Martial Arts Blog

Dim Mak: The Manipulation of Pressure Points in Martial Arts

 by pad-up on 29 Nov 2013 |
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The so called Dim Mak ‘death touch’ is one of the great myths of the martial arts world. There is some very strong basis in reality when it comes to using pressure points in combat, but the idea that someone can kill with a light touch of their fingers is of course only possible in the movies.

The art of Dim Mak uses vital points or pressure points, similar to those used in acupuncture. The theory is that just as manipulation of vital points can be used to heal, it can also be used to cause injury or illness. Many martial arts rely on strikes to vulnerable areas of the body, and the principle is the same. Reality blurs into fiction when it comes to how easily pressure point attacks can be delivered, and how quickly they can knock an opponent out. Amazing things are possible by the manipulation of vital points, but the skills required take decades to acquire and understand. Some people believe that the secrets of Dim Mak have found their way into karate and other martial arts over the centuries as different fighting systems have developed and evolved.
Dim Mak fundamentals: Sealing the Breath, Sealing the Blood, Sealing the Qi - The Fundamentals of Dim Mak
Some of the scepticism around the effectiveness of pressure points in martial arts can be explained by the fact that they were only taught with the most advanced and trusted students in the past. This could be due to the fact that the techniques were so dangerous, but it also probably part of the culture of secrecy surrounding martial arts in the past. Schools were willing to teach their foundation techniques and katas to a wide audience, but protected their more advanced and specialist techniques. Rivalry between schools and styles was incredibly strong, and secrets were closely guarded as a result.

If you don’t have access to an instructor or teacher able to share some of the more advanced uses of pressure points, you can still apply the principle in other martial arts. Strikes and kicks to vulnerable areas of the body can have devastating impact. Of course in real situations you should only use these types of techniques as a last resort. Striking a drunk guy in the eyes just for being a nuisance isn’t appropriate or legal. If you find yourself cornered by four guys wielding weapons, it might be a reasonable use of force to take one of them out by wrecking a knee.
Striking weak points of the body involves a level of accuracy, and this is the downfall of some pressure point techniques. In the stress and confusion of combat, finding a small point on the neck could be very difficult, as an example. The obvious larger targets for maximum impact are the groin, soft tissue areas of the face and the solar plexus. As well as accuracy, speed is key if you want to deliver strikes or kicks to these targets. Power is the final piece of the puzzle, but you can get away without this if you hit the target with speed. The shock reaction these strikes cause can buy you valuable seconds to deliver other techniques, and this is where your other martial arts training can come in. For example, an aikido or student might take an attacker to the ground after temporarily blinding him with a strike to the eyes.

A stamp to the feet of an attacker is another effective attack to a vulnerable area, and ‘slaps’ to the ears can also have surprising impact. Remember that an attacker high on alcohol or other drugs may not feel the pain or react to these strikes.

Pad-Up in partnership with 5 Thunder Martial Arts will be launching Irelands Very First Dim Mak Instructor Course commencing in Dublin on 26th April 2014. Spaces are limited. For more information email


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