Dare You Face My Stun Gun Style?
February 15, 2005 9:18 AM   Subscribe

KIAAAAII!!! Yellow Bamboo, a Balinese martial arts/religious group, claims they can knock people down at a distance with pure focused chi energy. The usual skeptics are out in force -- but at least one skeptic was humbled! Are Yellow Bamboo just another group of deluded Dragon Ball Z fans or are they the real deal? ...well, it turns out more former than latter.
posted by felix (37 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I hope so. I could use some chi energy everytime my little brother decides to get cocky in Halo...
posted by Thoth at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2005

strange, the most recent reference on the Randi official site is from only a day or two ago, and they seem to have dismissed them as having failed miserably

Reference near very end of article

And, you might remember those blowhards who call themselves the "Yellow Bamboo." They were just officially tested in Australia, and failed miserably to perform. They literally "bit the dust." But I'm sure they'll bluster their way back into the media again, as always.
posted by inthe80s at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2005

On reflection, I can't find anything Randi related in any of your links at all, including the one they named.

Not that you implied this, but the 'humbled' link sounds pretty suspect.
posted by Thoth at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2005

There is a video clip in the last link that should clear up any lingering doubts (or would that be lingering beliefs?)
posted by boymilo at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2005

You gotta love that Jack Russell terrier in the Bullshido link.
posted by Down10 at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2005

Thoth, the "humbled" link says that the person knocked over was a representative of the Randi folks. I don't believe any of it, but it certainly does mention them.
posted by Songdog at 9:51 AM on February 15, 2005

Ridiculous claim proved false. In other news: Keebler elves still fake; Nixon still dead; Pope still Catholic.
posted by orthogonality at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2005

Was that like the Ryu.png?

Ryu can crack skulls, regardless of context. Hola.

Yo, ryu, can you score me a few drinkcards at some locations! KO wooo!
posted by Thoth at 9:57 AM on February 15, 2005

Heh, that was funny. Very useful skill by the way: "I am going to kick your ass!" "Hold on, wait a minute, please stand back while I charge my Chi energy... Any moment now... Yes, now you may attack me".
posted by swordfishtrombones at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2005

I've seen some interesting things done with chi/ki, none of which were anything resembling knocking someone down at a distance.

As Firesign Theatre has said, "There's a seeker born every minute."
posted by tommasz at 10:08 AM on February 15, 2005

I think there was some confusion there. The Yellow Bamboo guy wasn't trying to knock the other guy down, he was summoning his Spirit Terrier to defend himself, and it worked like a charm.
posted by Hildago at 10:14 AM on February 15, 2005

This is hilarious stuff. You can read more about it on rec.martial-arts (google groups thread here). Some more links: a forum post containing the account of one spectator, some more videos, and two threads on the Randi forum about YB (check out the radki challenge in the first randi thread too). I like the first randi thread, a YB guy says that you must be really angry at the YB "defender" for the technique to work... God forbid they encounter an assailant who's just a trifle annoyed with them, they'll be helpless!

Of course, it's not like the videos that Yellow Bamboo have on their web site aren't hilarious in their own right...
posted by splice at 10:15 AM on February 15, 2005

I have seen Derren Brown cause various physical reations in people at a distance. He was recently in America exploring the power of faith.

He is always at pains to point out that his methods are all tricks.
posted by asok at 10:17 AM on February 15, 2005

For those who think the Yellow Bamboo incident in "humbled" was made up, it's on the Randi site. He admits that his own representative was indeed successfully knocked to the ground, but demands a rematch (which the later link is apparently referring to) on the grounds that they must've had a stun gun hidden somewhere.
posted by soyjoy at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2005

You laugh now, but when Majin Buu is unleashed...
posted by unsupervised at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2005

Don't the YB people know better to try vulgar magic in front of sleepers? No wonder the paradox negated the effect.
posted by clockworkjoe at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2005

i was almost knocked down by the box of text that flies in from the left of the second link.
posted by jmccw at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2005

Kalessin: A 40th level fighter with whirlwind attack and a few other feats could take out an infinite number of orcs, especially if they're only CR 1. Now, if you give the orcs class levels and have them shoot arrows...
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2005

As a followup to my own first FPP, let me note that I'm neither here nor there on ki/chi, though there are a tremendous number of obvious fakes trying to make a buck out there. I've done the bed-of-nails, board-breaking, and kick-me-in-the-stomach stuff, and the positive results have always been based on sound physics.

On the other hand, I've had massages where clearly something was going on (no, not that you sicko) that was deeper/stranger than I've been able to explain with physics.

soyjoy: the skeptic who was humbled was not actually associated with James Randi; he was just a random skeptic. Randi has a test protocol to which Yellow Bamboo has so far refused to adhere.

A last note: there is a 'felix' mentioned in one of the links showing the Yellow Bamboo guy getting his clock cleaned -- I am not that felix (but what are the odds?)
posted by felix at 11:09 AM on February 15, 2005

I'll admit this once...since I'll probably be laughed at mercilessly by those who weren't there to experience it. I was once thrown up and against a wall by my T'ai Chi teacher using only her Chi. It was a remarkable feeling of being lifted and tossed by an unseen hand.

As a student, I've seen films, heard enough anecdotes, but right then and there I came to believe. And I consider myself a hard skeptic.

Laugh all you want people...if you've never experienced it, then you don't know.

And Kalessin, I agree...no one who can manipulate Chi needs to prove anything I imagine (I can't do so yet so what do I know?). And a fighter at 40th lvl would have plenty of magic items or artifacts to support a horde of Orcs by that piont. What self-respecting warrior wouldn't?
posted by Dantien at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2005

"note that I'm neither here nor there on ki/chi"

I am. "There". As in, as far as "fighting", "Chi" is complete fucking bullshit.

Ok. There may be this one guy in the Chen village somewhere who can explode brains or shoot chi blasts out of his eye sockets... but so what.

I have been training in full contact and Traditional Martial Arts for twelve years from Karate to boxing to Ju Jitsu. And I am telling you that in my experience the combat effectiveness of "chi" or "ki" or any of that crap is zero.

If I had a nickle for every kung-fu dude I fought that thought his "vibrating palm" strike was too deadly for me to get through I'd be a... a... well, I'd have about $7.50. But the point still stands.

I've seen plenty amazing shit. I've met plenty of tough guys who could kick my ass... but the substance or property involved wasn't chi. It was either mass or sweat.

I have talked with Fraser Johnston, one of YB's challengers on Martial Arts forums for a couple of years About YB amongst other things.

And he has been willing to take these poor bastards on any way they want in any forum. Finally they stepped up. And the predictable happened.

These "chi" cats are con men. Pure and simple.
posted by tkchrist at 2:12 PM on February 15, 2005

Silly Yellow Bamboo-ers,

Haha.. you fools! You've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Only slightly less well know is this: if you're going to preach and/or believe in something fantastical, you need make sure that it's not testable by any living being!

(e.g. life after death, reincarnation, God, heaven, etc...)
posted by pmbuko at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2005

if you've never experienced it, then you don't know

Nothing personal to you or your Tai Chi instructor but is this not the swan song for every faith-based belief?

I suggest you read the skeptic bible, Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World".

I have sparred some fairy advanced push hands people - Saul Krotke (sp?) for one. They have some interesting ways to generate power. Silat people, too. Yet nothing has convinced me that anything they do is anything other than a physical property describable by Newtonian physics and bio mechanics. In Saul's case he also trained in some fairly serious external fighting arts - I think Boxing judging by his straight right- as well.

And to further flame the discussion I have also found that most TMA's who have not been through the crucible of full contact fighting OUTSIDE their traditional paradigm and that subscribe to the strictly "internal" systems cannot actually fight at all.
posted by tkchrist at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2005

I'm with tkchrist on this one. I've been studying the martial arts for 25 years now, and have yet to see anyone with magic powers. I made some relevant comments in this thread on the subject of energy techniques in aikido. However, the magical "knock-you-down-from-a-distance" techniques are BS.

I'm somewhat annoyed with Randi, who states "The Shaolin movement is very old, teaching the usual claptrap notions that most of the martial arts groups espouse. They say they can teach students to develop supernatural abilities,..". That sort of claptrap is more widespread in the martial arts community than it should be, but it is certainly not representative of "most" martial arts.
posted by tdismukes at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2005

what about charismatic healing , when people fall over at the laying on of hands ?

hmmm bruce lee vs jimmy swaggart....
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:11 PM on February 15, 2005

I was once thrown up and against a wall by my T'ai Chi teacher using only her Chi. It was a remarkable feeling of being lifted and tossed by an unseen hand.

Uh, that didn't happen, sorry.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2005

Uh, that didn't happen, sorry.

Suuure it did.

But for some inexplicable reason not on video or when ever I'm around.
posted by tkchrist at 4:25 PM on February 15, 2005

I once thought I had discovered my chi, but it was only gas.
posted by splice at 5:13 PM on February 15, 2005

To see the semi-funny video at the the yellow bamboo site w/o reg: use this link.

Warning: it has a very long and boring introductory sequence with long lingering titles accompanied with "soothing" music.
posted by ladd at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2005

These "chi" cats are con men
But I think the problem is they define "chi" as something other than what it is.
Do any work with the more internal martial arts (Aikido is a good example as opposed to more meditative styles like Pa Kua or Hsing-i which are too focused on theory and health) and you get a sense of it.

Mas Oyama
trained two men of equal skill, one he had lifting weights, one he had meditating.
When they fought the thinker wiped the floor with the weightlifter.

Chi is developed through a conscious disciplined program, the problem is lots of folks confuse terms.
Couple that with the old-world martial art traditions of trying to spook your enemy before the fight by making yourself seem far more than you are, and you get a lot of confused people out there.
Oscar Ratti makes a good point in calling Chi "mental extension."
Which is more akin to what Michael Jordan does with focus and visualization rather than the comic book shoot lightning out of your hands type stuff.

I've studied martial arts since I was a child (my uncle is a grandmaster, I grew up thinking everyone has shinai in their houses), studied armed and unarmed combat in my later life (being armed is better) and in the military and you hear all about these kinds of things. I rarely see martial artists disabuse people of their notions. Particularly over post-training beer.

But some things do seem impossible. My uncle can break a hanging board from 1 inch away. He does it fast enough that it almost looks like he doesn't touch it. He flinches and the board just explodes in front of him.
It's just supremely trained muscle coordination and focus ("Chi"), but OOOOH the crowds love it.
And it's not easy. He's shown me how to do it, and I can't. So I can see someone getting a bit freaked by it. (Chessmasters amaze me too).

Anyone who's done tournaments or demonstrations knows all about baking bricks, drying pine boards, etc. Watching guys crack loads of ice is fun and maybe it gets folks into your school if your hurting for students. I'm ethically opposed to getting students that way, but I'm not going to take bread from good ole' Joe Dojo's mouth for that.
The yellow bamboo folks are the cultish type of fools that deserve being exposed however.

I would add to what tdismukes said to point out that autosuggestion and/or fanaticism can push you past normal limits and seem "magical."
And people are very suggestible. Tell someone you can levitate them with your Chi and if they believe you they won't have a chance against you in a fight.

But again - to somewhat concur with tdismukes - Chi is useful, just not in the goofy terms people try to explain it in.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:07 PM on February 15, 2005

How humiliating for those guys in Australia getting choked out on the beach. That's some funny shit.

I've seen demonstrations of ki, for example, when I used to take Aikido. I specifically remember him demonstrating one technique, and his opponent was attempting to grab his arm. Sensei used his opponent's focus against him, controlling his motion and putting him off balance. The guy ended up throwing himself. Amazing? Yes. Supernatural or psychic? No, but it was a beautiful demonstration of physical coordination, concentration, and psychology.
posted by papakwanz at 8:58 PM on February 15, 2005

What is it about martial arts that makes everyone so ready to believe the funniest shit? Boards exploding, people defying physics and throwing themselves? being thrown into the air by an unseen hand? fuck.

tkchrist speaks the truth. I box/kickbox (at a very low level) and ki/chi is just....nothing, not there.

Go download some Bas Rutten or Wanderlei Silva video (Check sherdog.com), and see how often they reference 'chi' as something that plays a part in their training routine.

(The last person to impress upon me the importance of chi was an overweight system administrator who claimed to have been studying martial arts for over 10 years.

Cmon, I mean, if the boy couldn't fight off a fucking donut then....oh never mind.)
posted by fingerbang at 12:37 AM on February 16, 2005

Chi - as far as fighting - is bullshit, guys. Total superstitious mumbo-jumbo that has been taken way out of it's cultural context here in the west. The Chinese who believe "chi" also believe eating a tiger penis will give you a stiffy. These same cultures believe ghosts are rampant in the world. Why don't these Jedi wannabe's who believe in "chi" embracing that nonsense? Because they would be laughed out of the country.

Mas Oyama trained two men of equal skill, one he had lifting weights, one he had meditating.
When they fought the thinker wiped the floor with the weightlifter

Ask your self if internal styles, meditation, cultivation of chi made people capable of such extra ordinary abilities beyond Western approaches then why does the Chinese olympic team train in exclusively WESTERN sports methodologies?
And that Mas Oyama story is an old chestnut and simply NOT true. Oyama was a FANATIC for hard physical training and full contact fighting. Your link even says this.

Anybody here that has only trained internal styles (and is under 220lbs) wants to try their chi on me, I'm game.
posted by tkchrist at 2:12 PM on February 16, 2005

I'm an ex-martial artist, symbolic logic major and devout atheist myself. That said, I have had people put their hands on me and -- with no expectation or belief at all on my part -- invoke strange internal energy-seeming effects that I can't explain with a yeoman's grasp of anatomy and a lifetime in my own body. Sensations of heat beyond what can be accounted for by bloodflow, and spreading-point-source wave-style internal vibrations.

Not useful in a combat context, but direct experience shifts me from the 'absolutely doesn't exist pshaw you loony religious fools' category into the 'maybe something is there that's currently outside of explanation; appears to be weak; but could corroborate the general claim.'

You might do well to double check your certainty, tkchrist.
posted by felix at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2005

So, somebody touched you, and it made you all warm inside. Got it.
posted by NortonDC at 7:02 PM on February 16, 2005

I don't think it is outrageous to believe that certain people can cultivate a heightened sense of/control over their bodies and its functions. I don't think that falls outside of the "empiricist" or "scientific" realm. I think its something that we don't understand very well yet, but that doesn't mean its mumbo jumbo. It also doesn't mean it's necessarily very useful if you get jumped in a bar.
posted by papakwanz at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2005

Felix - come on! There simply is zero scientific proof that Chi is anything many of it's "experiencers" claim it is. Not even in the context of excepted modes in the west - like acupuncture. And the other thing is it's "experiencers" don't seem to agree on what it is, where it is, or how it works or let alone on what can or can't be done with it.

Look. I said I have seen amazing shit. Pak DeThours can do some blinding fast power generation in a very atypical modality. Mike Sigman, a tai chi guy, generates phenomenal power (fa-jing) through skeletal alignment and fascia and connective tissue contraction - though IMHO not practial for fighting.

It is thirty years of sweat and practiced body mechanics behind all of that.

But as far as fighting I AM certain about one thing. Chi, even if real, is a practically useless concept.

What good is something that takes 20 years (not to mention actually finding somebody who can teach it) to develop?

Yes, there is more to the mind body connection than we thought thirty years ago. But western sports and martial arts ALWAYS included cultivation of heart/spirit/mindful repetition. It is "mindful repetition" that is at the heart of martial meditation, forms/kata, shadow boxing and even running and lifting weights (if you do it right).

There is no chi to it. There are no meridians of energy.

I study both traditional (Filipino Martial arts, Ju Jitsu) and western (Boxing) modern martial arts, and have for many years and have done full contact fighting in both.

You will never convince me that sitting a dude in room doing sanchin (breathing exercises) and folk dancing (forms/katas) with esoteric animal poses is any substitute to pairing up with a resisting partner and throwing down.

Anybody ever want to test that let me know. You spend three months ONLY doing internal martial practice, I'll spend three months sparing, running and weight lifting. We'll see who wins the sparing match at the end. Smart money is on me.

All that kungfoolery may AUGMENT the other training to one degree or another, but I guarantee you the western paradigm of lifting weights, cardio training, and plyometrics will do just as well if not better.

People who do "chi" based internal arts and don't actually FIGHT are are essentially athletic averse and looking for the easy way to be bad asses with out bleeding or sweating too much.
posted by tkchrist at 7:50 PM on February 17, 2005

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