In all martial arts, but particularly with edged weapons training like in Sayoc Kali, familiarity with anatomy and physiology is extremely important. All of our vital targets are internal targets. As Pamana Tuhon Sayoc has said, “All of our targets are under the skin. We do not have any skin targets.” Whether we are targeting to cause blunt trauma via impact (impact weapons or empty hand methods) or edged weapon penetration to affect circulation/oxygenation or neurological impairment, a fundamental grasp of anatomical targets and their corresponding physiological responses can greatly shape our choice of weapons and tactics.
One of the first targets introduced in the Sayoc Kali Vital Template 3 of 9 is the brachial plexus. While familiar organs or vessels such as the heart or jugular vein are relatively familiar, the brachial plexus is often glossed over for the more enticing sub-mandible (mandible angle) target. Brachial plexus injuries are immediate in their effect, and contain great potential for impairment if injured. What many outside of newborn medicine are unfamiliar with is that many infants are born with brachial plexus injuries (shoulder dystocia) resulting from trauma incurred during birth. Sometimes it is cause intentionally when the physician presses on the clavicle and breaks it in an attempt to facilitate passage through the birth canal. While these injuries will heal, these babies are often left with limited mobility or total immobility following the event. Physical and occupational therapists also see these injuries in patients who have endured sudden traumas such as motor accidents, often working with them for months or years at a time to regain function in the affected arm.
While the brachial plexus is most easily injured by traumas such as these, the normal neurological status can also be affected by barotraumas along the pathway innervating from the spinal column. While some dismiss the “brachial stun” as nothing more than a cheap Vulcan Neck Pinch illusion, an understanding of neurophysiology would immediately open the technique as a legitimate possibility. The viral video posted below is comical and amazing, but Guro Harley Elmore of Warrior’s Way International gives a great explanation of how it works.
The following images were obtained from Wikipedia for your reference, but I encourage all of my students to do your own research and learn as much anatomy as you can. See you in class.