The Fable Death Touch

by SiFu William Cheung
Last Updated: 13 March, 2014
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     Much has been said and written about Dim Mak or the fabled death touch by individuals proclaiming themselves experts of this nearly forgotten art. Dim Mak springs from the rich traditions of Chinese martial arts. Yet few of these self-proclaimed ‘‘experts’’ can coherently explain or execute this feat.

     There are great similarities in theory between the studies of Dim Mak and acupuncture. Dim Mak, however, uses a special set acupressure points which must be coordinated with various secret times of the day, night and seasons. The Wing Chun secret script states that the vulnerability of a defined acupressure point fluctuates with changes of time and season. If damaged, these acupressure points can determine a person’s life or death. Such damage can cause serious illness, such as convulsions, cramps, coughing blood, lack of energy, and insomnia. A person injured by the death touch must seek proper medical treatment or it will certainly cost him his life. Sometimes the death touch works in less than a day; sometimes it takes up to six months. This is also why Dim Mak is referred to as the delayed death touch. The Nei Ching, or the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, is the earliest known text dealing with the body’s pressure points. It is believed to have been written during the reign of Emperor Huang Ti (2697-2596 BC). The Nei Ching elaborately outlines a systematic method of therapy using pressure points: The root of the way of life, birth, and change is chi (energy); the myriad things of heaven and earth all obey this law. Thus Chi in the periphery envelopes heaven and earth; Chi in the interior activates them. The source whence the sun, moon and stars derive their light; the thunder, rain, wind and cloud, their being, the four seasons and the myriad things their birth, growth, gathering and storing; all this is brought about by Chi. Man’s possession of life is completely dependent upon this Chi.

The Five Elements and Their Cycles of Interaction

     The Chinese believed that five metaphysical forces governed existence, the ‘‘five elements’’: fire; earth; metal; water; wood. Two cycles illustrated the interaction of these elements: The cycle of generation-each element generates or produces the succeeding element with fire producing earth, earth producing metal, metal producing water, water producing wood, wood producing fire, back to fire producing earth; the cycle of destruction-each element destroys or absorbs the succeeding element fire destroys metal, metal destroys wood, wood destroys earth, earth destroys water, water destroys fire. The theory of the five elements, together with the theory of yin and yang, determine the state of physical balance and equilibrium. The five elements are related to various internal organs, which are further governed by two meridians: one meridian flows from the left; one from the right the body’s vital pressure points are the breathing points for the meridians. There are eight other extraordinary meridians that provide for continued energy circulation should any one of the organs or bowels become decreased, blocking the meridian’s normal circuit Other pressure points also exist that cannot be traced to any connection with the above mentioned meridians.

     The death touch or Dim Mak is a specialized technique requiring the striking of a particular vital pressure point at a certain time of the day and season to disrupt the normal flow of body energy along the meridians. This deadly art was developed by highly skilled kung-fu practitioners through the centuries, and is based on the principles of the relationship of vital pressure points to various organs and life sources.

     Because the Wing Chun style was developed by a woman, the emphasis is on the efficiency of the strike, and Dim Mak is one of the style’s specialties. Nevertheless, a great deal of training is devoted to healing the victims of the death touch with the use of different combinations of herbal formulas and pressure point massage. According to the Wing Chun death touch secret, a person has 18 prime vital pressure points, and 54 secondary vital pressure points, adding up to a grand total of 72 vital pressure points. The four seasons and the different times of the day determine the vulnerability of any specific pressure point. Some of these pressure points are selected from the 34 meridians of the body, and some are not there is a special way of striking and applying the force to obtain the optimum result. Usually one would use a phoenix knuckle as the weapon for striking. A more advanced practitioner might be able to use his finger as a weapon.

     The vulnerability of the body’s vital points fluctuates with the time of day and the season. Striking a vulnerable vital point leads to disruption of chi, causing illness, internal injury, or death.


Cheung, W. (1995). The Fable Death Touch . Inside Kung-Fu.