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A non-lethal version of the Touch of Death, this move allows the character performing it to paralyze parts of a person's body, paralyze the entire person, or simply render them unconscious with a single judicious strike to the proper area of the body. This is distinct from the Tap on the Head in that the effect is achieved through some sort of nerve manipulation, rather than simple blunt force trauma.

This trope is most commonly seen in Chinese wuxia films, but it has made appearances in other media as well. Similar to the Touch of Death, in the Far East this trope stems from the belief that Pressure Points or nerve clusters control the physical functioning of a person's body, and that precision manipulation of these points can allow one to manipulate the body itself.

This may be used as a non-lethal means of disabling opponents by Technical Pacifists or others who follow the creed of Thou Shalt Not Kill, or it may simply be used to render opponents helpless so that executing them is made much easier.

Examples of The Paralyzer include:

Anime & Manga

  • Although Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star mostly uses his Hokuto Shinken to make his enemies explode messily when he touches them, he can also use it to create less messy effects, including paralysis and even healing of blindness.
  • Muten/Master Roshi of Dragon Ball, as Jackie Chun, can apparently paralyze someone by tapping a pressure point on their forehead.
    • There's also General Blue's secret technique which consists in a paralysis-inducing gaze. However, he must keep his focus on his target, or else the technique will be dispelled.
  • The Hyuga clan from Naruto specializes in attacks like this, as Neji and Hinata can utilize their Byakugan to see specific pressure points on their targets.
  • Happosai and Cologne from Ranma ½ are masters in the use of, among other things, pressure points, and often knock people out by tapping a spot on the victim's nape whenever they're too busy to have a straight-up confrontation. It's implied that Ranma can use these too, but the one time he attempted it, he was interrupted.
    • Tōfū-sensei also uses paralysing pressure points in a late episode of the anime.
  • Hei from Darker Than Black can do this, using his electricity-based powers to imitate a taser.
  • Saizou "Soul Freezer" Fujibayashi from Gamaran is known and dreaded in Unabara for his paralyzing technique, which involves throwing tiny but strong needles at the opponent's muscles and joints.


  • Tag, from the Nineties Anti-Hero team Bloodstrike had this as her superpower. Not very impressive on the battlefield, but comes in handy when you're a rotting cyborg/zombie trying to get laid.
  • The comic version of Kevin from Sin City apparently has the ability to make limbs go numb from certain strikes.

Films — Animation

  • In Kung Fu Panda, both Master Oogway and main villain Tai Lung are able to paralyze their enemies with a series of pinpoint nerve strikes.

Films — Live Action

  • This trope is named for the signature Called Attack of the main villain Master Pain Betty in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: Enter the Fist, a parody of 70's Kung Fu films.
  • In Serenity, the Operative paralyzes people by pinching selective nerve clusters, rendering them unable to escape or resist while he executes them. He's defeated by Mal after his attack fails to work; Mal's nerve cluster was moved in surgery due to a war injury.
  • In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li combines this with acupuncture needles to paralyze his enemies. The titular "Kiss of the Dragon" is a Touch of Death Dangerous Forbidden Technique that uses the same principles, which he uses on the main villain at the end of the movie for no apparent reason other than the coolness effect of the guy's head exploding.
    • It's not obvious, but the commentary mentions a justification — Li's character gets shot in the arm as he starts to move, so he performs a technique that doesn't use his arm (the Kiss of the Dragon has him use his teeth to insert the needle). A better reason might be that he wanted to kill the villain, but not in front of the little girl he was rescuing, so he used a fatal technique with a delay.
  • The hero of Spaceballs used this to neutralize guards. Sort of. He wasn't quite good at it but fortunately the first guard showed him where to squeeze.
  • Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon uses a quick series of nerve strikes to completely freeze an opponent on the spot. Li Mubai uses a similar sequence of strikes on him to reverse the paralysis.
    • It's apparently so effective (and well known) that Li Mumbai threatens people by pointing two fingers at them.
  • In Iron Man, Obadiah uses a device of some sort that has this effect. It seems to work using sound, as he protects himself from the gadget's effects with what appear to be fancy earrings.
    • Specifically, the frequencies used severely disrupted the inner ear, leading to severe vertigo, disorientation and lack of balance. Of course given Tony's overall reaction, it would be a safe guess that it does a bit more than described.


  • The Vulcan Nerve Pinch is spoofed in the Beavis and Butthead book "The Butt Files". In a Star Trek parody, Butt-head uses the pinch on Beavis just for fun. When a female crew members asks if he's okay, Butt-head hits on her and grabs her butt, knocking her out. Then he decides to spank his monkey... and knocks himself out.
  • Artemis Fowl has Butler and Juliet do this alot.
  • The titular Deprivers from the book by Steven Elliot-Altman.
  • The protagonist from The Rook has this as a sub-set of her powers.

Live Action TV

  • In Star Trek, the Vulcan Nerve Pinch serves as the "render fully unconscious" version of this move, and was invented on the spot by Leonard Nimoy, who felt that the blunt trauma Tap on the Head did not fit with Spock's character.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess was familiar with pressure point techniques due to time spent studying and conquering in the Far East, but mostly preferred to simply hack her enemies up with good ol' fashioned bladed weapons.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Same Time, Same Place", the demon Gnarl paralyzed victims with a touch so it could feed on them at leisure. To the amusement of at least one character, paralyzed victims are poseable.

Tabletop Games

  • Liches in Dungeons & Dragons can paralyse any creature they touch. This paralysis is permanent unless magically cured and can easily be mistaken for death.
    • Several creatures can do this, like ghouls or ghasts or carrion crawlers or... well, too many to list.
    • This is also what the Hold spells do, though they don't require a touch.
    • Assassins (and most other classes with the ability) can use their Death Attack to paralyze rather than kill. Most don't.
  • In Exalted, this is one of the things that the Ebon Shadow Style of Celestial Martial Arts can do.
  • In Deadlands: Hell on Earth and Lost Colony, sykers have access to a power that, when successfully used on anyone they can touch, renders them unable to move. It was invented by a psychic professional wrestler who used it as a Finishing Move named — you guessed it — The Paralyzer.
  • Parlaying a person limb by limb is one use of Pressure Secrets in GURPS.
    • There's also the Partial Petrification spell.
  • The Point Blockage fu power is a very nasty attack from the Healthy Tiger path from Feng Shui that allows its user to paralyze foes. One of the very first powers on the healing path of the Healthy Tiger, Flow Restoration, is one of the best ways to free someone from this form of paralysis.
  • Much was made of the Dim Mak technique in White Wolf's Street Fighter Storyteller game. The opening fiction tells the story of an expert using it wrong.

Video Games

  • In Fallout 3, if you specialize in Unarmed combat, you can get the ability "Paralyzing Palm" which sometimes makes your VAT unarmed attack freeze the opponent in place.
  • Pokémon has the fighting move "Force Palm" which has a chance of paralyzing the opponent.
  • In Super Punch Out, the Bruiser brothers can render one of your arms useless for ten seconds, making it impossible to punch with it or to block. The arm thus "broken" turns red until it heals.
  • In Jade Empire, Paralysing Palm is a support style (i.e. one that does no physical damage) that does this. Excellent for Cherry Tapping.
  • In the Monster Hunter series, quite a few weapons are capable of paralyzing enemies, though it takes quite a few hits to leave a monster twitching in place.
  • FlashMan.EXE is one, a functional translation of his predecessors Time Wizard abilities.
  • The Cleric of Dragon Nest has a spell that does this.

Web Original

  • Ki mistress Chaka learned this trick in her first week at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, when a ninja mutant thought she would hold still while he did this to her. In a school full of mutants, there are people it does not work on.

Western Animation

  • Dark Chick Ty Lee of Avatar: The Last Airbender uses chi-blocking pressure-point strikes as her signature attacks, which allow her to paralyze people, and/or take away their bending. However, she has the ability to separate the two, and take away bending or movement without affecting each other.
    • The shirshu (AKA June's giant mole thing) can paralyze you by hitting you with its tongue. Ouch.
    • In The Legend of Korra, anti-benders use Ty Lee's chi-blocking as their main method of fighting.
  • Transformers: Starscream's null-rays halt all electrical pulses, which is bad news for a species of robots.
  • Samurai Jack has been seen using the shoulder-pinch style paralyser on a civilian to avoid being discovered.
    • Homer Simpson learned a similar technique during his brief stint as a bodyguard, and thoroughly abused it.

 "Hmm. It's half hour until lunch. *Proceeds to use shoulder pinch on HIMSELF*


Real Life

  • The well-known Sleeper Hold of Professional Wrestling fame could be considered this, though it works by restricting blood flow to the brain, rather than affecting nerve signals.
    • Similarly, many use a "nerve strike/pinch" type of signature maneuver, obviously playing up to this trope, especially those with a martial arts gimmick.
  • Stun guns, on the other hand, do work against the nervous system. The electrical shock overwhelms it with sensory input, resulting in short-lived paralysis. Although, contrary to Hollywood, this actually wears off in a few seconds. What keeps the target down? Why, the blinding pain of course!.
    • This depends on whether the "stun gun" in use is an actual stungun (handheld, physical contact needed to work) or a taser. While a handheld stungun works only as long as you keep contact (meaning it's entirely possible to "follow" someone down with it and keep them stunned), the actual duration of paralysis/disorientation/severe nausea depends largely on *where* you hit, in addition to the voltage. Which means that oddly enough, knowing what portions of the body various nerve clusters run through can improve the effect (a shock to the arm is mostly just an annoyance with anything but higher-voltage versions, while a shock to the torso can easily stop a grown man in his tracks). A taser, on the other hand, fires barbed spikes connecting to the weapon. Meaning that you can continue shocking as long as is needed (or wanted, as seen in Johnny Knoxville's initial Jackass stunt).
  • A precise rap to the sides of the neck over the carotid sinus can cause a vaso vagal reaction that if applied in the heat of combat can render someone precipitously unconscious. (Of course, it can easily be fatal...)
  • It is possible to use pressure points to totally paralyze a person, the result being Locked In syndrome.