Is the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique from ‘Kill Bill’ Real?

By  · Published on July 7th, 2014

In the midst of insane fight sequences and impossible violence, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill gave me a moment of pause. In the second part of the movie, The Bride (Uma Thurman) finally confronts Bill (David Carradine), and ultimately dispatches him with a secret technique from their old master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) known as the five-point-palm exploding heart technique.

This closely-held secret move uses pressure points on a man’s chest that will stress the heart to a point that the victim can only travel five steps before his heart explodes and he falls dead.

That’s a pretty cool technique, and would be quite handy in a pinch, so it got me thinking: Which martial art will teach it to me?

The Answer: A special subset of Aikido known as “bullshit.”

The so-called “death touch” move, or “dim mak,” has shown up in many movies prior to either of the Kill Bill volumes. In the 1988 film Bloodsport, Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) demonstrates his knowledge of the death touch in order to get into an elite martial arts competition. Tarantino’s Kill Bill was influenced by the Shaw Brothers’ films Clan of the White Lotus (1980) and Executioners from Shaolin (1977), both of which featured the same name of the lethal move. It’s a common theme and legend in martial arts movies.

The key to the death touch is the proper application of attacks on certain pressure points and meridian lines based on the ancient art of acupuncture. According to Dr. Michael Kelly, there are in fact ways to strike these pressure points to cause loss of control, unconsciousness, death, and delayed death. He is featured on the web site, where he (of course) has prominent links to his book “Death Touch: The Science Behind the Legend of Dim Mak,” as well as VHS and DVD videos on sale from $29.99 to $99.99. He even features a link to the many pressure points involved in the process with this allegedly responsible disclaimer: “These points are shown for educational purposes only and one should refrain from attacking them.”

Allegedly, these dim mak secrets are closely guarded by only the most trusted masters of the ancient martial arts (as well as a few of those hawking expensive videos and books on the matter), but the use of pressure points is nothing new to even the casual martial artist. The reality is that the precise attack on some pressure points is not possible in a real instance of hand-to-hand combat, and a real fighter will need to rely on those with much easier access, like the temples, the shoulder, the throat, and the hands.

There are, of course, plenty of ways to kill someone. There are entire books devoted to the concept. However, they all enlist the use of easy-to-reach vulnerabilities rather than complicated pressure points poking.

In fact, a trained martial artist can be a deadly weapon without the five-point-palm exploding heart technique. Training and expertise puts the martial artist at a lethal advantage over even ruthless killers.

Still, since there are real pressure points…

Which pressure points will make the heart explode?

First of all, regardless of what you hear in the media, hearts don’t explode. They are, in fact, one of the most durable parts of the human body. They are designed to continually flex and release with a regularly and consistent rhythm as early as inside the womb to a person’s death up to 80 years later. Imagine trying to do that with your bicep for more than a few minutes.

However, an unusual amount of stress can severely damage a heart. The cardiac muscle could tear, blood vessels could burst, and the supporting diaphragm could rupture and cause bleeding into the abdomen. However, these injuries result from intense physical trauma to the area or through a heart attack from overexertion or existing medical condition. Fortunately, the human body fits together in such a way that the heart is one of the most protected parts of the body, surrounded by the shock-absorbing lungs, the muscular diaphragm, and the strong ribcage and breastbone.

This puts a dim mak exploding heart technique on a long list of unrealistic killing techniques, which also include twisting of the neck, breaking someone’s nose to send a shard of bone into his brain, and strangulation in less than a minute. In fact, a complicated pressure-point technique is unnecessary when most real fighting makes it nearly impossible to achieve with a moving target. When martial arts has been taught in military applications, the focus is to incapacitate one’s opponent and then kill them with a more mundane but also more effective move like crushing the neck with your boot.

So now that an exploding heart is out of the picture…

Can you at least make your enemy soil himself?

If you can’t explode a man’s heart before he takes five steps, this is the next best thing, right? This supposed Tai Chi move was demonstrated famously by Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) and Denise (Isla Fisher) in the film Hot Rod. Though Tai Chi is most commonly used for its health benefits, this particular move was shown to make both Rod and his father Frank (Ian McShane) “crap his pants and not know why.”

Sorry, folks. Just like the infamous “brown note,” the “brown Tai Chi move” is an urban myth.

Sure, it’s not unheard of for fighters to have a little accident during a bout, this is often a result from a stomach bug or just an overall strong blow to the abdomen. Not even Dr. Kelly includes brown pressure points in his examination of dim mak, and I’m sure there’s be an audience that would buy a DVD of that for $29.99 if given the chance.

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