The karate chop is a popular feature of many martial arts movies. The good guy lands a chop on any part of a combatant’s body, immobilizing them almost instantly. Are such moves in any way close to reality? Can you knock someone out with a karate chop?

You can knock someone out with a karate chop, but it’s extremely hard to land such a blow. Only chops to the vagus nerve or directly to the front or sides of the head are powerful enough to knock someone out. The chances of completing such blows are extremely low, especially for untrained hands.

Read on as we explore the questions: can you knock someone out with a karate chop.

What is a Karate Chop?

A karate chop is a fighting move where the side of the palm is used as a knife. The area between the start of the wrist and the base of the little finger serves as the “blade.” 

Martial artists often use the side of the hand opposite the thumb. However, they may sometimes use the side of the hand holding the (tucked in) thumb for a reverse chop. You’d find the karate chop in use across many martial arts, including Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc.

Here’s a video demonstration of the karate chop:

What to Expect When You Hit Someone With a Karate Chop

When you hit someone with a karate chop, they’re most likely only going to feel pain, as with any other type of body blows. 

But can you knock someone out with a karate chop? 

If the blow is hard enough and reaches the vagus nerve, you can render the person unconscious for a few seconds. The chances of this happening are extremely low in most people, so it’s unrealistic to expect it as a standard result.

A powerful chop to the head may cause whiplash or concussion if it knocks the head back strongly. Again, this is a very unlikely result. Chops to the ribs, chest, or any other part of the body can cause severe pain, just like a standard fist punch.

Why Knocking Someone Out With a Karate Chop is Unrealistic

It would be nice to replicate the chop as we see it in movies, but it’s impractical for several reasons:

Individuals Are Different 

Our anatomy may be similar on a structural level, but the differences in build influence the severity of a karate chop. A blow to the vagus nerve is often the target of most neck chops. However, its position on the neck varies from one person to another. Repeating the same neck chop on ten people will deliver different results that may not include a knockout.

There are Other Variables 

Besides anatomy, other variables must come together for you to achieve a knockout. First, your chop has to pack the right level of strength. Like any other blow, the force behind the chop determines the impact.

Secondly, the subject you’re attacking must be at the right distance. Real-world situations are far more challenging than breaking a few static bricks. A free shot at someone who isn’t trying to defend may be successful, but an attacker will be far more mobile.

Many Parts of the Body Can Absorb Karate Chops

As mentioned above, most discussions around karate chops revolve around the neck and the head (to a far lesser extent). Chops to any other body parts will only cause bruising and pain and nothing more. Elbow hits, fist punches, and leg kicks may yield better results than karate chops, depending on the part of the body.

The Possible Dangers of Karate Chops

Although there’s a very small chance of knocking someone out with karate chops, you can still cause severe (and maybe fatal) damage.

  • Blows to the vagus nerve may impair impulse transmissions to the lungs and heart, leading to death.
  • Strong neck blows can also damage the jugular veins, carotid arteries, and similar blood vessels, leading to death.
  • A karate chop to the larynx can crush it, causing death in minutes (barring immediate medical intervention).
  • Powerful karate chops to the ribs can lead to rib fractures and punctured lungs.

Final Thoughts

So, can you knock someone out with a karate chop? 

There’s a very small chance of knocking someone out with a karate chop. Even seasoned experts can’t hit the vagus nerve every time for everyone they come up against. There’s a higher chance of damaging tissues and bones with karate chops.

If you’re looking for a way to immobilize opponents, a blow towards the solar plexus gives you a more realistic chance. Moreover, there’s a lower risk of inadvertently killing someone or causing damage to their vertebrae.

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