The Murky Death Trip of Dim Mak - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Murky Death Trip of Dim Mak

The Murky Death Trip of Dim Mak

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because everyone has enemies.

By Eugene S. Robinson

“The guy — and this sometimes happens — tried to pull something with Uncle.”

The speaker is a guy named Chuck. The locale is an underground fight seminar in northern California. And the “Uncle” he’s referencing is there with him: the very, very deceptively heavy Uncle Bill, Willem de Thouars: half Dutch, half Indonesian, all dangerous. And the “pulling something” is the no doubt foolish attempt to push a so-called martial arts death master right up to the line in order to prove one of two things: that the puller is clever and therefore the master is a fraud, or that the master is the real deal.

Dim Mak does what martial arts are supposed to do best: guarantee your safety in a world beset with dangers.

But plenty fail to do the math on what exactly it means to be the Real Deal.

“So Uncle turns and the guy hauls off and tries to punch him as hard as he can.” Remembering back, Chuck shakes his head slowly in sympathy. “Uncle slips the punch and hits the guy right here.…” With two fingers Chuck touches the inside of the right biceps of his now-outstretched right arm. Right inner mid-arm where the biceps and the triceps dip into each other.

The whole room got quiet, not only in recognition of the breach in master-student protocol, but because they recognized the touch. “You have to understand that when Uncle Bill did demos, he would have us use real knives to attack him, and we’d end the sessions all bleeding and hurt. And having to go to the hospital to get stitched up.”

…like acupuncture or acupressure, only with ill intent front and center. Translation: Uncle Bill doesn’t play. And as the bruise on the wise guy’s inner arm started to spread he was encouraged to go to the doctor, which he refused to do. Until the next morning, when his arm had gone dead, black and blue, and he was in full panic. What they found at the hospital: a fairly significant blood clot. It’s unclear whether this would have resulted in death, but Chuck is convinced. “He was heading to a possibly well-deserved death,” he laughed. “This stuff is no joke.”

“Yin-yang is not just a concept,” says Yefim Gamgoneishvili, a world-renowned Georgian acupuncturist based in the Pacific Northwest. “Acupuncture can be used to heal, most certainly. But it can be used for the opposite of healing, too. We have books that cover this, but it’s not widely shared. For pretty obvious reasons.”Even if cinematic variations like we’ve seen in Kill Bill 2 make it seem less likely than it is, the reality, in very simple terms, is that Dim Mak is like acupuncture or acupressure, only with ill intent front and center. And instead of using fine needles, it uses strikes.“This stuff” is Dim Mak. Also known as the “death touch,” it’s rumored to be what ultimately felled martial arts great Bruce Lee. Dim Mak does what martial arts are supposed to do best: guarantee your safety in a world beset with dangers. And if Dim Mak happens to be one of those dangers? Well, so be it. Sort of like having a pet tiger. You’ll probably be safe, but you’ll also be pretty dangerous.

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill, in response to our questions about knife fighting in Indonesia (“a country with 246 million people and 240 million knives”), about his primary martial art, pencak silat, and about the unfortunate occasions in Jakarta when street scuffles went from bad to very much worse, is kind and genial. In the extreme. 

Even when he dismisses general requests to show us Dim Mak, he talks about it at length, and touches various folks on pressure points that, based on the responses, probably hurt more than a little bit. It’s Uncle Bill’s version of telling, not showing. Scoffed at by many as unscientific and ineffective, but supported by the likes of German neuroscientist Florian Biessner and Dr. Michael Kelly, a former cop, Rutgers grad and author of a book on Dim Mak, the death touch seems real and cool enough to us.

Since the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, there’s only one real test that matters when asking whether Dim Mak will actually kill you — and the fight seminar has no shortage of volunteers. Practice occurs slowly, gently, and sometimes full force on dummies. “This is more like the nuclear bomb of martial arts,” says Chuck. “Use sparingly.”

“And only when completely necessary,” Uncle Bill smiles. Suuure


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