No, this isn’t an article about preventing injury in your Krav Maga or Self Defence training. It’s an article about causing injuries. Namely specific injuries called Stopping Injuries. A Stopping Injury is any damage to the human body that renders that individual incapacitated – that is utterly unable to continue any form of attack or to pose any kind of threat. We’ll take a look here at the kind of injuries that will stop a threat and how an unarmed person can go about delivering these injuries in a timely and effective manner.

As civilised people, we tend to shy away from such explanations, or from thinking too deeply about what it means to train to deliver such pain and damage to another human being. But make no mistake, there is one simple truth when it comes to real-world self defence:

Do damage to your attacker before they do damage to you.

Violent assault is a game of damage. There is an equation: Damage done to you vs Damage done to your attacker. With every measure of damage dealt to you, your capacity to cause further damage to your attacker diminishes, and vice-versa. In short, the survivor of any violent encounter is the one who is willing, and able, to cause effective damage to the other.

What isn’t a stopping injury?

Adrenaline is powerful. So too are endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. If you’ve never seen anyone fight, or fought yourself, it can be hard to imagine the kind of punishment the body is capable of taking before it becomes incapacitated, and just how much damage a person can take with no feeling of pain whatsoever. In the heat of a violent assault, it is common for people to break bones and not notice, to suffer broken noses, fingers, jaw, ribs, to be stabbed and even shot, and continue to fight with no slow down or loss of intensity. What does this mean for self defence? It means that, if someone has come to do you harm, you need to be sure that the measures you take will be IMMEDIATELY effective. It’s no good arguing for a technique that will go on to kill someone if it takes a full two minutes for that attacker to become incapacitated. That’s a whole two minutes they get to attack you, and how long does it take for them to end or forever change your life?

Here’s an example. A broken nose.

Over the years I have heard a good number of instructors, both in blogs and classes, talking about the effectiveness of a blow to the nose. But here’s the thing: we don’t class it as a Stopping Injury. And here’s why:

Bristol, 2002, on the door of a venue in the back streets off of the Centre. A fight erupts inside and three door staff attend to it. During the course of escorting one male down the corridor towards the exit he begins to fight again, with immediate and total aggression. He punches one doorman, knocking him to the floor. Another doorman lands a decent cross (A left as he was a southpaw) on the man’s nose. It bursts, literally, blood gushing out all over hand and face. He doesn’t slow down. Eyes partially closed, blood going everywhere, he is still swinging with that animal violence, and it takes another few seconds for someone to hit him in the jaw and knock him cold so that he can be dealt with (taken outside, recovery position, police and paramedics.) I understand that they later had to use inflation to stop the bleed – small balloon like devices designed to go up the nose and inflate, so bad was the bleeding, but did it stop him at that time? No. He was still an immediate and serious threat.

Stopping Injuries

So what is a Stopping Injury? Any injury caused to a person such that they are immediately incapacitated sufficiently that they pose no further immediate threat.

Here’s the list:

  • Significant breaks to the long bones of the leg or arm – Causes mechanical defect that adrenaline cannot overcome and potential shock (See Shock). If you can’t load bear, you fall. Simple.
  • Rupture of the knee ligaments ACL or PCL – Causes mechanical defect and potential shock (See Shock)
  • Significant blow to the head causing concussive injury to brain and resultant unconsciousness – especially blows from the side to the line of the lower jaw that cause rapid rotational acceleration to the brain pan.
  • Blow to throat – Contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t likely to collapse the windpipe but it will temporarily induce panic and an inability to draw breath except in short and desperate gasps. Effective in most cases as an incapacitant.
  • Trauma to groin. Again contrary to popular opinion this has nothing to do with testicles. The strikes to the groin advocated by systems of Self Defence such as Krav Maga are not designed to merely cause trauma to the testicles; they are designed to cause damage to the pelvic bone and to the bladder, which sits directly above the pelvis. Both of these potential injuries are intended to cause Shock, which in turn incapacitates the subject.
  • Loss of blood pressure due to internal or external bleeds. Think stabbing or shooting with sufficient calibre weapons. The body runs on oxygenated and sugared blood, which is delivered to the system by a pressurised run of pipes. Rupture those pipes badly enough and the blood pressure drops, incapacitating the subject, similar to the effects of serious Shock.

Shock – Not a Stopping Injury, but the mechanism by which most stopping injuries become effective. You know that feeling when you stub a toe or take a painful blow in a sport, or even rupture a knee ligament or break a finger, or even just see too much blood coming out of a cut? That’s shock. It’s a simultaneous dilation of the body’s blood vessels that causes a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Makes you feel faint, sick and clammy. Try fighting through that!


This is an ugly subject, no doubt. But the reality is that violent assault is an immediate risk to your life. Put simply it means that another human has decided to harm you for whatever reason – money, sex, amusement, ego – and is prepared to do anything to get what they want. In such a situation, you must stop the threat within seconds, or realistically you will be hurt or killed. And remember, with 92% of violent attack involving being outnumbered at least 2 to 1, you must act with such immediacy that you can overcome multiple determined attackers. The good news is that it doesn’t take long to learn how to strike effectively. The bad news is that takes training and discipline to will yourself to do what is necessary when or if the time comes. Going forward, whatever you train in, make sure that in your repertoire are a series of simple movements such as stamps or crosses that will hit an item on this list. If you don’t then it’s likely your techniques won’t stop a person before they can stop you.

Stay safe this New Year and train hard, fight easy.


Will Bayley, British Krav Maga Graduate Instructor and Adrenalised Training Coach, Krav Maga Swindon, Krav Maga North Bristol, Bristol University Krav Maga Society.

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