Taekwondo is a very effective martial art with both its Mu Sool (Martial Skills) and moral tenets. In this paper I will reveal little known advanced principles in Mu Sool vital point striking, many of which can be used effectively in taekwondo.
Generally, when people think of taekwondo they see a martial art which utilizes phenomenal hand and foot techniques which are applied with focus, timing, speed and power against an attacking opponent’s weak areas (vital points). In this way, the resulting self defense applications have a much greater success in their effectiveness; as opposed to just punching or kicking randomly on the opponent’s body in hopes that you will defeat them.
The intelligence of utilizing these vital points on the opponent’s body sets apart an advanced taekwondo practitioner from a novice. But what if there was an even a greater methodology to vital point striking than what is typically known? If so, this knowledge could further the advanced practitioners skills. Well, there is a more advanced science to vital point striking and to the Chinese it is known as the science of dim-mak.
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In order to accurately comprehend aspects of this paper, one needs to have some understanding of the energetic meridian based system found in traditional oriental medicine. Generally speaking, the human body has 12 bilateral primary meridians (see “Yin/Yang Channels” below). There are also two special vessels (the Conception Vessel – CV and the Governor Vessel – GV) that are not bilateral. These are singular channels, which follow the midline of the body, one in front and one on the back.
There are a number of ways in which the Primary Meridians can be classified. One method is to classify them into two groups, according to their polarity of Yin and Yang. The Chinese determined that some of the meridians are predominantly of Yin energy, and some are predominantly of Yang energy. We will be referencing certain vital points and their corresponding numbers using the abbreviations found in this meridian system.
|Yin Channels (Organ)||Yang Channels (Organ)|
|Lung (LU)||Large Intestine (LI)|
|Spleen (SP)||Stomach (ST)|
|Heart (HT)||Small Intestine (SI)|
|Kidneys (KI)||Bladder (BL)|
|Pericardium (PC)||Triple Heater (TH)|
|Liver (LV)||Gall Bladder (GB)|
Number of Points on each Meridian
Governing Vessel = 27
Conception Vessel = 24
Lung = 11
Large Intestine = 20
Spleen = 21
Stomach = 45
Heart = 9
Small Intestine = 19
Kidney = 27
Bladder = 67
Pericardium = 9
Triple Heater = 23
Liver = 14
Gall Bladder = 44
Note: Certain Meridian’s have more than one name and or abbreviation. Here are some examples: Triple Heater (TH) could also be Triple Warmer (TW). Large Intestine (LI) could also be Colon (CO). Bladder (BL) could also be Urinary Bladder (UB).
One additional but critical aspect to meridian vital point striking is in knowing the direction of the strike since different effects are produced depending on the angle of the strike. This is important for single strikes as well as multiple strikes, and how they affect each other. (refer to #4 below “Dropping the Heart Rate”).
In order to have a fundamental understanding of which direction to strike a point, one must first understand that the energy or (Ki) in the posterior meridians on the arms and legs flows in a downward fashion, while the Ki flows in an upwards direction in the anterior regions of the arms and legs. The energy flow in the torso and head can be a bit more complex to follow.
Note: When one examines the numerical system along each meridian in acupuncture the ascending numbers reflect the direction of the energy (Ki). But with dim-mak vital point striking, one must think of the energy flowing in the opposite direction from acupuncture. For in dim-mak striking we are trying to hurt or kill, not heal.
Next one must understand what effects the points, used individually or in combinations, have on the attacker. This science is very comprehensive and beyond the scope of this paper. If you would like to study this topic further I recommend the exhaustive works, “The Encyclopedia’s of Dim-Mak”, by Erle Montaigue and Wally Simpson.
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There are five ways to cause a knock-out. These five methods are the same ways one can also kill an opponent. So the utmost caution must be used when applying this knowledge.
Note: It is dangerous to knock someone out regardless of how it is done. We lose a few million-brain cells every time we are knocked out. Not to mention possible long-term damage and or death.
1. Head Trauma Black Out: (Blunt Trauma or Concussion)
Most of us know that a strong percussion type strike anywhere near the head, chin, face, etc., will cause a knock out. This is because these areas are vital to human survival and when struck, the brain simply causes the rest of the body to faint thus saving all of the energy and blood for the affected area. This is the first and most basic of the knock out techniques. This method is often seen in boxing or mixed martial arts fights.
2. Air Restriction to Lungs: (Lack of Air)
There are two approaches using this method. The first one, and the one most often considered, would be to restrict air to lungs by cutting off the airway through a choking, compression, or crushing techniques on a person’s airway (larynx). The second method causes the muscles around the lungs to constrict violently by going into spasm thus causing the person to black out. With this approach, using the meridian based system; we could, for example, perform strikes to ST 15 or to SI 11. The strike to SI 11, which is located in the center of the scapular, will have the same effect as a good kick in the gut.
3. Stopping Blood Flow to Brain: (Lack of blood)
In this method the blood is restricted or stopped in its ability to get to the brain, such as a squeezing method which cuts off circulation to the carotid artery (a.k.a. the old sleeper hold). One must be careful since prolonged constriction can cause brain damage or even death whereby the opponent may not revive.
If the person is knocked out or the heart has stopped from a sleeper hold type choke then we can use CPR. Another approach is to lift him into a sitting position placing our hands under his chest from the rear and jerk him upward while squeezing inward lightly. This should bring him around. If not, a medium slap on the back in between the scapular should work.
4. Dropping the Heart Rate: (Shock, or rapid disruption of systems)
With this fourth method we would strike at vital points to cause the heart rate to drop, such as striking the carotid sinus or (ST 9). For another example, envision an attacker who uses a right arm hook punch. In defense, we could use our left palm swinging up and outwards in a blocking type motion striking the attackers point known as Neigwan or (PC 6). The key to this block/strike, (Note: with dim-mak all blocking motions are in fact strikes or set-ups since blocks are seen more or less as wasted motion which makes one susceptible), is that we hit PC 6 in an adverse direction (against the flow of energy – or in this case, the direction of the attackers wrist) while virtually simultaneously we use our right palm striking to his carotid sinus point (ST 9).
There are three other organs which when struck in certain directions will also cause this blood pressure dropping effect. Gall bladder (or GB) and the intestines are the ones that are the easiest to get at. We have gall bladder points all over our bodies from the feet right up to the head and any of these points will cause the knock out when struck in the correct direction. Take for example GB 14, located just above the eyebrow in the middle of the forehead. This point can be struck in three different directions each causing a different effect. For instance, if we strike with an upward blow to this point it causes what is known as an energy or Ki rush to the head resulting in a knock out or death. (Essentially the brain explodes energetically!) But if we use dim-mak points in a different way, they can also be used to heal. For instance, we know that the antidote for striking GB 14 is the point GB 21 just on the shoulders. If we put pressure onto this point and quickly brush to both sides, this will bring the Qi back down out of the head. And since striking GB 14 results in the exact same symptoms as a person suffering from a bad case of sunstroke, we know that GB 21 can also be used for sunstroke victims. In short, sunstroke and striking GB 14 are the result of too much yang energy in the head.
Another approach for striking GB 14 is to use a set-up point. For example, if I block a punch by using an inwards strike towards me on the posterior side of the attackers arm, this accelerates the normal Ki flow; in analogy this would be just as if I was pushing water downstream. This method with both water and Ki basically increases the rate of speed and volume. Thus by causing the Ki energy flow to increase in the arm when striking a specific point, GB 14 will also become engorged with even more Ki than normal. And if GB 14 is struck at this instant and in an upward fashion, it causes an even greater energy rush type effect than by striking it alone, again resulting in a sunstroke type effect.
In another totally separate example, if I were to strike GB 14 in a downward fashion it would lower the blood pressure, which could cause the heart to slow dramatically or even stop thus causing knock out or death (from the heart not starting up again). And if I used a set-up point in conjunction with this point, the negative effects would be further enhanced.
Dim-mak becomes even more complicated when we learn that there are certain points that when struck will cause seemingly totally unrelated parts of the body to react. For instance, if SP 20 (Spleen 20) is struck in an inward manner, it will cause either the right or left leg (whichever side was struck) to lose control and the person will fall to the ground.
5. Neurological: (Disruption of nervous system)
An example of this type of knock out is an inwards strike to the chin which pushes it back towards the upper spinal cord area. This causes pressure on the spinal column and results in a momentary blockage of information from the central nervous system to the brain. Neurological shut down is a strange human phenomenon, which the martial artist is able to use to his advantage. There are certain parts of the face which when struck with a slapping motion will cause the whole nervous system to shut down. Martial artists wanting to show off have used this practice for years. However, the dangers of this type of strike are even worse than the others. This is because it seems as if there has been no real damage but years later the recipient of such a strike suffers from mental illness, or in the very least becomes paranoid. Certain nervous disorders will also grow over the years, all of which could have been prevented if the person showing off wasn’t irresponsible or ignorant of the effects of the strikes.
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To complete the science of vital points striking one must be knowledgeable of the following:
Every vital point, whether it is associated to a meridian point or just some anatomical structure of the body, (the latter being something like the Adams apple), has a precise science on how to locate it.
For example, in oriental medicine each person can find points based on their very own anatomical body structure. One such measurement is the width of one’s thumb (called an accu-inch). One can therefore use their own accu-inch and measure out each meridian point with complete accuracy. Suffice to say that no two accu-inches are exactly the same. An interesting side note here is that meridians also change their pathways in the body dependant on numerous factors such as diet, stress, sickness, etc. In acupuncture these deviations are important to note. However, the pathways rarely (if ever) deviate beyond the effectiveness of dim-mak. In dim-mak one does not have to be as precise in relation to a point as say an acupuncturist would need to be. As long as one strikes in the area around the point approximately the size of a large coin the strike will be effective.
One must learn how strikes (or healing) to certain points/meridians affect other meridians.
Direction of Strike:
Some points only have one direction (straight in) while others have multiple directions, often with different effects.
Light, moderate and heavy strikes produce different effects. In some cases you may only wish to drain the energy of an opponent, while in other instances you may need to knock out or even kill an opponent. (Refer to “five ways to cause a knock out”)
Set-up points are those which when struck a split second before another point will enhance the effect of the main strike. These can be found on most of the main points used in real self defense techniques.
Some points have antidote points which can be used to reverse the effect of the harmful strike. However, some points are so dangerous that there is no antidote.
No art in hurting or killing is complete without knowledge of how to heal. Although a martial artist isn’t a licensed medical doctor, they should have a decent understanding of healing techniques which they can apply in martial arts related situations/scenarios. Obvious approaches such as first aid and CPR are vital to any martial artist. But there are also methodologies whereby one can use meridian points in a healing way, such as using ones fingers, palms, elbows, etc, or even by running ones hands over the body without touching it projecting Ki energy to certain areas.
Finally, one must know effective martial art techniques (blocking, striking, grabbing, kicking, etc) to apply dim-mak. Consider that many people create martial arts hyung (forms) merely for their dramatic look or beauty. But serious martial artists know that forms contain real applicable techniques for real fighting. They know that one technique is followed by another which has a direct subsequent fighting application (block followed by strike, etc).
Yet in the case of even more highly developed martial arts which use dim-mak forms/techniques, we learn that the hyung strategy is taken to a whole new level. Not only is there a basic block/strike type application available for anyone to learn, there are also hidden applications for those who understand dim-mak. In these hidden applications, one learns all of the above mentioned specifics (point location, direction of strike, etc).
Obviously through learning dim-mak one can decisively enhance their martial art. Yet to truly complete ones martial art journey (“Do” or the Way) one must develop their character, ethics and spiritual values transcending ego, striving and attaining enlightenment.
Some of the major problems with many martial arts today revolve around the over emphasis towards merely pugilistic and strenuous training approaches. Another major problem lies with instructors who are egotistical and need to be noticed, popular or famous at the expense of the students or art. With the advent and popularity of martial sports, such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), violent and fantasy martial arts video games/movies, and the overall tendency for instant (albeit superficial) gratification, many martial artists have lost sight of the deeper more perennial aspects of our art. Suffice to say that there is a disdain or just plain apathy towards the “Do” (Way).
It’s not that hard to hurt or even kill someone with some training. However ask yourself, can you heal just as well? How’s your self defense as it pertains to not only your or others physical bodies, but how is your defense against the enemies of your own psyche, emotions and other debilitating faculties? It is incumbent that we understand the vital points of our inner being and annihilate any area which threatens our inner mastery. Mastery of one’s self and all else will follow.
- Montaigue, Erle and Simpson, Wally; “The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak”, Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1997.
- Montaigue, Erle, “Dim-Mak: Death Point Striking”, Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1993.
- Montaigue, Erle and Simpson, Wally; “The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak: The Extra Meridians, Points and More”, Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1997.
- 6. Tedeschi, Marc, “Essential Anatomy: for healing and Martial Arts” Weatherhill, 2000.
Author: Brian Alexander
October 24, 2009