How To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them


Our focus here is to learn methods how to knock someone out without hurting them to minimizing their chance of injury.

Being knocked out is never especially healthy and, in some cases, the knockout can cause long-term, serious damage.

When your training involves knockout methods, always use minimal force and train safely.

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What Causes Knockouts?

Knockout” means you cause the person to lose consciousness, at least for a short time. Many people recognize the term from boxing or other sports.

Knockouts happen through one of 4 methods:

  • Brain contusion or concussion,
  • Trauma-induced disruption of the central nervous system,
  • Interruption of regular blood pressure in neck,
  • Trauma to the rest of the body, not the head, that causes disruption of the central nervous system.

Brain Contusion or Concussion

How To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them - Brain Contusion or ConcussionHow To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them - Brain Contusion or Concussion

Brain Contusion or Concussion

In striking sports, such as boxing, trauma to the head is the most common reason for knockouts.

When the head receives a sufficient trauma, the brain shuts down the body to divert blood and resources to the affected area because the head contains so many functions required to sustain life.

Trauma to the head is an effective method for knocking someone out, but it’s very likely to cause injury.

A strike to the head often causes the brain to bounce off the inside of the skull. As you might guess, there is nothing healthy about that. A light bounce may bruise the brain and cause minor bleeding.

This can lead to a variety of reactions in the person who got struck. The results range from trivial effects with no noticeable external ramifications to potentially lethal consequences.

Where a bruise, even a severe one, affects a localized region of the brain, a concussion affects a larger region. A concussion has a high probability of resulting in long-term injury.

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Trauma-induced Disruption of The Central Nervous System

This type of knockout is also common in boxing.

It’s caused by your opponent’s chin getting pressed back to a point that the spinal column binds and disrupts the flow of information to the brain.

The brain’s response is to shut down.

In boxing, they refer to this type of knockout as “hitting the button”.

The button is the point of the chin.

This type of knockout is safer than those caused by contusion or concussion, but still has a high risk of injury for the person you’re knocking out.

You might also cause this type of knockout from a neck crank.

How To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them - A Punch to Your Opponent's ChinHow To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them - A Punch to Your Opponent's Chin

Neck cranks might resemble chokes, which we’ll discuss in the next section, but they put stress on the spinal column in the neck.

Knockouts from neck cranks are less likely, but possible.

More commonly, you end up damaging the vertebrae and/or the tendons and ligaments in the neck.

Another nervous system attack in the head area is the vagus nerve in the neck, which relays information between the brain and a variety of vital organs including the diaphragm, stomach, and heart.

As such, trauma to this nerve can cause the brain to shut the body down to prevent damage to those organs.

Since the vagus nerve interacts with so many vital parts of your opponent’s anatomy, attacking the vagus has a high probability of causing serious injury or death.

Interruption of Regular Blood Flow in Neck

The most common method for this method of knockout is commonly referred to as a “rear naked choke.”

This knockout is relatively safe … when done correctly. It still disrupts blood flow and isn’t healthy but, done correctly, it isn’t likely to cause long-term injury.

How To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting ThemHow To Knock Someone Out Without Hurting Them

The hazard lies in applying the choke incorrectly, which can collapse your opponent’s trachea and cause serious injury or death.

This is why police officers in the U.S. aren’t allowed to use chokes.

When they were allowed, the choke was poorly applied and too frequently caused serious injury.

Another way to affect this type of knockout is with a strike to the neck.

This has a higher risk of not knocking your opponent out, but this was the origin for the idea of the “Judo chop” or “Karate chop” knockout seen in many TV shows and movies from the 1950s – the 1980s.

Of course, TV and movies never showed it done with any accuracy.

While the “rear naked choke” is the most commonly seen choke, there are many types of choke: Pace choke, Von Flue choke, D’Arce choke,… They all result in a knockout through the same method.

Many people teach that the choke knocks people out by cutting off blood flow to the brain.

You can deduce the inaccuracy of this from the fact that the person’s face is generally bright red before they pass out.

That means blood is getting into the head. The mechanism that causes this knockout, whether from the choke or a strike, is actually a baroreceptor in the carotid artery.

Baroreceptors in the blood vessels sense changes in blood pressure. A sudden spike or drop in blood pressure causes the brain to, once again, shut down the body to prevent worse damage.

Generally, after this type of knockout, the person will come around in a few seconds, once the brain determines there isn’t, in fact, a serious ongoing threat.

Trauma to The Rest of The Body, Not The Head, That Causes Disruption of The Central Nervous System

Chinese, Okinawan, Japanese, and Korean martial arts, at least as they’re taught in English, use the term “meridian” for the network of points on the body that are highly susceptible to various types of attacks.

These points are commonly referred to as “pressure points” or “acupressure points” and they are the same points used in acupuncture for healing.

Many of these points can disrupt your opponent’s nervous system enough to cause a knockout.

The nervous systems these points disrupt, though, also affect various organs in the body.

As such, the disruption may cause a knockout, but it may also cause damage to one or more vital organs.

One of the hardest things to learn regarding “pressure point” striking is the angle of attack and the type of trauma required to have the desired effect.

Some points are “strike” points, some are “rub” points. Striking a rub point or rubbing/grinding a strike point might affect your opponent, but it won’t have as profound an effect as using the proper method.

Using an incorrect angle often has no effect, but it might also have undesired results.


To achieve a knockout, you are directly affecting either the central nervous system or the blood flow of your opponent.

While some methods are lower risk than others, none should be considered low risk.

Basically, if you don’t have sufficient training, you should avoid trying to knock someone out.

The chances of inflicting way more damage than you intend and, in turn, getting into legal hot water are high.

Conversely, if you use too little force, you may put yourself into a far worse situation than you might otherwise have been.

A good guideline in martial arts, especially with things like knockout methods, is “Don’t just train it until you get it right. Train it until you cannot get it wrong.”

If you feel you must knockout an opponent, your safest option, assuming proper training, is a choke.

However, according to an FBI-prompted analysis by James LaFond, in which he studied 1,675 acts of violence, the choke is the least common method for achieving knockouts in fights.

Of the 1,675 fights he analyzed, only three ended in a knockout via choke.

Throws accounted for 62% of the knockouts, which implies the fighting surface accounted for a lot of the damage. 80% of the kickers he interviewed had knocked opponents out with kicks or knees.

The attacks that had the highest rate of knockout happened when the, usually trained, attacker surprised the opponent.

You can read all the results of this research at the author’s website.

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