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In Judo, the term atemi designates blows to the body, as opposed to twisting of joints, strangleholds, holding techniques and throws. Atemi can be delivered by any part of the body to any part of the opponents body. They can be percussive or use ‘soft’ power.
The location of nerve and pressure points, such as might be used for certain acupressure methods, also often informs the choice of targets for atemi (see kyusho).
Some strikes against vital parts of the body can kill or incapacitate the opponent: on the solar plexus, at the temple, under the nose, in the eyes, genitals, or under the chin. Traditional Japanese martial arts do not commonly practice atemi, since they were supposed to be used on the battlefield against armoured opponents. However, there are certain exceptions.
Atemi in Judo are used in self defense and Kata (Kime no Kata and Kodokan Goshin Jutsu) to briefly break an opponent’s balance (see kuzushi) or resolve. A painful but non-fatal blow to an area such as the eyes, face, or some vulnerable part of the abdomen can open the way for a more damaging technique, such as a throw or joint lock. Even if the blow does not land, the opponent can be distracted, and may instinctively contort their body (e.g., jerking their head back from a face strike) in such a way that they lose their balance.