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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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What are the potential risks with hitting someone hard in the stomach or solar plexus?

Your question is in four parts.  I will answer as if they were one.  I have certain constraints with regards to my agreement with my publisher.  First I cannot use the medical drawings or photos used in the book.  And I cannot use the exact medical write up.  So I will refer to the page number and chapter and write in a simplified version.  The reader can get extensive material from the book.  You may order from www.integretedmartialarts.net

 Ten specific medical implications are listed in chapter eleven, pages 48 through 53.  They are as follows;

1.                  Damage or ruptured abdominal aorta due to a deep penetrating thrusting blow straight into the solar plexus center.  See drawing of body cutaway on page 50 and 51.  So this would be fatal.

2.                  A deep fissure in the liver causing the loss of blood and bile into the                                                                          body cavity, the result would be peritonitis, a gradual tenderness and pain with an increasing board-like abdominal rigidity.  If not immediately treated, infection and blood loss would be fatal.

3.                  the gall bladder could be torn with gastric acids and digestive juices being spilled into the body cavity.  Impending death as in number 2 above if not treated soon.  

4.                  Rupture of the stomach with similar results as in #2 and # 3 above. 

5.                  A compression injury of the duodenum against the lumbar spine would progress the same as # 2 and #3 and #4 above.

6.                  A ripped pancreas resulting in the same as ,3, 4 and 5 above.

7.                  Partial collapse of the lung due to a plural tear from the percussive shock from a heavy blow.  Resulting in difficulty in breathing.  See chapter 12 pgs. 56 and 57. 

8.                  The heart could be injured also, depending on the angle of the blow.

9.                  Severe intercostal rib, diaphragm and abdominal spasm resulting in paralyzed respiratory function.

10.              Shock.  Shock as used here is a term describing internal injuries where extreme loss of blood and bile into the body cavity are present.  This can be immediately fatal or fatal sometime later.

There are four kinds of shock listed in chapter 25, page 108 and 109.

The medical implications are in greater detail and visual in the book.  See chapter 11, Striking the Solar Plexus, pages 48 through 53.  The damage to the anatomical target is dependant on the many separate and combined aspects of the event.

1.                    Angle of penetration. 

2.                    Weight and body armor of the victim and executer of the blow.

3.                    Speed

4.                    Follow through or snap of the weapon.

5.                    Groundedness or imbalance of each opponent.

6.                    Focus

7.                    Breathing

8.                    Intent.

These all determine the numerous possibilities of any martial art blow.  The most important factor in my opinion is the breath.  Your breathing timed with the blow can be the single most determining factor.  When you kiai or exhale with force you create a unified body structure either for defensive or offensive purposes.

You are both extremely vulnerable when not prepared and are breathing in, and you are easily penetrated.  Your body armor is not activated to ward off a strong well placed blow unless the brain intuitively sees the attack in the beginning stages and coordinates your breathing to create your body armor and unified focus to deliver a perfect counter blow.

In a tournament environment, a perfect blow to the solar plexus is the most popular point.  And as we can see has many reasons for being the number one target of choice in point tournament competition.  However we must remember that under ideal circumstances one can withstand quite a heavy blow to the solar plexus, abdominal area when prepared.

The disparity is usually on the street where the difference in weight and height might be the major factor in survival or victory.  A 100-pound minor woman against a 200-pound man clearly is at a disadvantage.  This disparity is the reason why boxing has weight divisions to compete in.  Tournament competition and sportsmanship have a set of different reality rules.  We test our strengths and weaknesses.  We push ourselves to see how much we can endure.  How strong a punch we can withstand?  We build body armor and test it.  I am all for experimenting in this way.  Yet you need to know your limitations.  I encourage men and woman to do the same.  But remember women typically have smaller bones, tendons and muscle than men even if they are the same height and weight.  So be considerate of differences between you and your workout partners.

I will site an experience I had in the late 60’s while training at Bruce Lees private school in Los Angeles.  This event surprised and scarred me at that time because I had just completed my book and was starting to understand the seriousness of my studies in martial art trauma.  I write this because what happened could be very much like a real life street event, and we will see a ‘down to earth’ reality as opposed to an ideal tournament setting with rules where everyone is well trained and ready to go.  This is important because if we are on the street and have the mental set (as in preparation for a tournament) we could be excessive with our force if we are not aware. 

The situation was that I had just begun my training there. I think it was probably my first lesson.  At that time I had a kenpo school in San Diego.  The training partner I was with that day was a Jeet Kune Do student of six months.  In those days most martial arts schools thought that their method was superior or more pure than rival schools.  So there was an atmosphere of “my style is better than your style”.  Often there was a lack of respect for the other.  In the middle of the lesson Bruce Lee would often be very casual and tell jokes or talk philosophy.  He would typically go around the room demonstrating on his various custom made bags and equipment.  It was on one of these occasions, when everyone was following him in a pack, that my training partner continued to preach to me the shortcomings of my Kenpo and the superiority of Jeet Kune Do. 

He had been doing this all day.  We were following at the back of the pack when he started up again, stating that if a Kenpo practitioner would do ‘that’ then a Jeet Kune Do practitioner would do ‘this’ as a counter.  So while we were in stride with poor balance and form, I gave him a quick rear hand snapping punch to the solar plexus.  I did this just to make a point that his “what if” scenario was good theory but reality may be different.

To my surprise he went down like a ton of bricks.  I only meant to touch him but he walked into it and my fist just kept going in and in and it felt like it went all the way to his backbone.  It happened so fast and I had expected him to be able to take a little touch.  He could not breathe and was huddled up on the ground gasping for air.  Fortunately my blow was not focused and I was off balance and in less than ideal form.  No one saw the event, so I was relieved and he never told anyone.  If he had I would have been at minimum kicked out of the school.  I saw him a couple of weeks later and he told me he still had abdominal pains.  I was lucky that it was not worse and I learned another lesson of how unpredictable events can be.  So the reality of it is that there are many possibilities in delivering a punch, kick, etc. You will need to quickly decide the intensity of the blow at that moment, and then be responsible for your actions.  (Refer to “When to Walk, Talk, or Engage. (This article from Brian Adams will be appearing on TSW in the next couple of weeks.)