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10 People Who Claimed To Hold The Secret Of The Death Touch

by Nemo Filipovic
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The touch of death and the folklore behind it has made its way to the West. Even the Simpsons added to the mythology, when Bart claimed he had learned the lethal technique after only one karate class. Sure, he was faking. A kill with a single blow is ludicrous! Even if it were true, where could one get this mystic knowledge?

Well, apparently, like everything, we can buy it.

This list covers 10 practitioners and proponents of the dim mak (death touch). They, more than anyone, have served to popularize the myth that has served us so well in television, movies, and video games. Some men on this list say that the dim mak is real, regularly perform it, and teach it to others. Others are legends of the craft and serve to inspire martial artists today.

Regardless on where you stand on the validity and effectiveness of the dim mak, know that the list that follows contains some incredible, and violent, information.

Reader beware . . . 

10Zhang Sanfeng

The Death Touch – Ancient Discoveries

Legend has it that a 12th-century martial artist, founder of Tai Chi Chuan, and medical practitioner, Zhang Sanfeng, created the dim mak technique. He combined combat, modern medical practices concerning pressure points, and Wu Dang philosophy about chi (best understood loosely as “energy”) pathways through the body.

Apparently, devastating results can occur when one attacks the very same pressure points that acupuncturists use to heal. This is perhaps the world’s worst example of reverse engineering. In fact, folklore has it that prisoners of the day were used by Zhang Sanfeng (and the guards he bribed) as guinea pigs to see which spots were more effective. Since there are claims that 108 out of the 361 pressure points on the body can be used in various dim mak attacks, we can only assume this took a while.

9Masutatsu Oyama

Kyokushinkai Karate Sosai Masutatsu Oyama

He is the founder of Kyokushinkai Karate. Those who watch UFC know that former welterweight champion George St-Pierre studied this style, but what they do not know is that its founder allegedly killed bulls by hitting them in the face!

In the 1950s, Sosai (founder) Mas Oyama fought 52 bulls to test and demonstrate his abilities. Three were killed instantly and the rest had their horns removed by his knife-hand technique. A trip to the United States in 1952 saw him winning 270 consecutive matches in open challenge. The majority were defeated with one punch and no fight lasted longer than three minutes. His exploits earned him the name “Godhand,” a true representative of the Japanese proverb Ichi geki, Hissatsu, which translates to “One strike, certain death.”

8“Count Juan Raphael Dante”
aka John Keehan

The Deadliest Man Alive

Using American comics in 1960s Chicago, Illinois, Dante decided to heavily advertise himself as the “Deadliest Man Alive” and sell an instructional booklet called The World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets. The contents outlined the Dan-te system, which included the “Dance of Death,” claiming it to be very “street-effective.” If one were to learn all the steps, in theory, one would be an effective master of combat.

The booklet also includes instructions concerning the “Poison Hand” attack. Effectively, it is a Shaolin Kung Fu version of the death touch, brought to Chicago by Shaolin warrior monk, James Lee. While Master Lee was a World War II double agent in hiding, with ties to both the Japanese and the Chinese underworld, Dante openly advertised his school and his technique. His advertisement between the comic pages reads “An expert at DIM MAK could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure using his murderous POISON HAND WEAPONS.”

7Erle Montaigue

Dim-Mak: The most practical and deadly point strikes, V. 1

Yet another Master who wishes to profit from the death touch, Erle Montaigue, was the first westerner to achieve Master status in Taijiquan. He published several books that are selling on Amazon, as well as other sites, for anyone who thinks two hits are just too much. These include, but are not limited to, Dim-mak: Death Point Striking, and Dim-Mak’s 12 Most Deadly Katas: Point of no return, and The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak.

Also, amazingly, along with his Youtube videos, a detailed PDF titled “Erle Montaigue’s Dim-Mak Point Locations” is available online, for free, through the World Chen Xiaowang Taijiquan Association in Bulgaria. It not only details where these points are, but how to hit them, and the effect. An attack to a particular point on the neck, for instance, will leave the enemy’s brain ” . . . shocked. Not even CPR will revive a strike here.”

6“The Human Stun Gun”
aka Tom Cameron

‘The Human Stun Gun’ Investigation

Tom Cameron has taken his skills (or “performance,” as some would say) to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Steve Harvey’s Big Time, and the History Channel’s Stan Lee’s Superhumans. Like the other practitioners of the dim mak, Cameron says his abilities come from the manipulation of chi energy, but Cameron differs in that he can “stand six feet away from someone and cause them to die.” However, it only works “on 40 percent of the population.”

A visit by Fox News reporters to his school in Palos Hills, a city in Cook County, Illinois, captured a video of Cameron’s students falling to the floor with only a tap on the head, or a thrust of chi energy from the Master’s arms, as if he were shooting an invisible Hadouken from Capcom’s Street Fighter. While this seems like a clear-cut hoax, the heart monitors attached to his students showed that a spike in heart rate would follow the blow. Also observed were dilated pupils and clammy hands. All of these are signs of shock. Still, as a contradiction, Cameron’s abilities did not work on the Fox News reporter herself, nor on the students of a jujitsu school downtown they visited to test him.

5The Man Who Killed Bruce Lee


A 1985 article in Black Belt magazine, called “Kung Fu Pressure Point Attacks,” written by Jan Hallander, theorized that Bruce Lee may have been a victim of a true death touch. While it is well known that Lee clashed with Chinatown’s leaders over teaching martial arts to westerners, it is less known that Lee had a standing, open invitation to any challengers. His match may have been met, when he fought an old Chinese man two weeks before he died. His last film, Game of Death, was aptly named.

The story emerged, possibly from the article, or his students as witnesses, that the battle lasted over an hour, and it was brutal. It is believed by some that Lee was hit with the dim mak, and that the old man was actually an assassin from the Chinese Tong. From there, his body began to slowly shut down. Intense headaches would later reveal themselves to be a brain edema. This legend would inspire the exploitation film Fist of Fear, Touch of Death and countless debates in living rooms and forums alike.

4Dr. Michael Kelly

Dim Mak Dr Michael Kelly.flv

A Master in Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate, who is also a practicing osteopathic physician, Dr. Michael Kelly has published many articles on the medical applications of pressure-point-based healing, as well as the edge a fighter can get when they include pressure points in their combat system. Luckily, for some, Dr. Kelly has had plenty of opportunity to test his abilities. A light version of the attack can be seen in this video (about 4 minutes in).

After only studying a short time, Dr. Kelly states he was shooting pool at a bachelor party and got into an altercation with a much drunker, and larger, partygoer. A double palm-strike to two points on the stomach knocked the offender out cold. Working as a State Police Officer, Dr. Kelly struck a black belt in karate, high on crack, to a point on the gall bladder that disoriented him enough to get the cuffs on.

In an effort to spread this knowledge to western practitioners, both medical and combat, Dr. Kelly has published several books, including Death Touch: The Science Behind The Legend Of Dim-Mak. He also wrote several articles, published in magazines like Combat & Healing and Black Belt, the latter of which discusses cases of people dying from dim mak blows received during training and sparring sessions. Tom Cameron, take note.

3George Dillman

The Master who taught and certified Tom Cameron pushed his teachings like no other. His website offers news updates, summer camps, DVDs, books, seminars, and affiliated schools where you too can sign up to get knocked out on camera. National Geographic featured Dillman and his students demonstrating their skills. The video shows his students utterly collapsing after single taps to the arm, throat, and chest areas. He does it to them, and they do it to each other. He claims he can take the largest man in the world down with one finger and even produce knockouts from across the room with no touch. The students then produce invisible chi balls between their hands and pass them around like hot potatoes. Lastly, behind curtains, Dillman drops his students using his chi energy, and moves an entire line of people.

Amazing, we know, but why did it not work on the skeptical scientist volunteering himself as a guinea pig? He and other skeptics claim the no-touch knockouts are a form of hypnotic suggestion only. Dillman says it’s because his tongue was in a certain position in his mouth, or his toe was raised, and these alone are enough to block the attack. Before Dillman is completely written off, however, it is important to note that he has won 327 trophies in only nine years of competition in fighting, forms, breaking, and weapons, and was honored in Black Belt magazine as “Instructor of the Year” for 1997. He has 150 schools worldwide, with nearly 25,000 students, plus he studied with both Bruce Lee and Mohammed Ali. So he may be a showman, but what a show it is.

2LeRoy Alsup


A Tai Chi instructor of the St. Louis Tai Chi community, Sifu Alsup offers a few free workshops a year to spread his art and the health benefits of Tai Chi. In 2010, interestingly, he also offered a dim mak seminar to “unveil the secret of this deadly art.” He justified it by saying it requires dedication to really understand the moves enough to actually use them; a free seminar could not hurt.

Like the exploding heart technique in the Kill Bill movies, Alsup asserts the dim mak is actually a series of hits, not one. They only kill when done in order and correctly. Lucky for us, he was kind enough to post three photos of him demonstrating on his son. The top comment on, pertaining to this event, came from a friend of Alsup, who, with respect, stated that he was opposed to a public discourse and demonstration of the dim mak, and requested that all coverage of the workshop be reconsidered. The attacks are simply too dangerous, even lethal.

1Steve Burton

A Tai Chi and Chinese kickboxing master, Sifu Burton, has brought the ancient art of killing strikes to us all through an exclusive, eight-DVD set. One may purchase it from his website for approximately £300 ($493). A short snippet of these videos can be seen on Youtube, where Burton speaks to and translates Master Liming Yue’s advanced points about the “iron shirt” technique, which involves strengthening your body against blows by taking a lot of blows (opening video). Conditioning is the name of the game.

As for dim mak, Master Yue says that an elbow, finger strike, or a single knuckle strike will kill if aimed at the xiphoid process. It is meant to shock the heart into paralysis and end your enemy’s life. Interestingly enough, the xiphoid process is the same point on which one would apply pressure during CPR to save someone’s life. If the readers of this article find it concerning that the points used to save lives and end them seem to be interchangeable, know you are not alone.

A Toronto based illustrator and writer, Nemo Nova is inspired by stories of people doing remarkable things. He is a regular presenter at Toronto, Canada’s various comic conventions and is currently busy producing a comic about the most affordable assassin to ever live: $10 Hitman. You can find Nemo Nova on deviantART, his website, and on Facebook.

fact checked by Jamie Frater