How to target the neck (at different force levels)

The neck is a dangerous target. With other places on the body you have to put in extra effort if you want to go to a higher level of force. With the neck, you’re going to have to put in effort to make sure you don’t do too much damage.


If you’re looking for the “how to kill him quick” instructions, you may want to skip to the end. If you want a more well-rounded knowledge on the subject then read from the beginning.


If you hit someone in the stomach, there’s only so much you can do to him with just your hands (excluding maybe some notable exceptions). The neck is a different story – there’s plenty high level stuff you can do – the problem is finding low level attacks to use.


For this reason, let’s just go ahead and assume that any time you attack the neck there’s a chance you’re gonna kill the dude.


With the “don’t do this at home” out the way…


Low level targeting

Let’s run through Miller & Kane’s 6 levels of force, see what we can come up with for the neck:


– Presence

– Voice

– Touch

– Restraint

– Less lethal

– Lethal


The first 2 levels of force are mostly things you do with your body, so there’s not much “targeting” of the BG involved.



So you want to try calm someone down. Or at least let him know that you’re not afraid of crossing social boundaries too – So you put your hand on his shoulder, or arm. Or maybe neck. There are a couple nice things about placing your hand on the back of someone’s neck.


Firstly, it’s a kinda weird place to touch someone else. The shoulder. The arm. All standard places you might get bumped or touched during the day. So putting your hand on someone’s shoulder or arm is close to acceptable. Putting your hand on the back of their neck is just weird though.


This can be a good thing. If some dude at a party is getting out of line and you can see that he’s depending on everybody else playing nice and sticking to social boundaries. Well then, putting your hand somewhere awkward (say, the back of his neck) can send the message that you too don’t mind breaking the rules. And that might include smacking him one if he steps too far out of line.


In order for you to put your hand there you’d have to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him (or even a bit behind him). This puts you in a great position to drop him quickly if you need to. Think of it as be a step up from standing next to him with your hand on his shoulder.


And as you’ll see, it also puts a whole whack of nasty targets right at your fingertips.




– Forward headlocks

– Reverse headlocks

– Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (i.e. blood chokes) (I left off air chokes because you’re basically just killing him slowly – a higher level than restraint)

– Neck cranks/twists


Are these at the “restraint” level? Or the less lethal “I chose not to kill him” level? We can argue (and you’re welcome, nay, encouraged, to do so in the comments below), but restraining someone by using the neck is mostly going to involve one of these. And any of them can go bad if done wrong. Or if you’re not purposeful about what you’re doing (i.e. You keep in mind what effect you want and what you’re doing – you don’t just slap a blood choke on the guy all willy-nilly and keep him there while chatting up some chick).



A headlock is just holding a guy by the neck. Usually he’s bent over in some way and you have your arm around his neck to hold him there. A headlock works on 2 ideas. 1 – You have him bent over and he’s not strong enough to generate enough force to stand up or unfold his body from the position you have him in (not always the case). 2 – Your arm around his neck isn’t actually cutting off circulation or blood flow.


Headlocks are usually schoolyard fight kind of level. I don’t favour them simply because I don’t like the idea of getting bit on the ribs.


Controlling the spine

Imagine punching someone while on slippery ice. You slide backwards just as hard as they slide away from you. Punching (and kicking etc.) works because your feet don’t slide around. You exert force against the person (in one direction), and you exert force against the ground (in the opposite direction). It’s your spine that connects the 2. If your spine is compromised, then you can’t generate much force.


If your neck is bend over sideways, or is twisted, then you cannot generate much force. The good news is this applies to the BG as well. So if you can bend his head to the side, or you can turn his head – then you can render him all but helpless.


Here’s an example of a spine bend being used to drop someone quickly.


Spine twist/bend (the “Alien”)

If you put your hand on someone’s chin and push it to the side to turn their head (as you step past them), then their whole body will follow the turn. This is great because if you can turn somebody’s head, then you can make them turn away from you – taking their hands, feet, elbows etc. (i.e. most of their weapons and any weapons in their hands) and make them face away where they can’t easily keep hurting you.




If you push upwards on a BG chin (as you step past him so he can’t “walk out of it”) you’ll see 2 things: Firstly his head will face to the sky; Secondly, as you move past him, he’ll immediately collapse onto the floor. This is one of the fastest methods of putting a BG on the floor.


While this caaan be used at the “restraint” level…

While spine control can be used at the “restraint” level, it lends itself very well to lethal force. Plus, spine controls can just plain ol’ go wrong. And things going wrong that involve the spine can be bad.


Less lethal

Injury and pain, that’s what characterises this level.


The 2 prime targets for less lethal force are the side of the neck and the back of the neck.


The side of the neck

This is where there are nerves and veins that hurt if you smack or grind them (I’ve personally tried this one although I did on both sides of the neck [just below and behind the ears] at the same time). Smack into the side of the neck can also stun sometimes.


This is pure Hollywood bullshit. But in this fun example the guy did managed to interrupt the blood flow to and from the brain – and knocks the guy out. This guy too.


The back of the neck

This one is dangerous. The back of the head/neck is where the cervical vertebra meets the skull and a shitload of nerves (just about every single one in the body) in the body passes through this point.


A light(ish) slap to the back of the head can stun somebody and cause pain. I once asked my wife to hit me in the back of the head LIGHTLY (out of curiosity) – the result was a bright white flash of light exploding in my eyes and a whole bunch of pain. That was plenty enough to convince me how nasty the back of the head can be.


In boxing (and every martial arts/MMA/UFC rules I bothered checking up on) the “Rabbit punch” is banned. Know why it’s called a rabbit punch? Because that’s where you punch a rabbit to kill it (although a nice hefty stick works better). It’s not that much different on a human.


Interestingly enough, there are a wide variety of ways to attack the back of the head/neck. You can

– punch it

– elbow it

– “karate chop” it (i.e. knife edge of hand)

– smack it with the inside of the elbow – this is what Rory Miller calls a “clothesline snap” in Fighter’s Fact Book 2 (if you take a minute you’ll figure how to jimmy a free download out of the site).

– kick it (hard to do unless he’s on the floor – in which case kinda hard to explain why doing it was 100% necessary – but there might be situations where this could be the case…)


Basically it’s susceptible to impacts. Hitting someone hard enough here with your hands can potentially kill/paralyse someone. Using a weapon bumps it up to the Lethal Force level.


Hand-to-hand Lethal force (a.k.a. killing someone with your bare hands)

If you need to justifiably murder someone (i.e. killing in self defence) then the neck is a good target.


Ignoring the throat (which I covered elsewhere) you’re looking at 2 main options:

– impact to the back of the head (to damage/sever the spinal cord)

– breaking the neck (to accomplish the same goal)


My main problem with using the throat to kill someone is that it’s not immediate. The neck (i.e. the spine) can fix that for you.


Back of head kill

To kill someone by attacking the back of the head it’s recommended that you aim for the place where the spine meets the skull. And that you use a weapon (metal pipe; brick; get creative…).


If you only have your hands then a backhand knife-edge (“karate chop”) is one of your better options. This is obviously easier if you can get behind the guy. A prime example of this is an active shooter in a shopping mall/at work. Sneak up from behind him …


Neck breaks

The neck resists force in 1 direction at a time. It can take a forward/backward impact ok. It can handle a side-to-side impact. But the neck’s weakness is 2-way forces. What this translates to is bending or twisting the neck, and then an impact while in this compromised position.


So when I wrote above that you can hit the back of the head to kill someone, it’s way more effective if you grab the head and bend/twist it to the side and then impact the neck.


Or a lovely description from Marc MacYoung – step on his foot, use the chin to twist the head up and to the side, and then elbow him in the neck now that he has no chance to bleed off any of the force.


The classic example (if you can call it that) is to get the BG in a head lock with his head turned sideways, and with your hands/arm on his neck, yank upwards.


I think on the topic of killing it’s best to refer you to Bert Poe: watch this.

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