Are groin attacks on men actually the automatic off-switch we see in movies?

No.

They aren’t universal, and you can, in fact, groin strike a woman to similar effect. What a groin strike is actually targeting is the nerve endings in that region of the body, the very same nerve endings that cause humans to experience sexual pleasure. It hurts a whole hell of a lot, it makes you sick to your stomach, and you bowl over to protect yourself. Nailing a woman with a groin strike is more difficult than a man because the area is smaller and it’s more difficult to hit. It can happen though, it’s happened to me in training with a partner.

Anyone with a strong pain tolerance is going to be resistant to groin strikes, just like with anything else. Some people are more sensitive than others. Other people will recover quicker than others. The rarest find won’t feel it at all, and they’re out there.

And, of course, if you’re opponent is wearing a cup then the groin strike goes right out. That’s why you wear cups when you’re sparring, so it doesn’t hurt when you get hit in the groin. So, if they’re armored, you’re out of luck.

It’s a pretty good stunner if you can land it and they’re not prepared for it, but it’s not a finishing move. When you see groin strikes in martial arts or just as self-defense, they’re part of what we call “combinations” which is a series of strikes performed one after the other. You use the groin strike to stun your attacker, and then follow up while they’re distracted by pain.

So, say you want to use a knee strike to the groin. You’ll grab them and strike the groin, then you grab their head and slam it into your knee again. You may hit them several more times after that if they don’t go down, but the groin strike is the opener or secondary to more effective moves that would be difficult to pull off if they weren’t distracted by pain or were… you know, upright.

The general populace often has a hard time grasping the concept of techniques feeding into each other. “I do this, so I can get over there, to do that”.

Groin strikes are conventional wisdom. Enough people have hit boys in the groin and see them bowl over to know that it’s somewhat effective, and enough boys have been hit in the groin to know it hurts.

You know what else hurts?

Your shin.

Getting hit in the shin hurts a whole hell of a lot too. It’s actually easier hit as it’s a much larger target and you don’t need to be nearly as close.

Anywhere on your body where the bone is near to the surface/isn’t protected by muscle, is direct access to your nervous system and works about as well as a groin shot. So, kick ‘em in the shin. Boxing the ears is another good one, you rattle the inner ear and cause them to lose their sense of equilibrium which makes them dizzy and they… stumble. Hit them in the nose. Their eyes will water, their nose will swell, both of which impact their ability to see.

You can, in fact, chain these together too.

Kick them in the shin. Box their ears. As their head comes forward, hit them in the nose or punch them in the throat. Then, if they’re still coming toward you or you’ve grabbed them by the shoulder or the head, knee them in the groin.

There aren’t a lot of one hit wonders when it comes to fighting, and if you did get one then you’re damn lucky. There is no 100%, no sure shot, no total shut down, no universal technique that will give you perfect accuracy on every human you will ever meet.

The problem with groin strikes in movies is that they’re actually a joke about manhood and dominance. Sometimes, it’s used intentionally and, sometimes, it’s not, but it doesn’t go much further than, “ha, ha, she hit him in the peen” and he goes down because the big, tough guy was really weak after all. It’s become that “Tough Girl Move” and is supposed to convey she’s tough, and brave, and everything that comes with a poorly thought out action girl.

In the movies, the groin shot is about dominance and asserting superiority. Whether it’s a woman doing it to a man, or a man doing it to another man (but it’s usually a woman), that’s what it’s normally about. It’s just a co-opting of the Alpha Male Bullshit Package for an Empowering Moment. It’s telling that these moments revolve entirely around the physical embodiment of manhood, because it’s often treated as the only weakness a man possesses. Given the groin shot is often paired with the threat of sexual assault, you can see all threads weaving themselves together for the underlying themes. The man is brought down by his *ahem* desires, the woman flees, and the scene is still all about sex.

So, you know, fun.

-Michi

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