I am a big fan of simple solutions to violence, of not over complicating the ways we deal with assaults and threats. However in the reality based self-defense community simplicity, can often become simplistic e.g. an eye strike will solve everything, a slap/strike to the groin will always leave an assailant stunned and disabled etc. The truth? Maybe, but no outcome is ever guaranteed, and to make conclusive statements about the effectiveness of such solutions is dangerous, and leaves students with a false sense of security in the techniques that they are taught. I am a Krav Maga instructor, who teaches eye, throat, and groin strikes however I also acknowledge there are things that the attacker does either deliberately or inadvertently that can result in them having little or no effect, and positions along with environmental factors that can prevent such strikes being made in an effective manner. In this article I want to look at some of the occasions when striking the groin doesn’t yield the expected results that are often taught conclusively and without question in self-defense classes.
Firstly, people are very good at naturally and instinctually protecting the groin. Any large movement towards it results in a flinch response that sees the hips being pulled back, and the groin moved away. This means large front kicks that are thrown upwards towards the groin, when square on to the attacker are probably not going to make contact; if the attacker is moving, chances of a kick of this nature being successful increase greatly. If you practice such kicks statically against a partner holding a pad in front of you, in the belief that you will be able to replicate this movement in a real-life scenario, you are training yourself to fail. It may work sometimes, but those times are few. Kicks are relatively slow, and require large movements that cross a person’s peripheral vision and so stimulate a flinch reflex that sees the target being quickly withdrawn. One way of making such kicks more effective, is to make the person move, as you make the kick; this opens up the groin, and because the person is moving, their flinch reflex becomes secondary to their need to stay balance and stable i.e. it’s effectively switched off. It is often easier to use hand strikes and slaps to the groin that work inside a person’s peripheral vision (so not causing a flinch response) and use much smaller and less identifiable movements.
The human body has evolved putting its most vulnerable parts in its most protected areas. For groin strikes to be effective they have to move upwards, hitting the testicles from below. A strike that hits them in a forward motion, may be uncomfortable, however it won’t have the same effect as one that comes upwards. This can make the groin a difficult target to strike when on the ground. I hear a lot of people advocating using groin strikes to release somebody who has pulled guard on you - firstly this is a very unlikely position for you to find yourself in, but for the sake of demonstrating the ineffectiveness of groin strikes in certain positions, let’s entertain it…If somebody does pull guard, their legs are wrapped round you; the groin is accessible, but not in a way that allows you to make an upwards strike, as your body restricts you from doing this. This means striking the groin is not the most effective target when in this position. Creating “simplistic” solutions that rely on groin strikes to escape positions, where the groin may be accessible, but not vulnerable, is painting a false picture of reality.
One of the most serious restrictions on making effective groin strikes is clothing. If the crotch of somebody’s jeans is low, then striking upwards towards the groin will mean that the clothing will act as a buffer/barrier to your strike, either slowing it down, or preventing it from reaching its target completely (this is also true of strikes made with the hands). This can be hard to appreciate, if you always train in loose fitting training clothes, where the groin is easily reached and targeted, however in real-life clothing, depending on the fit, and the way they are worn, a person’s clothes can mean the groin becomes inaccessible as a target. This can be compounded in ground situations, where the ability to strike in the right manner is impeded.
Does all of this mean that we should stop looking at groins strikes as a useful tool? Absolutely not; groin strikes have their place and can be extremely effective. What we have to acknowledge is that they are not a universal solution to every problem, and that sometimes we are not in a position to make them e.g. if somebody is pulling you backwards at speed, it can be extremely difficult to make such a strike, as the target is moving, it is well protected by your assailants moving legs and the clothing around the crotch will be stretched; couple this with the fact that most of your effort will be directed at staying on your feet and the groin becomes a difficult target to reach. Groin strikes, eye strikes etc. should be part of a solution, and not the critical component. No solution to violence should rely on one thing, and redundancy should be built in e.g. if one thing fails it shouldn’t render the solution/technique useless. If you have a solution to violence that depends upon the success of a groin strike, it may be worth revisiting it, and looking at ways in which other movements may be added, so that if clothing – for example - renders the strike useless, the complete solution doesn’t fail. Our solutions should be simple but not simplistic.
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