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; Jyutping: dim2 mak6; literally: "press artery"), 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 little scientific or historical evidence for the existence of a martial arts "touch of death", although mild trauma may cause disproportionately catastrophic consequences when applied to known pressure points under specific circumstances.
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. However, as this matter is not identified in the ving tsun kin kut and traditional practitioners of ving tsun, or (wing chun) take no stance in the matter.
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 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
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 martial arts films. 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 depicts a character incapacitating a guard by putting pressure on his wrist, explaining the technique as "Dim Mak". In the comedy film The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney's character claims to have been hit with the Touch of Death, a "light tap" that causes death at an unknown point in the future, in one case "about eighteen years later".
In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Day of the Samurai", Kyodai Ken, Bruce Wayne's rival from his days training in Japan, forces Master Yoru to reveal his secret death touch. Wayne survives the technique by wearing a protective pad to absorb the force of the blow. In the animated film Kung Fu Panda, Jack Black's character uses a method called the Wooshi Finger Hold to defeat the antagonist of the film.
Quentin Tarantino's film series Kill Bill also mentions dim mak, describing it as the "Five-point-palm exploding heart technique", in which the victim can only take five steps until their heart explodes.
- 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[unreliable source?]
- George A. Dillman, Kyusho-Jitsu: The Dillman Method of Pressure Point Fighting, Dillman Karate Intl (1993), ISBN 978-0-9631996-1-4.
- Michael Kelly, Death Touch: The Science Behind the Legend of Dim Mak, Paladin Press (2001), ISBN 978-1-58160-281-4.
- Art Mason, Novice Kyusho Jitshu Certification Workbook 
- 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.
- Jin Jing Zhong. Authentic Shaolin Heritage: Dian Xue Shu (Dim Mak) - Skill of Acting on Acupoints. Tanjin, 1934. 
- 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.