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Wushu Kungfu Magazine, 1993
Roger D. Hagood

Instant Death, stopping the enemy in his tracks. These are the goals of vital point striking, RDH Publications - 1993 Although, the notion of striking (or lightly touching) someone and them dying days,weeks or months later has appeal, it will not be preferable in the reality of facing an opponent who is larger and stronger or when facing multiple enemy in hand to hand combat. Fact being, it will be necessary to maim or kill the enemy as quickly as possible to avoid danger to yourself.
There are only three ways to accomplish this: destroy the circulatory system and stop the flow of blood; destroy the  respiratory system and stop the ability to breathe; or destroy the Central Nervous System {brain and spinal cord), Of these three methods, destroying the brain is the quickest and will immediately incapacitate the enemy.
By stopping the blood circulation to the brain (one method is destroying the carotid artery located at a depth of l.5 inches on the side of the neck) the average enemy will probably go unconscious in less than 60 seconds, thereby giving him a full minute to continue trying to destroy you! 

Stopping the ability to breathe will usually incapacitate the enemy within one minute, although he may live  several minutes longer.   A skilled (even unskilled) strike to the hyoid bone (top of the throat) or the trachea (bottom of the throat) can destroy the respiratory system and stop the average enemy within 20 seconds, although he may continue to engage you.

Destroying the brain (or spinal cord) ls the quickest way to stop the enemy dead in his tracks.  Therein is the rationale for the primary pistol targets:  brain and spinal cord.   By hand this may be accomplished in a variety of ways:
1.  An attack to the vital point behind the ear will result in hemorrhage in the brain tissue and between its membranes (dura mater and pia mater);

2.  An attack (concussive vibration) to the top (fontanelles) of the skull would cause bleeding in the brain tissue and subarachnoid hemorrhages with possible fractures of the skull bones;
3.  An attack to the base of the skull or near the nape of the neck can lead to fracture of the odontoid process of the second (Axis) cervical vertebra or the transverse process of the first (Atlas) cervical vertebra, accompanied by injury to the vertebral artery and hence severe subarachnoidal hemorrhage.  This is one of the dim mak strikes which may leave no visible signs of damage after death.

Other fatal consequences of a trained hand may be:

4, An attack to the thyroid cartilage (above the sternum) may fracture the cartilage causing  hemorrhage of the carotid artery and the carotid sinus also causing sudden vagal inhibition with consequent cardiac arrest.

5.  An attack to the coeliac (solar) plexus, largest of the sympathetic plexuses, may cause sudden heart stoppage (vagal inhibition) and damage to the liver or coeliac artery as it lies about the level of the first lumbar vertebrae.

Although, any present day medical student could illuminate countless others, the above points illustrate the need to understand striking the enemy's vital points.

A large body of knowledge about the precise points of special sensitivity and danger on the surface of the human body, which in the cause of violent assault, may leave no external sign yet lead to trauma, contusion, shock, internal injury or death has evolved in China from as early as the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD).  The Book of Rites (Li Chi) contains early records detailing the examination of corpses which resulted from violent actions.

In 1247 AD, the Book of Washing Away Unjust Imputations (Hsi Yuan Li) lists and diagrams 32 points of particular danger.  Often the vital points correspond with "forbidden" acupuncture and moxibustion points which could induce bleeding, fainting, piercing of the large nerve trunks, etc.  By 1644 the methods of striking these points and intercepting their meridians were highly developed.

Even an unskilled blow by the average man at the right place and time can be fatal and the Yin and Yang of the body is that it is at once both fragile and extremely resilient.  Numerous are the cases of a man, who being struck or shot multiple times continues his assault and on the other hand are the freak accidents when for no apparent reason the slightest trauma is lethal.  However, as evidenced above, the ancient Chinese knew that the aggression of one unarmed man upon another could be productive of the most fatal consequences if one of the two was trained in the martial art of vital point striking.

When considering vital point training one must familiarize himself with the body's makeup, ie. the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, respiratory, nervous and digestive systems etc.  Knowledge of these structures locations, depths etc. are also required as well as the typography of vital energy circulation (acupuncture).

Next one must familiarize himself with the hand techniques used in striking vital points ie. striking with the thumbs, fingertips, knuckles etc. including angle and direction of attack, number of strikes necessary, etc.  Primarily the hand and fingers will be used although, feet, elbows, shoulders, head etc. can be used with less efficiency.  conditioning of these tools is also necessary for maximum result.  With proper training the fingers can truly become like daggers (or needles wrapped in cotton) which will rip or pierce the enemy's flesh from his bones.

Without power and speed  it is not possible to effectively strike vital points.  One must develop the knocking power of concussive vibrations, the penetrating power to damage structures at a depth of 6 inches internally and the grasping power to damage joints, cartilage, nerves and skin.  As many as 3 points may be attacked in one movement.  However, without the knowledge and familiarization of the internal structures, one cannot focus his intention or will to destroy them.

Other factors also come to play in vital point striking.  Breathing, muscular structure of the enemy, weather and time may influence the result.  In reference to time, it has been known in China for 2200 years of the existence of the 24 hour circadian rhythms in the human body (as evidenced in the Huang Ti Nei Ching), although it was not until the 1960's that western science began to study such as routine.

These 24 hour rhythms concern hormone secretion and the pineal gland in the head (upper dan tien center) is suspected of being the rhythm regulator.  Today, medical science evidences drastic changes in the severity of diseases and symptoms at different times of the day.

However, as for the idea of striking someone and them dying or becoming ill at a later date, I imagine a scenario like this:  Ancient China (and perhaps modern rural).  Two men fight.  One has acute internal damage to his body.  Immediate treatment is not available.  Life goes on.  The man goes back to work.  His condition worsens and he dies days, weeks, or several months later from a martial arts blow.  Thus, the stuff of Legend and movies is born.  And as for the idea of lightly touching someone to induce death or unconsciousness, let us just say the laws of physics don't add up (at any point or structure of the body).

Its ludicrous that today some Karate and Kungfu teachers promote "dim mak" as a light body touch or slap and then by rubbing them on the back bring them back around.  Poppycock, dangerous nonsense that it is.

From a military (martial) art standpoint, advanced martial arts training must include the knowledge of the body's weakest points and the knowledge of attacking them to cause the maximum result: death.

Ed. note:  I wrote this article in my own Pacific Rim Publishing, Inc. magazine as a rebuttal to the tomfoolery going on at the time regarding "dim mak".  In fact, I wrote quite a few articles using a pen name!   And as the magazine publisher, ghost-penned quite a few articles secretly for other Sifu!


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Copyright © 2010, Roger D. Hagood.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.