Touch of Death
|Touch of Death|
|Traditional Chinese:||點脈 / 點穴|
|Simplified Chinese:||点脉 / 点穴|
The Touch of Death (or Death-Point Striking) refers to any martial arts technique reputed to kill using seemingly less than lethal force targeted at specific areas of the body.
The concept known as Dim Mak (simplified Chinese: 点脉; traditional Chinese: 點脈; pinyin: diǎnmài; literally "press artery"; Jyutping: dim2 mak6), alternatively diǎnxué (simplified Chinese: 点穴; traditional Chinese: 點穴) traces its history to traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture. Tales of its use are often found in the Wuxia genre of Chinese martial arts fiction. Dim Mak is depicted as a secret body of knowledge with techniques that attack pressure points and meridians, said to incapacitate or sometimes cause immediate or even delayed death to an opponent. There is no scientific or historical evidence for the existence of a touch of death.
The concept known as Vibrating Palm originates with the Chinese martial arts Neijing ("internal") energy techniques that deal with the Qi energy and the type of force (jin) used. It is depicted as "a technique that is part psychic and part vibratory, this energy is then focused into a wave".
Claims of practicability
There have been a number of martial artists claiming to practice the technique in reality, beginning in the 1960s, when the term was advertised alongside the English translation "The Death Touch" by American eccentric Count Dante.
In 1985, an article in Black Belt magazine speculated that the death of Bruce Lee, in 1973, might have been caused by "a delayed reaction to a Dim-Mak strike he received several weeks prior to his collapse". Other authors, as well, have said the death of Bruce Lee may have been due to a "Quivering Palm technique" (alongside an article about Cai li fo instructor Wong Doc-Fai) to the effect that "dim mak does actually exist and is still taught to a few select kung fu practitioners." A 1986 book on qi identifies dim mak as "one of the secret specialities" of wing chun.
In ca. 1990, Taika Seiyu Oyata founded the style of Ryū-te which involves "pressure point fighting" (Kyūshojutsu). In the 1990s, karate instructor George Dillman developed a style that involves kyūshojutsu, a term that he identifies with Dim-Mak. Dillman eventually went as far as claiming to have developed qi-based attacks that work without physical contact ("no-touch knockout" techniques), a claim that did not stand up to third-party investigation and was consequently denounced as fraudulent.
Also, during the late 1980s, Erle Montaigue (1949-2011) published a number of books and instruction videos on Dim Mak with Paladin Press. Montaigue claims to be "the first Westerner to be granted the degree of 'Master' in taijiquan", awarded by Master Wang Xin-Wu in 1985. According to Montaigue's own account, Dim-Mak is an aspect of traditional old Yang style Taji Quan which he claims he began learning in 1978 from a master called Chiang Yiu-chun. Montaigue stated this man was an illegal immigrant, making his existence difficult to verify. Erle subsequently learned the remaining "qi disruptive" forms of Wudang Shan from Liang Shih-kan in 1995. Paladin Press has other titles on the topic of Dim Mak, including Kelly (2001) and Walker and Bauer (2002), both with a foreword by Montaigue.
Kung fu films
Dim Mak is referenced in Bloodsport (1988), a film allegedly "based on true events in the life of Frank Dux", the founder of the first Neo-ninja school of "American Style Ninjutsu". In the film, Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) proves that he has been trained by Master Tanaka by demonstrating a move described as a "Dim Mak" or "Death Touch" attack to the judges.
A "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique" appears in both the Shaw Brothers films Clan of the White Lotus (1980) and Executioners of Shaolin (1977). It also appears in Kill Bill Vol. 2. The "delayed action" of dim mak is depicted in Executioners of Shaolin (1977), where a "100-step Soul Catching" move allows the victim to take a certain number of steps before dying. A Dim Mak attack is used to paralyze a character in 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
In contemporary western pop culture
"Dim mak" has become a kind of "camp" pop culture item which is recognized also outside of the genre of Wuxia or kung fu films. For example, in Thomas Pynchon's Novel Vineland, one of the protagonists uses the "Quivering Palm Death Touch", which kills the opponent one year after it is used. In the 1977 series Quincy, M.E., an episode entitled Touch of Death features a martial arts movie star whose mysterious death is found to be a result of a dim mak attack against him, ten days earlier. Dan Brown's novel Inferno sees a character incapacitating a guard by putting pressure on his wrist, explaining the technique as "Dim Mak".
Quentin Tarantino referenced the "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique" in his movie Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004). The 2008 animated Wuxia parody Kung Fu Panda depicts a "Wuxi Finger Hold", in which holding an opponent by one finger produces an enormous shockwave of energy. In The Simpsons episode "When Flanders Failed", Bart repeatedly threatens Lisa with the 'touch of death' to get her to do things for him, after playing an arcade game of the same name and joining a Karate school.
California metal band Five Finger Death Punch is supposedly named after this technique.
A similar idea, though not mentioned by the name Dim Mak, is used in the animated Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender by Ty Lee, referred to as "chi-blocking".
In the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats, the Dim Mak is mentioned by Lyn Cassady (played by George Clooney), who says that he will soon die because of the Dim Mak, preformed on him by Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey).
A similar move with an acupuncture needle occurs in the film Kiss of the Dragon. There the hero (Jet Li) punctures the villain in the back of the neck at a "very forbidden" point on the body. The puncture itself, called "kiss of the dragon," traps all the body's blood in the head and causes, after a few steps from the victim, quadriplegia, bleeding from the head's orifices, and a painful death via a brain aneurysm.
- Adams, Cecil (May 21, 2004). "The Straight Dope: Is the "ninja death touch" real?". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- Pickens, Ricky (1991), "the Mysterious Vibration Palm", Inside Kung Fu
- Bruce, Thomas (1998). Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit : A Biography (first ed.). Frog Ltd. ISBN 978-1-883319-11-3.
- Jane Hallander, "The Death Touch" in Black Belt ISSN 0277-3066, Vol. 23, No. 6 June 1985, pp. 43ff.
- William Cheung, Mike Lee, How to Develop Chi Power, Black Belt Communications, 1986, p. 23. ISBN 978-0-89750-110-1
- Polidoro, M. Just like Jedi knights Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 2008, p. 21; see also George Dillman explains Chi K.O. nullification. URL accessed on June 13, 2009.
- "Erle Montaigue". Taijiworld.com. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
- <taijiworld.com "Erle stated he travelled back to Australia upon the death of his father in 1978 and [...] supposedly met Chiang Yiu-chun who became Erle's main internal arts teacher from whom he learnt Tai Chi, Wudang Arts and Dim-Mak. In 1981, Erle travelled to Hong Kong where he met and trained with both Yang Sau-chung (the son of Yang Cheng-fu) and also Ho Ho-choy, a Bagua master."
- IMDb.com episode list
Brissner, Florian (2009) Mu and Shu points vs. HEAD's maximum points The Phenomenon of Dian Xue from the Viewpoints of Chinese Medicine and Modern Neuroscience
- Michael Kelly, Death Touch: The Science Behind the Legend of Dim Mak, Paladin Press (2001), ISBN 978-1-58160-281-4.
- George A. Dillman, Kyusho-Jitsu: The Dillman Method of Pressure Point Fighting, Dillman Karate Intl (1993), ISBN 978-0-9631996-1-4.
- Erle Montaigue, Dim-Mak: Death Point Striking, Paladin Press (1993), ISBN 978-0-87364-718-2
- Erle Montaigue and Wally Simpson, The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak, Paladin Press (1997), ISBN 978-1-58160-537-2.
- A. Flane Walker and Richard C. Bauer, The Ancient Art of Life and Death: The Book of Dim-Mak, Paladin Press (2002), ISBN 978-1-58160-574-7.
- Art Mason, Novice Kyusho Jitshu Certification Workbook 
- Jin Jing Zhong. Authentic Shaolin Heritage: Dian Xue Shu (Dim Mak) - Skill of Acting on Acupoints /Tanjin, 1934/