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I'm the new superhero on the block. I've got the classic powerset - super-strength and super-durability. I don't have to worry one bit about your average thug hurting me.

On the contrary, I'm really worried about me hurting the average thug.

See, I've got my cape and mask ready, and I want to go bust up some drug dens, but I don't want to give anyone anything worse than a bruise, and I'm kinda new to my strength.

So, how do I knock someone out without any serious risk of injury?

  • I could just punch them in the face, but I know that One Punch Can Kill even without super-strength to worry about
  • The police use Tazers, but those cause people to fall, and falling is inherently dangerous.
  • I could forget knocking them out and just force them into handcuffs, but I'm scared I might break someone's arm by accident

Anyone have any better ideas?

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    $\begingroup$ Sora2455, as mentioned by @JBH, please don't make edits to your question that invalidate existing answers. I have rolled back your edit. It's fine to ask a new question about how to safely capture someone, however. In doing so you'll likely want to link to this question and highlight the differences. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 1 '18 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/81240/… $\endgroup$ – codebreaker Jan 2 '18 at 15:31

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As has been noted, you cannot safely render someone unconscious. Even disabling techniques such as tasers carry a risk of killing. There's a reason that most people refer to such weapons as "Less than Lethal" weapons, not 'Non-lethal.'

So...

Frame Challenge: You don't need to knock them out

In fact, you shouldn't. You have super strength. Even for a normal-strength person, any physically-based means of rendering someone unconscious carries a risk of damage or death. You are strong enough to (potentially) tie steel girders into pretzels. The difference between 'hard enough to knock out' and 'hard enough to kill' is pretty minor by your standard.

So, you do what the police do.

You learn how to restrain, not knock out. You put someone into a position where their mobility is extremely limited, and then you lock them in that position. This is why the police carry handcuffs and zip ties. All of these things are available for sale on the open market, go buy a bunch. Then practice, practice, practice. Handcuffs and double-loop zip tie cuffs are extremely fast to apply if you have used them enough. Heck, just look at how fast a cowboy at a rodeo can hogtie a steer.

The advantage you have with your super strength and durability is that you can easily hold a criminal nice and still so you can apply the restraints quickly and easily, and all of their flailing about isn't going to hurt you.

So...when you go into a situation full of 'random thugs' it should look less like your standard superhero going in punching and flailing. You should just move from criminal to criminal, breaking their weapons, setting them face-down on the ground, then positioning their arms and legs behind them and tying all four appendages together.

Someone who is that thoroughly restrained is not likely to be any more of a threat than someone who is unconscious. If their weapon is in pieces and they can't move...they are subdued. No need for the risky proposition of rending them unconscious.

(Note: This is sort of like how Spiderman handles crooks. He doesn't have to knock them out...he just hits them enough to daze/disarm them, then webs them to a solid object til the police arrive)

In short, it should look more like a hogtying competition at a rodeo than a proper fight.

Heck, as a Super, you could probably even get a company to 'endorse' you and manufacture 4-strand heavy-duty zip tie cuffs designed specifically for that purpose.

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I don't have to worry one bit about your average thug hurting me.

So you don't need to knock people out.

Note that ordinary superheroes (the police) don't knock people out (and a taser does not do this ). In particular policing in my country (Ireland) is essentially unarmed and the police normally tackle and subdue criminals (violent ones) without extreme force. It's a given that you use minimal force under all circumstances.

On the contrary, I'm really worried about me hurting the average thug.

Worry about assault charges and becoming a murderer yourself.

In the UK and Ireland hitting someone in the head is considered a major step up in the severity of an assault. It can be considered attempted murder in some circumstances. If someone dies you can be charged with murder and would probably be charged with manslaughter.

See, I've got my cape and mask ready, and I want to go bust up some drug dens, but I don't want to give anyone anything worse than a bruise, and I'm kinda new to my strength.

Ring the police - they know how to do this and you don't. Better yet, enlist in the police force and learn the law and how to do the job properly.

It's something of a mystery to me why superheros don't enlist in the police if they really want to help people.

So, how do I knock someone out without any serious risk of injury?

You don't.

It's always a significant risk of killing someone.

TV and film tends to give the impression you can repeatedly hit someone as hard as you like in the head and they'll keep moving. In real life they could die and it's a major no-no for police to do this as there is no safe way.

One hit to the head can cause a concussion. This can kill you if not diagnosed and properly handled. Never hit someone in the head unless your life is in immediate danger.

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Karate student of 30 years - you cant. Knocking someone out requires striking the skull with sufficient force to bruise the brain. Brains have limited healing capacity.

The brain is two hemispheres of fatty tissue connected by a short but thick segment of the same kind of tissue. The two hemispheres float independently in the cerebrospinal fluid, so blows from many angles will cause a shearing effect on the connecting tissue. Even injuries that have no immediate symptoms (i.e. no knockout) can express decades later because the injuries can be deep in the brain. Memory impairment, loss of self control, inability to process emotional and social cues are some of the long term symptoms.

Edit: Causing unconsciousness by choking requires depriving the brain of oxygen sufficiently long for a critical percentage of the organ to shut down. The line between unconsciousness and death is very fine, and is the reason that police using "sleeper" holds usually end up in court.

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    $\begingroup$ "Usually end up in court"? More accurate would be "occasionally end up in court, when their fellow police don't do a good enough job of suppressing evidence". $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 31 '17 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on the local police department culture. My local PD holds themselves to a very high standard, but the next town over's PD has been noticeably less self restrained. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Dec 31 '17 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens It doesn't take super strength to break ribs or burst the stomach lining. There is nothing "safe" about any form of person to person combat. There is only reducing risk to something tolerable. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jan 2 '18 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens OP is worried about breaking someone's arm by cuffing them... so a) they do seem to go for 'no risk of damage', not 'less risk of damage' and b) I would assume if the character is in good control of his strength, he wouldn't worry about arms... hitting is way more easy tl mess up than cuffing someone... In any case, a hit that I would be KOed from might kill other people. Maybe your character does, but if he does I would go for 'shatter the leg under the knee'. Incapacitates people pretty well and has a low risk of major damage. If that is what your character is going for. $\endgroup$ – Patrice Jan 2 '18 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens Anyone who has been in the martial arts/personal combat community for any period of time has run across various forms of "one touch knockout". They are all bogus. There are two ways to cause unconsciousness (aka shut down of the brain) - indirect (cut off the oxygen supply), and direct (cause sufficient trauma to the brain that it shuts down). Everything "else" that actually works ultimately comes down to one of these. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jan 3 '18 at 19:37
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I would say that you can "knock" the criminals out of business, without actually hitting them. Just pick them up and take them to the police station.

To facilitate this, your character could invest in a prison bus, and park that outside the drug den (or whatever). Then, a couple at a time, carry the criminals out kicking and screaming. They can't harm you, so why not? Then they are locked in a bus and you can go back for more.

Now, you then run into the issue of criminals running away as you are depositing another criminal in your bus. I would agree with StephenG about calling the police. In a symbiotic relationship, the police would cordon off and contain the drug den, and you would leisurely procure the criminals.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, don't let them get to you. It does not answer the final part of the question, but, answers the question that should be asked in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Cem Kalyoncu Jan 2 '18 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ The point of this answer is a superhuman police officer doesn't need to render criminals unconscious. Heavens! Real police don't render offenders unconscious. In this case "knocking out" means the colloquial expression of rendering harmless. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 2 '18 at 1:19
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You could use a choke hold.

A chokehold, A.K.A. Donkinator, stranglehold or, in Judo, shime-waza (Japanese: 絞技; English: constriction technique) is a general term for a grappling hold that critically reduces or prevents either air (choking) or blood (strangling) from passing through the neck of an opponent.

This is more controlled and less damaging than simply bonking someone on the head.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Although, to do it safely, you're going to need a fair bit of training. $\endgroup$ – Jules Dec 31 '17 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ And with super strength, there may be some head-popping accidents along the path of training. $\endgroup$ – user41674 Dec 31 '17 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ Choke-holds are illegal in many jurisdictions because they can result in death or permanent disability. They sound fine on a training ground in a controlled environment, but in real scenarios they're too easy to get wrong. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 31 '17 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ Even in the US police chokeholds are not allowed in many (most?) big cities, because they can and do cause deaths. This was a large factor in the Eric Garner case in 2014. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Jan 2 '18 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Donkinator??? I can't find any evidence of a connection between chokeholds and this particularly hilarious phrase. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jan 4 '18 at 22:27
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There are people who do this professionally. It is a discipline that requires a lot of expertise and four to ten years of training, and even once they have a medical degree they consider it dangerous and requires continual monitoring.

These people are called anaesthesiologists, and it is probably worth reading about their training to see what's involved in knocking people out safely.

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    $\begingroup$ ... and even with all that, it's still a major direct dangers in hospitals - highly controlled environments as they are. Surgeons try to avoid (general) anesthesia whenever possible, because it always carries significant risk. Even paralysis can inadvertently affect e.g. breathing muscles and kill you. And to top it off, the patient must be under close monitoring the whole time they are under - it's not like you could let the guy sleep and come back to him after ten minutes. Oh, and just to keep things together - sedatives don't work like they do in the movies either. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 2 '18 at 16:22
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As others have noted, using physical force to suspend another person's consciousness is risky at best.

Look deeper into your set of super powers.

Maybe you have...

  • the ability to exhale ether or some other mild anesthetic.
  • the ability to mentally trigger instant intense narcolepsy.
  • a form of telekinesis which only effects the blood/brain barrier, making it momentarily impermeable.
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  • $\begingroup$ The second one could be VERY dangerous depending how it works.... Let's say it just hits EVERYONE not super in a radius of a couple of meters.... a bad guy could place himself very smartly, to make sure you don't want to use your powers..... "knock me out, go ahead. You will also knock out the air controllers in the floor above.... lots of air traffic at this time" $\endgroup$ – Patrice Jan 2 '18 at 2:25
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Assuming we are limited to physical activities involving strength (no chemicals, electrical energy, psychic powers etc.) then we need an effective way to utilize the strength without damaging other people.

The new superhero should consider using a net or bola as a means to tangle the target(s). Using the unusual strength he can project the net or bola farther than an unaided human (the target might be lulled by believing they are out of range), and even has the possibility of trapping multiple targets should circumstances be right.

enter image description here

Using a bolo from horseback

As a secondary weapon, consider a bag of beanbag rounds. normally fired from a 12 gage shotgun to knock down a suspect. This can also be used to penetrate barriers (depending on how fast it is thrown). With practice the superhero can adjust the speed of the throw to match the circumstances, and obviously practice hitting the target in the centre of visible mass.

enter image description here

Beanbag rounds. Leave the shotgun and cartridges at home

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    $\begingroup$ Caution: A super-strength throwing stuff at normals needs to be extremely careful to moderate his strength. A beanbag moving fast enough can easily be just as lethal as a bullet. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Jan 2 '18 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ Could you really do that? Humans can get out of a bola in seconds, I think they're only really useful on cattle or when you're trying to catch up to a target/slow them down. Just cuffing them to a radiator would probably be easier and more practical :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 2 '18 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ Presumably with a lot of practice, the superhero could lear to both throw a bola with enough velocity to entangle a person for more than a few seconds (although not hard enough to cause serious injuries). similarly, with sufficient practice, the superhero cold throw beanbag rounds (or anything else, really) with sufficient velocity to reliably knock someone down without necessarily killing or injuring them. Tennis balls might serve equally well. Once the target has been immobilized or knocked down, the superhero can run up using super speed and apprehend the suspect with more ordinary means $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 2 '18 at 23:02
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Using a chemical agent like sevoflurane the modern equivalent to ether or chloroform. I know this is boring knock out drug, but it works.

Either hold some over their face, or maybe even inject it. Your impervious so it doesn't matter how long it takes.

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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia's page on Sevoflurane has a particular note on the potential adverse effects. All forms of anesthesia require medical supervision to monitor patient health. This is not something someone concerned to avoid hurting people should employ. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 31 '17 at 23:28
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Your hero could be an aikido practitioner, which is designed to do just that.

An additional superpower like super-sense of touch could also do the trick. You could then monitor the henchmen's health as you strangle them. There is an added fun in that, as your hero could be so sensible (s)he needs to wear gloves, or has to use drugs to dampen his(her) senses from time to time to avoid a nervous breakdown, leaving him(her) unable to control his(her) grabs for several hours.

(S)He could also be a medical student / paramedic / nurse / anyone used to sedate dangerous patients.

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You could accelerate the subject to cause G-force induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC).

Under increasing positive g-force, blood in the body will tend to move from the head toward the feet. For higher intensity or longer duration, this can manifest progressively as:

  • Greyout - a loss of color vision
  • vision Tunnel vision - loss of peripheral, retaining only the center vision
  • Blackout - a complete loss of vision but retaining consciousness.
  • G-LOC - where consciousness is lost.

Wikipedia - G-LOC

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    $\begingroup$ Since the focus is on safely knocking someone out, do you have any information about how safe this approach may be? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jan 2 '18 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ G-LOC works by depriving the brain of oxygen. This is always a bad idea and the relevant medical term is hypoxia. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jan 2 '18 at 18:19
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One technological solution might be a variant on the Electro-Sleep machine.

No need to force the person to sleep, finangle their brain into doing it for you.

Tricky bit is that as-is, the technology requires electrodes attached to the person's head and takes some time.

I admit to knowing very little about the technology, but a determined subject could quite possibly stay alert with the machine attached. Its main purpose is to help insomniacs who want to go to sleep.

If you were willing to do a little bit of Super-Technology though, it'd be a good real-world starting point for a Sleep-Ray that acts like a science-fiction stun-gun (see Star Wars's stun blasts for comparable technology)

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protected by James Jan 2 '18 at 15:57

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