Before the days of the strip-mall Kung Fu Dojo, some martial artists earned a living by performing in travelling circus shows. These artists demonstrated seemingly miraculous feats to entertain their audience, and attributed them to esoteric qigong training.
Truthfully, these “vagabond skills” are mostly cheap parlor tricks. In this video clip, Wing Chun instructor Leung Ting demonstrates the (relatively) safe and easy way to break bricks with your bare hands, and slice yourself with sharp blades.
One of the gentlemen in my practice group alerted me to this video clip. Henry Wang, an expert in the Cheng Man-ching style of Taiji, repeatedly bounces a puncher away through his own punch. Not only that, but he is sitting on a table, with his feet off the ground, while he does it!
The old Kung Fu master touched his assailant, with no apparent effect. Days later, the assailant died a sudden and mysterious death. He was a victim of the legendary dim mak, the touch of death.
Dim mak is a popular discussion topic among martial arts enthusiasts. Some instructors claim to have the skill, or believe that it was used to kill Bruce Lee. Others insist that dim mak instructors are frauds and the skill itself is a complete fantasy. Is there any evidence to support the existence of dim mak? Could it possibly work?
In the new martial arts documentary Fight Science, computerized sensors are used to objectively measure the speed, power and balance of various martial artists.
Among the findings:
The boxer punches with 1000 pounds of force;
The wushu practitioner moves faster than a snake;
Damage from a Muay Thai knee is comparable to a 35MPH car crash.
These data points illustrate that martial arts practice results in a stronger, faster body. However in my opinion, they capture neither the most significant benefits of practice, nor the most interesting esoteric skills.