Image via brtsergio
Enter the Dragon was his last completed film. Six days after it was released, Bruce Lee, one of the biggest icons of martial arts cinema died a sudden and mysterious death. But was he the victim of the legendary dim mak touch of death as many of his avid fans have claimed?
Known in Cantonese as dim mak and in Japanese as kyusho jitsu, the touch of death is legendary among martial arts nuts. The idea behind the death touch is somewhat mysterious: apparently there are several “meridians” or body lines where “chi” or energy flows through. According to Dr Cecil Adams, “A blow or squeeze applied to certain pressure points on these lines will supposedly put the whammy on the victim's chi, leading to incapacitation or death.” Medical journals have even reported numerous incidents where seemingly mild trauma to the described dim mak pressure points results in disproportionately serious injury. But is this all a load of baloney? Is dim mak real or not?
Never take your eyes off your opponent... even when you bow" Bruce Lee
The guys over at Martial Development, point out that dim mak does not actually signify “death touch” as many budding westernized ninjas would have us believe. In Cantonese it means something more like “press artery.” Their argument therefore is “Anyone can press an artery right?” They then push home their point by stating that dim mak is not synonymous with pressure points, but arteries and that skilled operators who have mastery over their art can use it against their opponent. Dim mak in their eyes therefore, is like reverse acupuncture, its evil twin. It can be use to cure and to kill.Equally, Dr Michael Kelly, graduate of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and author of Death Touch: The Science Behind the legend of Dim Mak has spent years studying the medical effects of dim mak and has found numerous cases to support the validity of the martial art. The book covers delayed deaths resulting from dim mak, knockouts and attacking internal organs, all explained through modern medicine.Are there any Medical Explanations? and where are these points supposedly located?
Don't try this at home kids! Images by dimmak.net
Commotio Cordis or cardiac concussion is where the heart rhythm is interrupted by a blow, which isn’t of lethal force, yet nonetheless causes heart failure without any structural damage. To inflict this on an opponent would be notoriously difficult, because of the 15-20 millisecond window in the heartbeat cycle where this would actually work.
Rupture of the carotid artery
This carotid artery is located in the neck and carries blood to the head. Any pressure on the carotid sinus (a very sensitive area) could rupture the artery causing a stroke, paralysis and even death. This can be caused by a karate chop or something minor like playing a musical instrument.
Who practices the death touch?
Dr Kelly argues that in the past, knowledge of martial arts was taught only to the most advanced and trusted students. The true nature of the secret martial art therefore remains shrouded in secrecy. The potential application of knowledge after all is power. Now with the internet and numerous books various supposed Dim Mak masters have emerged. Here is a video of them in action:
Ok, But Could Dim Mak be Fake?
Quite possibly. Some of the Kung-Fu masters, claiming to possess the ability to practice the death touch have been exposed as frauds. I’m still skeptical. After all, although many have claimed Bruce Lee’s death to be caused by dim mak and inflicted by Kung-Fu masters who were angry at the icon for revealing their secrets, a more plausible explanation is that he died of a cerebral edema caused by a painkiller. The myth of the death touch could therefore fuel the legend.
On the other hand, it is quite plausible that with intense practice and knowledge, one could be trained to learn dim mak, but I don’t think it’s the precise art some Kung Fu masters profess it to be.