To Maim: Do eye gouges, bites and groin strikes work in a real fight?

“Street effective” techniques like eye gouges, biting, groin strikes and the like are considered by many self defense experts as some of the most effective techniques in a street fight, almost like a kind of off-switch for bad guys. The following video appears to confirm this:

And a groin kick seems to be effective at ending this fight:

These techniques can be effective. However, they are not the self defence panacea many believe them to be.

Jewellery Store Stabbing

The victim is stabbed repeatedly. He used everything he had to defend himself: punches, kicks and throws, and attempted two eye gouges and two groin strikes.

None were effective -the assailant moved his head away when eye gouges attempted and blocked kicks to groin.

It should also be noted that although the victim was stabbed many times, he was still capable of fighting and managed to escape – neither person was incapacitated, and both were capable of continuing the fight.

Groin kick attempt 1. The offender lifts his knee and blocks the kick.
Eye gouge attempt 1. Unclear if defender was able to cause any harm. No apparent effect.
Groin kick attempt 2, seems to connect in some way but no effect
Eye gouge attempt 2. From this shot it looks like a finger may be completely embedded in the eye, though it is impossible to know for certain. No effect.

Any technique can fail or be blocked and countered. Eye gouges and groin strikes are not special in this respect. There is no magic technique.

Yuki Nakai blinded in MMA fight

In 1995, Yuki Nakai entered an MMA knockout tournament. Competitors would have multiple fights and be eliminated with their first loss.

Note the sporting context – his life was not at risk, he could have chosen to stop any time he wished.

His first opponent was Gerard Gordeau. Gerard illegally eye gouged Yuki, which left him permanently blind in his right eye.

Nakai speaks with his corner backstage following his first match.

Yuki continued to fight and won by heel hook in the fourth round. He told no one that he had been blinded. The photo above shows Yuki talking to his corner backstage after the first fight.

His next opponent that night was Craig Pittman, an american wrestler with a 100 pound weight advantage. Yuki won via armbar.

In the third and final bout, Yuki fought BJJ legend Rickson Gracie and lost at 6:22 in the first round via rear naked choke.

Yuki was not taken out of the fight when he was eye gouged. He was still capable of fighting and his will remained unbroken.

He stopped fighting when he was incapacitated with a strangle. He was now physically unable to continue, despite any level of motivation to win.

The distinction between maiming and incapacitation is an important one which we’ll look at later.

Groin strikes traded

The first two strikes in this one are groin kicks thrown by both parties. They both seem to lose confidence in the groin kick and immediately go to punches.

Man uses knee strike to groin of police officer

The man who kneed the police officer in the groin had no plan beyond the groin shot. This is the critical mistake mentioned at the beginning of the video – he probably expected that the cop would go down from the strike. The reality was that he had initiated a physical fight in that moment which he was totally unprepared for.

While the groin strike may have caused pain, the punch he took in return left him incapacitated.

Werdum vs Travis Browne

The following image shows an accidental eye poke during an MMA match. It’s quite obvious that the finger has entered the eye all the way to the first knuckle. However Werdum, the fighter who suffered the eye poke, continued the match as if nothing happened and won by decision. He did say afterwards that his eye was a little sore.


Two main things to note here:

  1. Biting is possible at any time a grip is established and from any range and position, and it can happen very quickly;
  2. Despite having about one third of his lower lip bitten off, the victim of the bite was willing to continue fighting. It was the biter who stepped back, put his palms up then walked away. Biting does not incapacitate and will at best discourage.

A man is able to continue fighting despite having his ear bitten off, and in fact is dominating the fight when the video ends.

Above, a bite from an inferior position only causes the other man to escalate the level of violence. Biting did not end the fight or cause the person in control of the fight to release him.

Joint breaks and maiming generally

  • Maiming is permanent damage caused by techniques such as eye gouge, biting, joint break. This might reduce an individual’s capability to some extent or incapacitate them, or it may effectively do little more than cause pain.
  • Incapacitation or physical restraint may be required to stop an individual who has a high pain threshold and high motivation.

What is commonly known as a “submission” in combat sports is a break in reality. When no one submits and the technique is taken to completion, the end result should be a torn joint or broken bone.

Below are two sport examples where a fighter has refused to tap out and was willing to continue the fight, and two examples in street fights where limbs AND the will to fight were broken.


Strangulation is an effective way to incapacitate, although what to do when they wake up must be considered. By then you should have a dominant position at least.


  • Nothing is 100% reliable 100% of the time.
  • Depending on a small set of methods (e.g. bite, eye gouge, groin strike alone) is foolish and not a replacement for hard training. Use a mix of skills, training and systems to prepare for reality.
  • Maiming does not necessarily end the fight;
  • Because many people are able to fight on despite severe injury and  pain.
  • In this case, the goal must be incapacitation and/or physical restraint, even if maiming is used to facilitate it.