What is the vagus strike?

The Vagus Strike is short-hand for the Vagus Nerve Strike. It’s a self defense technique that is easy for anyone to learn (but hard to master). Unlike most other martial arts techniques, the vagus strike does not require a lot of physical strength or peak physical fitness in order to be effective. All you need is precision, a certain amount of force and situational awareness.

In fact, you have probably seen the vagus strike in movies. Remember when the villain wants to knock someone out, all they had to do is to hit the poor victim at the side of the neck, and they automatically drop like stones? That move is based on the vagus strike, but of course, movies are exaggerated and not reality.

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest of cranial nerves, running from your brain stem to a lot of other organs, such as the major organs of heart, lungs, large intestines, small intestines etc.


For self defense purposes, we are interested in the long line of vagus nerve running along the side of the neck. That would be the target hit spot that you would want to aim for. However, please note that the second picture is shown without the muscles present in the neck. Actually, the side of the neck has some muscles to protect the inner nerves and we will talk more about that on later section.


The vagus nerves regulate your heartbeat and breathing. They can be found at a point on the neck just below the angle of the jaw. Light blows to vagus nerves can cause the victim to faint or blackout within five seconds, while heavy blows cause almost instantaneous brain death.

Why bother learning?

The Global Study on Homicide 2013 gives a comprehensive overview of intentional homicide across the world. Intentional homicide caused the deaths of almost half a million people (437,000) across the world in 2012. The total estimated number of homicides in 2012 leads to an average global homicide rate of 6.2 per 100,000 population.

Of these homicides, what happens if the victim knew some self defense techniques? At least it may be enough for them to escape with their lives. While not everyone can be a Bruce Lee, picking up a few self defense techniques will never be a waste of time.

If this blog manages to save even one life, then its all worth it.

Of all the various self defense techniques, the vagus strike is one of the easiest to learn and easiest to execute. In addition, it is a powerful and very effective technique. Because the vagus nerve regulates breathing and heart rate, the effect of a vagus strike to an attacker can be:

  • Slows down or even stop the breathing for a while, causing the attacker to faint
  • Temporary blindness for a few seconds, giving you a chance to follow up or escape
  • Huge reduction in heart rate, leading to insufficient blood flow to brain, causing the attacker to faint

Depending on the physical conditions of your attacker, the exact effects may differ in terms of magnitude. For example, a very fit and healthy person may just be stunned for a while after being hit by a vagus strike. However, the same vagus strike would cause a weaker person to fall like a sack of bricks.

A proper vagus strike can render the attacker unconscious and with enough penetrative force, even result to death. Yes, you didn’t read wrongly. A proper vagus strike that’s powerful enough can result to death to the attacker.

So, before going any further, we need to address this important issue: Of possibly taking a life..even when you are acting in legitimate self defense.


In general, it is wrong to take a life. Even if you are acting on self defense, it is not a light decision to make, and you may suffer from mental disturbances, such as severe guilt, emotional pain, anguish, and even suicidal tendencies. Don’t belittle the amount of emotional and mental stress that you will go through even if you are legitimately protecting yourself, because taking a life is still taking a life.

That said, you must also understand that in life threatening situations, your choices are limited. The best course of action in life threatening situation is of course to escape. Just run away and avoid the life threatening situation with all your might.

If you are unable to do so, then you need to firm up your mind and put 100% of your will and focus to fighting your way out. No excuses, no second thoughts, no hesitation or whatever. Your only chance to survive is to fight your way out. In that case, your job is to inflict maximum damage to your enemies so that you can escape alive. If taking the life of your attacker is the way to do that, then you have to do it.

Training rules

Rule 1: Never ever try the vagus strike against living people. Never ever. Use a dummy to train the vagus strike, because it’s too dangerous to try on a living person.


Rule 2: Don’t forget rule 1.


Before sharing on the techniques, we need to introduce some theory to help you understand more. Don’t worry, its very simple common sense.

1. Angle

The vagus nerve runs along from the brain stem to the neck to the other parts of the body. The side of the neck is our target spot, but bear in mind that there are muscles at the side of the neck to protect the vagus nerve. So, what you want to do is to inflict maximum damage to the vagus nerve itself, not the muscles that protect it. So, the angle of your strike will be important.

2. Force

There’s mainly two types of force in unarmed combat, blunt force and penetrative force. For the vagus strike, we want to maximize penetrative force, so as to inflict the greatest damage to the the nerve fibers. A nerve works similarly to a wire: The nerve fibers (the actual wires) are covered with an insulation layer, known as the myelin shealth (the rubber that wraps the wires).

Why blunt force is not that effective? You can try this out: take a piece of insulated wire and hit it with the blunt part of the hammer. You will find that because of the insulation, it spreads the force across the surface and the inner wires are not damaged at all.

Compare that when you hit a piece of insulated wire with the sharp part of the hammer. You will find that the inner wires are deformed.

Therefore, for the rest of the following sections, keep in mind that what we want is penetrative force, not blunt force.


When using the vagus strike, your target spot will be the frontal side of the neck. See the illustration below (pardons, I am a fighter, not a illustrator and I know the picture sucks). The orange area is where the soft tissues / thinner neck muscles are located, while the red areas are where the thicker neck muscles are located. The arrows pointing in denotes the angle that your strike should go in.


For the angle, you want to drive it in at a slight angle to the front of the neck, where the soft tissues are.

The angle and precision of your strike accounts for around 70% of the vagus strike.

For the force, you don’t require a huge amount of force to make your vagus strike effective. Most people will be able to generate enough power to perform the vagus strike with great effect.

Don’t believe me? Locate your vagus nerve and press on it with slight amount of force for ten seconds. You will feel somewhat breathless, dizzy, light headed, a certain amount of pain etc. Imagine this amplified a hundred times when someone hits you with a vagus strike, with swift and sudden impact.

In short, you don’t really need that much power to do a powerful vagus strike to bring down your attacker.

The force of your strike accounts for around 30% of the vagus strike.


Knuckle punch (one knuckle)

To make a knuckle punch, do it like the following picture. Remember to clench your fist hard to prevent broken fingers and hide your thumb inside the fist.


The knuckle punch is a very powerful technique and this is the one recommended for the vagus strike. Remember to use the middle knuckle to be the striking part that drives into the neck of your attacker.

Why this is recommended?

1. The precision of the knuckle punch is very high. It is just more intuitive to throw a punch and land it on where you want.

2. The knuckle punch has the range of your entire arm’s length. The range would be a critical factor when you are faced with an armed attacker. Generally in martial arts, the longer your range, the more advantage you have.

3. The knuckle punch delivers massive amount of penetrative force, delivered from your arm to the tip of your middle knuckle. Your middle knuckle acts similarly to a knife in this case, with all the force focused on one pointy end.

Range: Arm’s length

Power: High (penetrative force)

In terms of effectiveness of the vagus strike using the knuckle punch, it’s the best choice really.

Always use the knuckle punch to execute the vagus strike

Also, an important tip of using the knuckle punch is to drive your knuckle punch in deep. Not a whipping motion, where you withdraw your punch upon contact. What you want is to damage the vagus nerves, so you need to drive your knuckle punch in deep.

If you are more advanced or have martial arts background, use your body weight to increase the power of the knuckle punch, by shifting your center of gravity. If you have no idea what the last sentence is about, don’t sweat it, you would probably do fine. Remember to practice on a dummy please.

Some martial artists suggested using a baseball bat or wooden stick to do the vagus strike. In my opinion, if you actually have a baseball bat or wooden stick in hand, forget about the vagus strike. Just aim for your attacker’s head for good old blunt force trauma. No need to be fancy about it, no need to show off your kung fu. The vagus strike is great for unarmed combat, but if you have something in hand, just use that instead.

Wrapping it up

To wrap it up, here’s a scenario for further understanding of real life application:

You are walking home one day, when you are suddenly surrounded by three big men, wanting to kill you because they are high on drugs. You see that one of them is holding a knife and the other two are not armed. From their body language and their words, you are able to tell that the one holding the knife is the leader of the murderous trio. You are unarmed and untrained in general martial arts, but you know how to do the vagus strike.

The trio forces you into a dark alley and wanted to beat you up and kill you. Now, you have a decision to make:

1. Run the heck away
2. Fight for your life

Seeing the situation and the alley structure, you determine that escape is impossible when the murderous trio is guarding the only exit. You grit your teeth and decide to fight for your life.

Now, you have another decision to make:

1. Fight and defeat all three at once
2. Bring down the leader first and then deal with the other two
3. Bring down the leader first and then escape while they are distracted

For 1, there’s not much chance of 1 happening, since you are unarmed and untrained in general martial arts, while the trio may have some fighting background or fighting experience.

For 2, it’s the same as 1, just that you remove the most dangerous person out of the picture first, since he’s the one holding the knife. However, this ends up like 1, because it’s not likely that you can outfight all three of them.

For 3, that’s the ideal choice really. You need to remove the most dangerous person out of the picture first and then do your best to escape. Usually, when the leader is down, the followers will do either of the two things: They either try to help the leader or they are shocked and don’t know what to do, since the person giving instructions is not there.

You decide to go with choice 3.

The leader approaches you steadily and waves the knife dangerously, threatening to cut you into pieces.

You decide to do the vagus strike on him, using a knuckle punch.

When he’s near enough, you let out a mighty shout. This is known as a kiai in karate. Basically, it serves the purpose to startle your opponent and gives a brief opening. The leader is startled at your sudden shout and you seize the opening

You use your left hand to grab on his hand that’s holding the knife and pushes it away from your body. At the same time, you execute the vagus strike using your right hand, driving your clenched fist right into his neck, at the angle that hits the vagus nerve. Because of your adrenaline surge, your knuckle punch is many times stronger and you drive your knuckle punch all the way into the soft tissues of his neck, until you can’t extend anymore.

The leader drops like a sack of stones, maybe alive, maybe dead. Stunned, his other two followers just stand there. Before they recover, you sprint out of the dark alleyway and into the open main street, escaping from a grisly fate.

Final Words

This website is created to share a specific technique, the vagus strike. However, the greater lesson here is that the world can be a dangerous place. Only you can protect yourself, not relying on external powers to do it for you.

If this blog manages to save even one life, then its all worth it.

Also, please keep in mind that all lives are precious. The vagus strike is a very powerful technique that can take your attacker’s life, even when you don’t really want to. Be aware of that and respect the preciousness of life.

Never use the vagus strike as an offensive skill or to get back at someone, because that is evil. It’s impossible for me to stop you from using the technique to do evil, just as one cannot stop a person from killing another with a kitchen knife that’s meant for cooking.

If one wants to commit evil, anything can be a weapon. However, it’s my duty to warn you that doing evil has its evil consequences that you cannot escape from. Believe it or not, evil will always come back to you, just a matter of time.