Introduction to Dim Mak
By Paul Brecher
COMBAT MAGAZINE JANUARY 2003
Paul Brecher is the Chief Instructor of The College of Chinese Martial Arts and the Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine in London, his training as an acupuncturist and as a martial artist means that he is able to explain the medical reasons behind the apparently mystical art of Dim Mak.
Dim mak has many useful benefits, it makes our martial arts training more interesting, it can be an extra tool we can use to defeat an attacker and I believe most importantly it can lead martial artists to become acupuncturists. The dim mak points are some times called pressure points or nerve points but they are in fact all acupuncture points.
When I teach The Old Yang Style of Tai Chi to my students I explain to them how every move we make could be a fa jin explosive energy strike to an acupuncture point. This way of doing things is known as Dim Mak and is a part of many martial arts systems not just Tai Chi.
Some martial arts systems like Tai chi always had dim mak in them and others add dim mak to their style to make it more effective. Some martial arts instructors of other styles who I teach Tai chi to stopped practising their previous martial art and dedicate themselves to mastering the whole Tai chi system. Others just take the basic dim mak and basic fa jin information that I have taught them and put it into their previous style.
To be able to use dim mak on a basic level one only needs to know the location of a handful of easily accessible points and to use ones martial arts skill to avoid being hit and to put oneself in a position where one can hit the opponent. Many of the points work when just hit with normal external power, one does not need to spend years learning fa jin (striking with an explosive release of internal force). However by knowing true fa jin it makes it possible to generate massive force from a very short distance.
Many people still ask me does dim mak really work ? Well yes it really does work because if you hit a person with the extreme force of fa jin on the acupuncture points that are on the most weak and vulnerable areas of the body it is going to get a big effect. The acupuncture points that we use for dim mak are over major nerves and blood vessels and the most vulnerable parts of the neck and skull. Many of them are also right over major internal organs like the heart, liver, lungs or kidneys, even if you do not hit the point exactly but are in roughly the right area it will still work.
Lets say the opponent throws a right hook punch to your head, you turn your hips to the left which will throw your arms and hands up and outwards towards them. Your left hand hits the acupuncture point known as Pericarium 6 (P-6) on the inside of their wrist and a fraction of a second later your right hand hits an acupuncture point called Stomach 9 (St-9) on their neck. (This is actualy the first move of The Old Yang Style Small San Sau Fighting Form).
If we hit P-6 first as a set up point it makes St-9 which is the the main strike have an even more deadly effect. However Stomach 9 works by itself whether we use a set up point first or not. A strike to P-6 will be hitting the medial nerve which will cause the arm to go numb and weak, a nauseas feeling in the gut and a shock to the bodies whole nervous system causing the heart to beat erratically and the person to become mentally and physically weak and unstable.
So now the strike to St-9 will have an even more serious effect and its use is only for when your life is in danger. This point is right on top of the vegas nerve, the cartoid artery and the carotid sinus. Even a light strike in this area could cause knock out because the carotid sinus reflex controls the blood pressure to the head. Striking the carotid sinus sends a signal to the heart via the vegas nerve to slow down, blood pressure drops and the opponent faints. If this point is hit to hard the heart might stop and the opponent could die.
So we can see that there is no mystery to dim mak this information is correct according to western anatomical science. Western accident and emergency doctors are actually taught to use a very slight finger pressure on the carotid sinus to treat patients suffering from life threatening high blood pressure.
Unfortunately there are still some martial arts teachers who are not trained in acupuncture or western medicine and use the Stomach 9 point to demonstrate how with only a small amount of power they can knock someone out. This is reckless in the extreme not only because these people often don't know the antidote or revival points but also because this is one of the dim mak delayed death points.
Again the reason why this occurs is all medical not mystical. When struck on St-9 the traumatic injury will cause a small section of the interior wall of the cartoid artery to eventually detach itself and get carried to the brain where it will cause a clot resulting in a stroke and death. This can happen a few weeks, months or years after the original strike hence the delayed death aspect of this dim mak attack.
Acupuncturists use Pericardium 6 to treat nausea, travel sickness, food poisoning and irregular heart activity. Stomach 9 is used to treat high blood pressure and neck problems like tonsillitis and goitre. So if we train to be effective acupuncturists as well as effective martial artists then we have a yin yang balance in our lives. We can be healers as well as fighters by using the same knowledge of acupuncture points for both combat and healing.
I explain to martial artists about the interesting art of dim mak and why it works to encourage them to use their enthusiasm for dim mak as an open door into the very rewarding study of the healing art of acupuncture. We must always remember that dim mak points are acupuncture points and the reason why dim mak works is because it is using the treatment methods of acupuncture in an adverse way.
The way that acupuncture works is to insert the needles into acupuncture points on the acupuncture meridians in the direction that the chi (energy) flows to reinforce a weak part of the body. Or to insert the needles into acu-points against the direction that the chi flows to calm an overactive part of the body suffering from an excessive condition like pain or inflamation. The needles are also manipulated up and down whilst being rotated clock wise or anti clockwise to reinforce or reduce the chi flow. The direction depends on which hand you are using on which side of the patients body.
All the bodies muscles, bones and internal organs, the brain and nervous system can be healed by acupuncturing specific acupuncture points. This same knowledge can be used to adversely affect the opponents organs, brain and nerve system in combat.
For example acupuncturists use Conception Meridian point 17 (CV-17) needled in the reducing direction to calm the heart and lungs by reducing excessive heart and lung activity. So it is very useful in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, palpitations and angina. If a person were struck in the reducing direction with sufficient force on this point it could cause the opponent to have reduced functional power of the heart and lungs, difficulty breathing and a blood pressure drop. They could feel weak and faint and collapse.
Acupuncturists send chi energy through the needles to heal the patient with thoughts of compassion and a healing intention. When we use the points in combat he needed to put a destructive intention into the chi to be able to affect the energy flow in the opponents bodies in an adverse way. (Of course with dim mak some points work for purely anatomical reasons and no chi is needed but many of the points only work, or work with less effort, if chi is used in the strikes).
Dim mak means hitting the acupuncture points with fa jin explosive energy strikes, to cause disorientation, weakness and collapse, temporary or permanent paralysis, unconsciousness or death. Different results are possible depending on which point or combination of points are hit and how they are hit. The results are due to understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine it has nothing to do with mystical powers.
It is clear that in ancient times
new acupuncture and used this knowledge to make their fighting systems
more effective. It is a great skill to be able to use dim mak to defeat
an opponent if we are attacked. However if we take a deep look into our
selves we realise that just cultivating the skill of being able to
people is very unbalanced. If we study acupuncture then we can not only
heal injuries to ourselves and others that occur during our martial
training but also help members of the public to recover from illness
By Paul Brecher
PUBLISHED IN COMBAT MAGAZINE FEBUARY 2003
Continuing on from last months article I will explain more about the interesting art of dim mak and why it works. And I will further encourage martial artists to use their enthusiasm for dim mak as a gateway into the very rewarding study of the healing art of acupuncture.
There are actually a few misunderstandings about dim mak that need to be clarified, for example some people still think that we have to hit certain points at certain times of day for the dim mak effect to work. This is incorrect, acupuncture points whether they are used for dim mak or acupuncture work all the time.
Many people also believe that one needs to know about the creative and destructive cycle of the five elements theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine to be able to use dim mak correctly. Again this is not the case, all one needs to know is the location of the point and the direction of the strike in and up, down, left or right and whether to rotate the strike clockwise or anti clockwise to cause an energy drainage effect, also of course one needs to have fa jin. These things are learnt as a subconscious reflex by the body through training The Old Yang Style Tai Chi System.
Fa jin has many levels and so does dim mak, the higher the level of fa jin one is at, the higher level of dim mak one can apply. It is possible on many of the dim mak points to get them to work even without fa jin, just with a normal external strike, others need to be hit with the great penetrating power that can only come from the fa jin strikes.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about dim mak is because it is sometimes called the death touch. It is not a touch it is a fa jin strike delivered with great force, you cannot kill someone with a touch, the reason that this misunderstanding has grown is that to an onlooker the strike was so small and quick that it just looked like a touch.
At the high level of fa jin we can deliver the blow from a very short distance but because this is not understood, it is inevitable that the incorrect conclusion has been drawn and it is thought that there was just a touch not a strike. So dim mak should really be translated as death strikes not the death touch.
One common myth which has crept into the dim mak ( acupuncture point striking ) story is that people say that they were knocked out and the fighter never touched them. What really happened was the fa jin strike was to fast to see and with a knock out the person who has been hit, upon recovering consciousness has lost the memory of the second just before he went into knock out.
So of course they did not see the strike land or recall the feeling of the blow so they inevitably jump to the conclusion that it never landed and then they say that they were knocked out without being touched and so another myth is created.
One of the points that we use to cause knock out is on the Governing Vessel, it is called a vessel rather than just a meridian because it holds a great deal of the bodies energy. The Governing Vessel runs up through the middle of the spine over the top of the head and down to the upper gum. The knock out point is called Governing Vessel Point 26 (GV- 26) and it is located just under the nose, above the middle of the top lip.
If we hit GV- 26 lightly in the reducing direction against the energy flow in this meridian/vessel it could cause knock out because it connects directly with the Central Nervous System in the spine. The shock wave through the CNS can damage it and could cause the opponent to go into knock out.
Unfortunately there are still some martial arts teachers who are not trained in acupuncture or western medicine and use GV- 26 to demonstrate how with only a small amount of power they can knock someone out. This is reckless in the extreme because often these people don't know the antidote or revival points.
Dim mak should never be used for demonstrations only for defeating opponents. There is short and long term damage from any type of knock out, so it would not be sensible for a person to volunteer themselves to be hit at a seminar where dim mak is being demonstrated.
Acupuncturists use Governing Vessel point 26 to revive an unconscious person or to awaken coma patients. We also use this point to clear inflammation from the spine before we start acupuncturing the the specific vertebrae and discs that have been been damaged and need healing.
The Old Yang Style system has been very cleverly designed so that it is possible to practice fa jin and dim mak in such a way that one can become effective in its use but not damaged in the training.
We train so that if we encounter the worst situation we have something to call upon, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst. A person who chooses to train the whole of the Old Yang Style Tai chi System will eventually get to the very high levels which are more to do with energy rather than just physical force.
From a healing perspective the ability to transfer our energy through the acupuncture needles into a specific part of another persons body is a great skill. We would of course use positive healing energy not adverse destructive energy. There are not two types of chi energy, good and bad, it is the same energy we just give it an adverse or healing intention depending on the circumstances.
The ancient Chinese healing art of acupuncture can cure not only physical injuries but also many illnesses, diseases and general health problems. It was the medical understanding of acupuncture which lead to the development of dim mak.
So if we train to be effective acupuncturists as well as effective martial artists then we have a yin yang balance in our training and our lives. We can be healers as well as fighters by using the same knowledge of acupuncture points for both combat and healing. For healing we would be tapping into our higher spiritual nature for fighting we tap into our base animal nature.
It is clear that in ancient times martial artists new acupuncture and used this knowledge to make their fighting systems more effective. It is a great skill to be able to use dim mak to cause sudden weakness, knock out or death to an opponent if we are attacked. However if we take a deep look into our selves we realise that just cultivating the skill of being able to damage peoples health is very unbalanced.
In our modern lives here in the UK we to can have the the ability be both fighters and healers and have a greater degree of balance in our lives. If we study acupuncture then we can not only heal injuries to ourselves and others that occur during our martial arts training but also help members of the public to recover from illness and injury.