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Tau's picture
Eye Gouges

This off the back of a conversation between Iain and I yesterday.

I suspect that most of us here teach eye gouging to some degree and that we acknowledge that eye gouging is found within the kata or patterns. But just how effective is eye gouging really? Bear in mind that I treat eye injuries as part of my occupation.

Back in 2008 I took my Kempo Dan grade and during the grading I got eye gouged pretty badly. So badly as one of my colleagues described it as the worst corneal abrassion she'd ever seen and it occupied a huge portion of my cornea.

It hurt. Oh man, it hurt. You've never seen a hand be stripped away so quickly. Yet it didn't stop me one bit. I still continued with the grading. OK, arguably I shouldn't have driven home, but I did still teach class the following day. I only sought treatment because it was still irritating me some 24 hours later. I've seen some nasty eye injuries where patients present days later.

So are they worthwhile learning? Will they actually work?

I will propose one use which is to illicit a predicatable response (e.g. a flinch or wrist grab) from which to work. Those of that follow and practice Iain's methods will have repped guard stripping and head hitting once or twice. Do they have value otherwise? I personally tend to dig my tumb into the cheekbone as I find I get a great recoil although I've done this in the dojo, not for real.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I vote for yes - it certainly works on some level.... I don't think you can rely on it as some sort of deadly take out move, but used either as a distraction to open up other opportunities, or a distraction to get away it makes plenty of sense to me. Generally speaking, it's something you generally have to reacf to and to me that's probably it's value. If successful, it hopefully means that there will be a short period of disorientation and lack of sight...hard to argue that isn't an advantage.

The other thing is, it's one of those things that you better be ready for the consequences of using, if it was just a pissing match before, and you go for the eyes..isn't just a pssing match any more!

Jut to show different experiences, and how they color things...my experience with pain compliance techniques like your cheekbone thing is similar to yours with eyestrikes, they have never had much effect on me, even from people who are very good at them. Nonetheless...I think they have their place for sure. To my mind they are different categories though, attacking anatomical vulnerability vs. using pain.

Wastelander's picture

I do think that eye gouges are useful, but I also think that many groups place too much emphasis on the effectiveness of them.  Jabbing something into someone's eyes will often cause them to protect their face with their hands or turn their head away, and these things will provide openings for the defender to utilize.  I also feel like a lot of people just try to dig their thumbs into the eye sockets, which is slower than jabbing into them, more likely to cause hesitation on the part of the gouger than jabbing into them, and unless you have a hold of their head they aren't just going to stay there.  If you want them to move their head then digging the thumbs into the eye sockets is certainly an option, but it's an option that gives up your hand(s) to your attacker so I would much rather jab my fingers in.

PASmith's picture

The main downside I can see in this sort of tactic (biting, gouging, groin grabbing etc) is that you need to be damn sure the other dude can't do it to you too because right after you try it he's likely to reciprocate because you've given him the idea. Many people will fight with punches and a bit of ragging about but won't think to eye gouge if not reminded it's an option. It's one reason I cringe a bit when people show gouging and biting from underneath in a groundfight. Great if it works to get the guy off but potentially very bad because you've really pissed the guy off AND given him an idea of what to do to the bloke he's sat on. surprise

miket's picture

Heya Tau,

I think eye jabs/ gouges are very useful provided the jab is understood to be an entry into a more 'solid' follow-up for several reasons:  1) the eye jab is not the deadly ninja move that it is frequently represented to be in some curriculums, as you note 2) they are harder to hit than you might think on a moving target and you neeed to TRAIN to hit the eye (for instance, repeated eye-jabbing of a partner's browline will cause you to miss),  and 3)  for civillian self-defense, we don't necessarily WANT THEM to be a 'permanent injury' causing device.

Personally, I separate an 'eye-jab' (ala JKD) from an 'eye-gouge' (i.e. CQB-type trying to reach the brain stem with a finger.)  So, a thumb GOUGED into someone's eye has a different effect than a 'light flick' intended to cause coroneal scratching (if accurate) or even a simple flinch/ obstruct vision (i.e. the more gross motor, 'if you miss' type application).

LIke everything else, I think both mechanics (jab and gouge) need to be understood in context.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

In my view eye gouges are no different to any other technique in so much as it is the intention of the person using the technique that is key, not the technique.

Take an elbow strike for instance. If I locate and control your head, and deliver one elbow strike that I don't really fancy then its effect will be diluted. However, take the same scenario, but this time I deliver repeated elbow strikes, whilst ragging my opponent, spitting, swearing, biting the effect will be significantly different, same ''technique'', different mindset.

If I find myself in a situation where attacking a persons eyes has become warranted then the conflict level has already been raised, otherwise I wouldn't be resorting to that particular tactic, so the application of intention would be as described above. Locate the head, make it yours and get fingers, thumbs into eyes, nose, who cares, if the threat warrants such a response bite, scratch, rip, tear.

On the subject of giving your adversary ideas, personally I couldn't care less. Once you start worrying what your opponent is doing/ going to do you've got problems, you're losing from the inside out (Geoff Thomson quote, I think).

All the best


karate10's picture

Eye gouges can be a useful tool for distraction or even survival..... When I was in a MA expo seminar 4 years back in L.A., I got hit on the eye once from a Jujutsuka, not from a direct gouge, but from a technique called Mitsubushi or destroying the eyes which is a 3 finger slap right at the mid portion of the center of the eye or Miken. I felt very disoriented for at least 5-15 seconds and can easily come in handy in self-defense when needed.

It's like OC chemical spray but using fingers and loose wrist action all at once, but must be quick.

RMS86's picture

I acknowledge that the eye gouge is an effective technique but with the few experiences I've had with violent encounters, eccessive force has been something I've tried to avoid every time.  I'm concerned that other students and teachers might have the same inhibitions.

Hypothetically, would someone who is physically capable of doing it beyond all shadow of a doubt be willing to do it it the need arises?  If the need was questionable?  Or would other measures, strikes, and/or techniques be more preffered by the practitioner at that moment?