The world of martial arts is rich in myths, legends and misunderstandings. It can be hard for Westerners to understand some of the cultural and spiritual aspects of martial arts, as the majority have their roots in the East. Debates and arguments about which fighting system is the ‘best,’ whether martial arts work in street fights, and the truth about legendary fighters like Bruce Lee are all part of the confusion and mystery.
Dim Mak is one of the arts that’s the least understood, and it’s surrounded by myths. Most people associate it with ‘The Death Touch,’ and the very mention of this causes sceptics to write Dim Mak off as something created for stories and Hollywood movies. The ‘Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique’ from Kill Bill is a perfect example of this. The movie is fantastically entertaining, but did little for the understanding of real martial arts!
Many Westerners are sceptical about acupuncture and Eastern medicine, and this is another reason why aspects of some martial arts are written off as not being possible. In reality, there is growing scientific evidence to support acupuncture, and this is a foundation for greater understanding of arts like Dim Mak. If acupuncture and pressure points can be used to heal the body, surely they can also be used to cause injury or harm? In ancient China, the healing arts and fighting arts went hand in hand. If you keep an open mind, you must at least consider the possibility that anatomically vulnerable structures of the human body – “pressure points” – can be the basis of a self defence or fighting system.
One of the most controversial Dim Mak myths is that a strike can be delivered which results in death several days afterwards. Again, this sounds beyond the realms of possibility to many people, but there is actually some scientific basis for it. There is a point about half an inch to the front of the top of the ear, which is the thinnest part of the human head. If this point is struck, it can cause a small artery just under the skull to break. This will not cause great pain or any immediate damage and the person may think little of it. After a few days the broken artery can result in death by filling up the brain with blood and it is the pressure build up that kills.
The myth that a student can find a mysterious Dim Mak master and learn the ‘death touch’ after a few months is of course nonsense. To use pressure points in a fighting situation requires a combination of an understanding of acupuncture and the healing elements of Chinese arts, and a good level of skill in fighting arts.
Another martial art myth associated with Dim Mak is the no-touch knockout. This generally involves Chi – or Ki – energy projection. Some masters claim to be able to make a bell ring or a gong chime by projecting energy, and this is extended as a way of delivering a knockout strike over a distance. Not surprisingly, there’s little evidence this can be done!
Sadly, these wild claims and myths put some people off taking Dim Mak seriously, but it’s an art anyone with a serious interest in martial arts should study.