to massive muscle spasms in the “core muscles” (muscles of the abdomen, lower back, hips, and upper legs). This large involuntary muscle spasm can last seconds to minutes and while it is taking place that person is quite helpless.

Thirdly, almost everyone out there is striking the groin by going straight in. Almost every martial arts or self-defense class I've seen has taught that "the" way to strike the groin is with a front snap kick but if you take anatomy and physics into consideration you'll see that that isn't very effective. Now that you know that the real target is the pelvic diaphragm, the best way to get at it is to go upwards in between the legs. To get the greatest effect you should attack the groin from underneath and drive your strike upwards. This will put the maximum amount for force into the genitals and surrounding structure.

Now, as to whether the groin will “work” every time as a target, the idea that any target will "work" every time is ridiculous. Now I'm not saying that the laws of physics will bend and warp at certain times rendering someone super-human, I'm saying in a given situation not every target will be available to us. One of the best places to strike is to the neck; you have the trachea, the carotid plexus, the vagus nerve and the rest of the brachial plexus, as well as cervical vertebrae and all the different nerve centers contained within it. When it comes to putting someone down the neck is one of the best places you can attack, however, that’s not always possible. Maybe someone is standing in a position which precludes an attack to the neck without showing your hand or maybe your attacker is lowering his chin as he raises his shoulders, whatever the case, you can hit the neck but you're going to have to hit something else first to open it up. There are too many variables that can exist in any situation to assume that a certain area of the body will always be open and vulnerable.

As for the groin itself, it's an ok target but it is not the "end-all-be-all" that some think it is. Firstly, you can't always reach the groin. If someone is standing at a slightly sideways angle then you don't really have a clear shot. If your attacker is a large individual then there is a chance their thighs will get in the way of your strike. There are a lot of situations where effectively striking the groin is not an option, but, the bladder is only a few inches above and it is almost always open. The bladder is a very effective target and can produce a very big reaction when properly stuck.

The problem with striking the groin in a straight in manner is that, first off, the target is comparatively too small. You have the pelvis, the legs, and the thighs blocking it...and that’s not taking clothes into consideration. It is far more likely that you'll end up striking the leg or pelvis with a snap kick then the groin. Even if you do get the groin you still have to deal with the spongy little penis. If I punch someone straight into the groin the spongy penis will actually protect the testicles by absorbing a large portion of the impact and actually push the scrotum out of the way. The testicles will actually swing away from the impact and dissipate a large portion of the force. The pelvic diaphragm will be largely unaffected.

Another important consideration is in order to injure the pelvic diaphragm you need to strike with bodyweight, not just the muscles of your arm or leg. If you aim a few inches below the belly button and you punch or kick that area and follow all the way through with all of your bodyweight you will have sufficient force to injure the pelvic diaphragm even though you did not strike the groin. But to get this force you cannot be dancing around on your toes and then pulling your fist or foot away as soon as you make impact.

If you strike the pelvic diaphragm by going straight in to the front of the pelvis you will require a lot of force and full commitment of your bodyweight, but by attacking upwards and in between the legs you will hit the pelvic diaphragm full on and require less force to get the injury (although you should always strike will full body weight commitment).

The reaction you will get with a hard kick delivered with your shin and full bodyweight commitment will be that they'll jump in the air, go into the fetal position, and then fall to the ground while still in the fetal position. Often when they hit the ground they’ll hit their face on the ground breaking their nose and/or knocking themselves unconscious.

A strike delivered in that manner but without the bodyweight will result in the person grabbing their groin and sticking their hips out, then often they’ll stumble a few steps before their legs give out on them and they fall to the ground in the fetal position.

As a kid I did my share of fighting and I was punched and kicked in the groin on many occasions and other then feeling like someone poked me in the spine with a pin for a second I was fine. Back then I thought that I was special, I thought that I had "balls of steal", only years later did I find out that the reason why I was able to endure all those shots is because I was always attacked at a straight in angle with no bodyweight behind the strike.

Kneeing someone in the groin is often moderately effective. The knee is large and there is more of a chance of hitting the pelvis, legs, and thighs instead of the groin. If you knee straight in then again you probably won't get a big reaction from the groin. If you do get a big reaction then it is most likely from the pelvis. The front of your pelvis is jointed by a small ring of cartilage and it is easily cracked. With a hard knee shot to the groin you can miss the groin completely but instead crack that small piece of cartilage and instantly take away their ability to walk, which is still good from your standpoint.

The effectiveness of a knee strike is dependant upon whether you strike upwards or straight in.

Another interesting fact about striking the groin is that it affects the respiratory system, which is why often people have problems breathing afterwards and also why when struck in the groin people exhibit an involuntary reflex of opening the mouth and sticking their chins out. The reason this is, is to encourage breathing by aligning the windpipe the same that you would if you were giving CPR. Another interesting fact is that if you forcefully strike somebody in the groin twice it will cause them to vomit.

The last little fun fact I’ll say about the groin is that you never ever want to hit someone in the groin while you’re standing directly in front of them. Years ago I attended a self-defense class where we were all repeatedly reminded beforehand to wear a cup, but one person always doesn’t listen or forgets. Anyway, the instructor taught us to stand toe to toe and knee each other in the groin. We practiced for a little while going nice and slow until our instructor told us to go faster. In terms of safety, it’s a great idea to teach people to throw at strike at the most vulnerable places on the human body, and then encourage them to “speed it up” (dumbass). No sooner did he give that command and then tell us to begin again when I saw something out of the corner of my eye accompanied by the sound “Ahhh…Crack…Ahhh…FUCK!” What happened was the partner, who was wearing a cup, kneed his partner, who wasn’t wearing a cup, in the groin causing him to let out an “Ahhh” sound, and then by reflex he quickly bent forwards…slamming his head into his partners face making a “Crack” sound, and then the guys nose broke, blood gushed out, and two of his teeth fell out causing him so say “Ahhh” then yell “FUCK!”.

When struck in the groin two things happen: first, the pelvis is pushed backwards by the blow causing them to bend forwards. Second, the body jerks the testicles away from the blow by further sticking the hips back and causing you to bend forwards more. So…if you hit someone in the groin with any real force their head is coming down and you better be standing off to the side or you’ll eat a nasty head-butt.

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