The Right Coast

May 25, 2004
Weird San Diego martial arts legends, part 1
By Tom Smith

Last night at my jujitsu class, I asked one of those questions that sent our Soke off on a tangent, albeit an interesting one. I do that in my classes too, notoriously, so it was interesting to be on the other side for a change.

I recently watched the Jet Li movie "Kiss of the Dragon" (highly recommended for nearly non-stop, mindless martial arts action! And the villains are French!), in which Jet Li, our hero, uses a technique in which he deploys acupuncture needles in various points, thereby paralyzing or even killing his opponents. I asked Soke if there were anything to this, or was it just martial arts movie hokum.

Soke told us about Dim Mak, a Chinese martial art that involves attacking particular pressure points in order to cause paralysis or death. (Presumably this is the idea behind Mr. Spock's 'Vulcan nerve pinch'.) These attacks can supposedly cause death nearly instantly or as much as two weeks later, and were said to be used by assassins, such as ninja. The San Diego connection is that one of the most accomplished masters of this art is said to live in East County San Diego. I heard his name, but for obvious reasons, not least of all not wanting to annoy a rumored professional assassin, I don't want to repeat it here. Anyway, he is a former San Diego cop who was educated in a monastery in Hawaii and learned the art from a monk there, a 15th degree black belt who would practice it on pigs who were about to be slaughtered anyway. The cop disappeared for some years before returning to San Diego. He would never say where he was, but our teacher (a friend of his) says his friends' best guess is that he was off killing people for the government.

Urban legend? Probably. But given that acupuncture can do pretty amazing things, I don't find it that hard to believe that attacks to similar points could disable or kill. In the meantime, be very polite to elderly Asian people, as you should be anyway.