The ‘Karate Chop” featured in countless movies is an iconic martial arts movement. Over the years, it has become a somewhat ironic phrase and movement. But surely the karate chop must be an effective attack; how else would it gain so much notoriety, or is it just another case of cinema fabricating reality?
In this case, the movie industry is telling the truth. The possibility of knocking someone out with a chop to the neck is widely debated, but it is actually very real. A person can be temporarily stunned by hitting someone in a specific, precise spot on the neck near the carotid artery.
In action movies, lethal martial arts or combat techniques are often portrayed as only “knocking out” or temporarily stunning an enemy, but it is important to remember that real-world consequences can be much more severe. Continue reading to understand the science behind this technique and what makes it possible to stun a person with the famous karate chop.
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How Does a Neck Karate Chop Stun Someone?
If the karate chop to the neck will stun someone, what makes this technique work? When done correctly, the chop to the neck targets a specific neck region with two anatomical weaknesses.
A karate chop to the neck stuns by landing a blow to a specific region of the neck. It targets the carotid artery and the vagus nerve. The strike, when done properly, will interrupt nervous system function and can interrupt blood flow. This can result in unconsciousness or muscle spasms and pain if a lighter strike is executed.
Below, the specifics of how this “neck karate chop” works will be explained more thoroughly.
Striking the Vagus Nerve Causes Dizziness
One of the targets recognized in the neck is the vagus nerve, a crucial component of the central nervous system.
The vagus nerve is attached to the brachial plexus and is the longest of the cranial nerves. When the neck karate chop is done correctly, even a light chop in this area can cause disorientation, dizziness, and unconsciousness.
Because the neck is a critical and fragile area of the human anatomy, it is highly advised that this chop is not practiced. Experienced martial artists understand that this move is dangerous and that severe injury or death is possible when it is used.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
To better understand why the vagus nerve chop works, we should examine the vagus nerve and its important role in human anatomy.
The Vagus Nerve is the 10th out of 12 cranial nerves. It carries electrical signals between the brain and the digestive system and organs. The nerve operates many bodily functions, including the ability to speak and swallow, it helps regulate heart rate and controls digestive and glandular muscles.
Because there are so many functions filled by the vagus nerve, a chop to it basically causes a sensory overload, and as a result, the nervous system needs a moment to restart.
The Carotid Artery
The other part of the human anatomy that makes the neck karate chop effective is the carotid artery.
The carotid arteries are located on the neck on either side of the body and supply blood to the brain and head. It is for this reason that a sudden interruption of blood, as might be expected from a karate chop, can cause dizziness or fainting.
What Are Pressure Points in Martial Arts?
Pressure points are used in martial arts and by law enforcement and military personnel. They involve a similar concept as the neck karate chop. But what exactly are these pressure points?
Much like the vegas nerve, other pressure points are generally spots on the body where there is a high concentration of nerves. Grabbing or striking a specific part of an adversary’s body will cause them to feel extreme pressure or pain in the targeted area.
Professionals who are trained to use pressure points generally use them as means of safely de-escalating physical altercations and regaining control of a dangerous situation. There are hundreds of hours of training that go into proficiency in these techniques
Is The Vulcan Nerve Pinch Real?
Since pressure points, like karate chops, are used in law enforcement, are there fictional combat techniques that work the same? For example, the Star Trek series showed a technique reminiscent of the neck karate chop called the Vulcan Nerve Pinch.
The Vulcan Nerve Pinch is seen when the character Spock pinches an enemy near their collar bone and causes them to pass out. Presumably, it would work in a similar fashion as a karate chop to the neck, but it is entirely fictional.
So, the “neck karate chop” is real, but the Vulcan nerve pinch is not.
Keeping the Karate Chops to the Professionals
There are opinions online that the “neck karate chop” is only for movies, not real, or not even capable of rendering a person unconscious but this is far from the truth.
The reality is that physical techniques like this one are capable of killing or permanently disabling a person and should not be treated lightly.