If it really works it doesn't matter if you don't believe in it
June 11, 2007 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Investigating the Dim Mak Death Touch - "The old Kung Fu master touched his assailant, with no apparent effect. Days later, the assailant died a sudden and mysterious death. He was a victim of the legendary dim mak, the touch of death." [previously]
posted by Burhanistan (68 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

The idea is interesting but that blog entry is crap. Who wrote that?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2007

"It seems to me that the legendary skill of dim mak is no more implausible than the more common skill of acupuncture, and it should be given a similar degree of respect and consideration."

This is essentially his argument. I will believe it when I see scientifically defensible tests rather than anecdotes.
posted by anthill at 7:58 PM on June 11, 2007

dim mak, sorta the same thing (.mp3 audio)
posted by carsonb at 8:01 PM on June 11, 2007

Someone I knew and trained with in college had a class with the late Fred Wakeman of Berkeley. Wakeman was well known for his histories of the Qing Dynasty, as well as his work on Chinese organized crime and police (often the same thing). Wakeman had spent time in Taiwan knocking around and studying Xingyiquan in addition to his academic studies.

At one point, Wakeman decided he wanted to get to the bottom of the "delayed action death touch." Have you ever seen the long pinkie nail that some people grow out in Asia? Wakeman discovered that some guys would put poison underneath the nail (and take the antidote). Then when the challenger showed up, they'd slap the guy in the face, or arm , whatever. The poison would get into the bloodstream and later the opponent would die. Ooooooohhhh they would say, must have been the delayed action death touch.

On the other hand, _if_ a person could hit with tremendous power, I think there is a possibility that vital point striking might work. But anyone who can hit that hard , will _seriously hurt you_ no matter where they hit. In real life, I've met and trained with someone like that and....believe me, it's almost like a kung fu novel come to life.

And yeah. His students do MMA too.
posted by wuwei at 8:10 PM on June 11, 2007

Is that Chris Crudelli for real? I kept waiting for them all to crack up laughing.
posted by Liosliath at 8:14 PM on June 11, 2007

To be distinguished from the mae ling mak death touch.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:15 PM on June 11, 2007

I remember in health class we watched something called "Fightscience" which took experts from everything from boxing to muay thai (sp?) and tried to discover which was the best martial art. It also tried to prove or disprove common martial arts myths. One was the death punch; this one 'ninja' from london was able to do it just by punching the crash test dummy in the chest as hard as a sledge hammer would hit.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2007

Vulcan nerve pinch
posted by pruner at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2007

Now just imagine if the ninja guy could strike like that without the giant windup he used....
posted by wuwei at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2007

posted by Tube at 8:37 PM on June 11, 2007

posted by JHarris at 9:12 PM on June 11, 2007

Paging tkchrist!
posted by papakwanz at 9:13 PM on June 11, 2007

This is the way Bruce Lee died. Also Brandon Lee -- they death punched bullets at him.

Also, surprisingly: Millard Fillmore.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:16 PM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

And Mallard Fillmore. Damn liberal hunters...
posted by brundlefly at 9:22 PM on June 11, 2007

What I remember of death touch was a bit more specific... there's a specific artery that feeds the heart itself that can be reached by a precise strike between a couple of ribs at just the right place. Arteries in theory have the same valve like structure as the main heart valves, little flaps that close and keep blood from flowing backwards during the non-pumping phase of the heart beat. In theory, you could hit this artery at a moment when the flaps were closed and the pressure would damage the flaps... In a short to medium amount of time depending on how hard you hit this artery and the general health of your opponent, the damage done to this artery would cause the heart to fail.

My anatomy knowledge is non-existant, but if a strike could damage in some way an artery that feeds the heart, then there might be a 'death touch'... some sort of damaging strike that eventually causes a major organ to fail.

Seems to me that it all depends on whether or not there are attackable subsystems that can cause a major system to fail.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:31 PM on June 11, 2007

Well, it's obvious to all of us who grew up in the 1970s that Dim Mak is a scientific fact because it was the subject of the coolest episode of "Quincy, M.E." ever.

Well, okay, "coolest episode of 'Quincy'" isn't saying much. Cut me some slack -- I was ten.

But it was still pretty cool. And it was Quincy, dammit. Doesn't that photo rock? Quincy.
posted by Opposite George at 10:32 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

What happens when one of these guys gets in a real fight. This video is of Kiai practioner (some sort of sound projection), rather than Dim Mak... but I think it illustrates the point.
posted by choc0bot at 10:32 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow! Just reviewed the cast list -- even cooler than I'd remembered! Episode cast included Keye Luke and Mako and Harold "Odd Job" Sakata! A Hey It's That Asian Guy trifecta! I guess James Hong wasn't available.
posted by Opposite George at 10:39 PM on June 11, 2007


Bah. This is real ultimate power!
posted by homunculus at 10:56 PM on June 11, 2007

BBC on the Iron Penis. Trust me, wait until the end.
posted by phaedon at 11:12 PM on June 11, 2007

Reminds me of that "New Avengers" episode where the bad guys trained by punching through ultra-thin sheets of metal, progressively adding more and more sheets until they developed the ability to punch to metal doors and such.
posted by RavinDave at 12:20 AM on June 12, 2007

phaedon, that was some sort of modern Zen koan. I feel enlightened. Or at least contemplative.
posted by stavrogin at 12:54 AM on June 12, 2007

zengargoyle: Are you sure you're not confusing that? Commotio cordis is death by blunt force to the chest in a specific (short) part of the heart cycle, where the mechanical trauma causes disturbances in the electrical activity of the heart.

However, that kills instantly, not days later.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:10 AM on June 12, 2007

BBC on the Iron Penis. Trust me, wait until the end.

That was.... odd.
posted by IronLizard at 1:24 AM on June 12, 2007

The Australian Aborigines have "pointing the bone".

I was taught as a kiddie that it could literally frighten an Aboriginal to death.

Not sure how true that is.

Some info here:
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:42 AM on June 12, 2007

phaedon, that was some sort of modern Zen koan. I feel enlightened. Or at least contemplative.

That's what your mom said!
posted by phaedon at 2:02 AM on June 12, 2007

I death touch myself two or three times a day and I'm not dead yet.

Oh hang about - I'm just confusing this with the French nickname for an orgasm - le petite mort. Ignore me. Please. I'll be (slowly) dying over in the corner here. With sticky hands.
posted by longbaugh at 2:59 AM on June 12, 2007

Pai Mei taught you the five point palm exploding heart technique?
posted by bwg at 3:38 AM on June 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well something explodes. My "Captain Beefheart" actually.
posted by longbaugh at 3:43 AM on June 12, 2007

Should you be punched in the kidney, the damage can cause perferation that will take a few days to cause death due to toxic overload. This can be called a three day death touch.
There is a fair amount of mysticism and hand-waving bloviation associated with nerve point attacks, based on Chinese medicine rather than empirical research.
Nerve point attacks (kyushu) can be very effective and totally incapacitating when delivered in a controlled environment by a trained practitioner, so it is understandable that there would be mythology surrounding the phenomenon.
If you are interested in the subject I recommend studying with Vince Morris, Rick Clark or Terry Wingrove (.doc).
posted by asok at 4:12 AM on June 12, 2007

In the chapter of his book China Wakes where Nicholas D Kristof recalls his memories from being present at the Tianmen sq massacre:
He talks about a US reporter who was taken into a van and beaten by police. Even though said colleague initially recovered fully, as if the beating had been superficial, after a few weeks most his organs suddenly packed in. Because he was in the US with good doctors, he survived, but remained very severely disabled.

Not the death touch...but from the same family surely
(writin this in new Mefi tshirt just arrived. yay)
posted by yoHighness at 4:16 AM on June 12, 2007

Fools. Hokuto Shinken has no equal.
posted by RokkitNite at 4:17 AM on June 12, 2007

BBC on the Iron Penis. Trust me, wait until the end.

My mouth did not actually fall open until about the 1:45 mark. Zowie. Eh, did he say Shaolin?
posted by dreamsign at 5:08 AM on June 12, 2007

Paging asavage. . .asavage to 61986, please.
posted by EarBucket at 6:07 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

My brother used to use the Dim Mak technique on me when we restled as kids. Of course, Dim Mak really just meant he yelled 'DIIIM MAAAK!' really loud, causing me to laugh uncontrollably and thus go weak. He would then kick me across the room.
posted by NationalKato at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Um, wrestled.
posted by NationalKato at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2007

As National Kato's brother, I can attest to doing that. Of course, it always worked.
posted by Dantien at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2007

I had some "Dim Sum" last week that gave me the trots a few hours later.

Same principle?
posted by RavinDave at 10:22 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bah, my 15th level monk can use the Quivering Palm attack three times per day and totally kill you from across the room. His kung fu...is very good.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2007

Paging tkchrist!

I feel a disturbance in the force... it's a if a thousand voices cried out and were suddenly... deeply cynical.

Quick no time to waste, boy wonder! To the TKMobile! We must get to Metafilter before all hell breaks loose.

Whew. And not a minute too soon.

Yes, Virginia. There is death touch. For instance if I suplex you and your head "touches" a sharp hard boulder or protuberance on the ground at high velocity. It may very well lead to "death."

If I use my superior chi to John Smith Single, get knee on stomach to mount and begin "touching" your face about fifty times causing the back of your head to "touch" the concrete under neath it may also lead to "death."

Or perhaps if I "touch" your head with a large crescent wrench it may lead to "death."

I suppose I can delay the onset of death by the careful application of chi which often then either delays or hastens the dispatch of an ambulance.

But if by Dim Mak you mean a succession of taps to energy meridians like Gall Bladder 33...

Well. I am still here.

People who want to believe in this crap will. No matter what is shown or proven to the contrary. So great. Have at it. There have been far too many people learning effective fighting lately anyway. Making me feel decidedly less tough.
posted by tkchrist at 10:33 AM on June 12, 2007

Duan Bao Hua:

"The real skill is in NOT killing the people..."

True. Because watching that idiotic nonsense is KILLING me.
posted by tkchrist at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2007

Not long ago, at my friend's Aikido dojo, another local martial arts instructor (Ju Jitsu?) came in to talk to him (to "size him up" I thought). They got to talking about ki and such, and the guy mentioned that he had mastered the "knock out touch". I told my friend I would volunteer to be on the receiving end, but the guy never came back.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:53 AM on June 12, 2007

Bart, don’t use the touch of death on your sister.

Y’know, one of the great and at the same time sucky things about martial arts is all the cool names there are for things. Especially in Gung Fu. You have just fantastic names which, when Americanized (or Brazilianized) just sound kinda blah.
Take for example - ‘Monkey steals peaches.’ There’s a whole set of assumptions in that combination but it sounds so much better than “shift left, feint, then drill the guy in the testicles.” In Americanized systems you have “neck crank” and such. Ugh. Not only ugly, but it makes it hard to chunk combinations in a verbal shorthand.
But the purely descriptive (albeit ugly) Americanized stuff is much more useful in terms of explication. You know from the description what exactly is going on “neck-crank.”

So too with Dim-Mak. Part of the thing with TMA is that often techniques were outlawed, most particularly weapons training, and so had to be hidden. Additionally the mystique surrounding martial training was also useful for instilling fear and making use of deception (think ‘Batman’). And if you could build enough of a rep and everyone bought into it - including other fighters - you could have a nice (albeit illusory) monopoly going.
Coupled with that you have no real science in terms of method when it comes to the human body. Certainly Chi exists, but what it it exactly? Well, I tend to think of it as visualization coupled with intimate knowlege of kinesthetics (oneself and others). Michael Jordan has a LOT of chi. He - and physical trainers - don’t call it ‘chi’ though. Proprioception perhaps. Either way, Tai Chi practitioners do a whole bunch of training in it, call it chi, but that denotes a whole slew of mental-body mechanic intergrative techniques that become as natural as the whole process of riding a bike. Americans tend to break things down into componants so the overall picture of it is lost as a combination.
To be clear, I’m not saying chi is some esoteric thing beyond words, I’m saying it denotes a variety of often incongruent things each of which is meant to be included in the technique combination.
Like “monkey steals peaches” in another form of Gung Fu could mean “shift right, feint, close, feint high by going up with your hand and in a circle motion reverse and grab the testicles” - same name, similar technique (nut shots) but very different in application.
On top of all of that there was a great deal of purposeful deception, illusion and allusion in explanations about combat arts and so much of what was actually useful was lost.

So ‘Dim Mak’ is not “do x” it’s “do x,y,z, then b” to get whatever result. And as those letters shift depending on what one is trying to reference, so too does the analysis. Which makes it a real pain to test empirically because when you do people go “well, that wasn’t the REAL Dim Mak.”

Certainly pressuring sensitive nerve ganglia, et.al has effects, but there are sets of assumptions that go with the use of those techniques. They’re meant to be used in combination - you can’t just walk up to someone and Shazam! knock them out by doing this one thing. Obviously in the first place if you reach out to grab someone they’re going to block, evade, counter, whatever.

Which is the huge danger in fixating on one technique or one single move within a set combination.
There’s no more mysticism to these kinds of techniques than there is to delivering a knockout punch.
But no one takes a knockout punch delivered by Tyson after say four rounds and tries to isolate just that punch alone and expound on it as a single method of disposing of an opponent.
That be ridiculous. And yet, that’s what’s happening here. People are trusting in the mythology surrounding Dim Mak as a viable application - as silly as training only to deliver an uppercut like Tyson and relying solely on it in a fight.

All this quite apart from the morass of misinformation surrounding Chi and meridians, etc.
Hell, we have similar problems in applicability in kinesthetics with all kinds of mumbo jumbo out there.
The problem there is similar to the problem with chi within martial arts. In terms of combat, no one was ever interested in the refinement of technique in personal engagement because the warfighting arts didn’t require them. You only got monks interested in working out so they could stay up during meditation (because the only people doing physical training was the military) so they used refined combat exercises. Then they noticed the mental side of it and developed it. It didn’t make much difference, the chinese army crushed the shaolin. There was no military need for that level of refinement. Warfighters might have pursued that on their own, but the uses for personal combat techniques integrated with mental conditioning were limited on the battlefield. And took too much time anyway except for certain elites (some samurai, covert or guerilla troops - yamabushi (yeah, ninja), the Arumer Black Heap (who also have a mythology about them) etc. etc.) who fought before gunpowder became common.

The only real interest had been among the ‘artists’ in the martial field. Today, there’s sports training which has taken that integration to a new level. And renewed interest by the military (again, for elites - e.g. Ravens) but for the most part it’s got little application for the big money types (despite all the personal side health and coordination benefits of, say, doing tai chi).
Hence all the mumbo jumbo.

Unlike say, astronomy which has had hundreds of years of rigorous and cross-connective (physics, chemistry, etc) scientific exploration and observation since it was pried out of the grasp of mumbo jumbo astrology.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:25 AM on June 12, 2007

However, saying 'Shazam!' before hitting someone is a great technique.
posted by NationalKato at 11:29 AM on June 12, 2007

Goon: “Allright pal, I’m gonna kick yr...”
Protagonist: “SHAZAM!”
Goon: “Whathfu?
(call it the Gomer Piledriver)

Obviously, if this existed in the form proposed by myth various countries would have been all over it thousands of years ago for assassination. No way to keep it secret. Which, y’know, is the kayfabe thing about death touch (I know it and you don’t - ooooh, I’m dangerous). But kayfabe does work on some people. Lotsa fans out there (not just pro-wrasslin’ either).
Although, if they did have the death touch, perhaps they needed to keep it secret because of the UFO technology from the hollow Earth creatures, that’d explain how the Illuminati engineered the Kennedy assassination by...
.... but perhaps I’ve said too much.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:54 AM on June 12, 2007


Thanks for the previous compliment 'bout my screen name btw.

Re: Ki. Well I don't think it's just a matter of proprioception. There other stuff going on. For example, recently there was an article in the San Jose Mercury News about a taiji teacher (from China) who was hooked up to measurement equipment in a lab at Stanford. The lab found that they were surprised how much raw power the guy generated in a small space. The article was light on details, but the overall impression from the researchers was clear-- "what the hell is this guy doing with his body." The even brought in a neurologist who said this: "The result of Chen's years of training indicates something special - mysterious, even - about how his particular skills were acquired."

It really isn't the same as the normal movement you see in sports. In the past I've worked out with top level judo people as well as some sanda players. Conventional sports movement is different from what I'm talking about....which doesn't make it "non-science" or "alternative reality." It just means it hasn't been fully explained--yet.
posted by wuwei at 12:11 PM on June 12, 2007

Link to the Article
posted by wuwei at 12:18 PM on June 12, 2007

“Well I don't think it's just a matter of proprioception”

Could well be more to it. I don’t -know- it though. I’ve trained in developing chi and whatever we label it the practical upshot is refinement of body movement. If it were placed under scientific examination, that’d be the field it’d be likely to develop in. Chi does not equal telekinesis f’risntance.
But I’d agree ‘more’ is going on. I’ve had a little bitty Korean (marine) grandmaster toss me around like a tinker toy, that’s after I’d been what’s considered well trained.
And that’s part of my lament, there’s good stuff going on that has been clouded by mumbo jumbo - purposeful or otherwise.

Far as I can see here our only difference in opinon is in labels. Applied kinesthetics is in its infancy (and is still coupled with a lot of b.s. - as astronomy was hooked into astronomy), but the study of Chi fits pretty squarely into it IMHO. (And I’d place sport fighting under ‘sports’)
Doesn’t surprise me that this work is going on under the auspices of Stanfords’ biomechanical researchers and neurologists. There’s really very few people doing work in the field. It’s been mostly an invisible college for quite some time.

And part of the problem is in the distortion of what we’re referencing (as I’ve said).
Similarly - martial training has very often been done by people who excel in it. Which is swell and all, but as good as (not to belabor the point) Michael Jordan is in basketball, it doesn’t mean he’s the best teacher.
Very few trainers - and nearly zero TMA instructors - have anything close to an academic rubric much less make use of advanced (much less modern) instructional techniques.
(added to that is the overall environment in the U.S. - gym class, in high schools, has taken a real beating. Most of the focus has been on gross body movement and such. Or more and more - just getting kids to move. Rarely is it coupled with health - indeed, ‘health class’ is often separate (although many health teachers teach phys ed) so there’s no integration with diet and exercise.)

Same deal here. ‘Holistic’ often sounds too hippie, but there’s a lot of integration behind what this Tai Chi master is doing. I doubt, f’rinstance, he’s eating a lot of McDonalds’.
My first thought is not “that’s amazing” but “How can we repeat this and incorporate it into training for practical results?”

That’s where it gets fouled up. Something is going on, I’d like it quantified and I’d like to see a scientific system built around it with universally applicable terms. But (going with the astronomy metaphor) on those terms I’m the equavalent of Tycho Brahe before he collected all his data - there isn’t a system yet.
Because up until now there really hasn’t been the need or the resources devoted to that level of refinement - except by artists (and a few others) and we can’t really use their terms (being that it’s art) or metaphors (being that there are distortions, on purpose to develop a mystique or by accident), so there’s no real ‘data’ strictly speaking other than the ‘Dim Mak’ type anecdotes.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2007

I studied kyusho jitsu for a couple of years. You do indeed get knocked out through strikes to a succession of pressure points (typically three for a knockout) in a precise order, as Smedleyman was saying. The point is to have the fight last only a couple of seconds.
posted by nekton at 1:40 PM on June 12, 2007

Let me first say that I fully anticipate studying Tai Chi one day. AS my joints fall apart from the repeated pounding I have taken over the nearly two decades of Martial Arts and fighting practice I have decided that the end is nigh for that sort of training. However in all that time, while I have seen many amazing things, I have yet to see anything that cannot be explained by sweat, intent and flesh and bone. If I would train in an internal style like Tai Chi it would be for the overt mechanical benefits. And not at all for any mysterious chi connection or even less for any sort of Martial skill. Which I believe most of these internal chi arts have little.

Over the years I have had instructor after instructor who has fallen in and out of being enamored with internal "chi" training. And frankly most of the practice I have experienced with them has been underwhelming. Not to say that elements of the training have nothing to them. Far from it.

However, and I am not going to go into every specific instance here, there are common internal training paradigms and methods that are not only flat out bullshit but are overtly harmful. Further, because the practice is belief based rather than measurable in objective performance (and it's practitioners notoriously resistant to test any claims they make in less than controlled forums), it is ripe for charlatans and hogwash.

And it is increasingly hard to separate the hogwash from the supposed "real" deal. And since everybody says they are the real deal I will remain unmoved in my skepticism.
posted by tkchrist at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2007

You do indeed get knocked out through strikes to a succession of pressure points (typically three for a knockout) in a precise order, as Smedleyman was saying. The point is to have the fight last only a couple of seconds.

Yes. Though I never studied pressure points much. Neither has Mike Tyson. And I, and he, can knock you out with the use of only one. Just don't tuck your chin.
posted by tkchrist at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2007

C'mon people, I'm waiting for the Chuck Norris joke ...
posted by bwg at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2007

“A good beginning is that you can feel a kind of magnetism from your hands or from someone else's hands.”

I personally have never felt energy coming from someone else that had any practical effect.
Now I think I know what you’re saying, and I think I’m being clear in saying I haven’t experianced that, but again, metaphor is in the way.
I’ve been thrown across the room (hyperbole, I’ve been thrown well) with what appeared to me to be little more than a quick gesture. This was done so swiftly I had no idea WTF just happened. The metaphor used was ‘moving between moments.’

Setting has a good deal to do with the relevence of the metaphors to the event.
Playing rugby I was knocked out (and thrown) and recieved a concussion from an event that happened so swiftly I had no idea WTF just happened. That was called a ‘ruck.’
In both cases I was aware of all the pre-existing conditions, yet was caught unaware. I was taken out. It doesn’t matter if one situation has to do with an unexplained phenomena and the other has a purely physical and sport basis.
Practically, there’s no difference.
Now I’ve felt energy flow through me, but mental attention is a funny thing* and whether it was a simple galvanic skin response or a rush of chi doesn’t matter in terms of the practical application of executing a strike and the proper muscular compresson/relaxation phase at the point of contact.

Much to be said about choosing the proper point of contact, but that’s targeting and coordination.
*Analogus in terms of developing concentration - zanshin. There are a million paraverbal and non-verbal cues our brains take in when interacting with other people, much less the environment. If you refine your consciousness (through whatever technique) to the point that you can consciously pick up on these cues and anticipate an attack it can look like a mystical awareness.
Hell, we’re still entertained by the feats of jugglers.
And there’s little difference in the external observation to differentiate between a highly refined technique and something mystical.
I, and people I know, can do the stop in the middle of a path because you see an ambush zanshin thing. Is that because we’re hooked in to some mystical vibe? No, we’ve learned through constant training and application all these signs that most people are completely blind to, so it looks esoteric. That shadow shouldn’t lay that way, a scrap of wind is warmer and more moist than it should be, that leaf is bent as if by boot pressure. Do it long enough it becomes so second nature you couldn’t explain it if you tried.
Chi can be similar, somone that in touch with their body can’t explain wtf is actually going on, and there’s no system for it, so they use metaphor.
(reminds me of Heraclitus - using ‘fire’ to say ‘energy’ because the modern concept of energy hadn’t been created )

And I think it’s wrong to say it’s only “in their head.”
For starters, there’s a great deal to be said for the placebo effect, voodoo, autosuggestion, visualization, any number of other mental techniques things that are very much proven to have some practical effects.
Surgery took thousands of years to refine, even so, you don’t go to amateur surgeons.
But none of that is to disparage chi as a concept, merely to separate the wheat from the chaff (of which there is a great deal thanks to the amateur surgeons, but hell, even Da Vinci had some screwy ideas about stuff like anatomy).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:09 PM on June 12, 2007

/Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I've seen a lot of strange stuff. But I've never seen anything to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.
*shoots Greedo first*
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on June 12, 2007


Well the magnetism thing, I don't think relates too much to fighting.

But as far as the power development, ki/qi stuff:

Have you ever seen the videos of Shioda Gozo where he is in seiza and he has some guy (maybe 50 lbs heavier or more) hold his wrists down? Then Shioda just lifts his hands (no back arch/quads involved) and lifts the guy.

In real life I've seen someone about 135 lbs throw my weightlifter friend (pushing 200lbs) like that, almost head over heels. No angling. Just lifting the hands. I've felt it too and it's as if the power has been drained out of you. I've met the guys students too, and they are pretty good. Which if you think about it is what matters...who cares how good someone is if they can't teach _you_.

The funny thing is that this kind of strength really is developed in the solo practices (the dreaded "dead patterns.") It's not about muscle memory or special eye gouges. Rather, it's about developing the ability to feel how the body works, and hold everything together. I really don't know what it is, and of course it's subjective because it is like this-- how do you measure a feeling. The results aren't subjective though. For example, after about a year and a half of goofing off , I find now that I can do the hand lifting exercise even with someone 50% heavier than me. Pinning is much harder.

tkchrist: re the martial skills stuff. In reference to the guy I just mentioned...I went with his students to roll with some shooto players when I was in Tokyo. They really do throw down. You are right though, most people are garbage. It doesn't take a lifetime either-- if the teacher is good (at teaching) and the students work hard, I've seen some people develop pretty interesting results inside of 3 years.

As far as feedback, there are a variety of limited movement exercises with varying levels of resistance, to "test" the body development.
posted by wuwei at 4:11 PM on June 12, 2007

“Rather, it's about developing the ability to feel how the body works, and hold everything together.”

Yep. kinesiology. People do the same thing with, say, swimming and diving. The more efficient your stroke technique, the faster and smoother you move through the water.
(Where did I say special eye gouges?)
But you can use technique and body movement to greatly augment muscle efficiency in any sort of situation.

As a f’rinstnce - punching. Your triceps are only for the end of the punch motion (in a straight punch). Most of your power comes from the hips and lower abs with your lats and forearms converting and focusing that energy.
The more efficient your technique the less power is lost in translation.
But there has been, as I’ve said, so little attention paid to refined body motion integrated with the mental state over the past umpteen years that any advances made by folks in the invisible college seem miraculous.
I suspect it’s a side effect of tool use.
Somewhere along there we lost the smooth animal movement and stopped thinking of our own bodies as tools to be developed (not to mention thousands of years of religious training abjuring the body).
Although you can see that smooth almost unearthly grace in some fighters. Certainly in ballerinas. But it’s no coincidence that some styles of Gung Fu (most notably Five Animal) developed from watching animals. I suspect the most valuable technique gleaned from those observations was re-learning how to manipulate the body.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2007

Okay the best way I can explain what I mean is this:

Clip 1

Clip 2

That's Akuzawa Minoru, the teacher I was talking about earlier.
posted by wuwei at 5:16 PM on June 12, 2007

Okay. I am for once going to argue AGAINST myself a bit and see if my reasoning bares fruit.

Here is why I WOULD do internal training like Tai Chi— and this observation is purely from my own perspective training in external fighting arts and physical disciplines. It has nothing to do with bad-assedness.

Internal arts to me are like this: Yoga with intent.

It is easy to see, easy to measure, what Yoga as a physical skill set and training paradigm achieves.

There are sorts of things in western sports training that come close but don't quite achieve the same things. Why? I can think of many reasons. Among them are: In sport training you have a competition cycle that is time/event dependent. Even if you are not training for a specific even dollars to donuts the methods you use ARE geared/periodized for competition events. It's easy and often necessary for practical reasons to strip the art practice from completive practice - you don't have time for nuance. In sport there is also the supposition that participants are selected by natural attributes such as a predisposition for speed or agility. you don't have time to to create elites.

In physical arts... (martial arts but lets leave them out for now) arts like yoga... the training is meant to be a slow process that is a purpose unto itself. There is no destination or event. The idea is a continuum that applies to everybody regardless of attribute base. You have time to develop attributes needed for the art.

Now, separately, martial arts is about allot of things but what separates them from dance or sport is intent and self actualization are one. You must have mindful repetition.

The coordination of breathing and slow purposeful movement in internal Tai Chi in my opinion can help coordinate intentional movement in all sorts of other physical applications even if the exercise itself has no direct corollary. No direct real corollary to real fighting. It doesn't matter. It does correlate to health in ways that other forms of exercises don't in that mindful practice sense. You get to connect your head and body. And you have the time needed to make it happen.
posted by tkchrist at 6:06 PM on June 12, 2007

“That's Akuzawa Minoru, the teacher I was talking about earlier.”

To make it more clear - I’ve studied fighting about as long as tkchrist (started young, my family is full of fighters of one sort or another) and have a wide variety of experiance with an array of martial arts while training in sports. I switched to applicability in lethal situations in the military and I’ve trained others. I’ve trained in Chi development. I’ve done some of these techniques. I recognize them in the video. I’m currently training in Aikido to lose the mental focus on lethal execution and I see some of that there and I hear “ki” all the time - and I pretty much ignore the terminology.
The difference between what’s going on in the video and what is going on in other circles (academic, sport, military) is what it’s being called (as well as scientific and systematic analyses vs. the invisible college method - or the old master imparting the wisdom method)
Use of chi is within the realm of kinesiology.
Which admittedly is still in it’s youth as a science (if not it’s infancy).
I’m not seeing where that refutes any of your points.

My focus is on more empirical study for it’s use.
Minoru does ‘x.’ Ok - how? What’s the body movement involved? Where is that power generated? If it’s extramuscular where does it come from and how then does that come from metabolic energy?*
What are it’s potential uses in practical situations and how are those repeatable?
“Mysterious”, doesn’t cut it for me.

(*I don’t accept that chi is a psychic phenomena, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asserting. I suspect you’re mistakenly trying to equate conventional sports movement and more pedestrian skills with kinesiology. Which is why I bring up MJ so often - Phil Jackson was a big Zen student. Think that made no traction in the sports community? A great deal of advancement has been made in kinesiology due to sports - because that’s where the real money and need for it was/is)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:11 PM on June 12, 2007

Tk - yoga and tai chi techniques are studied in kinesiology as well as sport studies, geriatrics, biomechanics, etc. etc.
And vice versa, a lot of yoga practitioners, tai chi practitioners are finding the structure and data from kinesiology useful.
It’s a broad field, thus the ‘astronomy’ comparison.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:38 PM on June 12, 2007

Speaking of yoga: Namaste, bitches!
posted by homunculus at 9:31 PM on June 12, 2007

In the second Minoru video linked the trick he is using to push the person up from the kneeling position is rotation of the forearms. The exercise he is doing was practiced at the end of each session at the Aikido school that I attended briefly. It requires the subject to hold onto the wrists very tightly, as did much of the aikido I experienced.
I also train Tai Chi at the moment and can recommend it for it's health and martial benefits. That is if you have a good teacher, anyone who uses 'Master' in their title is to be treated with caution, IMHO.
Chi can be viewed as a conflagration of aspects of self: focus, breath, correct muscle use, belief in outcome (confidence). Much like the placebo effect, there is alot that the mind can do to augment the actions of the body. Visualisation is important, as mentioned above, and can help to promote the use of the correct muscles for a task where conscious cajoling does not work.

FYI, research into use of pressure point combinations done by Zoltan Dienes and Mike Flanagan concludes:
Having applied a rigorous statistical approach to testing some of the central principles of Chinese medicine as applied to pressure point fighting we have found no evidence whatsoever to support their usefulness in this setting. This is not to say that some vital points can't be used together to increase their effectiveness. It simply means that Chinese medicine theory has not thus far shown itself to be a useful model for predicting which points do work well together. However, there is at this stage a relative lack of rigorous research into this area.
posted by asok at 3:18 AM on June 13, 2007

Ah, I was hoping asavage would show up and put this one to bed. Maybe we should storm the Mythbusters site and stuff their suggestion box?
posted by JHarris at 3:27 AM on June 13, 2007

*envys asok’s coherence*
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2007

Sorry it took me a while to get back to this. Work is pretty busy.

Ki/qi: to me it's a feeling. It's a specific feeling of pressure/movement inside the body, even when the outside is still.

Empirical study: I don't know where it comes from, or specifically what is going on in his body. But , as far as "how to do it," he has a pretty organized curriculum for his students-- solo practices (with the right feelings...more on that in a minute), two person testing (looks like push hands restricted to different ranges of movement) and hitting practice (targets/other people) and then free fighting.

Practical uses? Strength in weird/awkward positions. Better balance. The ability to disrupt someone's movement with seemingly little effort (like when Akuzawa leg kicks a couple of the guys). Akuzawa, in my experience (I was there for about 10 days a few months ago) doesn't play the "old master" game. It's pretty much, show up, train, go out for dinner after and talk.

Kinesiology: I've seen the Feldenkrais awareness-through-movement stuff, and some of the Zen Body Therapy stuff. I can say that although there is overlap, it's not the same as what I'm talking about. Developing the awareness is one thing. Using it to strengthen and connect the body is quite another.

No offense, but if you've been doing ki development stuff for years and years, you should most definitely be feeling the pressure moving through your body. It's not a visualization or an analogy. It's what you feel-- pressure, moving through your body, directed by your will. If you can't, you're doing it wrong. If after a year or so of training, you can't do the hand lifting drill against a much bigger, stronger person (who is untrained in the bodyskill) then you're doing everything wrong.

In a sense, the basic conditioning kata you see in karate (sanchin/naifanchi) or long fist (tantui/wubuquan) are the same as ki development. The internal feeling is the same, and all the different conditioning kata/taolu/forms/qigong sets/ whatever are designed to put that feeling into different shapes. It should be in all the forms. Period.

Hippies: I can't stand 'em. Worst thing for martial arts, ever =) Just so you know.

Hence the idea (I think...) of , one principle, many applications. Or , from one thing, ten thousand things.

No, Akuzawa (that's his surname) does not require one to "grab on tight" for his movement to be effective.

As to pressure points, like I said before, if you've got the right kind of power, hitting just about anywhere is going to cause major damage.

Breathing is important because through breathing you find the limits of your body. And also, because there are certain parts of the body that you can most easily feel as a result of breathing. When you breathe you move certain parts of your body (back/chest) without thinking about moving them in the same way you do it when it's intentional. That is, your arms and chest expand, but you don't will it to happen like you would if you lift your arm to pick up a pen.

Rather, you breathe and it movement happens as a result. If you focus on the breath, you gain awareness of the different parts of your body, you normally can't control or articulate. Then, you learn to exert control over them.

You don't have to take my word for it either...there's some stuff in one of Draeger's books , Modern Bujutsu and Budo, where he talks about the silent kiai that top level people use. They focus their power, yet they don't need to make noise to do it.
posted by wuwei at 10:44 PM on June 14, 2007

*In a sense, the basic conditioning kata you see in karate (sanchin/naifanchi) or long fist (tantui/wubuquan) are the same as ki development. The internal feeling is the same, and all the different conditioning kata/taolu/forms/qigong sets/ whatever are designed to put that feeling into different shapes. It should be in all the forms. Period.

Hence the idea (I think...) of , one principle, many applications. Or , from one thing, ten thousand things.

In a sense, the basic conditioning kata you see in karate (sanchin/naifanchi) or long fist (tantui/wubuquan) are the same as ki development. The internal feeling is the same, and all the different conditioning kata/taolu/forms/qigong sets/ whatever are designed to put that feeling into different shapes. It should be in all the forms. Period.

Hippies: I can't stand 'em. Worst thing for martial arts, ever =) Just so you know=)
posted by wuwei at 10:45 PM on June 14, 2007

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