There is an urban legend, or martial art myth, that seems to never go away. Even though there are those of us who write about it being a myth, or urban legend, it still pops up in various forms in different novels, movies, and television shows. I even remember it being told in one of the newer martial art documentary shows with two martial artists traveling the world to experience martial arts from many cultures. (There were two such shows, I like them both, and forget witch one added to the spread of the myth.)
So, what myth am I talking about? The famous legend that if you punch someone in the nose hard enough, you’ll drive the bones of the nose into the brain and kill the person. Sometimes it’s told with a punch, others like to say you use the palm heel smash to drive the bones up into the brain. I’ve also seen it told that you must use an upward directed blow for maximum effect and to ensure the bones go up into the brain. Another version requires two strikes, the first slam into your opponent’s nose is to break the bones, and the second blow to drive the bones into the brain.
Regardless of the way it is described, the end result is always nose bones into the brain resulting in the death of the person at the end of such a devastating technique. Unfortunately, it is a myth and it is not possible for a blow to the nose to drive bone fragments into the brain. The nose contains mostly cartilage, not bone, and there’s no direct way for this cartilage, or any small nasal bones that fracture into pieces from blunt trauma, to penetrate into the brain. It just can’t happen.
So what perpetuates this martial myth? It may be the fact that any sufficiently hard enough blow to the head can be fatal. This does not have to be to the nose, but to anywhere on the head. This is one of the reasons martial artists are instructed to protect the head at all costs when falling and when being struck at. The brain is located in the head, and it doesn’t take bone matter being driven into it to cause serious damage and even death. Any sufficiently hard blow to the head can cause brain damage and death, and it varies from individual to individual as to what makes a blow sufficiently hard enough.
So the next time you hear the martial myth of driving the nose bones into the brain, remember that it is not the bones being driven into the brain that causes death, but the fact that any significant blow can cause serious consequences to the individual being struck.