I’m actually starting this book review before having read the book word by word, and cover to cover. Actually folks like me that have a lot of reading to do understand how to take a document and buzz through it pretty quickly – particularly if you are somewhat familiar with the subject. One can say it is a credit to Dr. Kelly that I could do so with such ease. The book is well organized, reasonably well illustrated, and speaks a language I’m familiar with – physiology. That’s not to say that someone from the school of chi would skip through so quickly – even with knowledge of the subject at hand. Dr. Kelly waters the material down a bit, but those without a science background will need to fasten their seatbelts. As for myself, I was a fish in water.
The book starts out with a disclaimer. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
… No one should ever strike, grab, or otherwise attack the dim-mak points or nerves mentioned in this book because doing so can result in great bodily harm or death. …
OK, so he kept his lawyer happy. Part of me wishes this society wasn’t so litigious – not because there isn’t danger involved, but because the overstatement of risk causes the end user to ignore the warnings. To warn someone not to strike a “dim-mak” point is to eliminate contact sports as we know them today. Our own kotekitae is as much a relic of iron shirt methods as it is a practical modern tool to condition the body for partner work. Telling martial artist not to consider working with this material is telling a pyro to stay away from the matches in the kitchen cabinet. What is
the risk here? It certainly isn’t as high as the impression this statement leaves, but it’s more than what many pressure point instructors take into consideration as they wow their audiences with LFKOs (light force knockouts). Oh well…the lawyers are happy now, and so the battle lines are drawn for the next lawsuit should someone incur harm and want remuneration.
The forward – as advertised – was by Earle Montaigue. For those not familiar with him, check out his WebPages.Tai Chi World
A quick look through the WebPages, and you realize you are in the land of chi-sters. Check out the dialogue between Earle and folks wishing advice on medical problems. This seems a strange bedfellow for someone that takes a strictly modern physiology approach to explaining the material in the book. On the other hand, it is the kind of bridge that must be built if there is any hope for the educational light of day to reach those using surreal explanations for real physical phenomena. I will admit to being amused by this final passage. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
This book is an excellent companion to my two volume Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak
And so there’s the quid pro quo
Earle and his buddy Wally Simpson – an Austrailian acupuncturist – will sell a few more books. In any case, a little bit of study on the approach taken by Dr. Kelly in this material will reveal why this marriage of convenience works.
To start with, one must clear the language issues. The terms dim-mak, kyusho, tuite, and pressure point are interchangeable here. With some folks, it isn’t. In any case, the term dim-mak is choses for historical reasons, and to aleart the reader to the intent of the author.WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT
This book attempts to give modern medical explanations for observed responses to pressure point attacks that rely on the acupuncture meridian system.
This book – to some extent – assumes that many significant aspects of that art work.
This book presumes that a pressure point strike is essentially a nerve strike.WHAT THE BOOK IS NOT ABOUT
Nowhere that I could see does the book directly endorse the entire meridian system.
This book does not attempt to define striking points outside the traditional points used in Chinese acupuncture and referenced in some “traditional” forms.
This book does not attempt to defend the concept of targeted sequential striking vs. simpler methods of combat and self-defense.
These distinctions are important, and are what give this work its identity.The substance
After a general discussion, the book starts with concepts of neuroscience. If one is to understand the concept of one point activating or negating the effects of another – one of the premises taught by the Chinese cycle of creation and destruction – then one needs to pick up these concepts. Otherwise one must rely on a system that – to my thinking – is archaic in comparison to what we know today. The discussion starts with a review of the entire nervous system, and the role the autonomic nervous system plays in pressure point fighting. Then it gets into the important concepts: segmentation, reflexes, summation, facilitation, aberrant reference, and the nerve synapse.
From that point, Michael provides the mapping from the “old” (acupuncture points) to the “new” system, and the reason for the particular mapping. Several key tables put it all together in great detail. The points are tied to the major nerve, the spinal level, and the organ potentially involved. The neuroscience is the logic behind the structure of the tables. Then the issue of multiple (and setup) points are discussed.
Next the method of attack of a nerve is discussed. This is where form (local anatomy) and function go hand in hand. If one knows where the nerve is and what is nearby, then one can basically figure out the logic behind the attack method without having to memorize the reams of information in the “how to” books. Ahhh…a man after my heart. He must have detested (or pitied) some of his mindlessly memorizing fellow premeds as I did.
In any case, the subsequent neurological processes and pathways subsequently involved are discussed.
Next, Michael defines the “Medical Knockout.” There’s a very important point made in this chapter, and gets into the whole “vasovagal” concept. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
The mechanism of the pressure point knockout involves changes in the autonomic nervous system that cause a sudden drop in blood pressure leading to a loss of consciousness.
I find this most interesting for several reasons. First, it’s pretty easy for a systems physiology guy like me to understand. My graduate training involved the interaction of the various body systems. It’s “home” to me. But the second important point here is that I believe someone like Bruce Miller might say “True but…that doesn’t define all knockouts.” His contention on several discussion boards is that certain knockouts happen too quickly for that to be the case. There is a “time constant” to these systems that would dictate a certain delay in-between stimulus and response. But some knockouts allegedly happen almost instantaneously. Bruce claims that – in some cases – a more direct effect on the reticular activating system (RAS) of the brain (lights on or off…) comes into play. It is as if a circuit breaker is tripped. Michael discusses the role of the RAS, but to the degree that I have perused his book, I don’t find a discussion of this potential direct effect. The reason for the confusion is easy to understand; we cannot directly observe what is happening. But a biomedical engineer like myself can see Bruce’s point. In any case, there are ways to test whether or not this mechanism (vs. another) comes into play on any one particular KO.
In the next section, Michael discusses organ attacks. I know folks like Ian were driven mad by discussions of body organ attacks on odd parts of the anatomy. The mechanism why this may be relevant is discussed. What ties it all together is the antagonistic control by the two elements of the autonomic nervous system on each of the organs. For instance, the parasympathetic nervous system stimulates digestion, whereas the sympathetic nervous system stimulates the heart. Some points affect one specific organ more than the next, allegedly because of the anatomy (segmentation) of the spine and the specific origin(s) of the nerves that innervate the organ in question.
The next two chapters are where Michael puts it all together. The basic concepts are reviewed. Then specific sequences are discussed, and the mechanisms behind the resulting behavior are explained. References are made to typical martial sequences found in kata.
The final chapter is 6 pages on revival, and how that works. Frankly I think there’s a key point in that chapter that perhaps is missed earlier in the book (unless I missed it in my brief scan). <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
…slapping the spinal accessory nerve stimulates the reticular activating system, thereby arousing the person from a loss of consciousness.
Can we think of this concept in reverse? Bruce Miller thinks so. Perhaps this is where a specialist in neuroscience (a bit of a black art with many open questions) may have been of some use here. In any case, the revival section is both vital and informative.
Why attempt a book like this? Why scare the chi-sters away with modern science? Why add complexity to the pragmatic information gathered through experience by the ancient warrior? Michael has an answer. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
…one could use medical science to find the most effective dim-mak applications of a particular movement without experimenting on anyone. If an application seemed ineffective, one could slightly alter the technique to make it more effective or search for a different application. Some might argue that this could change how the traditional techniques are applied. While this may be true, it is relatively insignificant because change has always been a part of martial arts.
My favorite part of the book is at the end – THE REFERENCES. No good modern martial arts book should be without them, and this certainly is de rigueur
in the sciences. It allows the individual to do further research on statements made (and “footnoted”) in the text. It is the reason why I like historical books by Steven Ambrose. It is the reason why I prefer a well-written book to a movie in many cases. And when I disagree with an author or form opinions that are my own, the structure of such writing allows me to do that in a manner that gives credit to the author that started the discussion in the first place.
In short, I like this book, I hope it is the start of many more like it. The martial arts are always in need of fine analytic minds.
[This message has been edited by Bill Glasheen (edited June 05, 2002).]